Hard News by Russell Brown

A Very Big Day for Me

This is a very big day for me. My first book, Great New Zealand Argument: Ideas about ourselves is officially on the shelves. Some of the material will be familiar to Public Address readers, from the web feature that started it all. The online versions of the works by David Lange, Keith Sinclair, Bill Pearson, Robin Hyde, Bob Gormack and Jim Traue have been tidied up and checked against originals for print, and new introductions have been written.

There's also an introductory essay by me, a first-ever written commentary on the Lange speech by the author of the original notes, Margaret Pope, and Tze Ming Mok's Landfall prize-winning essay, 'Race You There'. The works all revolve around the idea of national identity.

The book itself is beautiful. I like books as objects, and this is a good way to launch our new publishing imprint, Activity Press.

Now, to retail. I've been writing Hard News in some form since 1991. It's always been free to receive, and I don't see that changing. So if you've ever felt you'd like to toss a coin in the hat, this is your chance. You are warmly invited to buy Great New Zealand Argument for yourself, friends or family. If it goes well, we can reprint, and also begin planning and compiling future volumes. There is no shortage of our argument to bring to life. (I'll also resume the publication of new arguments online soon - I've been a bit busy lately.)

We are selling the book online, but, for the first few weeks, only for delivery outside New Zealand. I appreciate the support that independent booksellers in particular have extended to us, and I want to reward that support. It would be nice to get Whitcoulls to re-order within the week, too (and perhaps to order a few more, frankly ...).

So expats, by all means, place your orders. If our new arrangement with Amplifier.co.nz goes well, I'll work it up into a proper online store, selling David Slack and Graham Reid's books, and perhaps some merchandise for Christmas. But we'll get to that.

As I noted yesterday, we have a launch event with the Book Council, tomorrow (Thursday) evening in Wellington. It starts at 6pm sharp at the Film Archive, 84 Taranaki St. I'll give a brief speech, we'll screen the Lange speech, take a break for drinks, and then discuss issues arising from the book with former chief librarian and author of the resonant 'Ancestors of the Mind: A Pakeha Whakapapa', Frontseat producer (and sister of Jolisa) Gemma Gracewood, and our resident PhD, Che Tibby. It should be fun - and of course I'll be signing and selling books afterwards.

You can just bowl up tomorrow evening, but to guarantee entry you may wish to contact the Book Council: by phone (04) 499 1569, fax (04) 499 1424 or email: .

It's been interesting doing press for the book, and the response to it has been gratifying (actually, it's the kind of book journalists should like). David Cohen's Metro story on me is lucid, lengthy and kind, although there's one misunderstanding I ought to clear up: I was never a born-again Christian.

I did dally with one of those Youth for Christ-type groups at school, and went on one of their ski camps. But the moral is that, in the end, I couldn't buy it. The salvation business made no sense to me. The final straw was going to one of those Jesus-palooza things at the Town Hall and being appalled at the intolerance being peddled from the stage. I tend to compare it to the first and only time I went to a filming of Big Time Wrestling; once you got up close, it didn't look so good.

Anthony Hubbard has also interviewed me for the Sunday Star Times. I realised in the course of our 70-minute(!) phone conversation that we were discussing not only the contents of the book, but - in quite a demanding way - the ideas it contained. That was great.

I also did Breakfast this morning, I'm doing Wayne Mowatt tomorrow and Frontseat for Sunday, and you may well hear me on your regional Newstalk ZB station.

But for now, there are the usual beasts to be fed before I can get on the plane to Welly. I'd like to thank my business partner Martin Taylor, our editors Fiona Rae and Linda Cassells, and most especially Matt Buchanan of CactusLab, who not only made a lovely job of designing the book, but burned the midnight oil last night getting the sales page ready for showtime.

I'm busy as hell in the next couple of days, and then I have the Mother of All Nights Out planned for Saturday, by which time I will deserve it.

In the meantime, you are very welcome to buy my book.