Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood


A turn-up for the books

Witi Ihimaera, after being awarded an Arts Laureate, has offered to buy back the warehouse stock of The Trowenna Sea, and Penguin is offering to purchase remaining bookshop stocks of the novel.

So is this what they mean when they say "pulp fiction"?

It's certainly a welcome step towards, as Prof. Ihimaera puts it, "preserv[ing] the mana and integrity of the novel." Not the first edition of the novel, which will always be overshadowed by the aura of cut-and-paste. But the novel that remains to be written, which will tell the story afresh, in the writer's own words.

I note that Penguin promises a new edition "containing a new section with an explanation by Ihimaera and full acknowledgement of the writers whose work he used." Really? Personally, I'd prefer just a novel, thanks, with no need for acknowledgement or explanation.

Ihimaera's conversation with Stuff.co.nz is even more, uh, illuminating:

"Normally with historic fiction what you get is a piece of work where history is treated as fiction. But with The Trowenna Sea, I have always tried to be on the cutting edge of fictional devices, what I have been attempting to do with that book is to create fiction as history. So I think what Trowenna Sea is, is the beginning of a hybrid book in which [you have] the problematics of acknowledgement of historical material and historical inspirations. Where you have non fiction writers traversing that area then they can use footnotes but fiction writers can't so I am having to try to figure out creative ways of addressing that and I think that what we will end up with is in fact a very, very exciting new approach to creating a framework to those new fictions."

"The first draft for instance was completely historical. With historical fiction what you traditionally get is the history as background but I wasn't happy with that because as a Maori writer detail is important to me and so therefore making sure that detail wasn't background but fully integrated into the whole novel itself is what I was attempting."

He said the controversy had helped him in the "continuing conversation that all writers must have about their craft and where they are going."

"What I like about it is that it has engaged me in issues of ownership of property, which I have now addressed and my publisher and I are working on addressing those in the second edition by making sure that all of the appropriate apologies have been made and that all of the acknowledgements and other inadvertent copying, all of that has also been addressed, so we are hoping that new edition will come out in 2010."

(Thanks/apologies to Stuff.co.nz for the extremely long quotes - please do go and check out the full article over here).

The Trowenna Sea: top-selling NZ fiction book for the last two weeks running. I dunno, people. Are you buying it?

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