The Eleanor Catton Saturday Series: Part IV

Today we’ve seen my good friend Brian Edwards explaining Catton’s views away as totally justified and not requiring the kind of response we would give an All Black who, after being part of a World Cup winning team, turns around next year to say the coach was crap and he never really got much out of the process of being an All Black.

That of course ignores the problem that Catton attacked the government.  This was political, and had very little to do with a writer not being allowed to criticise the country that claims her achievement as part of their national identity.

But I get it now, Catton doesn’t want to share the reflected glory with any of us.  She did all the hard work.  We “New Zealanders” did nothing, and as a result, as a bit of a pseudo-New Zealander in her own mind, Catton feels uncomfortable when having to speak “as” a New Zealander or “for” New Zealanders.

At best, we can say she isn’t dealing well with fame.  After all, writing is a solitary inward looking pursuit, not necessarily suited to someone who is then asked to go on a huge publicity circuit where she isn’t just there for what she wrote, but because she’s assumed to be there as a New Zealander.

Where she made a mistake was to politicise her frustrations by attacking the uncaring right-wing government.  As we’ve seen from the Tax Payers Union, it is demonstrably untrue.  Catton has received more financial and career development support than I could possibly have expected.  In fact, given a different slant on the situation I would have pinged her for being a tougher.

Explaining is losing, and her own public statement simply confirms her initial intent was to attack the government – never mind that the facts don’t support her assertions.

Basically, She’s just a stuck up liberal elite bludger on the whinge. A Canadian ungrateful; for all the taxpayer support, she can kiss goodbye to getting any more.  Whinging tart.

A perfect example of why subsidies are evil, and the following truism holds:

“Things given for free have no value”.

But the whole issue would have been worth a serious discussion.  There is something to be said about putting people on pedestals and countries taking ‘ownership’ of achievements that they haven’t really earned themselves.

It would have been a good point to deliberate, if Catton hadn’t just turned it into a toxic left-versus-right Government bashing opportunity.


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  • Anthony

    This has been terribly reported. I’m not sure what her beef with the government is? Are they not throwing enough money at the arts? Quite a bit is already thrown in that direction no matter what she is trying to imply!

    • The Whinging Pom

      I’m not sure that the scrutiny under which her remarks have placed her will be to her benefit.

      I wonder how many ordinary New Zealanders will be appalled that taxpayers money has been spent subsidising the translation of a commercial book (from which she will, I presume, profit in terms of royalties).

      Not that the opinions of ordinary New Zealanders really matter to the chardonnay socialists.

    • Rodger T

      Her beef with the govt is,they are the govt,her lot came in last and not content to accept that democratic result she blames all NZers for not being bright enough to see what she sees as a no brainer.
      Now that`s probably a strawman ,but if it`s good enough for Minto to build `em it`s good enough for me : )

    • Wallace Westland

      Her bleat is that the nasty neo liberal money grubbing Right led by John Key are not doing enough to fund the arts in NZ.
      So yep. You got it in one.

  • George

    What is it about becoming wealthy? Gareth Morgan became an expert on everything and every one and now Eleanor Catton has caught the same affliction. Wealth does not enhance wisdom but it certainly enhances ego. Just another celebrity that thinks her opinion matters.

    • 1951

      It is damn scary just how many people of influence have willingly jumped on that Marxist bandwagon. Lots from the world of Academia.

  • Richard

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Eleanor & Tania Billingsly are BFF’s.

  • caochladh

    Perhaps she needs this anti establishment cred on her CV if she decides to make a play for the co-leaders job.

  • InnerCityDweller

    On a professional level, happy to take, take, take. On a personal level, happy to criticise.

    Done by one and the same person.

    How do you reconcile this? You can’t. As others have stated, the disconnect is strong in this one

  • zotaccore

    Anyone got Catton’s email address? I want to write to her to return the taxpayer funded grants that were given to her – I only ask for this back because she is now a very rich lady from the royalties she received. Ethically, she should do this (without even asking if she should). If she fails to pay it back – NZ should veto her book (and any future ones) being sold on the bookshelves here in NZ.

    • Guest

      Normally one writes to authors via their publisher.

      • zotaccore

        Thanks. I think i’ll let her sink her own ship. I doubt i’ll contribute to her continued riches by buying any of her books.

  • Wallace Westland

    Well if she thought she was hard done by before she opened her gob she will think she’s a pariah now.
    Slammed in the Horrid editorial, slammed by letters to the editor bar one well known prolific writer and slathering lefty.
    Dealt to on the airwaves and smashed on WO.

    Happy to take a taxpayer funded trip around the world and then whinge that she’s a NZ ambassador that’s underfunded.

    First off sweetie you are NOT a NZ ambassador you Canadian refuge.
    You’re a whining Green Party supporter with an axe to grind. No one elected you and no one asked you to represent NZ. Where’s your Silver Fern?
    2nd for all your taxpayer funded research into New Zealanders and their history the one thing that clearly avoided you is our deep rooted sense of fair play and honour. Something clearly missing in your genetic makeup.

    I’m sure you’re stunned at how many people have turned on you since you bit the hand that fed you for so long.

    • pisces8284 .

      Nail on the proverbial head Wallace

  • Second time around

    Interestingly this week’s Listener’s editorial, written before the most recent hissy fit, claimed that NZers were comparatively sophisticated readers and actively sought the best that is written in English whether by a NZer or not. So if people bought the Luminaries it was because it was among the best books written, and the publicity from the Man Booker prize, not because of jingoistic pride in NZ’s very own author.

  • greybeard

    Thats valuable time of my life wasted reading yet more about this woman. Another ungrateful trougher trying to box above her weight. Sadly the list is long of these types, luvvies, pollies etc undeserving and full of self importance. I’m annoyed at myself for getting annoyed as there’s bugger all I can do about it!

  • Cowgirl

    Wrongly Wrongson also weighs in on Catton’s PR fiasco. Just when I thought he couldn’t outdo himself, Wrongly Wrongson produces this masterpiece of tinfoilhattery. All his regular hits are there – neo-liberal, Nu Zilind, sleepy hobbits, poverty, and my personal favourite: all you voters are WRONG.

    • Wallace Westland

      Aren’t they just the comedy hour on speed? Waaah the right are mean to us. Waaaah the Right don’t like dole bludging beneficiaries. Waaaaah the Right won cos the election was rigged.
      I must go there again sometime. Might even log in and torture them till wrongly bans me. I hear he doesn’t like dissenting opinions.

    • HR

      Sorry, but got half way through that article and felt The Rage building to dangerous levels….

  • Bart67

    What has happened here is that Ms Catton, by sticking her head above the parapet, has invited all sorts of scrutiny in to her comments, and the motivation that caused her to make them. This has not gone well for her. It has clearly demonstrated that her motives for making these statements have nothing to do with how she has been treated, but are made only to benefit those with whom she has politically aligned herself. Sadly for Ms Catton, New Zealand is a small place, and we are only too aware of her political affiliations, and suspect her outbursts are less to do with how she has been treated, and more to do with how the majority of New Zealanders voted at the last election. Perhaps a quick refresher course in to the fundamental principles of ‘democracy’ is in order!

  • Rex

    Take,the NZ roving ambassador role whatever it is off her and let’s all just forget her. Should,she ever write another book I don’t know of ONE person who would buy it!

  • friardo

    Catton will eventually grow up, and this episode will help her on her way with any luck.
    If I was in her shoes I’d go away somewhere quiet and start writing again. This fuss will blow away as soon as she stops fuelling the fire. The whole trougher/subsidies thing needs a bit more attention though. That, is very important; Catton isn’t unless she produces more good books.

  • Murray Smith

    Cold Chisel had the lyric in their song Cheap Wine, “I don’t mind taking charity, from those I despise.”
    Ring any bells ?”

  • flutterby

    Very sad, people do have long memories. I remember a firm who wouldn’t stock Ian Wishart’s book, ‘Breaking Silence’, the Kahui Case. I bought it from another firm but to this day I haven’t been into that bookshop as I believe they didn’t have the right to dictate what the public could read. It was a perfectly legitimate book written by a very accomplished NZ writer and the story needed to be told.

  • WhaleBoyNZ

    Boycott her.