Writing in Elsewhere

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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


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


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


27 Nov 2001  |  2 min read

This ingenious, fable-like and gently philosophical novel by Spanish-born, Montreal-based author Martel has not only been salivated over by critics but also longlisted for the Booker. Don't let that put you off. The witty, often deliberately misleading narrative engages from the start, makes probing digressions into matters of faith and commonly held belief, and the core of the story... > Read more

CRAIG MARRINER INTERVIEWED (2001): Coming in from the margins

10 May 2001  |  5 min read

There's Led Zeppelin on the jukebox, a few old soaks at the bar, a pool table in the corner and a handle of beer in front of him. Craig Marriner seems right at home in this world as distant from literary pretension as is possible. At 27, his long, blond hair tied in a ponytail, Marriner fits the profile of one who might know the violent world of dope dealing and life on the edge that is... > Read more


25 Feb 1999  |  1 min read

In a recent column I said that when the histories of jazz last century are written one name will loom unnaturally large, that of trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis. I speculated this undeniably talented, articulate and media-savvy musician would either be hailed as the one who saved jazz from disappearing into arthouse obscurity or derided as a man who marginalised otherwise important... > Read more

EUAN MITCHELL, INTERVIEWED (1999): Hitchin' around mate.

5 Feb 1999  |  5 min read

Australian first-time novelist Euan Mitchell is recounting his life story and hits the extended punchline with a broad smile. "Then I did something which was probably as foolish as leaving home with $4 in my pocket. I quit my job as a senior editor with a multinational publisher to finish the book - with a wife and two young kids, and a mortgage."I couldn't get unemployment... > Read more

ALBERT WENDT INTERVIEWED (1991): Shaping a life in words

6 Jul 1991  |  7 min read

The beer cartons were dumped on the writer’s verandah “like an hermaphroditic orphan.” Inside were random jottings, diary entries, what appeared to be short stories, poems and events in a life which may – or may not – have taken their author across the globe from Samoa and Auckland to Israel and the United States. And accompanying this flotsam of a life... > Read more