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,,,

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,,,

SOUNDINGS by Cilla McQueen (University of Otago Press) FEEDING THE DOGS by Kay McKenzie Cooke (UOP)

Listener – February 15, 2003

Two “southern women” poets: Cilla McQueen from Bluff and Kay McKenzie Cooke from Dunedin – their mug shots on the back of their books smile at me: McQueen, Celtic dark, quarter-mooned mouthed; McKenzie Cooke, blonde, strong-jawed and open-faced.

“Soundings” is McQueen’s ninth book (she received the New Zealand Award for Poetry in 1983, 1989 and 1991) and “Feeding the Dogs” is McKenzie Cooke’s first.… More,,,

HOW TO MAKE A MILLION by Emma Neale (Godwit) VALPARAISO by Bob Orr (Auckland University Press) AUP NEW POETS 2 (Auckland University Press)

Listener – August 3, 2002

William Carlos Williams took issue with Ezra Pound for saying, in effect, that to write serious poetry one had to have digested the art’s various ancient roots. Williams, a GP, contradicted Pound’s high-minded notion, saying his poetry was more concerned with the language rhythms of Polish mothers in his hometown Rutherford, New Jersey.… More,,,

FOOL’S PARADISE by Steve Braunias (Random House). FROM THE HEART by Helen Brown (HarperCollins). SIT by Joe Bennett (Hazard).

Listener – October 27, 2001

Apollinaire, if I remember rightly, opined somewhere that the future popular press would be the venue for the best contemporary writing. I presume that he expected imaginatively written up-to-date reports on the psychological landscape would sit alongside the news of the day. Imagine it: novelists, essayists and poets on the full-time payroll of the media barons, with instalments of their work-in-progress published daily, weekly or monthly. … More,,,

ANSWERING HARK: McCahon/Caselberg, Painter/Poet by Peter Simpson (Craig Potton)

Listener – June 16, 2001

“Who are you? A poet or prophet or what?” This question the poet John Caselberg recalls was Colin McCahon’s first utterance to him when they met in McCahon’s studio in Christchurch in 1948. Caselberg was then 22 and McCahon was 29, and this meeting was the starting point of the most remarkable collaboration in the history of New Zealand art. … More,,,