PAUL THOMAS LOCKDOWN Q & A APRIL 2020
Where are you currently living and are you needing to self-isolate in your country?
I live in Martinborough, a small rural town in a wine-producing district just over an hour’s drive from New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. Since late last month, we’ve been in Level 4 lockdown which means avoiding close contact with anyone other than those you live with and leaving home only to exercise in your immediate neighbourhood or go to the nearest supermarket, pharmacy or medical centre.
How are these surreal days influencing your normal writing process?
Significantly. For the past few years, I’ve been primarily engaged in writing for The Listener, New Zealand’s leading current and cultural affairs journal. Within a week of us entering lockdown, the magazine’s owners (the German group Bauer) shut down its New Zealand operations with immediate effect forcing the cessation of The Listener after 80 years of weekly publication.
If you had to isolate with one other writer, who and why?
Probably the restaurateur and food writer Rick Stein. (His Wikipedia entry credits him with authorship of 25 books, although there seems to be a fair amount of duplication.) Based on his TV shows, he appears to be a very engaging fellow with a love of literature – he has a degree In English from Oxford University – and New Zealand’s national sport, rugby. And with not much else to do but eat and drink, who better to be hunkered down with than a master chef?
Is there a local dish or comfort food that you are eating more regularly?
No, but I’ve more or less cornered the local market in tinned confit de canard imported from France. I lived in Toulouse for a couple of years in the 1980s and have been a duck lover ever since.
Which historical writer would you find it difficult to be self-isolating with and why?
This is a tough one but I can’t go past Norman Mailer. In an Observer piece from the early 1980s, reproduced in his collection The Moronic Inferno, Martin Amis wrote that “for some reason or other, Mailer spent the years between 1950 and 1980 in a tireless quest for a fistfight.” Amis described a 700-page oral biography of Mailer as “strewn with vicious confrontations, drunken couplings, ostentatious suicide bids, cruel human manipulations, incessant violence – and incessant cant.” After a few days of that, I think I’d take my chances with COVID-19.