So it's official. Landfall 214 is in the Weekend Herald's list of 88 "Christmas Cracker" must-reads for the holiday season.
But just a second, if it's so thoroughly "creepy" and disturbing ("like reading a crime report in the paper"), what exactly is the attraction? There isn't one, it appears:
None of that this Christmas (or any time of year).
The amusing thing is that the assembled ranks of the Herald's book-reviewing team have found something nice to say about every other single book in the entire list! (Check it out for yourself if you don't believe me: Canvas, 8/12/07, pp. 12-20).
Even Kate's Klassics, despite Linda Herrick's hatred for "that double 'K'", gets a cautious thumbs-up: "Kate Camp's engagement with 10 literary classics will hopefully lead you to read them yourself." No! You don't say! You mean, I too could read these classics, with the astute guidance of Kate Camp? It's too much -- I can't believe it ...
Well, no, I guess it was a bit too good to be true, but even if you just read Kate rather than Homer, Tolstoy, Austen et al., "it's added something substantial to your knowledge and enjoyment."
I mean, fine - setting aside the heavy sarcasm, I do realise that it's the goddamned NZ Herald we're talking here. It's no revelation that it's a bit on the anti-intellectual side. "This must mean you're the best poet in New Zealand?", as Michele Hewitson guilelessly asks Michele Leggott in the laureate interview on the back page ...
But honestly, do we all have to take a vow of brain-death for the whole of the holiday season? Not just then, the little thumbnail review implies: "any time of year." Correct me if I'm wrong, but the fact that Keith Westwater's chilling little "inter-generational abuse" poem reads "like a crime report in the paper" is surely a good thing, no?
Doesn't that mean that this kind of shit is continually going down in our fair land? And, yes, people do abandon their pets from time to time, too.
Forgive if I'm wrong, Linda, but if I actually cranked round to reading War and Peace and all the others, wouldn't I run into a few unfortunate events such as the Battle of Borodino and the retreat from Moscow? Wouldn't The Odyssey remind me of the sack of Troy and the massacre of the suitors? What about Heathcliff hanging a set of puppies in Wuthering Heights? Vanity and greed rear their ugly heads even in Jane Austen, for God's sake!
I don't know that I'll actually be dashing off to read what Kate Camp has to say about these "Klassics" (personally I kind of like the ridiculous Teutonic affectation of that initial "K" -- is The Trial in her line-up, too?), but I very much doubt that her main point is that a quick read of them will bolster up the smug stupidity of the New Zealand haute bourgeoisie. Good on her for trying to stir the pot a bit.
Shame on you, though, Linda, for being such a dolt. Whether it's a "klassic" or a contemporary, the purpose of literature is to harrow the heart and remind us what it is to be human. That's also, I thought, the function of any periodical, whether in the arts, politics, or any other field. If, on the other hand, we want to get lessons in how to be subhuman, we can always turn to that good old reliable New Zealand Herald.