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“Loneliness was his condition”, Owen Marshall

Notes From the Margins: The West Coast’s Peter Hooper
Pat White
Frontiers Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473380663

A journey is a kind of endless forgetting. The boys lived only in the present, seeking a river crossing, probing a thorny thicket for the easiest passage, cooking a meal, hearing the night bird in the silence of the hills.

A Song in the Forest

The South Island’s West Coast features prominently in New Zealand literature, its swashbuckling history and impressive natural environment providing many advantages of setting. Charlotte Randall, Eleanor Catton, Jenny Pattrick and Amy Head are among those who have produced quality fiction associated with the region. Its perceived society and culture, however, are not those that would seem to foster a literary disposition among people who live there, yet Keri Hulme, Mervyn Thompson, Bill Pearson, Toss Woollaston and Philip May represent those with such ties. None has been more closely associated with the Coast than Peter Hooper (1919–1991), the subject of this biography.

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction and Review

Love and war, Murray Bramwell

Love as a Stranger
Owen Marshall
Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9781775538578

The Antipodeans
Greg McGee
Upstart Press, $38.00, ISBN 9781927262030

In his captivating new novel, Love as a Stranger, Owen Marshall immediately greets the reader with portents. The epigraph quotes the 17th-century dramatist and poet, Pedro Calderon de la Barca: “When love is not madness, it is not love.” And the opening sentence in the opening chapter, set in the present,  but located in a 19th-century Auckland cemetery, establishes with a limpid calm a story that is both pleasingly, disarmingly familiar and subtly marbled with a sinister unease:

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Walking in the real world, Owen Marshall

Dad Art  
Damien Wilkins
Victoria University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9781776560561

Acoustic engineer Michael Stirling is divorced, in contact through a dating site with apparently grieving Chrissie, tending a father in a dementia unit, living in Wellington’s Sanctum Apartments having lost his house, coping with a minor surgical procedure, learning te reo Māori and providing temporary accommodation for his daughter Samantha who has arrived from Auckland roped to a young Māori man as an artistic experiment. Enough to be going on with. The mid-life crisis is a well-worn theme in modern fiction, but Damien Wilkins gives it a welcome and spirited outing.

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Ticking on by, Catherine Robertson

Carnival Sky
Owen Marshall
Vintage, $38.00
ISBN 9781775535827

The White Clock
Owen Marshall
Otago University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781877578632

Both of Marshall’s latest works centre on confrontations with mortality, and both do a fine job of showing that these are not always occasions for personal truth-seeking and comforting reminiscence, but also for less praiseworthy responses – resentment, selfishness, anger and outright head-in-the-sand denial.

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Life in the bush, by the bay, Dougal McNeill

Speaking Frankly: The Frank Sargeson Memorial Lectures 2003-2010 Sarah Shieff (ed) Cape Catley, $31.99, ISBN 9781877340277   Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays Gerri Kimber and Janet Wilson (eds) Palgrave Macmillan, $162.00, ISBN 9780230277731   It was a

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Posted in Essays, Lecture, Literature, Non-fiction and Review

Open secrets, Heather Roberts

The Larnachs Owen Marshall Random House, $39.99, ISBN 978869794972   Meet the Larnachs: Owen Marshall’s choice of title is revealing in its use of the definite article and the plural. Generally, those who know the name Larnach know only one

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Always a price to pay, Elspeth Sandys

Living as a Moon Owen Marshall Vintage, $34.99, ISBN 9781869792510 Opening Owen Marshall’s latest collection of short stories, beginning, somewhat apprehensively, to read, I wondered if the faint niggle I always feel when I read Marshall’s work would stay with

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Prizes and short shrifts, Murray Bramwell

Prizes: Selected Short Stories Janet Frame  Vintage, $34.99, ISBN 9781869791131 His Best Stories  Witi Ihimaera Raupo, $ 30.00, ISBN 9780143010906 Essential New Zealand Short Stories  Owen Marshall (ed) Vintage, $40.00, ISBN 97818697791285 There is something unexpectedly but suitably upbeat about

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Posted in Literature, Review and Short stories

Wholemeal, Louise O’Brien

Drybread Owen Marshall Vintage, $27.95, ISBN 9781869419196 Drybread is Owen Marshall’s third novel, adding to an already rich body of work. His last novel, Harlequin Rex, won the Montana New Zealand Book Awards Deutz Medal for Fiction in 2000. Indeed,

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Same notes, different tunes, Jenny DeBell

The Six Pack: Winning Writing from New Zealand Book Month 2006  John Campbell (introduction) New Zealand Book Month with Whitireia Publishing, $6.00, ISBN 1877192279 The Best New Zealand Fiction 3 Fiona Kidman (ed) Vintage, $34.99, ISBN 1869417976 Sunday 22: The

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review and Short stories
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