Friday, March 16, 2007


Gregory O’Brien V.U.P NZ$30

I’m starting with an excerpt from the Preface of O’Brien’s latest offering, which I see as something of a cross between a travel book, an autobiographical novel, a memoir and a whole bunch of thoughtful musings. It is generously littered with black and white photographs, newspaper clippings, posters and some of the author’s own fine art.

“From March until October 2002, my wife, J, our two sons and I were transplanted from New Zealand to the South of France, where we were joined by J’s mother during the high season. We spent much of the time loitering around Menton and the adjacent
Alpes-Maritimes, then venturing as far west as the Pyrenees. The boys and I swam once or twice a day for most of our stay.
The narrative that follows arose from the once-or-twice daily ritual of being
submerged in the Mediterranean. Returning to our rental apartment, I would
reassemble in shorthand as much as I could of my subaquatic reveries. If
circumstances permitted, some I transcribed while at the

What follows, then, gestated in five hard-bound journals
which, consecutively, accompanied us everywhere. The journals sat with our
towels and sandals, and were occasionally drenched by rogue waves – or they were
hit by beachballs and stray peanuts from the trays of the waterfront

Greg O’Brien is a remarkable fellow, a Kiwi renaissance man. He is highly accomplished as an artist and a poet, an essayist and an editor, a much published author, and along with all that he is an art historian and a talented curator.

All of these various skills and talents are displayed in this most unusual but highly entertaining volume. I offer my congratulations to O’Brien and Victoria University Press for a job well done.

Last year A.U.P published Chris Price’s “Brief Lives” and I suggested on my blog at the time that it may create category problems when it was submitted for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. I suspect that O’Brien’s title will pose the same problems for those that rule on these matters.

Declaration of interest:

Bookman Beattie owns two pieces of art by Gregory O’Brien.

The larger one with the pale blue background- "The Laboratory of Time Passing" 2005 and the other a smaller piece from 1986 called "Old Man South Road" and was from an early collection of his verse titled "Location of the Least Person" published by A.U.P. which I bought at the launch in 1987.

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