Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Touchstones - a memoir from James McNeish
Memories of People and Place
Persons attempting to find a motive in this
narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be
banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
- Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Mark Twain quote above appears between the title page and the contents page.Typical droll wit from the author!
This surely is an unconventional memoir. As a young man James McNeish left Auckland a
deckhand on a Norwegian freighter; he returned to New Zealand ten years later
having met along the way nine people who influenced his life, making him the
writer he was to become. But then
“It was meant to be a character sketch told through
the eyes of others,” he says, “but it turned into something else: an exploration of my Maori background with
strange echoes of an unremembered past.
Everything else I’d intended to include got left out.” We should be grateful. Back in New Zealand, the author rediscovers a
mysterious aunt. She takes centre stage
and introduces us, among other things, to a case of Maori “treason” which has
yet to reach the history books.
The book has a cast which includes “the Mother
Courage of the English theatre”, an anti-Mafia reformer in Sicily, a Kanak
revolutionary who is assassinated, and the incendiary New Zealand poet Denis
Glover. All are larger than life. Some,
like the author’s Maori aunt, are good enough to bottle.
Touchstones is witty, poignant and in the words of its editor,
Emma Neale, “rich in astonishing anecdote”.
It is both a self-portrait and a hymn to a vanishing New Zealand.The Bookman reckons it is a gem.I like the fact that it looks and feels good as well as being superbly written.(Neither hardback nor paperback but rather a bendy book). McNeish is without doubt one of our literary giants.
About the author:
JAMES McNEISH, novelist and biographer, lives in
New Zealand. He is the author of twenty-five books and plays. In 2010 he
received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Non-Fiction. He
was knighted for services to literature in 2011.
Author photo right - by Helen McNeish
Touchstones: Memories of People and
Released: 6 July 2012
And an invitation for you:
McNeish, Random House New Zealand
Unity Books invite you to celebrate the launch of