Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What makes a great Kiwi book?

 That is the topic for tomorrow evening’s NZ Book Month event in Hamilton, at which I have to speak. In any other context than birds, the word “Kiwi” makes me shudder. 

I said as much to a booky friend who replied, “There should be a list of horrid words and they should be banned – starting with ‘booklover’ which is on the same loathsome scale as ‘jazzfest’.” Quite.

Any other suggestions for the List of Horrid Words? Or any suggestions for what to say about what makes a great Kiwi book?

12 comments:

Danyl said...

Hows about 'a great kiwi book is a great book that could not have been written were the author not a New Zealander.'

Stephen Stratford said...

Name some. Go on, I know you can.

Emily P said...

LHW candidate: 'Wordsmith'

Stephen Stratford said...

EmilyP: yes. yes yes.

And "scribe" for "journalist". Only journalists do that but to me it is fingernails on a blackboard.

Danyl said...

I guess my definition means that 'Plumb' is a great kiwi book, while most of Ngaio Marsh's novels are not.

helenalex said...

'Eatery' instead of restaurant. Food critics do it a lot.

Stephen Stratford said...

@Danyl - true. But does this mean you'd rule out the new Lloyd Jones?

Stephanie said...

I understood Danyl to mean that Ngaio Marsh lived in England and wrote(mostly) of English things.
Lloyd Jones lives in NZ and writes about subjects of world-wide interest.

It is the place you live in, surely????

Stephen Stratford said...

Maybe so, Stephanie, maybe not. The discussion last night was very interesting - one view was that "The Lion in the Meadow" is a favourite book by a great NZ writer but there is nothing New Zealandy (a Patrick White invention I prefer to "Kiwi" which is too limiting - makes me think of black singlets and rugbyracingandbeer) about it. That word "meadow", for a start. So one could say it is a NZ book but not a Kiwi one. One of the panel pointed out that there is nothing New Zealandy in the text of Hairy McLairy either (apart from the word "dairy") but the pictures are totally New Zealandy, with cabbage trees etc. So that one is a mixture. Other writers - Owen Marshall, Brian Turner, Laurence Fearnley (apart from "Delphine's Run"), Paddy Richardson, Vanda Symon - are 100% New Zealandy.

On the other hand I have a South African friend in Auckland who writes novels set in his homeland. They are neither Kiwi nor New Zealandy - so it's not just a matter of where you live.

Rob's Blockhead Blog said...

Where would you put Katherine Mansfield in all this?

I never found her all that New Zealandy, even when the stories clearly were set in NZ.

I'll allow its been over 20 years since I read her, and my tastes may have developed (it was a stage 1 NZ lit paper) but I remember feeling a distance between her and what she was writing about which seemed more than geographical.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of restaurant review, "plated". I mean, really.
Mark B

Keri Hulme said...

An Aotearoan-New Zealand writer - for me- is one who lives here, writes about here, is immersed in our culture/s.

And what they write, travels on its own legs overseas, and is acknowledged as a ANZ book-