Thursday, 25 December 2008

A book never smelled so good...

Perfume: The story of a murderer by Patrick Suskind was published in 1985, originally in German. It is quite unlike any other novel I have read in recent memory, and is considered by some to be a 'modern classic'. It was recommended to me a couple of years ago by a good friend of mine, and so once this academic year finished and I went on my end of semester book binge I made sure that this book was among those I acquired. 

Grenouille, the protagonist of this novel, was born into the most rancid and unwelcoming of environments - under the table of a fish gutting stall in the middle of 18th century Paris. His mother, not viewing him, her fifth unplanned pregnancy, as a "real child", simply birthed him and then got back up to get on with her life leaving him for dead amongst the fish offal and blood on the ground. Unlike her previous four children, however, Grenouille refuses to die in such undignified circumstances. 

He has no personal odour to speak of, yet has an unsurpassed sense of smell. In fact, smell is the only thing that exists for him. Although one might be tempted to sympathise with a baby born into such unfortunate circumstances to such a callous mother, it is soon abundantly clear that Grenouille is only out for himself and his own gains. He does not care for the company of others and in fact actively avoids it, going to extreme lengths to do so at one stage. The only thing he is interested in getting from  human society is a certain smell... the delicate fragrance of a virgin girl. 

I find this novel an interesting blend of the historical novel and a character study. Grenouille is a truly fascinating character, one who inspires only fear and repulsion from the reader - or me at least! I'd be interested to know if anyone who has read this novel feels any sympathy for this guy. He's sub-human, and yet super-human. He lacks a souls, but possesses an amazing gift. There is literally nothing to like about him, although I guess one could wonder at and perhaps admire his determination and will to survive. 

One thing I have noticed since reading this book is that it has deepened my appreciation for my sense of smell.  Suddenly I have started taking note of things that I had previously not given a second thought. It's opened my nose - something a book has never done before!! Opened minds, yes. Opened eyes to unknown things, yes. My nose? This is a first! 

A book never smelled so good!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Book and the Brotherhood

One of life's great delights is, for me, a good book. I hope to goodness that I never lose the joy in opening a new unread book - the smell of the pages, the feel of the paper, the look of the cover and most of all that delicious anticipation of stories and voices as yet untold and unheard...

At the moment I am nearing the end of my first "non-compulsory" read after the academic year officially ended in November. I've been reading Iris Murdoch's The Book and the Brotherhood. It was published in 1987, one of her later books although not her last. It was shortlisted for the 1987 Booker Prize, won by Penelope Lively for her novel Moon Tiger. It is, according to Wikipedia, considered to be her best novel. I can't really argue with that - I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

Personally I prefer to read something a bit more challenging. I love having a solid piece of literature to chew on rather than something lighter, fluffier, forgettable. It's the difference between a piece of good quality whole grain bread and a sandwich slice of cheap white bread. It's just more satisfying and fills you up for longer. Occasionally, of course, you just fancy a slice of something lighter. And of course, some people are white bread fans. Nothing wrong with that at all, I'm just expressing personal preference - so long as people are reading at all, the world is going to be OK.

Given that I'm only on page 445 of 600, I'm hardly in a position to be giving any account of this book as yet. I can, however, express that this is indeed a fantastic book. It is of the wholegrain variety - those who don't enjoy chewing might not thank me for recommending this kind of book to them - and even I'm finding that it is taking a good amount of time to complete. Normally I can rip through a book at a cracking pace but this one has slowed me down. It's not overly dense or hard going (although a knowlegde of philosophy, ancient history and literature will surely serve you well), I think it's more a function of the detailed characterisation and scene setting. You can't skip anything - every word adds value.

A few things I have noticed about Iris Murdoch's writing is that she is a Master of juggling a large number of characters on the pages - the lives and exploits of whom interweave into a fine web of intrigue which forms the basis for her plot. There seems to be a good vs evil structure, although the good is not entirely 'good' and the evil normally has some redeemable qualities. The two rivals in TBATB seems to be Duncan Cambus and David Crimond (sharing the same initials - surely intentional) with Duncan in the corner for Good and Crimond in the corner for Evil. At present there is a build up to what I imagine will be a final showdown between them both, which, gven their history, is likely to be explosive and have some dire consequences for one or the other.

In any case. I shall continue reading and post some more comment when I have finished.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Where were you when...?

History is not just the stuff that is recorded in dusty old tomes in the backs of university libraries, it's the stuff that is happening, day to day, around us in the world we live in. I've only been alive for 26 years and so far several historic things have happened in my lifetime that my grandkids will know about.

"Wow, Granny, you mean you saw the Towers collapse on the news?!"

I got to thinking about this the other day and thought it might be worth thinking about all of the historic events that have happened so far in my lifetime. Especially seeing as thought we are in the wake of the ground-breaking event that is the election of Barack Obama.

Off the top of my head, these are the things that I can remember that have happened in my lifetime:

Gulf war (1990-91)
Beginning of the Bosnian War (1992-95)
Death of Princess Diana (1997)
The Asian Financial Crisis (1997)
Turn of the new millennium (do I really need to put in a date here??!)
9/11 (2001)
The declaration of the Iraq war by George W. Bush (2002)
The Boxing Day Tsunami (2004)
Hurricane Katrina (2005)
Capture and execution of Suddam Hussein (2006)
Election of first African-American president in USA (2008)

Interesting how most of them are "bad news" events. At least the most recent is a nice "good news" event.

I guess here I have focused on global events, not just stuff that's significant to NZ... Those are the ones I can think of just for now. Anyone else think of any others I have missed?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

New government in NZ

Photo source:

So National won the election and today Prime Minister Elect, John Key, announced his new Cabinet. It's not the way I wanted the election to go, but the voice of the people has spoken and this is reality for the next three years so I guess I will have to put up with it.

On the "voice of the people" - I have to just make one comment. Voting for a party based purely on the fact that you fancy a change and you're bored with the current government who has done nothing drastically wrong in the last nine years or because you don't like Helen Clark for purely superficial or personal reasons is NOT a good enough reason to vote her out of office. But ah the joys of democracy when even the least well thought out and impulsive voice is heard alongside the others at equal volume.

Perhaps we were swept up in the excitement and calls for change in the American election which was only three days before our election. Perhaps the calls for change spilled over into our psyche and "change" for change's sake seemed like a good idea? Who knows - it would be interesting to see if you could quantify the effect that had on our election outcome. It's hardly the same though is it - changing from Bush to Obama is barely comparable to our situation. Helen Clark was a thoroughly competent and intelligent leader. One who kept us out of Iraq, one whose party has improved the welfare state, abolished interest on student loans, set up KiwiSaver and KiwiBank. I take my hat off to her.

I have no problem really with the direction of people's vote - so long as they make and intelligent and well-informed vote. Not one that goes something along the lines of "I think Helen Clark looks like a man so I'm voting National". In a world where not everyone gets to have their voice heard, it's important, I think, that we take this kind of thing seriously. Especially when electing a bad government can have such a devastating and lasting effect on the country.

I wish John Key and his new government all the best and hope that he can keep up the good work and build on the solid foundations that Labour has put in place. I also wish that some people would be a touch more thoughtful and mature with their vote, but like I said earlier - such are the pitfalls of democracy - there's no accounting for the 'idiot vote'.

Impending marriage and other fun things...

I'm getting married in a few months.


Even looking at that, black and white, typed on the page is a little bit unreal. Don't get me wrong, I am really excited about being married to my future hubby. It's not the being married to him that is strange and unreal to me. It's the fact that I'm 'here' already. I've looked forward to it for so long that it hardly seems that it can be true that it's so close now.

It's going to be a huge change for me, mentally. Although I already feel a part of my in-laws family, this is the sealing of the deal. The changing of my last name will be a good symbolic step I think. The leaving behind of past hurts and moving forward with a new identity (almost) into my future. It's a necessary and much welcomed step but there's still that tiny tug of apprehension that you always feel when you place your heart, trust and destiny in the hands of another. Having grown up in a situation where I couldn't trust those around me with the above mentioned things, I find it really difficult to let go and trust someone else completely.

I want to. I just need to let myself do it.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Phantom, Research Day Out and Thesis...

I went to see the Phantom of the opera last night - something I had wanted to do for years and years and years. Literally. I love the music, I love the drama and culture surrounding an international stage performance... it's an energy that makes me feel more fully alive. Like I'm experiencing something worthwhile, something which will be noted in the memory banks as a Night To Remember for years to come. It was an incredibly fulfilling experience... and also part of a "self care" thing I'm working on. After years of hearing the words "No" and "Can't" it's hard to switch yourself into "Yes" and "Can" mode.

And now for something completely different... We had a Research Day Out at work today. Normally, work doesn't figure much on my blog, not because I don't like it - I do - I love it in fact. However I guess it's not really what I want to be rambling on about in my spare time. But today was different - 12 different grad students from both Massey and Waikato came together to present on their Masters/PhD research and the result was nothing short of stunning. From work engagement in aid organisations, to androgen's effect on adult gender identities, to homelessness, to emergency management, to the lived experiences of heavy metal fans, to resilience in migrant communities... we really had it all. THIS was the answer to the question I get asked so very often in my job: "What can I do with Psychology?" The answer, obviously, is just about anything you like!
The thing that really captured my attention and imagination though was one section of Darrin Hodgett's presentation which spoke about the homelessness project which he's involved in with Kerry Chamberlain from Massey. They found that a key space that homeless people engage with other in is the public library - here they have a place to be where they can read, engage with others, research things that interest them and get off the streets for a while. This really caught me as I too absolutely love public libraries. Just going ito one has an incredibly calming effect on me - a function of me being a total literophile I'm sure - something I have found from an early age. Nothing, but nothing will make me quite as happy in quite the same way as putting me amongst a bunch of books. And to find that others could also garner similar feelings from libraries was interesting - although no doubt the element of social engagement is more pertinent to those who are homeless. I also loved how this smashed any stereotype that may hang around about homeless people all being uneducated bums.

Speaking of education - the continuing of mine is rolling along nicely. I had some email correspondence with the person I have wanted to be my thesis supervisor since undergrad days about my ideas for my upcoming MA thesis. I'm thinking something in the area of post 9/11 literature and the domestic, I think. I'm just going to read as widely as I can at this stage and roll out from there. It's very exciting. Of anyone happens to be reading this and knows of something (anything) related to post 9/11 literature, please let me know. Cheers!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Book Review: Relative Strangers by Emma Neale

Ever since the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11, 2001 there has been an ever increasing body of literature which has come to be referred to as "Post 9/11 Literature". Although my investigations into this field have only been cursory so far, it has captured my attention. As part of a wider field of trauma literature, post 9/11 literature deals with the Western world's processing and making sense of the atrocities of this day.

The majority of critical attention paid to post9/11 literature has been focused on American literary responses, however when I read Relative Strangers by Emma Neale, a NZ novel, it seemed to me to fit this field.

Relative Strangers starts with Chloe being found in Colin's lounge. She has wandered in there in a state of shock after a series of traumatic events have unfolded in her life. Colin, whom she has never met before, comes home to find this strange and bedraggled woman with her infant son, sat on his couch looking through his personal effects. This the story begins as the reader unravels the narratives of both Chloe and Colin. Coming together under unusual circumstances they find solace in each other - each are survivors of their own particular tragedies - and begin to work through their respective traumas. The glue in this pseudo domestic arrangement is Toby, Chloe's son. The privileging of the domestic and parenthood in this novel appears to be typical of post 9/11 literature - possibly the retreat into the comforting and familiar in the face of death and terror - and is seen as the avenue to healing of both the personal traumas of the protagonists and also the collective trauma of the post 9/11 world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, Neale's prose is a delight to read - one of my favourite sentences was garnered from this book - and the positioning of New Zealand in the fall out from the 9/11 proves that although our little country may seem remote we are as connected to, and affected by, world events as anywhere else in the world.

I give this a book a solid 8/10.

Book Binge!!

To celebrate my release from the shackles of academia for the year, I decided to buy myself a book. Or six. OK, to be fair, I only planned on buying one. But it never quite works out that way. I have a running list of "Must Reads" which are on my shelf and "Must Buys" which I plan to acquire. They never get any shorter as there are just so many bloody good books out there and I haven't had nearly enough time to read even a fraction of them.

I guess a major life goal of mine is to be as widely read as possible and I feel a certain amount of urgency about this. The more I study in the field of literature the more I become aware that there is so much out there I haven't read that I need to. Being the youngest in my class a lot of the time through my Masters papers, there have been so many times when the "Have you read this?" question comes up in general discussion and yet again I am found lacking. Of course, I have had less time and I have done reasonably well in the time I have had BUT! The lists keep growing as does my passion about reading great books.

My acquisitions this week, in no particular order, are:
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova; On Beauty by Zadie Smith; Love in the time of cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Case Histories by Kate Atkinson; Perfume by Patrick Suskind and The inheritance of loss by Kiran Desai.

I have been accused of being a book snob on a few occasions (and a movie snob) as I tend not to spend much time reading or watching the more lightweight stuff. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the more lightweight books - I do. I just don't see how I can spend time reading something I will quickly forget when I have so much serious catch up work to do on contemporary literature. Besides, I find reading a novel that challenges and surprises me far more satisfying.

I'm currently reading The book and the brotherhood by Iris Murdoch for the book club at work, which is going well. I've only really just got into it and figured out who everyone is. I was warned about the proliferation of characters before I started reading her (I'm a Murdoch novice) but I had no idea that you could include so many differing characters and keep the attention of the reader. It's a true testament to Murdoch's skill as a writer. In any case, more will follow on that I'm sure.

For now, I am going to add these six beauties to my ever swelling collection in my on-going quest to be even more of a book nerd than I am now. Happy reading!!

Sunday, 19 October 2008


I have been vastly remiss of late in my posting on here but the reason is that all of my writing energy has been going into my end of year assignments and other such academic pursuits.

However, there is a link - the research essay I am completing (all of the glorious 5000 words of it) will form the basis for the long overdue review I promised for Emma Neale's Relative Strangers. Fear not, though I will condense it considerably before posting it here.

In any case, I just cannot believe that in 10 days, another academic year will be over for me. It's (supposedly) the last time I will ever do paper based study again (but I am still young and extremely geeky, so watch this space!!) and it's all a little odd. And I don't really have the time to sit and savour it, even a little, as I'm just so head down, bum up in the middle of it all. It is utter madness, I tell you.

Having said that, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, 6 October 2008


This is a poem in progress. Comments and feedback most appreciated...


The embers of the year
Glow warmly in my calendar.
September, November, December,
October - it's over.
Approaching ends,
The final act,
The last regrets...
Another year draws to a close.

Kathryn Lee 06/10/08

Friday, 19 September 2008

The Six Pack Three: Buy this book!

September is NZ Book Month, a celebration of all things literary in this great country of ours. This year I managed to get a copy of The Six Pack Three, the result of a short story competition which closed in late March this year. This year is the third year this competition has been held and the third year this book has been a best-seller. It's hardly surprising. This little book is, in my opinion, an absolute gem.

The six winning writers are:
Marisa Maepu, Sue Wootton, Aroha Harris, Ian McKenzie, David Geary and Kate Duigan, appearing in the book in this order.

Each of the stories adds a little more to the ever-growing collective voice of New Zealand, sharing insights into our society, our lives and our existences. From the childhood experiences of racial tensions in South Auckland in the late Eighties, to a brief biographical tribute to "Gary Manawatu", an "ideas man" to a psychological thriller in 'Mirror Mirror'.

So what kinds of issues are bubbling up through the NZ conscious, if we are to take this as a slice of the NZ conscious, that is. Recurrent themes of race, childhood disability and psychological issues pop up throughout the collection - the darker side of the sunny "clean, green" New Zealand existence, perhaps? Or as the judges write in their foreword, despite the "dark moments" in the collection, there are "beams of bright New Zealand sunlight". It depends which way you look at it I guess.

No matter what, though, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this book should be on the bookshelf of anyone who claims themselves to be a book-lover. It's a slice of New Zealand's literary history, a collection of damn good stories, a great read and only six bucks. There's no good reason not to buy it!

Related Links:
New Zealand Book Month
Author Information
Six Pack Success

Friday, 12 September 2008

Taiwan revisited

When you think of Taiwan, it's likely that you think "Where?" or don't know much about it. Neither did I until I met my wonderful other half who has introduced me to this crazy island. Crazy? Yes, crazy. I love it to bits but it drives me mental sometimes! It's a bundle of contradictions, a maze of scooters, horns and sirens as well as having place of extreme tranquility. The whole point of this post is to put up a few pictures from my trip for people to get an idea of what Taiwan is really like... from the inside.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Reactions to the Beijing Olympics

I love the Olympics. I have a simple child-like joy about the wonder of people who have trained for years gathering together to represent their countries in their chosen sports. I stay up late for the Opening Ceremonies and get teary-eyed when anyone wins a medal. I am, in short, a massive softy.

This year, however, this joy has been somewhat mitigated by the looming issue of China's human rights issues and people's reaction to this issue. I am not about to deny that there are things that have gone on in China that aren't acceptable. However, I am going to point out that China is a large and populous country with a very long history, and, like any other country with a lot of people and any sort of history, atrocious things have happened.

There have been some people who have told me that they are refusing to watch the Olympics because of China's oppression government and the awful things they have done. Which is all par for the course, so long as they also plan to skip the London Olympics (the atrocities carried out under the auspices of the British Empire should not be forgotten). Not to mention Olympics past, like the Sydney Olympics (Australia's treatment of the Aboriginal Peoples), plus others that I could mention, but won't as I am sure that my point is clear.

My suggestion is this. If you have a knee jerk reaction to China's government, just take a moment to think. Is there an element of fear of the different in it? Is there an element of fear about the size and power of China and their potential future global influence? Perhaps there isn't. But I have detected a definite undercurrent of what I could only describe as racist sentiment in some of the reactions to the Beijing Olympics from some sections of NZ. Take, for example, the reactions to the revelation that (shock horror) the little girl in the Opening Ceremony was lip-syncing. Sure, the fact that at the last minute, the little girl who actually was singing was replaced for ostensibly aesthetic reasons is harsh and privileges appearance over talent. But has this not happened in many other countries on many other occasions? The Opening Ceremony is a production. It's a show. And the whole world is watching. Perfection is key and in pursuit of perfection sometimes decisions that aren't very nice are made. But overall, don't you think that this doesn't really detract from the fact that it was a damn good show that had us all picking our jaws up from the floor?

A lot of the sentiment expressed in the comments section of the article about this on Stuff news website was blatantly racist and made me feel very sad that this sort of narrow-minded thinking is still so apparently wide-spread. Some of the comments included:

"What do you expect - fake Gucci handbags, fake eggs - sure, why not fake fireworks and singers....makes sense!"

"Maybe it was CHEAPER to have this other girl sing..........."

"It's quite sad really. However I can't say I ever had any respect for China, I've never being impressed with anything a communist state does, and I am yet do be impressed."

"So the host nation are cheats......."

"I feel sorry for the poor girl. China is full of fakes!!!!"
"With everything else being fake, mabye all those gold medals China have won are fake too.
I wouldn't put it past them."

Luckily, the comments were not entirely populated by bigots, which is something to be grateful for.

In any case, my point is ultimately this: China is not perfect. Nowhere is perfect, even New Zealand. I think this was most elegantly summed up in the below comment, also from the comments section of the aforementioned article, with:
"As for China being a 'bad' country - yes they have a very different political structure to most countries and it appears most find this hard to accept. It is also true China have committed atrocities and that is unacceptable but most countries live in that same glass house so no one should be throwing stones at China."

The sooner we start looking for the commonalities and way to work things out and stop trying to find fault and divides, the sooner this world will be a better place. The very basis for the Olympics is peace, unity and harmony, despite difference. And I'm all for it.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Lunching with Michele

[Photo taken by Gregory Wood]

"I hear you've done an assignment on one of my poems?"
Here I am. I am face to face with my favourite poet and one of my literary idols, Michele Leggott. And she's talking to me. Me! So, of course, my mind goes blank at the all crucial moment, robbing me of anything even mildly intelligent to say. Of all the times my mind chooses to stop working (and it does it with alarming regularity), why now!!

Bumbling idiot act aside, this experience of meeting Michele was one of the most outstanding and inspirational experiences of my entire life. For those of you who are not familiar with contemporary NZ poetry, Michele Leggott is our current Poet Laureate, a massively accomplished and brilliant poet. Her poetry publications include:

Like This? Poems. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1988.
Swimmers, Dancers. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1991.
DIA. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1994.
As Far As I Can See. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1999.
Milk & Honey. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2005; Cambridge: Salt, 2006.
Journey to Portugal. Collages by Gretchen Albrecht. Auckland: Holloway Press, 2007.

She came to Massey's Albany campus to give a lecture in the Chancellor's Series and what a treat it was. She read us five of her poems which are all the more beautiful when read out by their author; showed us her tokotoko (the ceremonial stick each Poet Laureate is given, each personally designed for them by Jacob Scott) and then spoke about her writing and its current connection to journeys.

If this was the closest I got to Michele Leggott ever again, I would die a very happy woman. However, our wonderful lecturers Mary and Jack arranged for us to have lunch with her afterwards. Which was where I found myself, directly opposite one of the women I admire most, barely able to remember my own name, let alone the poem of hers I had written about. It was of course, a woman, a rose and what has it have to do with her or they with one another, a poem I have read many times and love dearly. My most sincere apologies to Michele for my appalling memory.

Over lunch, our group had the opportunity to discuss her work, her teaching, her Laureateship and inspiration with her. I think the two things that stood out for me the most of all of the things she said were that she takes her inspiration from her journey through life (including trips to the shops as well as Portugal) and that, when I answered her question "Are any of you here writers?" with "I try to be" she said, "No, you say, YES, I am a writer."

So, YES. I am a writer. And I have Michele Leggott to thank for a boost of creative confidence. It doesn't get much better than that!

Poet Laureate Blog
Michele Leggott Author Page at NZEPC
Michele Leggott NZ Book Council Page

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Work in progress...

The novel that I have been promising myself that I will write "one day" has finally kicked off. It started life as a short story but quickly grew legs and has definitely become a longer piece of fiction. I'm using a significant event in my life (the how I came to leave home story that some of you will know) as a jump off point but then going down a fictional pathway.

I'm quite excited - I'm about 5000 words into it and have had some good feedback so far plus I am enjoying writing it, which is always a good sign for the progression of something beyond the point of being an idea. So watch this space!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Book reviews...

It just struck me that I have never written a proper book review. Which anyone who has ever asked me anything about a book will find very odd. It's a dangerous thing to ask me about books. Five hours later, losing the will to live, you will find yourself still pinned to the wall with me enthusiastically yabbering on!

So anyway, I thought I would review a book on here from time to time. Someone, somewhere might find it vaguely useful!

The first target is Relative Strangers by Emma Neale (Vintage, 2006). Review to follow reasonably shortly.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Some of my favourite sentences: Part II

This particular gem comes from a New Zealand novel called Relative Strangers by Emma Neale.

"As soon as he got part way across the floor: iiirrrrr. He'd hit a floorboard that sounded like it was auditioning for a haunted house soundtrack." (138).

This one made me laugh out loud, I just love it. The sheer genius of it meant that I had to add it to my collection. More to follow...

Saturday, 12 July 2008

To Veitch or not to Veitch, this, NZ, is the question.

(JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post)

Well since everyone else seems to be espousing their views on the Tony Veitch Assault case, I thought I may as well throw my hat into the ring.

There seem to be two camps on this one. The first is the That is Not On camp, who want full consequences to be felt by Tony for his actions. The second is the Give a Bloke a Chance, He Said Sorry, Didn't He? camp who think that, fair call, he copped to it and he seems very sorry and he's a good bloke really who just had a moment of lapse.

A moment of lapse? He broke her spine in four places and fractured her skull! She was in a wheelchair! She had a breakdown! It wasn't like he lashed out and slapped her once, which in and of itself is totally unjustifiable and despicable. No, what he did was beat the living daylights out of her. Think about it. To have gotten to the point that he could be kicking her repeatedly so her spine fractured, she would have had to be laid out on the ground already. This wasn't a moment of anger, this was a prolonged and vicious beating. The kind of beating that get people rather substantial jail terms. I don't care how many hours you work in a day, or how tired you get, if you're sprightly enough to be able to sustain that kind of violent attack on someone, you're with it enough to walk away.

I will admit that it is good that he has gotten help for it and that he has (finally) publicly admitted to it and accepted that it was inexcusable. But the fact remains that he did it, and that he paid her to keep quiet. Under what kind of circumstances Ms Dunne-Powell accepted these terms, we won't know unless she tells us, but it would be fair to speculate that she was heavily leaned upon.

However, the fact remains that he is a public figure. His conduct, on and off screen, is fair play for consideration in terms of his job position. And no amount of mea culpa will be enough to have him back on our screens, in front of the nation. No matter how many times he says "Sorry, I know it was wrong" people will still associate his face with the violent act he committed. A stand needs to be taken, especially in a country which struggles with domestic violence as an ongoing issue.

So, sorry Tony. My vote is very much with the That is Not On camp. Ms Dunne-Powell has had to rebuild her life, and now so will you. Actions have consequences, even if you're a celebrity.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

That's just brilliant.

I've been reading Carol Ann Duffy's "The World's Wife" for one of my papers recently and came across what I believe to be my Poem of the Year. "The World's Wife" is a series of poems written from the perspectives of the female counterparts to a wide variety of famous and infamous male personages. It's a great read, thoroughly enjoyable, however my absolute favourite and one that has to be shared is this one.

Mrs Icarus

I'm not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he's a total, utter, absolute, grade A pillock.

Ah the irreverence!! I adore it.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Book Launched!!

Home and Away: Life Writing Three has now been launched!

This book is a collection of pieces from both the Life Writing and Travel Writing papers at Massey University, submitted by the students and edited by Jack Ross (the coordinator for the papers) and myself. It's a fantastic voyage through the lives and experiences of a wide variety of people, from an ex-cop's traumatic experiences of attending cot deaths to the search for an extinct NZ bird, the huia; from tales of trips to Waiheke and Tirau, to places as far-flung as South America and Asia.

This book is truly an achievement for all those involved in it - for many of the contributors it is the first time they have been published, and given the quality of contributions, I really hope it won't be the last.

Copies are only NZ$10 and can be ordered through the School Administrator for the School of Social and Cultural Studies at Massey University, or through my co-editor, Jack Ross. I am also told they are available from Bennetts - Massey's campus bookstore. If you are interested, please let me know.

New books reveal bold approach to writing life.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Iconic Losses Part II

Iconic Losses

It was a tranquil, golden morning on the drive to work that day. Smiling at the morning show radio DJs' banter and thinking of nothing in particular, I pulled into Albany Village. The autumn leaves swirled across the car park as the early morning sunlight reflected off the children's swings in the park... Why is it so quiet?


I rounded the back of the back of the North Shore Library Building as I heard the gunshot. Greeting me in this usually benign "Village" car park was the sight of a police car and five men dressed in black marauding around the car park toting gleaming black rifles. Snatches of "Elephant" dashed through my mind's eye as my pre-caffeinated logic tried to figure out what on earth was happening. I only wish I hadn't. I only wish I had not been so brutally let into the reality of that morning.

It was 8.40am and the North Shore Council, in it's infinite wisdom, had thought that now would be an excellent time to strut around a public place where people were arriving for work, walking their dogs and arriving for their classes, shooting point blank the roosters and chickens of Albany Village. I got out of my car in a state of shock only to turn and see not four metres from where I parked, a trigger happy council worker bending to pick up his spoils, a rooster I had once nicknamed Elvis for his shaggy legs that looked like flared trousers. He flung this poor, helpless and now definitively dead creature in the back of the unmarked ute and went back to his morning sport.

These chickens have been an integral part of the identity and charm of the Albany Village for over thirty years. They are part the last bastion of rural tranquility in the increasingly urbanised Albany area but appear to be falling victim to a bun fight between the North Shore Council, Albany Village Business Association and the SPCA. But is the solution a dawn execution of these poor birds? It was a harrowing and pitiful sight, especially for those like myself who are hopeless sentimentalists and get very attached to living things in my environment. I say either leave the chickens be or for goodness sake come up with a better solution.

See above for a video of the events.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Some of my favourite sentences: Part I

Do you ever read a sentence in a book or a line in a poem and stop, your breath taken away by the beauty or resonance or truth of it? I know I take great delight when I find these nuggets of pure literary gold, so I have decided to gather them all together in one place so others can appreciate them too. Here are a few of my favourite sentences/lines/phrases:

"A gossamer blanket of coal dust floated down like a dirty blessing and gently smothered the traffic."

From God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (p.86)

"Then a pair of taxis went head to head in a distant country so suddenly I didn't see the difference but it was a wide white threshold."

From 'a woman, a rose and what has it to do with her or they with one another?' by Michele Leggott in as far as I can see (p.36)

"I go to libraries because they are the ocean"

From 'perse' by Michele Leggott in as far as I can see (p.12)

More to follow...

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Vicious Cycle

Yet again you retreat
Into your black hole:
Poor me
Standing before your wall of contempt,
I stare
Blank, bemused.
What am I to do?
Your desert is my ocean,
My black is your white.
My inner scream shatters the glass clouds
And tears a hole in the black sky.
I am lost to you,
Cut adrift on my ocean
While you blind yourself
Kicking sand in your eyes.

Kathryn Lee

Friday, 25 April 2008

I'm writing again!

It's happening! Once again the juices are flowing and the pen is back in contact with it's long lost love, the page. Once the rough drafts of what has emerged have gone through a few evolutions, I will test them out here. I don't know if anyone actually reads this blog, if you do and you care to comment, please do.

Monday, 14 April 2008

The last taboo?

A couple of years ago, over a couple of glasses of wine, a friend of mine suggested that the last taboo frontier to be smashed would be the incest taboo. Soon enough, she reckoned, there would be people coming out of the woodwork hoping to garner acceptance, both moral and legal, for their incestuous relationships.

Bah, I dismissed. I doubt that will ever happen.

Well I stand corrected. Having seen the section on 60 Minutes tonight called Forbidden Love about the father and daughter in Australia and the half brother and half sister in Scotland - both couples in sexual relationships - I haven't been able to stop thinking about this.

Why is incest a taboo, after all? To protect the gene pool? To prevent child sexual abuse? Because to those of us who grew up with our siblings and parents it is completely unthinkable (although Freud would tell you a different story) and gross? Then there's the legal issue... is the law against incest really protecting anyone in the cases of these people who have met as consenting adults and started a consenting, loving relationship? What function does the law serve here? To legislate against what most people find abhorrent? From what I could tell, the legal position was "Fine, carry on having a relationship, just don't have sex." Which I find odd on two levels: a) how would anyone know? b) so basically it's the sexual connection that is the issue.

Interesting topic. Something that I will be pondering for a few days...

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Journalistic relevance?

I was watching the news this evening on Channel One, when the item about the murder of Emma Agnew came on. The ex-girlfriend of the guy accused of raping and murdering Emma was in the witness stand giving her testimony and this had created quite an interest. Understandably. What I just couldn't find understandable, however, was that the first thing the reporting journalist said about her was:

"She was slim, attractive and well-dressed..."

What on earth does that have to do with anything? If she had shown up and been over-weight, ugly and in ripped jeans, would it have taken anything away from her testimony or her credibility? Or was it a warning? "See! Nice girls can get mixed up with murderers too!"

God knows. I just found it totally irrelevant and worthy of some comment.

Monday, 31 March 2008

So many books, so little time...

Quote of the month:

"Why plough doggedly through an indifferent book, when you know you'll die leaving so many great books unread?"
-Linley Boniface, Booknotes, 161, Autumn 2008.

This quote is a slice of perceptive genius, and for a bookworm like myself, something of a manifesto. Why read dross when there is so much gold out there? My bookshelf is half full of books I haven't quite found the time to read yet. Books like The Handmaid's Tale by my beloved Margaret Atwood; The great classic War and Peace; Wild Swans by Jung Chang... the list goes on and numbers up into the thirties. It's not that I don't read, I most certainly do (studying literature at Masters level does require a modicum of reading after all) but my buying of books that I "must have" seems to outstrip my current reading rate! I do, after all, aspire to the likes of Peter Lineham who had to have the foundations of his house strengthened to accomodate his book collection.

In any case, this quote was a good wake up call. There have been times when I have wasted HOURS over a book that I didn't really want to keep reading, but did for reasons that, given this new perspective, now escape me. The next time I find myself checking how many pages I have to go before the end (a sure sign that I'm not enjoying the book) I shall be setting it aside and picking up a book that truly deserves my attention.

Problem is... which one?

Sunday, 23 March 2008

For John

The dull thud of the closing door -
Death has come again
Bringing with it loss and sorrow
Unbearable depths of pain.

Outside the slowly waving branches
Of the bended willow tree weep
They tell of a sadness and a grief
That cuts too near, too deep.

Although many of us will wonder
And never quite understand
You have chosen now to leave us
Going onwards, to that unknown land.

I hope you rest in peace, friend
And you'll find what it is you sought
You will always be remembered here
For all the joy you brought.

R.I.P. John
7 June 1984 - 13 March 2008

Friday, 21 March 2008

The inspirational drought is broken!

I haven't written anything here for ages!

Why? I wondered. I think it was because I ran out of things to say. I had a serious creative drought in the last half of last year, brought about mainly by emotional stress I think. When you're constantly dodging verbal land mines and looking over your shoulder, waiting for the next relational bomb to drop in the landscape of your personal life, it becomes hard to look into the imaginary world and create something. Focusing on survival does that to you. Only the most immediate and most urgent tasks have any priority and everything else seems superfluous.

Anyways, now I have figured out how to add photos, I think this should help jazz things up around here. Here's a couple of photos in which I find inspiration. Both are photos taken in Taiwan during August 2007.

Quiet contemplation in the park.

The Taipei skyline from the 101 observatory deck.

So where to from here? Hopefully I'll be able to find my voice again and move forward with my writing and/or photography!