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Friday, January 30, 2015

Our leader's comments about "The Luminaries"

Comments made by Eleanor Catton, author of the Booker Prize-winning The Luminaries, have stung New Zealand Prime Minister Key's fine sensibilities, it seems.  Report of his informal reaction follows:


Key acknowledged that The Lord of the Rings was even longer than The
Luminaries, but said it had 'trolls and that sort of thing' to hold your

Prime Minister John Key spoke to media outside a Rotary lunch in Auckland
ahead of his State of the Nation speech, during which he
briefly addressed comments made by Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton
about his Government.

Catton made headlines when, at the Jaipur Literary Festival in
India, she remarked that she was uncomfortable being an ambassador for New
Zealand, as it was led by 'neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very
money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture.'

Key said he was 'disappointed' by Catton¹s remarks, but wasn't 'overly
worried' as her book The Luminaries 'wasn't my cup of tea, anyway.'

He granted Catton that The Luminaries was 'a pretty good' novel about 'the
moon,' but he had 'read better.' 

'I mean, obviously, look, yeah, I think most New Zealanders would agree that
Eleanor did pretty well and we're all quite proud of her,' he said. 'But at
the end of the day, they'd probably say Look, I haven¹t read the copy I was
given for Christmas, and neither have any of my friends, and my kids thought
it was boring because there were no dragons. And that¹s just how it is, but
all the best to her.'

Key said that, ultimately, there were 'much better' and 'more famous' pieces
of New Zealand literature, such as 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'that one
about the hairy black dog.'

'Look, to be frank, it¹s just the Man Booker Prize, which we also have to
keep in mind,' he added, upon being pressed further. 'The best books don¹t
usually win that prize; it's a prize for boring books.

'I'm fairly certain that there hasn't been a Jack Reacher novel to win that
prize, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar didn't win one either.'

'I think if your prize hasn't been awarded to The Very Hungry Caterpillar it
says something about your prize,' he concluded.

The Prime Minister admitted that he had not read Catton¹s book, but said
that would be a 'big ask' because, at 832 pages, it's 'very long.'

'I think most New Zealanders would agree that's a few too many words.'

Asked about Sean Plunket's aggressive comments towards Catton,
Key said that Plunket was 'a radio host.'


Anonymous said...

This was a satirical piece. He didn't actually say these things. But, he could have. Which is just as concerning.

Joan Druett said...

Really? It was forwarded to me as the real thing, but without credit, which is always disconcerting. As you say, it could be so, which is scary. Thanks for the update.

Joan Druett said...

A fascinating google search followed the heads-up above. Catton's comments have led to a very interesting debate, one of the most thoughtful discussions being posted by Brian Easton, on PUNDIT: