> Skip to content
  • Published: 17 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143774853
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $35.00

Things I Learned at Art School

From the writer who brought you Tinderbox, a book about a woman trying to write a book, comes Things I Learned at Art School, a memoir by a woman who has never kept a diary. Until now.

Part memoir, part essay collection, Megan Dunn’s ingenious, moving, hilariously personal Things I Learned at Art School tells the story of her early life and coming-of-age in New Zealand in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
From her single mother's love life to her Smurf collection, from the mean girls at school to the mermaid movie Splash, from her work in strip clubs and massage parlours (and one steak restaurant) to the art school of the title, this is a dazzling, killer read from a contemporary voice of comic brilliance.
Chapters include (but are not limited to): The Ballad of Western Barbie; A Comprehensive List of All the Girls Who Teased Me at Western Heights High School, What They Looked Like and Why They Did It; On Being a Redhead; Life Begins at Forty: That Time My Uncle Killed Himself; Good Girls Write Memoirs, Bad Girls Don’t Have Time; Videos I Watched with My Father; Things I Learned at Art School; CV of a Fat Waitress; Nine Months in a Massage Parlour Called Belle de Jour; Various Uses for a Low Self-esteem; Art in the Waiting Room and Submerging Artist.

Praise for Things I Learned At Art School:
‘Megan Dunn is the perfect antidote to the literary sad-girl industrial complex. She has the best deadpan of the southern hemisphere. Wickedly funny and frequently disconcerting, these odd, savage gems have gravy for days.’
— Hera Lindsay Bird

‘I’ve been waiting for this cask wine drenched cruise through a juicy world of low art, popular culture, lurex, and frosty pussies. Dunn is bewilderingly funny and smart.’
— Kiran Dass

‘Dazzling. There is humour as black as night and all the stories are just so madly, moreishly readable.’
— Steve Braunias

‘I think Megan Dunn is a major writer waiting to happen.’
— Bill Manhire

‘Megan Dunn is a comic genius. The world needs more of her writing.’
— Susanna Andrew, Metro
Praise for Tinderbox:
Megan Dunn's wry, whip-smart memoir about Fahrenheit 451, literary ambition & the last days of Borders Bookstores is funny & insightful as hell. Like Kathy Acker meets Sue Townsend. The read of the summer! … already one of my favourite New Zealand books.

Tinderbox is such a shape-shifter, such a sui generis work, that to call it a memoir does it a disservice … [Dunn’s] voice is hard to resist – sardonic, brazen, sagacious – recalling, in places, Nora Ephron, John Jeremiah Sullivan, and Maggie Nelson.” - James Cook, Review 31

  • Published: 17 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143774853
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $35.00

About the author

Megan Dunn

Megan Dunn is the author of two irreverent works of non-fiction Tinderbox (Galley Beggar Press, 2017) and her memoir in essays Things I Learned at Art School (Penguin Random House New Zealand, 2021.)

Megan is as an art critic and essayist in New Zealand. She has published columns, reviews, personal essays and features for a wide range of media including the Guardian Australia, The New Zealand Listener, Metro, Newsroom and Art News New Zealand. She was once the visual arts correspondent on Radio New Zealand’s Saturday morning show, with broadcaster Kim Hill. So there.

Megan graduated with a master’s in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. In 2006, she won an Escalator award from the New Writing Partnership (now the National Centre for Writing.) In 2022 she was the annual Writer in Residence at the International Institute of Modern Letters, based at Victoria University of Wellington, Te Herenga Waka. During this residency she worked on the first draft of her mer-moir and also curated an art exhibition The Mermaid Chronicles, based on her journeys to meet the world’s leading professional mermaids. You can watch a short clip of Megan speaking about mermaids on TVNZ.

Megan has chaired literary events with national and international authors including Rachel Kushner, Olivia Laing and Noelle McCarthy.
Megan lives and works in Wellington. She is also interested in crocodiles.

Also by Megan Dunn

See all

Praise for Things I Learned at Art School

Megan Dunn's new book, Things I Learned in Art School, is a memoir-in-essays about art, sex, family and fantasy. It is, quite simply, a work of brilliance. It is an intelligent, sharp, and incisive body of work.

Lana Lopesi, Metro Magazine

A deeply personal but continuously funny memoir.

Bill Hickman, Sunday Star Times

Things I Learned at Art School is a page-turning riposte to the idea that art school is the only place that nurtures creativity. As Megan Dunn makes clear in her wise, witty and wonderful memoir, the seeds of a creative life will bloom in the most unexpected of places.

Jennifer Higgie, author and art writer

Part coming-of-age memoir and pop-culture homage, the creative non-fiction of Megan Dunn takes the reader on a digressive, funny and unflinching journey through late-20th-century New Zealand.

Paula Morris, New Zealand Listener

If you're in need of an uplifting/slightly sardonic read, Megan Dunn's latest book is on our radar, full of the author's hilariously personal perspectives on growing up in Aotearoa during the 70s, 80s and 90s.

The New Zealand Herald

It's a very good read.

Linda Thompson, Bay of Plenty Times

I recently read and loved Megan Dunn's Things I Learned in Art School and I'm hoping she is working on a part two.

Eleanor Black, Canvas

Discover more

An important note from Megan Dunn

An unbiased promotional letter from the author of Things I Learned at Art School on why you should definitely pick up a copy—or two—today (without delay).