(and how The Listener got it wrong…Completely !)By Ralph McAllister
Nice to be able to crow, just occasionally.
A couple of months ago I suggested that The Luminaries had every chance of winning the Man Booker.
We all know by now that Eleanor Catton did win the world cup of literature with this,her second novel.
Interesting to read her first,The Rehearsal, a story about teaching and learning ,truth and illusion,a mixture of crude jokes and puzzling confrontations.
I read The Rehearsal last week in Brisbane just before the Booker announcement and I was as impressed and frustrated as many others with this strange and mesmeric story.
No such doubts about The Luminaries.
On hearing the news my whoops of joy must surely have been heard across the Tasman.
I wonder if there will be some doubt surfacing in some critics’ minds now that this accolade ,along with fifty thousand pounds, has been bestowed on Catton.
Years ago when both Bruce Mason and I were drama critics for the Evening Post and The Dominion respectively we saw and reviewed a German play ,the title of which escapes me now.
I loved the show. Bruce, dear friend, hated it.
Bruce was so impressed by my opinion that he revisited the play immediately and wrote another piece the following day admitting that he was wrong and I was right.
Now I tell you this story ,not for any reason of self aggrandisement, but just to point out that sometimes we are wrong and ,unlike Bruce,we are
loathe to admit it.
The Listener review of The Luminaries, amongst some grudging praise, suggested that the novel had a “lack of ambition” and Catton was like other
New Zealand writers “escaping into the past” and often the writing was “out of control” and finally “hollow”.
What do you think?