Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The best blogger there never was

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  • andin,

    They make me think that a night on the town with Rex Fairburn would have been a hell of a good time.

    You would probably have ended up at Paul Groshek's place out West. Now he was a real character, unfortunately his famous vineyard with hand dug cellars is no more.
    It was also the first place I got drunk. They were curing my cold, Paul laughingly told me. I was six or seven, and boy did my father get an ear bashing when we arrived home both drunk and me seeing double.
    The kicker was, I lost my dinner.
    Oh the dark scowls.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    (Google Danyl McLachlan, David Haywood and Graham Reid for excellent contemporary examples.)

    I see what you did there: you wouldn't Google Lyndon Hood because you've bookmarked him long ago. Well played.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I see what you did there: you wouldn't Google Lyndon Hood because you've bookmarked him long ago. Well played.

    You are too generous. I simply, and inexcusably, forgot him.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    But of them all, one name stands out: A.R.D. Fairburn (1904–57) would have been bloody brilliant on the internet.

    Who knows -- the rather nasty strain of xenophobia (don't think "racist" is an entirely fair label to put on Fairburn), and disdain for faggots and uppity bitches you can't whitewash as pre-internet trolling for a fight might have been worn away by the PAS Women's XV. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    disdain for faggots and uppity bitches you can't whitewash as pre-internet trolling for a fight

    I tend to think Fairburn's alleged homophobia has been way overdone. It seems to have been more about his falling-out with Sargeson than anything else.

    When I spoke to his daughter, Dinah Holman, once, she pointed out that he never intended 'The Woman Problem' to be published. She asked me what i thought of it, and I said, as I have above, that it was "brilliantly-executed tosh". But, then, I like Julie Burchill too.

    I've sometimes thought that Tim Selwyn could have been, at least rhetorically, something like Fairburn -- if only he wasn't so consumed with his own sorry hatred.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Andre,

    Ill-education rules! I did a semester of history at Uni and felt I could have accomplished 20 times as much by spending that time reading instead - unless I had wanted to become a University lecturer.
    It's great to see so many ads on the site. Well done!

    New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 365 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    They make me think that a night on the town with Rex Fairburn would have been a hell of a good time.

    But surely not on a par with Alan Bollard? Care to comment, David?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I tend to think Fairburn's alleged homophobia has been way overdone. It seems to have been more about his falling-out with Sargeson than anything else.

    Perhaps -- even Michael King's sympathetic biography of Sargenson had to grant the man wasn't exactly a low maintenance friend and every bit as capable of nurturing a grudge as Fairburn. (The Kiwi literary scene has a history of blood feuds whose vehemence is in direct inverse proportion to their significance.) But reading No Fretful Sleeper: A Life of Bill Pearson is a salutary reminder that while his frothing about a "Green international" of homosexuals at might have been a cheerful provocation to Fairburn, it blighted other people's lives.

    And I can't help but wonder what Coal Flat or Fretful Sleepers might have been if Pearson hadn't nailed the closet door shut behind him.

    Not saying that being a prick completely invalidates an artist's work -- if that was the case, my shelves would be rather empty. But it seems to me the greatest honour you can pay anyone is to see them as they are.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Every time the honours list comes out, I think of Roll Out The Knightcart.

    (You young people may not know that night carts, ie horse-drawn wagons that took away your shit and piss in lieu of a sewage system, were still a living memory at the time ARD was writing).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    that would have kept a internet flame war going for weeks.

    Strange it is, what people champion nowadays.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Ill-education rules! I did a semester of history at Uni and felt I could have accomplished 20 times as much by spending that time reading instead

    The problem with kind of sentiment is that is not far distant from 'we don't need no edgikation' . Don't blame tertiary institutions; it may well be the shortcomings of a particular lecturer. Anyway, reading is an integral part of any good university course.

    I first discovered NZ Lit (Jane Mander, Bill Pearson, Maurice Shadbolt) through a Univ of Canterbury English course, and I am mightily grateful for it.

    This post is republished from my monthly column in the current issue of Red Bulletin magazine

    I will have to stop chucking this straight into the recycling bin, as I usually do, for it has all the appearance of a glossy mag promoting Red Bull and more ways of using up fossil fuel ;-

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2557 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    But reading No Fretful Sleeper: A Life of Bill Pearson is a salutary reminder that while his frothing about a "Green international" of homosexuals at might have been a cheerful provocation to Fairburn, it blighted other people's lives

    And yet, Pearson wrote fondly of Fairburn in 'Fretful Sleepers', attended Fairburn's funeral and got suitably drunk afterwards.

    I'm just not sure that the big posthumous revision of Fairburn -- a swing from a massive over-rating of his poetry to something approaching demonisation -- should define him.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Every time the honours list comes out, I think of Roll Out The Knightcart.

    I think Dominion, his bitter indictment of Depression-era New Zealand, is magnificent, but you need to spend all day reading it:

    Backblock camps for the outcast, the superfluous,
    reading back-date magazines, rolling cheap cigarettes,
    not mated;
    witnesses to the constriction of life essential
    to the maintenance of the rate of profit
    as distinct from the gross increment of wealth.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    HE WHO IMPUGNS THE USURERS IMPERILS
    THE STATE

    Mum and Dad had a nice hardback of the collected works on the bookshelf. I set "Down on my luck" to piano in 7th form music. I should dig that score up, actually.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'm just not sure that the big posthumous revision of Fairburn -- a swing from a massive over-rating of his poetry to something approaching demonisation -- should define him.

    That's entirely fair -- to take a pretty extreme case, I can still esteem Raymond Carver as a writer and feel nauseated by the alcoholic fuck-up whose emotional and physical abuse of his first wife was laid out in sickening detail in Carol Sklenicka's recent biography. Part of me wishes that I'd never opened the damned thing, but here's another way of looking at it: Perhaps we should be thankful that beauty and grace can still come out of the broken places in this world.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    The problem with kind of sentiment is that is not far distant from 'we don't need no edgikation' .

    Too true. One of the most important parts of education is learning that you don't know about a lot of things. Once you know about those things you can learn from them. Until then you may as well be blind.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The problem with kind of sentiment is that is not far distant from 'we don't need no edgikation' . Don't blame tertiary institutions; it may well be the shortcomings of a particular lecturer. Anyway, reading is an integral part of any good university course.

    Yeah, fair enough. But I do feel some gratitude at being able to discover things on my own terms.

    I will have to stop chucking this straight into the recycling bin, as I usually do, for it has all the appearance of a glossy mag promoting Red Bull and more ways of using up fossil fuel ;-

    They pay well, let me write what I want, and don't freak out when I file on deadline. Can't complain!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • John Quinn,

    To Stephen:
    Nightcarts were a reality not a memory in Hokitika in the 1940s and Amberley in the 1950s (from personal experience). Liked the West Coast story about the drunken sailor who hailed one rumbling past "Ahoy, there. What's your cargo?"

    George Fraser had the "Pollytikicle" booklet reprinted at his expense and I have a copy somewhere that George gave me way back

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Nightcarts were around in North New Brighton, and New Brighton, in the 1950s - my mother always left out a couple of bottles of beer and a half-crown before the New Year for the nightman...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia,

    Perhaps we should be thankful that beauty and grace can still come out of the broken places in this world.

    I have some reservations about Fairburn as a person too. But he gave us one of our favourite family jokes: “The squalid tea of Mercer is not strained.” Every time we drove through Mercer his words would come to mind – especially poignant considering I can vaguely remember the Limited Express days and the thick white railway cups and strong tea leaf tea. Sort of spoiled Portia’s speech for me though.

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 559 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Ah, returning to the "Good Old Days" Bring back Nightcarts in Christchurch and save money on rebuilding the sewers, after all it is all about saving money. Like the new Health Ministry Chief we are importing from the UK, he'll save heaps. Earlier this year, he oversaw the axing of 1500 nurse positions in Scotland. Good on ya National and JK, saving our "Hard Earned Money"™ for the rich.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    I have some reservations about Fairburn as a person too. But he gave us one of our favourite family jokes: “The squalid tea of Mercer is not strained.”

    He also came up with the famous derision of McCahon's paintings as "graffiti on the walls of some celestial lavatory".

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    I first discovered NZ Lit (Jane Mander, Bill Pearson, Maurice Shadbolt) through a Univ of Canterbury English course, and I am mightily grateful for it.

    Patrick Evans at his best was a bloody good night out too- and a rollicking funny lecturer. I loved that course!

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2108 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Red Bulletin magazine

    I will have to stop chucking this straight into the recycling bin, as I usually do, for it has all the appearance of a glossy mag promoting Red Bull and more ways of using up fossil fuel ;-

    I had high hopes for The Red Bulletin when it first came out. I fondly assumed from the title that it would be some sort of Anarcho-Communist counterpoint to the Right-Wing Lies (tm) propagated by the NZ Herald.

    Imagine my surprise when it turned out to actually be etc etc.

    But joking aside, it's actually got some surprisingly good gems buried in amongst the dross. There was a great piece about The Palio in one of the most recent editions. There was another edition that had an interview with the first female Iranian polar explorer (if memory serves), which I found quite heartwarming.

    And of course, unexpectedly stumbling across our gracious host's column at the back was the perfect icing on the cake...

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    Patrick Evans at his best was a bloody good night out too- and a rollicking funny lecturer. I loved that course!

    And his new novel, Gifted -- about Frame and Sargeson -- is a great read too.

    And this gives me another chance to say that everyone interested in Fairburn, Curnow and the whole cultural nationalism project should read Francis Pound's elegant, compelling The Invention of New Zealand. A real masterpiece, that.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

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