Navigation for Writers and Readers Festivals

Sessions recorded at Writers and Readers Festivals in New Zealand

What good are the arts?

Three lively commentators on the arts Sarah Thornton, Denis Dutton and John Carey discuss its complexities, contradictions, and enduring attractions with Linda Tyler. John Carey's controversial book What Good Are the Arts? (2005) tackled a number of questions designed to agitate art-lovers:"What is a work of art? Is 'high art' superior? Can science help? Do the arts make us better? Can art be a religion?". Denis Dutton's The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution asks why we dedicate so much time, effort and resources to art when it seemingly does nothing to increase our chances of survival, and goes on to set out what Darwinian aesthetics can bring to our understanding of art. Despite having thrown herself into the vortex of the contemporary art world in the course of researching Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton continues to be fascinated by artists and amused by the world that supports them.

Antony Loewenstein: My Israel Question

With Treasa Dunworth in the chair, Antony Loewenstein examines the prospects of the Middle East peace process in the new geo-political context, and alternative suggestions on how to tackle the crisis, mapping out where hope lies for a resolution. Antony Loewenstein's bestseller, My Israel Question, generated a storm of controversy, critical praise and robust public debate when it was first published in 2006. A third, fully updated and expanded edition of his forensic discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict came out in 2009.

Jill Dawson and Elizabeth Smither

Jill Dawson has published six novels and also writes poetry. Her latest novel, The Great Lover, captures the allure of poet Rupert Brooke and his intriguing relationships, in the euphoric period before the First World War, in Cambridge and later in Tahiti. Elizabeth Smither is an award-winning poet who has just published her fifth novel, Lola. With the wisdom and wry humour of maturity, it explores love and death, music and friendship and is set in Australia and New Zealand. Carole Beu is in the chair.

Thomas Keneally and Anne Salmond

Two master storytellers with very different backgrounds talk with Kim Hill about the origins of their success, their shared passion for history, the joys of discovery, and the satisfaction that comes with bringing forgotten stories back to life. Anne Salmond is one of New Zealand's most pre-eminent historians, and her recent publication, the acclaimed Aphrodite's Island (2009), is the first to take her off-shore to Tahiti. Thomas Keneally is a well-known and prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction. His fascination for the people on the margins of history has seen him embark on a three-volume history of Australia, the first of which was published in 2009, Australians: Origins to Eureka.

Michael Otterman: Erasing Iraq

In conversation with Sean Plunket, journalist and human rights consultant Michael Otterman explores the recent history of Iraq. Highly critical of what the USA has achieved since George W. Bush's proclamation of the end of hostilities in Iraq and the 'Mission Accomplished' message given seven years ago, Otterman focuses on the one million Iraqi dead, five million refugees, and what he considers the decimation of an entire culture and way of life. He argues that western governments and the mainstream media continue to ignore or play down the human costs of the war on Iraqi citizens who have provided many of the interviews featured in his book.

Religion: what is it good for?

Three panellists discuss their divergent views on the global and regional rise of religion and its impact on every-day lives, particularly on the vulnerable residents in war-torn parts of the world including the Middle East. Adrian Wooldridge (Schumpeter columnist for The Economist), Michael Otterman (Erasing Iraq) and Antony Loewenstein (My Israel Question) consider the issues in this lively session chaired by Sean Plunket.