John Dolan

Listener – December 10, 2006

The Man Who Loves to Hate

In the new Landfall, poet and critic John Dolan takes on New Zealand poetry. It’s a bloodbath: “Poets like Mark Pirie have a huge ‘kick me’ sign on their backs … I just wonder why a good poet like Eggleton would waste time on a bad dead one like Fairburn … By far the worst is C K Stead’s smirking gloss …” So who exactly is John Dolan?More,,,

DERMAPHORIA by Craig Clevenger

Listener – September 16, 2006

A writer I interviewed for the Listener last year said that if you could swab the books at your local library to find the ones written under the influence of drugs, “spines would turn red all over the shop”. This may be a slight exaggeration, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to make a long list of writers who use(d) drugs to fuel their writing.More,,,

STUART: a life backwards by Alexander Masters (Harper Perennial)

The Dominion Post – April 15, 2006

There was a little glue-sniffing guy who frequented Wellington’s Cuba Street in the 1980s. His alienated intelligence and limpy gait set him apart from the street kids he hung out with. He was belligerent and compassionate, toxic and sort of interesting. He disappeared from my orbit until I came across him in Manners Plaza drinking plonk and arguing with a couple of grizzly old drunks in the late 1990s.More,,,

UNFEELING by Ian Holding (Scribner)

Listener – October 15, 2005

While reading Unfeeling, a debut novel by 27-year-old white Zimbabwean Ian Holding, I imagined Robert Mugabe at his residence, sited over the fence from the Harare Sports Club where New Zealand’s apolitical Black Caps recently thrashed Zimbabwe’s national cricket team. Mugabe isn’t named in Holding’s brave book, but the rogue President and patron of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union is omnipresent in it and, given the ruthless way he is implementing his country’s land redistribution polices, I hope that Holding is keeping his head down.… More,,,

Terrorism, the Novel

Listener – Aug 13, 2005

INCENDIARY, by Chris Cleave (Chatto & Windus)

It was horrific happenstance that Chris Cleave’s debut novel Incendiary, which imagines the grief caused by a fictional terrorist attack at a London football ground, was released in Britain on the same day that real suicide bombers struck London.More,,,

HEARTLAND: A Memoir, by Neil Cross (Scribner)

Listener – July 30, 2005

One morning in 1969, Neil Cross’s mother took him out in his pram with the intention of ending both their lives by stepping into the traffic on a busy road. However: “She looked down at me, in the pram. I was tiny and helpless, she said, a baby with my name and my eyes, wriggling, wearing clothes she had knitted, and she couldn’t kill me.More,,,

WHITE NIGHTS by Geoff Cochrane (Thumbprint Press); PLEASANT HELL by John Dolan (Capricorn) – April 2, 2005

After reading Geoff Cochrane’s book of short stories, White Nights, and John Dolan’s novel, Pleasant Hell, I was puzzled as to why large tracts of Dolan’s prose lodged in my head, while Cochrane’s stories dissolved into the ether. I recall vividly parts of his two novels, Tin Nimbus (about booze and rehab) and Blood (has some graphic writing about sex), and his nine books of poems.More,,,

NON-FICTION by Chuck Palahniuk (Jonathan Cape)

Listener – January 29, 2005

“A book of extraordinary truths”: that’s the claim on the cover of Non-Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk (pronounced “Paula-Nick”). His friends call him Chucky P. His fans reckon he’s “the coolest writer in the world today”. Evidently, 40-odd people have fainted at recent readings of his short story Guts.More,,,

I’LL GO TO BED AT NOON by Gerard Woodward (Chatto and Windus)

The Dominion Post – October 16, 2004

In The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous there are testimonies written by recovering alcoholics, who during their drinking days could have been described variously: as plateau drinkers (who top up regularly, thus slowly killing their livers); binge drinkers (who may also be labelled as a manic depressives or psychopaths); or social drinkers who descend into pathological boozing after encountering life tragedies. More,,,