Friday, April 30, 2010

No more Ms Nice Guy

One of my joky nicknames for myself is "Pollyanna" - because I always try to think the best. This aspect of my personality has taken a few hits in recent years as I have been discovering that the world is a very evil place indeed, full of liars, hypocrites, cheats and thieves. But the Pollyanna me refuses to completely give up the desire to be good and see good in everyone and everything, based on my influential humanist upbringing, which drummed home to me ideas such as that everyone deserves a fair hearing, and we're all human, and that people are naturally good, and if we all just sat down and talked together harmoniously and respectfully, justice and peace would flourish.

Yeah right. Dad never had to deal with The Academy, so he died with his illusions intact.

My Dad seemed to believe in a Utopia on earth and never stopped living as though he was already in it. He was good to everyone, and he liked everyone (with a few notable exceptions - he and Maurice Duggan - drinking mates at the same tavern, mixing in the same crowd - apparently despised each other... I think Maurice was naturally suspicious of someone who seemed so damn good on the surface, and who everyone else seemed to adore, and just refused to like him on principle, and Dad, who probably wasn't used to being disliked, couldn't help thinking there was something very wrong with the surly Maurice...)

Dad even learned that language Esperanto - and taught it to me as a child. Add this education to my natural personality, with its overriding sense of optimism and a desire to like and be liked (as an astrologer might observe on my natal chart with its strong Leonine and Libran influences) and you don't come up with an ideal book reviewer. I'm hardly going to want to say the hard things. especially in a small country. Fortunately I'm not a "real" book reviewer, just a part-time recreational blogger, so with very few exceptions, if I don't like a book for some reason, I won't bother being negative about it, instead I'll mostly only tell any reader that might happen by, about some of the the good books I've read - and there are plenty of them!

It does make me seem like a Pollyanna though doesn't it, that I bang on about this fine poet and that wonderful memoir, and another stunning non-fiction title. I really do mean it.

It's all true. Sometimes there are good books too, that I have one or other issue with, and I'll be honest about that within the context that this is merely my own opinion of course.

What I don't often talk about is the garbage, but today I have an absolute lemon for you.

Making It by Patrick Evans, Hodder & Stoughton Auckland 1989. "Stiffback" and that's appropriate because the main character appears to have a lot of stiffies. You might even call him a prick.

It is useful to consider a truly gruesomely appalling novel occasionally, because it makes us appreciate so much more those novels that are well written, carefully plotted, with authentic characters.

This author is an ex-school teacher who strayed into academia and also apparently has aspirations to being as great a literary star as the authors he belittles with notoriously mean-spirited criticisms. Not likely if this book is any example of his attempt to rise to their level. The back cover blurb says the novel is "Provocative, unrepentantly masculinist and dealing with characters and settings that are uncomfortably familiar, MAKING IT s comic writing at its darkest and most entertaining when it comes close to giving offence."

Offensive "masculinism" being so hilarious, of course!

I can't find any review of this book anywhere online which isn't surprising. It doesn't appear to be on any New Zealand literature reading lists for schools or universities. I expect there were some semi-polite print "notices" at the time, and perhaps an acknowledgement in an academic journal by some colleague driven into that civility by obscure mutual professional obligation coupled with an obsessively completist attitude to reviewing local fiction. Basically though, Making It is one of that cosy number of fiction titles published that deserves to sink like a stone. I found this book in a bargain bin at the university bookshop where the author is based.

Making It is currently on TRADEME at $3 for an initial bid - but there hasn't been one - auction closing in one hour.

As with many a bad book or film, this novel is occasionally unintentionally funny. Get it if you want a laugh from reading lines like this: his left, Joy called his name. His scrotum

I'm over here! his penis called.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fond of You

He Who Shall Remain Nameless turned 60 years old recently, and we celebrated by having a slap up meal at his favourite restaurant, PLATO.

Ah and what a delicious feast. With to finish, an extremely decadent dessert-for-two, of a dark chocolate fondue, and treats to dip in it.

Forgot to photograph it before we started to demolish it, but you get the idea.

Oh wickedness!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Rilke's 'Autumn Day'

Lord, it is time. The summer was too long.
Lay now thy shadow over the sundials,
and on the meadows let the winds blow strong.

Bid the last fruit to ripen on the vine;
allow them still two friendly southern days
to bring them to perfection and to force
the final sweetness in the heavy wine.

Who has no house now will not build him one.
Who is alone now will be long alone,
will waken, read, and write long letters
and through the barren pathways up and down
restlessly wander when dead leaves are blown.

Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated by CF McIntyre)

For more Tuesday Poems please visit the TUESDAY POEM blog.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Steal Away Boy

David Mitchell. Poet, legend, hero, human being.

Couldn't wait to get my hands on this new selected poems Steal Away Boy edited by Nigel Roberts and Martin Edmond. I was expecting a nostalgia trip - back to my long-haired muslin-dressed bare-footed early 1970s awestruck haunting of the edges of the poetry scene. But this book delivers a fresh wallop of really good poetry, not just a blast from the past.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


There's nothing like a good shag.

Here's a whole row of them at the Oamaru breakwater,

it looks a little like a row of small sharp teeth....

The tourists don't come to Oamaru for the shags,
but here they are, in their thousands,
on a jetty near the penguin colony at the Oamaru Harbour.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday's Poem: Slanderstorm

The wind is spreading
malicious gossip
all along the ether

Here is an exercise
for those who like
to do the same

Write down on a piece of paper
these accusations
that you mutter

Rip the sheet into a thousand bits
and throw them to the gale
then try to pick them up again.

For more Tuesday's Poems visit the Tuesday Poem blog.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tuesday Poem: 'Visiting Blair at Warrington' by Peter Olds

Blair alone with his sherry
radio and books. Easymeat,

his long haired cat, rowdily
munching through a can of

Jellymeat; the one-bar heater
glowing merrily; smoke

rising from the ashtray...
A long slow goods train squeals

past the back of the house,
its light on gully, tree,

and anything else that falls
in its path.

From Ballad of the Last Cold Pie (Cold Hub Press 2010) by Peter Olds

Reproduced with permission.

For more Tuesday poems, visit the blog TUESDAY POEM.

Tuesday on my mind

Introducing the TUESDAY POEM Blog.

I need a new blog

A literary storm is raging in the small pond.
The Tabby Blog is not nearly anonymous enough, for me to possibly comment...

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Bill Manhire's new book of poetry, Victims of Lightning (VUP 2010).

More indispensable poetry from Bill Manhire. Here's another beautiful generous book to treasure.

One of the joys of reading such a great poet is that lightning does strike more than once in close proximity.

Generally within the pages of a slim volume, even with a good poet, there are only a few truly memorable pieces to be found. (Even that is an achievement, and well worth the effort on the part of poet and reader.)

But with Manhire, you have a very high strike rate.

Baby boomers will especially love the poem '1950s', a catchy litany that runs deeper than it seems at first sight.

(Alongside the nostalgia of recalling invisible ink and the View-Master and the school milk and playing Ludo and viewing Cinerama, there are some phenomena that not all of us had daily experience of, for instance, "Alcoholics".)

And it seems that the poet has built up such a compelling rhythm, that he has burst into song, and so this new book provides us with a section of lyrics.


Friday, April 9, 2010


Blood Men is a thriller. And with splatters of delicious dark humour. A terrific read. I loved it. I'm new to this genre: I only started reading crime fiction books recently, because they are now being written so well by Kiwis and so I was curious to compare them with the literary fiction I generally prefer.

But I am not going to write an essay here about the difference between apples and oranges; only report that since being blown away by his powerful debut work The Cleaner, I buy each new Paul Cleave with great enthusiasm. I wait impatiently until I have a weekend off and start reading it and don't stop until I finish. And this one did not disappoint. It's a damn good read.

There's an interview with the author, New Zealand crime writer Paul Cleave on the blog Crime Watch.

Blood Men is published by Random House NZ in their Black Swan imprint.

Boy oh Boy

If you haven't been to see Taika Waititi's BOY yet then just go, and you won't regret it. Can't recommend it highly enough.

The lovely magical childhood perspective of Boy reminded me so much of the translucent childhood scenes from Jane Campion's AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE. Campion was able to translate Frame's brilliant writing about her very young years straight onto the screen - the innocence and sheer joy, the apparent absence of influence from the adult world and yet in the complicated microcosm of the children's daily life one senses the future and the grown up realities are already there, just ready to erupt - or can they be transformed by the magic too? Does the magic have to die when you grow up?

Boy is a joy.

My only quibble is not with the film but with the section of the audience that is going to read this film (as they did the Campion) as a documentary. I saw a review of BOY on Telly in which somebody said something like "What an eye-opener it was. I had no idea people on the East Coast lived like that". Huh?

A Secular Gluttony

At my neighbourhood cafe I recently ordered a Hot Cross Bun, only to be told that as the chef was an atheist, she had refused to put a cross on the bun.

Ka pai te pukapuka

Hot off the Cold Hub Press


by Peter Olds (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-473-16693-9

Cold Hub Press
Governor's Bay
159 Main Road
Lyttleton R.D.1
New Zealand

I'll feature a poem from the chapbook as my next week's "Tuesday Poem"
(with the author's permission, of course)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday's Poem: Lost & Found

I wrote a poem today.

Actually, I didn't write it.
I found it.

A found poem! Gift

of strange bureaucracy,
inadequate translation.
A straining to explain that's

just the ticket.

All that's called for
is recognition,

There's often a catch attached.
A too-easy snigger.

But this one was perfect.
Well, almost perfect.

I lost a poem today too.

A lost poem:
you don't hear so much about those ones.

There's not much to say really.

I only have the blank piece of paper
I didn't write the poem down on.

For more Tuesday Poems look at the list of links on Mary McCallum's blog:
O Audacious Book.