Blog Archives

The blind men and the elephant, Chris Else

Refiguring Minds in Narrative Media David Ciccoricco University of Nebraska Press, $55.00, ISBN 9780803248373 I earn a good part of my living by assessing manuscripts. For a fee, I read a text and write a report on it, which, I

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Posted in Non-fiction and Review

Telling our stories to ourselves, Chris Else

Jerome Kaino: My Story Jerome Kaino Penguin, $40.00, ISBN 9780143573562 Wildboy Brando Yelavich Penguin, $35.00, ISBN 9780143573159 The Good Doctor Lance O’Sullivan Penguin, $38.00, ISBN 9780143572510 How Bizarre Simon Grigg Awa Press, $38.00, ISBN 9781927249222 Lydia Bradey: Going Up is

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Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Poppy lopping and cultural cringing

Novelist Chris Else reflects on “the Eleanor Catton affair”

Among the matters raised by the Eleanor Catton affair, two seem to have been given short shrift: our treatment of our tall poppies and whether or not we suffer from cultural cringe. The Dominion Post editorial for 30th January 2015 denied the existence of a tall poppy syndrome: “New Zealanders are kind, sometimes excessively so, to their achievers. Keri Hulme says she got enormous support when she won the Booker, and this is the usual pattern.” In a similar vein, the New Zealand Listener editorial for 7th February 2015 came close to denying the existence of a cultural cringe:

It is simply not true to say that we don’t embrace our literary successes. The Listener has always championed excellent writing; in fact, we put Catton on the cover before her Booker win. By contrast, sports stars almost never make our cover.

These claims are no doubt true; however, they are also beside the point. We laud our successful people; we also sometimes cut them down. The grosser form of the cultural cringe may be on the retreat, but there is a subtler, more insidious form that is as deeply ingrained as racism or sexism. The tall poppy syndrome is its inevitable consequence.

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The quality question, Chris Else

The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature Jane Stafford and Mark Williams (eds) Auckland University Press, $75.00, ISBN 9781869405892 I have a conflict of interest here: I am one of those writers with a substantial body of published

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Posted in Literature and Review

Difficult presents, Chris Else

The Spaces Between  Russell Haley Adastra Productions, $25.00, ISBN 9780473203856   Little Sister  Julian Novitz Vintage, $29.00, ISBN 9781869798246   The Intentions Book  Gigi Fenster Victoria University Press, $35.00, ISBN 9780864738233   The Spaces Between is Russell Haley’s eighth book

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

Downloaded, Chris Else

Chris Else discovers online shopping is no match for the bookshop browse. There are books bought and books borrowed; books stolen and books found; books that are gifts and books that are prizes; books that you read as soon as

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Posted in Comment and ebooks

Bovver boys

What they wrote A taste of contributor comments over our first 20 years   On New Zealand Books My hope is that New Zealand Books will provide a forum for frank discussion that dares to rise above the suffocating confines

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Posted in Comment

Why read? Chris Else

The Torchlight List  Jim Flynn Awa Press, $33.00, ISBN 9780958291699   The world is going to hell in a handcart in so many ways that if you are over 55, you’re inclined to throw up your hands in despair, hide

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Posted in Literature, Non-fiction and Review

Out of Africa, Chris Else

In the second of a two-part series, Chris Else examines the case for an evolutionary explanation of art argued in two recent books. Back in my university days I had a friend called Murray, a sardonic sort of bloke with

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