In C.K. Stead’s Book Self I am indexed because of references to my April 1990 article in Metro “Blaspheming Against the Pieties: why the literati hate C.K. Stead”. Stead says on p369 that he doesn’t have a copy of it and can’t remember the content, but he clearly assumes it was negative. I don’t have a copy (who keeps their ancient clippings?) and can’t remember the content either, but I do remember that it was essentially positive. Metro was very much on his side in the cultural debates of the time.
However, Stead does concede that my December 1990 cover story about political correctness (the cover pic showed Jennifer Ward-Lealand in a Greenpeace T-shirt wagging her finger sternly at the viewer: phwoar, frankly, and maybe this is why he still has a copy of this issue):
defended me against “politically correct liberals” whom [Stratford] describes as “the New Conservatives” and who had decided, he says, that I was “an incorrigible reactionary”.He quotes a bit more of me in support of him, and then writes:
In fact if the earlier Stratford article was bad from my point of view (and I can’t be sure that it was) there was one that was much worse in a magazine he edited in the early 1990s. This was by Nigel Cox in Quote Unquote (both – author and magazine – now deceased) in which Cox more or less wrote my literary obituary, suggesting that since leaving the university my poetry had dried up, my novels were “forgettable”, and that, apart from causing upset by continuing to voice illiberal opinions, there was nothing left for me as a writer but “the dying of the light”.This article by Nigel Cox is “Leading with his Chin” which I published in Quote Unquote the magazine in July 1994 when Nigel was 43 and Karl was 62 (see below). Obviously Nigel’s article was much less pro-Stead than my Metro article, and I didn’t really agree with his assessment, but it would have been a boring magazine if I had imposed my views on every contributor. The magazine folded in 1997, and Nigel died of cancer in 2006.
Fast-forward to 2010:
The 77-year-old CK Stead, New Zealand’s finest living writer, has won The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award.Good for him, and we must all rejoice when a New Zealand writer wins an international prize, especially one worth ₤25,000. However, the story is about a younger writer who publishes an article hurtfully critical of an older writer. Some years later, the younger writer gets cancer and dies, while the older writer thrives. And then there is some funny business between the older writer and the widow.
There is an Italian proverb to the effect that revenge is a dish best eaten cold. This is extremely cold. Kelvin cold.
Well, see for yourselves. Nigel’s piece is reprinted below; Karl’s story is on the Times website here.