Harari, Fiona (Ed.). Elders: Interviews with Andrew Denton

ABC Books, $35

In 2008 and 2009, ABC personality Andrew Denton sailed against the prevailing winds of youth-worship, creating a television series based on conversations with a range of subjects aged over 65.

This companion to the series collates the series’ transcripts. Presented in question-and-answer format, the collection benefits from familiarity with the original series, but it also flows as a tidy set of cosy conversations with subjects varied in opinion and outlook.

From eldest – Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, interviewed when she was 99 – to youngest, sprightly Isabel Allende, most participants comfortably accommodate reliable Dentonesque conversation: no creaky wisdom or cobwebbed platitudes, rather more the type of chat you’d expect sitting down with a nice cup of tea. In the library. Some interviews were obviously more satisfying than others. Richard Dawkins steadfastly refuses to open up, while Alan Alda and Clive James just can’t help themselves – in a good way! American journalist Helen Thomas shares an emotional conversation which does not translate effectively on the page.

Highlights include Muhammad Yunus’s inspiring (and simple) explanation of how he came to start the Grameen Bank, Father Des Reid’s honesty, and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks forgiveness of her father. Sir David Attenborough, Bob Hawke, and Helen Bamber also star.

The importance of family is ever present in most interviews, as is a feeling of getting the most out of the rest of one’s life. Denton asks “what do you see when you look in the mirror?”  The answers are the reflections of these individuals.

 

Reviewed August 2010

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