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Maybe, maybe not, Craig Cliff

The Writers’ Festival
Stephanie Johnson
Vintage, $38.00
ISBN 9781775537984

Taken together, Stephanie Johnson’s The Writing Class (2013) and her latest novel, The Writers’ Festival, are a study in ambivalence. Can creative writing be taught? the first asks. Maybe, maybe not. At least, Johnson’s two writing tutors in The Writing Class are in disagreement. Merle Carbury, a 50-something midlist-and-slipping novelist, believes teaching “a student with no instinct for writing is as impossible as teaching a tone-deaf child the violin”. Gareth Heap, on the other hand, has parlayed a prize-winning first novel into a teaching gig and reckons writing, like chemistry or a foreign language, can be taught.

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Monsters beyond the swampbrink, Craig Cliff

Fiction
Lamplighter
Kerry Donovan Brown
Victoria University Press
ISBN 9780864739162

Maria Susanna Cummins’s sentimental novel The Lamplighter (1854) was a bestseller in its time. It tells the story of a mistreated orphan, Gertrude, who’s rescued by Trueman Flint, a lamplighter. Flint instills good virtues in his ward, and Gerty grows into a good Christian woman.

Kerry Donovan Brown’s Lamplighter (note the absent indefinite article), whether consciously or not, turns Cummins’s novel on its head. Candle, the novel’s 18-year-old protagonist, is apprenticed to his lamplighting grandfather, Ignis Gullstrand. Rather than lead his charge into morality, Ignis is foul-mouthed, violent and alcoholic. Candle is quiet, gentle. He labours to disentangle paddle crabs from his father’s net and return them to the water uninjured; Ignis simply tears a crab from the net. “‘Bait,’ says the Lamplighter, and tosses the remains into the ocean.”

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The dark and dank, Eleanor Toland

The Demolition of the Century  Duncan Sarkies Penguin Books, $30.00, ISBN 9780143568902 The Mannequin Makers Craig Cliff Random House, $38.00, ISBN 9781775533849 The Wind City Summer Wigmore Steam Press, $30.00, ISBN 9780992257804 Traditionally, the gothic is a northern genre. The

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

What am I doing here? Nicholas Reid

A Man Melting Craig Cliff Vintage, $29.99, ISBN 9781869791926   Everything We Hoped For Pip Adam Victoria University Press, $30.00, ISBN 9780864736253   Once upon a Time in Aotearoa Tina Makereti Huia, $30.00, ISBN 978186969166   He ran his right

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review and Short stories
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