Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reclusive, and a genius?

There are few things more intriguing than a reclusive literary genius: somebody who sends out a flow of captivating words, and fills the shelves of bookshops and libraries with volume after volume, but refuses to participate in the rituals of celebrity - refuses to appear at book festivals, to read in bookshops, to sign books for fans, and even to be photographed and put on dust jackets.

New Zealand has been short of reclusive geniuses. We have had no Thomas Pynchon, no JD Salinger. It is true that Frank Sargeson worked for decades in isolation, behind the buffer of his overgrown vegetable garden, but he never cherished obscurity, and was happy to become a celebrity in the last decade of his life. Janet Frame was intensely shy, but she struggled through interviews, and never turned away a photographer.

Now, though, Brett Cross, the boss of Titus Books and its offshoot Atuanui Books, claims to have discovered a reclusive genius living and writing in Auckland. Brett has a manuscript and a global publishing deal to support his claim. He has written about his discovery at The Spinoff.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Richard Taylor I started it. Sweeney has a brilliant writing style. The description of a cop: 'He was more of a mood than a man.' And the line: 'You could think of everything in the heat.' "Butades" seems to be a kind of philosophic murder-mystery...something like that.
Actually in the book, the phrase is even more succinct: "In the heat, all thoughts are possible." So as you go through the book, as well as the action, you have this compressed kind of inner 'dialogue' which is made up of sentences that are almost like little essays on their own. As I read I keep turning back to them and re-reading paragraphs or sentences or more. It is quite original...
Like · Reply · 8 hrs
Cerian Scott Hamilton
Cerian Scott Hamilton Braunias himself was wondering whether Sweeney was real or some kind of Ern Malley figure Richard! But Brett's too honest to pull that kind of hoax, and I can testify to the realness of Sweeney, having drunk with him last year on Vulcan Lane for an hour or two. He talked about obsessively about Belfast, and about the IRA, which had nearly ruined his life, and Heidegger, who had saved it...
Like · Reply · 3 hrs
Cerian Scott Hamilton
Cerian Scott Hamilton I did wonder if Brett was getting sentimental when he championed the book, but look at the testimonials it has attracted, and the interest from a foreign publisher...
Like · Reply · 3 hrs
Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor I am in media res in the book right now...something threw me to Bill Direen...indeed Ern Malley passed my mind, and we recall certain Hamiltonian episodes but H has been eliminated for now from the enquiries...another was Rapatahana as his book has som...See More
Like · Reply · 1 hr
Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor The Heidegger thing had me recall that youngish fellow who is keen on H. Who is he? I wanted to know in any case as I did wonder if he also wrote....Jack Ross has been fairly low on the list as is Ken who tends to greater word-ness shall we say.
Like · Reply · 1 hr
Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor Partch is mentioned who I happened to know about, Chris Price has a book 'Brief Lives' and The Great Attractor, which is, apart from its ostensible use, a kind of black hole forming than is potentially able to tear our whole galaxy apart....
Like · Reply · 1 hr
Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor Belfast. (I see, Braunias was also wondering about it all! After all it is a murder mystery book [prima facie]....Heidegger saved his life? Doesn't like Sartre? Sartre came via Heidegger (except he became more intensely political and therefore rejected...See More
Like · Reply · 1 hr
Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor What saved Heidegger was that Smithyman took a strong interest in him at one time!
Like · Reply · 1 hr
Cerian Scott Hamilton
Cerian Scott Hamilton I can definitely see the PR advantages of an 'it is a hoax?' scenario eh! Guessing games can be played. A little like the case with the novel Primary Colours in the early '90s, though I doubt that was as artful as Butades...

8:57 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

There is Pynchon of course, who (or his voice), naturally, has "appeared" on 'The Simpsons'.

I see now that Braunias also made the Ern Malley connection. I was thinking about Ern Malley as I quoted a poem I quite liked by McAuley...

I still think that Ern Malley is possibly Australia's greatest poet, perhaps Aussies only poet...

It has to be recalled that Scott Hamilton has a long history of inventing stories and or embellishing them, in other words of, let's not be coy, of bullshite-ing. Mind you I have dabbled in satire and a bit of bullcrap also...I hasten to add that we share a Menippean tendency and our shite-ing is of an elevated kind or style...

That it was S.C. [who was] the author seems remote as he is busy with his Great South Road trilogy...

But it seems that 'Butades' in the absence of other evidence was indeed written by
a mysterious and reclusive Irishman who refuses to comment on much except in secret meetings with Hamilton and Brett himself when ales are downed at a fairly quick pace**. The name given, T P Sweeney threw me to Brett as he had confessed a great interest in the works of Flann O'Brien*. I've read 'At Swim, Two Birds' which is good indeed....And this, e'en as I write, makes me frown: in 'At Swim...' there is a long and comic story of a King Sweeney, and in 'At Swim...' (while Butades has no rebellious characters a la O'Brien of Pirandello [Graham Greene was perhaps the first apart from Joyce and Dylan Thomas to champion 'At Swim...' and he mentions Pirandello inter alia, clearly referring to his play '...Characters in Search of an Author'...], the very name Butades is not the ostensible writer's name even in the book!...But added to the mix-mire, I noted that the term for what we call a porch in NZ is, in 'Butades' "porch", which is a clear 'marker': surely while the Americans use 'sidewalk' and 'brownstone' etc no where is there the word 'porch' used ANYWHERE in American lit., but T P Sweeney is supposed to be Irish, writing a kind of fable in the US, is 'porch' an "Irishism"? Added to this, the owner of a hotel in the mythical US town, a town where multiple murders occur, is one Partch, related to Harry Partch*** (the experimental musician who invented his own interesting but 'clunky clunk clunk' instruments: and one knows Cross's deep interest in noise and experimental music etc [Bill Direen (also interested in similar music and a capable writer who may or may not be the author)] is, I believe, of Irish descent and a friend of Brett's, whether this is a further clue I have no idea]]....now it seemed clear to me that porch and Partch and parch (this was a weak pun to the effect 'Harry Partch is parched' (it, the book, is set [what to call where a murder has taken place, whether a 'scene' or other is also an issue in 'Butades'] somewhere in a very, indeed, relentlessly hot, probably Texan town or somewhere in the middle of Nowhere) used in 'Butades') all conflate to Portch, that is Ellen Portch, and Butades is an artist (as Ellen is), a kind of forensic photographer but also a graphic artist, and so...but...this was a Theory, but I have to reject this Theory as it has been rebutted by Brett...
....

11:01 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Which leaves me stranded, but I did finish the book.

Butades is great. But like all such books, does it end well? It starts well. Books need to catch the eye-mind. A misfire at the start and the reader might be gone... The writing in 'Butades' is great though. So I recommend it. It has a clever, almost minimalist style, but there are some "deep", or "complex" moments.

Who the 'real' writer is is still in the air.

Who was Shakespeare, and was he or say Bacon the author of Hamlet etc? "Not Shakespeare, he didn't write all those plays: they were written by another man with the same name."


*Flann O'Brien was a pseudonym also for Brian O'Nolan.

**Could we invoke Terpsichore at this point?

***Harry Partch was mentioned in a book called 'Brief Lives' by Chris Price. This threw me (some time ago, well before I heard of 'Butades', to Wiki and then YouTube). But note the use of 'Brief...' Is this coincidence or a part of the Fabric?

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11:33 pm  
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1:10 am  

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