Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Three magic words: “I was right”

The press release says:
Wellington Ph.D student, Hamish Clayton has won the NZSA Best First Book Award for Fiction – the country’s highest accolade for an emerging writer – for his novel, Wulf.
The honour is one of three New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) Awards announced today which recognise standout new writers across fiction, poetry and non-fiction categories. The Awards are part of the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards; the country’s premier prizes for literature.
Awards convenor, Chris Bourke says the judges described Wulf as one of the most memorable debut novels in recent times.
“Hamish Claytons first novel is a work of bravura lyricism, a brilliant feat of imagining that transforms historical events which occurred in early nineteenth century New Zealand into metaphor and myth.”
I read an earlier version of the novel in manuscript form in January 2010 and reported:
This is my most exciting discovery since Linda Olsson’s Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs. It is an astonishingly assured debut. Reviewers will swoon. It would have to win Best First Book Award for Fiction.
I was right.

Great story, great characters, great writing. Three brief quotes from the manuscript: “the season started snapping its salty teeth”; “our desire for trade always turned to the business of fucking”; “he set his carved house on fire and watched the years burn”. I was reminded of John Gardner’s Grendel and William Golding’s Rites of Passage. Yes, it’s that good. If you haven’t yet read it, do pick it up in a bookshop and have a look. Maybe even buy it. 

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