The Eleanor Catton Saturday Series: Part III

Eleanor Catton has had a few days to reflect on what she has said, and how the matter has been analysed and discussed.

Here is her written apology to the government and the people of New Zealand in general

In the past twelve months I have travelled to England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Sweden, Spain, Canada, the United States, Australia, Brazil, and most recently India, attending literary festivals and helping to launch foreign-language editions of The Luminaries. To be read and received in different contexts around the world is an unbelievable privilege, one that is constantly shaping and reshaping my relationship with New Zealand, with my book, and with myself. My Maori character’s storyline took on a new significance for me after reading to First Nation elders in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I thought about the Hokitika gold rush differently after exploring the Brazilian coastal town of Paraty, where Brazilian gold, dug by slaves many miles inland, was once shipped out by the ton to Portugal. Talking about astrology in India, and about the nineteenth-century novel in Sweden, and about fiction born of philosophy in France, altered my sense of how The Luminaries fits in with other literary traditions and cultural histories around the world. I have seen also how the novel itself changes according to context: its social and sexual politics, its formal preoccupations, its attitude to history, its language, all become more or less audacious, more or less difficult, more or less successful, more or less interesting, in different parts of the world. The degree of familiarity that international readers have with New Zealand culture and history varies greatly, but one thing remains a constant: everyone I meet who has a personal connection to New Zealand will make sure to tell me all about it, sometimes at length and into a microphone of which they will not let go. I love these moments of connection and the conversation they bring. I am proud that the book is read by people whose lives do not resemble mine, and I am grateful for the opportunity to speak publicly about reading and writing, two of the things I love most. Like everybody I sometimes say things I don’t mean and mean things I don’t say, but throughout the hundreds of interviews that I have conducted since The Luminaries was published I have been conscious of my role as an ambassador—of my country, yes, but also of my gender, of my generation, and of my art.     Read more »

The Eleanor Catton Saturday Series: Part II

Was Catton correct saying writers get little to no support from this greedy-right-wing-look-after-your-mates-and-shit-on-the-arts government?   Turns out, the support has been there – financial and otherwise.

The Taxpayers’ Union is releasing figures obtained from Creative NZ showing that author-turned-policy-critic, Eleanor Catton, has received tens of thousands of dollars worth of grants courtesy of New Zealand taxpayers. Taxpayers’ UnionExecutive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“In addition to the usual government support of students, Ms Catton has received special Creative NZ funding amounting to tens of thousands for her artistic endeavours. Far from not supporting the arts, it appears that taxpayers have been rather generous.” Read more »

Another violent criminal behind bars with a strike on the record

The opposition love criminals, they support them.

Why do I say that, well, it’s easy, they are soft on crime and opposed the three strikes law.

The latest example of scumbag thugs who should be permanently in jail but aren’t has recently played out in the courts.

The Sensible Sentencing trust explains:

A recent Christchurch case reminds us all what a wonderfully effective and discriminating tool the “three strikes” law promoted by Sensible Sentencing Trust, and passed into law in 2010 by the then National – ACT government is proving to be.

After a criminal career comprising 45 previous convictions – nine of them for violence – a Judge has finally put Shane Archbold behind bars for 5 1/2 years, and given him a “three strikes” warning for an aggravated burglary  during which Archold told the victim he was going to “take his eye out” with a tyre iron.

“This guy is an excellent example of why ‘three strikes’ was so sorely needed” said Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar.

“During his 45 conviction criminal career – a quarter of which were for violence – this man has no doubt served a number of prison sentences and been through the revolving door  at the front of the prison that was the criminal justice system. Were it not for three strikes,  at age 36 he could easily have gone on to rack up another 45 convictions, and continued to be let out on parole part way through each pathetic sentence” McVicar said.   Read more »

The Eleanor Catton Saturday Series: Part I

My good friend Brian Edwards has stuck his oar in on the Catton debacle.  And he thinks that low ranked talkback hosts like Plunket should be ignored.

Eleanor Catton will have learnt [a] lesson the hard way. The Man Booker Prize winner, only the second New Zealand writer to claim that prize, had, it seemed, committed the unforgivable sin of biting the hand that had fed her. She was, according to her most vitriolic critic, broadcaster Sean Plunkett [sic], “an ungrateful hua”, a term he later translated as “ungrateful scoundrel”. She was also, he said, “a traitor” to New Zealand.

Catton was evidently piqued at The Luminaries not being awarded the main prize at this year’s New Zealand Post Awards though her novel did win the Fiction category of the awards. “We have,” she said, “this strange cultural phenomenon called ‘tall poppy syndrome’; if you stand out you will be cut down.”

A couple of things particularly interested me about this episode. The first was Plunkett’s emphasis on Catton’s ‘indebtedness’ to New Zealand society, her ‘ingratitude’ for everything her country had done for her. Read more »

Trotter is onto it with the loss of Russel Norman

Chris Trotter thinks the bloodless coup within the Greens is a move to push the Green party towards the right.

I think he is right…and as usual wrong at the same time.

RUSSEL NORMAN’S DECISION to step down as the Greens co-leader reflects the party’s longstanding determination to reposition itself rightward. For eight years Norman’s personal energy and political discipline succeeded in turning aside the pleas of a clear majority of the Greens’ membership to break the party out of its left-wing ghetto. Only by exploiting to the full his party’s consensus-based decision-making processes was Norman able to keep the Greens anchored firmly on the left of New Zealand politics.

For eight years Norman strove to fashion a Green Party manifesto that was not only compatible with the Labour Party’s policy platform but would, to a remarkable degree, serve as its inspiration. His astonishing and largely successful mission to master the challenges of contemporary economics; an effort which allowed him to participate in policy debates with an authority sadly lacking in his predecessors, and to drag Labour along in his wake, is probably the most impressive achievement of his leadership.

It was this ability to render the Greens’ left-wing policies economically intelligible that allowed Norman to spike the guns of the Greens’ very sizeable “moderate” (for want of a better description) faction. The latter had demonstrated its power by installing Metiria Turei as co-leader – rather than the overtly left-wing Sue Bradford – following Jeanette Fitzsimons’ retirement in 2008. Had the rules made it possible, this same faction would have radically repositioned the Greens as an ideologically agnostic environmentalist party of the political centre; one capable of forming a coalition with either of the main political parties.

Read more »

Labour’s small business focus and their problem with it

Liam Hehir has identified a problem with Labour’s focus on small business.

It is obvious, their complete lack of talent in their caucus of anyone who has run a small business…and of course their spokesperson who has only ever written a few papers while interning in the House of Commons a few years back.

It was encouraging to see Andrew Little push his party to update its definition of working people beyond the narrow paradigm of the cloth-capped worker on the assembly line.

The man has a pretty good chance of being New Zealand’s next prime minister, after all, so it’s good to see him take a realistic view of work in the modern economy.

One difficulty he might have is that his caucus remains light on small and medium-sized business experience. There are only a few members of the caucus, for example, who will have an understanding of what it actually means to grapple with GST, manage debtors, meet payroll and personally bear the costs of regulatory requirements. These are unique pressures that you don’t get as an employee of the state or working in a large company.

I have always liked the story of how former United States senator and Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern came to appreciate this. After losing a re-election in the Republican wave election of 1980, McGovern needed something to do in his retirement years. Having long held an interest in hospitality, he decided to use his savings to buy a small hotel and conference facility in Stratford, Connecticut.

It was not long before a terrible truth dawned on McGovern: being a small businessman was much, much harder than it looked when he was a history professor and a politician. His business went under in less than three years. Most of McGovern’s savings went with it.

In the years that followed, McGovern often wrote about his business failure with great intellectual honesty. He said a big part of the reason his business went bust was that the costs of complying with tightening health and safety requirements had become crippling. Complicated tax rules and business regulations also meant that hotel management had to dedicate a lot of time to form-filling and reporting to various agencies. That left less time to spend actually running and promoting the hotel so that it could attract paying customers.

Read more »

Face of the day

Today’s face of the day is Kevin Hague, the new co-leader of the Green Party.
I did a little research and judging by this image he is going to be as focused on Cameron as his predecessor, Russell, ‘ Who are you texting? ‘ Norman.

Feral and proud.

THE ONGOING MO': Green Party MP Kevin Hague enlisted in Movember to help change the face of men’s health. Hague has said he’s keeping the mo for another month as he also grows a Decembeard to raise awareness of bowel cancer. – Stuff

Read more »

Will there be other resignations inside National?


Going into his third term John Key has to be very careful he isn’t painted into a corner as being arrogant and out of touch.

After not acting decisively over Mike Sabin, who was allowed to linger, Key is likely to be accused of having low ethical standards.    Read more »

The coming selection in Northland

The predictable demise of Northland MP Mike Sabin means a very blue seat is up for selection.

The majority is 9300, and Labour’s candidate, Willow-Jean Prime, has just had a baby, so is not expected to run again.

When Sabin won in 2011 there was considerable interest in the selection, with a good number of candidates putting their names forward. Some of these are expected to be contenders again.

Grant McCullum: Long time National Board member and perceived front runner in the last selection. Withdrew due to issues with a tricky missus. Inside word is she has just got more tricky over the years so McCullum will struggle to get approval to run.   Read more »

Farrar keeps coming good

Arts, Travel & Lifestyle blogger David Farrar seems to have his mojo back and is in top form although it is still not yet enough to get back into the VRWC just yet.


Yes Pinko, he would make a very good National MP for Northland but unfortunately he is a bit too right wing for the wet wing of National.

Meanwhile Farrar has also made (which isn’t that hard) the NZ Herald’s media writer John Drinnan look like a complete doofus.    Read more »