Writing in Elsewhere

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1968: THE YEAR THAT ROCKED THE WORLD by MARK KURLANSKY reviewed (2004)

2 Jun 2008  |  3 min read

With this 2004 year about half gone we appear to be in a volatile time. Some days you just don't want to get out of bed. In politically precarious North Asia both South Korea and Taiwan are suffering internal ructions. Islamist terrorism has cast a shadow of fear over the "coalition of the willing", there have been bombs from Baghdad to Madrid and southern Thailand, and the... > Read more

CRAIG UNGER INTERVIEWED 2004 : Inside the house of Bush and the house of Saud

26 Apr 2008  |  5 min read

American author Craig Unger doesn't sound the lefty conspiracy-theory nutcase his opponents paint him. Back in New York after a European speaking tour supporting his House of Bush, House of Saud -- which persuasively lays bare the complex relationship between the ruling dynasty in Saudi Arabia, and the family and friends of the first and second presidents Bush -- Unger is credible, jocular... > Read more

THOMAS KOHNSTAMM INTERVIEWED: Finding comfort and hell on this Lonely Planet

6 Apr 2008  |  4 min read

Some years ago I was invited by Lonely Planet to write for them. This was flattering and exciting, but there was a catch: I would have to undertake a research trip at my own expense and write it up within their strict guidelines. Around the same time the American writer Thomas Kohnstamm was also approached. He abruptly quit his boringly corporate Wall Street job, threw his cellphone in the... > Read more

ALAIN DE BOTTON ESSAY (2006): The Sin of Being a Populariser

4 Apr 2008  |  5 min read

As someone with an amateur’s enthusiasm for architecture and design, I was disappointed to miss the recent talk by the English essayist Alain de Botton, author of the popular book The Architecture of Happiness. I call him an essayist because that is what he is: as someone who travels often and writes about it I had previously enjoyed his provocative little book The Art of... > Read more

ANTONY BEEVOR INTERVIEWED (2003): The Anatomy of War; Berlin 1945, Baghdad 2003

4 Apr 2008  |  10 min read

In the final weeks of the siege, battle-weary troops defending the capital were forced back through the inner suburbs by tanks and artillery. They fought out of fear of capture, and some from loyalty to a failed ideology. They were outnumbered and outgunned.By day their city had been bombed into submission by American planes taking advantage of their unchallenged freedom of the skies. At night,... > Read more

HILLARY AND BILL CLINTON'S AUTOBIOGRAPHIES CONSIDERED (2003, 2004): Sax, lies and soundbites

4 Apr 2008  |  24 min read

Last week, late-night US television host Jay Leno quipped about a matter diverting American attention - the long-awaited US$8 million ($13.85 million) memoirs of Hillary Rodham Clinton. "Hillary Clinton's book hits the stores this Monday," he said. "Oh boy, it took her a long time to write it. But in her defence, every time she tried to use the desk, Bill was always using it for... > Read more

TONY PARSONS INTERVIEWED (2004): About a Man in the Family Way

4 Apr 2008  |  26 min read

British author Tony Parsons used to take drugs with Johnny Rotten but now prefers taking his two-year old to the park and writing about families in the suburbs. He now lives the life of a best-selling author with blockbusters like Man and Boy behind him, and reflects with some wry amusement on his former life.  Hello Tony, thanks for your time. How are you?  I'm alright, how are... > Read more

MARK KURLANSKY INTERVIEWED (2005): The author and his wide, wide world

2 Apr 2008  |  13 min read

Mark Kurlansky is the writer many others want to be: his career in journalism took him to Europe, China, the Caribbean and Middle East, and he lived for a time in Mexico City. His award-winning books are enormously popular despite addressing unusual subjects, notably the complex histories of cod, salt, and the Basques. He has also written an acclaimed novella, and has a column in Food and Wine... > Read more

BILL WYMAN, STONE ALONE REVIEWED (1990): Insider looking out

30 Mar 2008  |  7 min read

It’s probably a bit cruel to destroy people’s faith in myths -- like telling a six-year old the truth about Santa Claus -- but the reason there are so few decent autobiographies and biographies in rock music is simple: the central characters aren’t that interesting. Being a musician at that fascinating interface of low art and high commerce doesn’t necessarily bring... > Read more

The Rolling Stones:I'm Free (1965)

PAUL McCARTNEY'S OFFICIAL BIOGRAPHY REVIEWED (1997): Still can't buy the love?

4 Mar 2008  |  6 min read

Paul McCartney is the Beatle old fans love to hate: his sins are manifest in Silly Love Songs, a Linda and not a Yoko, the permanent Mr Thumbs Aloft attitude, the knighthood which his old colleague John Lennon would doubtless have declined …. But there is worse. This past decade, by quiet incremental steps, we have witnessed the rehabilitation of Paul McCartney; mostly at his own... > Read more

JURGEN VOLLMER PHOTOGRAPHER, CAPTURING THE WILD DAYS (1994): The man who clicked with the Beatles

1 Mar 2008  |  4 min read

If the name Jurgen Vollmer isn’t familiar at all, it’s because it only ever appears somewhere around the first chapter of even the most brainless Beatles biography -- then drops out forever. Vollmer was one of a group of self-styled existentialist art students in Hamburg -- photographer Astrid Kirchherr the most well known -- who, around 1960, adopted the Beatles, then playing... > Read more

THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY IN PRINT (2000): Hardback Writers?

14 Feb 2008  |  6 min read

The Beatles' story has been recounted by those who knew them intimately and those who not only never met them but would seem, after enduring a few pages of their authors recycling press clippings, to have had little real interest in them. But it has rarely been told by the only ones who know the true story -- the Beatles themselves. Until now. After the outsiders have had their... > Read more

THE LENNON LEGEND BOOK, REVIEWED (2003): More or less Lennon

14 Feb 2008  |  2 min read

Had John Lennon lived, he would have turned 63 last month. It's interesting to speculate what kind of music he might be making today. Interesting, but pointless: Lennon never saw the trickle-down of punk and new wave; the big-hair 80s; the rise of rap, Madonna and Springsteen; Guns N' Roses, Nirvana and grunge; trends like nu-metal, nu-jazz and boy bands ... Lennon saw none of this. Not... > Read more

THE BEATLES IN NEW ZEALAND 1964: Screaming and cynicism

5 Feb 2008  |  6 min read  |  1

As the saying goes, the past is another country - -often a pretty innocent one, and certainly cheaper. That's why many people prefer to live there. Roll the clock back to over 40 years ago, and look around: a National Government led by Keith Holyoake; the All Blacks back home from a successful tour of France and Britain; Brass Band Parade on 1ZB on a Sunday morning and black'n'white... > Read more

BOB DYLAN'S LIKE A ROLLING STONE by GREIL MARCUS (2005): All things considered . . .

29 Jan 2008  |  2 min read

When Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone snarled out of radios more than 40 years ago, its compelling sound grabbing the attention for the duration of its ground-breaking six minutes. Even today it is extraordinary.It begins with what sounds like a pistol shot -- not the first to do so but the most memorable - then organ, guitars, and piano enter setting up a wash of chords before Dylan introduce... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Like a Rolling Stone

ELVIS PRESLEY, UNVEILED BY ROBERT GORDON (2002): The King inside his fragile Kingdom

23 Jan 2008  |  7 min read  |  1

The young man was very much in love, but uncertain whether she loved him any more. He had been in the American army in Germany for more than a year and she was home in Memphis. So he poured his heart out in a letter and addressed his doubts. "I have had feelings that in the last few months something has happened as far as you're concerned, not only because you haven't written but by the... > Read more

MAURICE SHADBOLT (1932 - 2004): Time will tell

27 Nov 2004  |  4 min read

The legacy of authors is often uncertain. Popular works may fade into obscurity after their death; for others, their words may be elevated beyond the respect they commanded when they lived. Critics say the breadth of work by Maurice Shadbolt is vast but uneven. Most agree his trilogy on the New Zealand Wars -- Season of the Jew (1986), Monday's Warriors (1990) and The House of Strife... > Read more

A RADICAL WRITER'S LIFE by DICK SCOTT

6 Aug 2004  |  2 min read

In recent years there has been the inevitable passing of some significant writers who shaped the way we seen ourselves as individuals or a nation. However Dick Scott, one of our finest contributors to the national dialogue through his diverse writing, is still with us and the 81-year old still brings that astute and critical mind to bear, this time in an anecdotal and discursive... > Read more

LES MURRAY INTERVIEWED (2003): The poet of the political and personal

9 Jan 2003  |  4 min read

The day after Australian Prime minister John Howard is hailed by US President George Bush as being "kind of like a Texan", Les Murray considers the statement. "Then maybe they'll take him," he muses - then laughs in a high, sharp pitch which punctuates the digressive and amusing half-hour conversation. "He isn't all bad, of course. But he does seem to glory... > Read more

THE SKEPTICAL ENVIRONMENTALIST by DR BJORN LOMBORG

24 Mar 2002  |  9 min read

Good news arrives in small paragraphs. Take, for example, remarks from John Caldwell, a professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, at a United Nations conference on demography. If his report was published at all, it was buried behind the stories of tanks rolling into Palestinian camps and the usual warnings about the decline of civilisation through pollution, poor... > Read more