Monday, June 14, 2021

Fifteenth Anniversary (Crystal)

I started this blog on the 14th of June, 2006, so this is the fifteenth anniversary of The Imaginary Museum. Ten years ago I put up a post which listed five major web projects I'd undertaken in the first five years of the blog's existence, and five years ago I published a follow-up, with five more projects undertaken between 2011 and 2016.

The statistics on the blog are interesting. It took till December 2018 for it to break the "Million-hit Barrier", and another two years after that to reap another quarter million hits, so I guess I must be averaging a fairly consistent 125,000 per year (10,400 per month / 2,400 per week / 340 per day). I only have 100-odd followers, so there must be a pretty consistent number of returns on online searches to build up that amount of traffic.

Pageviews (6/12/2018)

Comments are way down from what they used to be. I don't take that too personally, as that seems to be the case for most blogs nowadays - certainly ones that include moderation. I get a large number of comments from spammers pretending to be successful members of the Illuminati every since I put up a mildly sarcastic post on the subject a few years ago now ("Worried about the Illuminati?"). You'd think that the date it was posted - April 1, 2016 - would offer some clue to its nature, but apparently not.

My web-based endeavours do seem to have slowed down a bit, but there are still some reasonably substantial ones to list below. Here they are, then, in (rough) chronological order:


  1. (December 2, 2016- ) Jack Ross: Showcase.

  2. This ... is meant more as a vitrine than a catalogue: the closest simulacrum I can achieve online to my own personal cabinet of curiosities.
    - Jack Ross. "Site-map" (2016)
    For a long time now I've maintained a large, quite complex site called Works and Days as a combination curriculum vitae / comprehensive list of publications (and reviews of same). Even I find it a bit difficult to navigate at times, though, so I decided to make a more streamlined showcase site where I could display my major publications in a convenient, easy-to-reference style.

    The idea is to maintain both sites in tandem: to put everything of interest on the first site, and to select only those few details likely to concern others on the second. It's a bit difficult to gauge the success of the endeavour so far, but I do feel the medley of covers and titles combine to make an attractive design.


  3. (September 19, 2017- ) Paper Table.

  4. A few years ago I participated in a fairly haphazard and poorly organised book fair ... The book table that I was helping out at was decorated with a selection of paper models I had made, designed to catch people’s attention, make our table seem more welcoming, and hopefully generate a few sales as a result ...
    At a certain point in the day, a little girl approached us. She was about eight years old and she asked if she could buy the paper table from our display. She held out $15.00 to pay for it. Of course, I gladly gave her the table for free, and for some time afterwards I glimpsed her walking around the large room, the paper table carefully balanced on the palm of her hand, staring at it with an expression of utter delight.
    - Bronwyn Lloyd. "Mission Statement" (2017)
    Having published a number of books through our Arts-oriented small publisher Pania Press, Bronwyn Lloyd and I decided to move into fiction publishing with this new endeavour. Specifically, we hoped to put out a series of novellas which could contribute to the richness of this form in New Zealand writing.

    Unfortunately the costs and organisation involved proved more than anticipated, and we were forced to suspend the series after the first three volumes had appeared. It was a nice idea while it lasted, though, and we may well return to it at some point in the future if the commercial balance of such initiatives tips our way again.

    The three books that did appear were as follows:


  5. (September 20, 2017-March 2019) Poetry NZ Review: Local Poetry Books in Review.

  6. As in the print edition of the magazine, there are a lot of opinions on display in the Poetry New Zealand Review. Some of them the editors may happen to agree with, others not. A well-argued point merits its own space, however, and we see our function on this site more as curators than as advocates of particular views.
    - Jack Ross. "Guiding Principles" (2017)
    I had hoped to make this a more substantial site, featuring year-round reviews of poetry books which weren't able to be fitted in the annual volumes of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook. However, my interest in the project began to wane after I decided to give up the managing editorship of the magazine after six years and six issues (five edited by me directly, one edited by Dr Jo Emeney).

    It's a shame, as I think it could have been a useful resource for recording the immense stream of published poetry - much of it of high quality - which appears each year in New Zealand from small presses as well as established publishers. Now that Poetry New Zealand has moved to Waikato under Tracey Slaughter's editorship, I feel that I might just leave the site as it is for the present. Who knows? The time may come to revive it in one form or another.


  7. (October, 2019) The Lonesome Death of Brigid Furey. Ka Mate Ka Ora 17: 62-79.

  8. It is some years now since I tried to contact Bridget Furey, the elusive and enigmatic poet whom Jack Ross discusses in his beguilingly performative essay ‘The Lonesome Death of Bridget Furey or: Pessoa Down Under.’ The nearest I got, when I wrote to the only and clearly out-of-date address I had, was to reach Bridget’s older, doting sister, Maud (Maudlin) Furey. Maud replied to me by snail mail (as I had written to Bridget). She explained that her brilliant, but implicitly erratic, sister had long since done with poetry. And the next sentence hinted that she might have long since done with life itself, too. But Maud did not elaborate or unpick her dark hints. All she added was: “I wish she hadn’t!” Then Maud had copied out by hand into the letter a text message, which she said was the last communication she had received, quite a while ago now, from her sister, and that she feared that would be the final: “Out on the margins the oddballs bounce the highest.” And that was all. Except for a PS added in tiny letters (Maud’s hand-writing was very neat and small) beneath her signature: “My sister overdosed on life – I wish I had.”
    Bridget Furey’s characteristically enigmatic text comes into sharp and meaningful focus when applied to this issue of Ka Mate Ka Ora. This is an issue of high-bouncing oddballs ...
    - Murray Edmond, "Editorial Notes: Out on the Margins the Oddballs Bounce Highest." Ka Mate Ka Ora 17 (October 2019)
    This article - in full: "The Lonesome Death of Bridget Furey, Or: Pessoa Down Under,” & (ed.) ‘The Complete Poetical Works of Bridget Furey (1966-c.1997)'" - started off as a paper on the influence of Portuguese Modernist poet Fernando Pessoa on a number of Antipodean writers, which I delivered in mid-2018 at the 15th International Conference on the Short Story in English in Lisbon, Portugal.

    I had originally intended to write it up for the Conference Proceedings, but the editors felt (not unreasonably) that it was more focussed on poetry than short fiction. I therefore rewrote it substantially for our local New Zealand Journal of Poetry and Poetics, Ka Mate Ka Ora, based at my old alma mater the University of Auckland.


  9. (January 1, 2018 - September 4, 2020) NZSF: The Psychogeography of New Zealand Speculative Fiction.

  10. George Bernard Shaw and E. M. Forster were great admirers of the later Samuel Butler, who brought a new tone into Victorian literature and began a long tradition of New Zealand utopian/dystopian literature that would culminate in works by Jack Ross, William Direen, Alan Marshall and Scott Hamilton.
    - "Samuel Butler (novelist)." Wikipedia (accessed 17 August 2020)
    I originally planned to collect all the various articles and reviews I've written about NZSF between covers as a rather discursive history of the topic, but the publishers I submitted it to seemed to feel that it fell between two stools: two nerdy to appeal to "general readers" (whoever they may be), and too anecdotal and personal to please an Academic public.

    However, I think they might have done me a favour, as I feel far more comfortable with this online version of the project. It has the great virtue of being able to be expanded and revised continuously, and it's also far more colourful and image-rich than anything short of a coffee-table book would have allowed me to be.

So what does the future hold for this blog - and for the bloggy empire to which it constitutes the gateway (38 at last count)? Who can truly say? These are deep waters, Watson.

More of the same, no doubt, but perhaps it might be a good idea to learn to expend my energy in ways which make more sense to the Academic authorities presiding over my professional development: PBRF [Performance-Based Research Funding, for those of you lucky enough not to be in the know], for instance ...

Nah, just kidding.

Geoff Murphy, dir. The Quiet Earth (1985)

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

The Wizard of Helensville: John Perry (1943-2021)

Any Given Day: John Perry (2016)

It was a real shock to hear, earlier this week, that art historian, curator and antique dealer John Perry had died. It seems like forever that I've been driving up to Helensville periodically to check out his immense horde of vintage treasure: books, ceramics, furniture, pictures, prints, and everything in between.

Judging from the faded posters for Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown and James Cameron's Titanic in the lobby of the old cinema which John Perry had made his own, it must have closed down sometime around 1997. Certainly he'd been there for a good two decades or so.

In the early days, it was still possible to enter the body of the auditorium, and to get some sense of the sheer size of his collection. For many years now that part of the building has been closed off to the public, however, with only the front rooms accessible even to the most agile visitors.

Was it a hoard? Its intractable size and - it seems - uncontrollable tendency to grow made it seem so, but there were always strong themes and schemes underlying his accumulations. For a start, his longterm interest in primitive and outsider art made it essential to look not just at the pictures on the walls, but also those stacked in the narrow aisles.

As a book-collector, I can state with some confidence that John had an unerring eye for quality. I've bought so many treasures there it's hard to list them. But it took some time to learn how to do it. No prices were attached, so one had to be very keen before starting on the negotiation. I never haggled with him, but I found that the longer he talked about any given prize, the lower the price would tend to be.

I've listed, below, a few sample purchases: some of them dazzling coups, others merely interesting, but all bearing witness to his catholic tastes and interests in literature, as well as art!

    Henry Cary, trans.: The Vision of Dante (1910)

  1. Alighieri, Dante. The Vision, or Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Trans. Henry Francis Cary. 1814. With 109 Illustrations by John Flaxman. Oxford Edition. London: Henry Frowde / Oxford University Press, 1910.
  2. A nice copy of the first major translation of Dante into English.

    J. C. Beaglehole, ed.: The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks, 1768-1771 (1963)

  3. Beaglehole, J. C., ed. The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks, 1768-1771. 2 vols. 1962. The Sir Joseph Banks Memorial. Sydney: The Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales, in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963.
  4. John was certainly very interested in everything to do with Captain Cook, and had a most impressive collection of old maps and early editions of the Voyages.

  5. Barrow, Sir John. The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of HMS BOUNTY its Causes and Consequences. 1831. Ed. Captain Stephen W. Roskill. London: The Folio Society, 1976.
  6. Another classic piece of maritime lore, in a reprint by the Folio Society.

    Ernest Sutherland Bates, ed.: The Bible Designed to be Read as Literature

  7. The Bible Designed to be Read as Literature. Ed. Ernest Sutherland Bates. Introduction by Laurence Binyon. London: William Heinemann Limited, n.d. [c. 1930].
  8. A reprint of the King James version arranged for easier reading, with some omissions here and there: a very popular book in its day.

  9. Butler, Rev. Alban. The Lives of the The Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints. 1756-1759. 5 vols. Ed. Rev. F. C. Husenbeth. Supplementary Volume by Rev. Bernard Kelly. Preface by Rev. J. H. McShane. London, Dublin & Belfast: Virtue & Co. Ltd., 1928.
  10. I think that John told me that he'd acquired the library of an old clergyman, hence the large number of theological books visible latterly on his shelves.

    Arthur Machen, trans.: The Memoirs of Giacomo Casanova di Seingalt (1922)

  11. The Memoirs of Giacomo Casanova di Seingalt, Translated into English by Arthur Machen. Privately Printed for Subscribers Only. 1894. Limited Edition of 1,000 numbered sets. + The Twelfth Volume of the Memoirs of Giacomo Casanova; Containing Chapters VII. and VIII. Never Before Printed; Discovered and Translated by Mr. Arthur Symons; and Complete with an Index and Maps by Mr. Thomas Wright. 12 vols. London: The Casanova Society, 1922-1923.
  12. This was an unexpected windfall one day when I was passing through Helensville with David Howard.

    Chuang Tsu: Inner Chapters (1974)

  13. Chuang Tsu. Inner Chapters. Trans. Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English. London: Wildwood House Ltd., 1974.
  14. John's predilection for Eastern art and philosophy was strongly to the fore in a good deal of what he collected.

    Richard M. Dorson, ed.: American Negro Folktales (1967)

  15. Dorson, Richard M. ed. American Negro Folktales. Greenwich, Conn: Fawcett Premier, 1967.
  16. This classic piece of folklore I bought on an early visit to Helensville with my father, many years ago. Even then it was hard to get at many of the books. One could see but not touch.

    Robert Graves & Joshua Podro: The Nazarene Gospel Restored (1953)

  17. Graves, Robert, & Joshua Podro. The Nazarene Gospel Restored. London: Cassell & Company Limited, 1953.
  18. I could hardly believe it when I first saw this. As a confirmed fan of Robert Graves, even in his nuttier moments, this fabulously rare tome was the only one of his major works which had so far escaped me.

    George & Weedon Grossmith: The Diary of a Nobody (1969)

  19. Grossmith, George, & Weedon Grossmith. The Diary of a Nobody. 1892. Drawings by John Lawrence. 1969. London: The Folio Society, 1970.
  20. A nice Folio edition of this minor classic.

    H. W. Longfellow: Poetical Works (1908)

  21. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The Poetical Works of Longfellow. Oxford Complete Copyright Edition. London, New York & Toronto: Henry Frowde / Oxford University Press, 1908.
  22. This I bought on my last trip up to the shop. I wrote about it here.

    Harry Price: The End of Borley Rectory (1946)

  23. Harry Price. The End of Borley Rectory: 'The Most Haunted House in England'. 1946. London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1952.
  24. And this I found the time before. I wrote about it here.

    George Ryley Scott: The History of Torture throughout the Ages (1940)

  25. Scott, George Ryley. The History of Torture throughout the Ages. 1940. London: Torchstream Books (Charles Skilton Ltd.), 1964.
  26. This was one of a pair of books by this English eccentric: the other being devoted to a history of flagellation. Not really my thing, to be honest,but they're certainly both quite collectable.

TVNZ: John Perry (2019)

That last (and oddest) volume on the list above seemed increasingly prophetic the last few times we saw John. He had such a strong desire to get away - to do the overseas trips he'd always planned, to live in some exotic otherwhere for a year or two.

He told us he'd worked out that he'd only spent 18 months or so of his life outside New Zealand, and felt that this was far too little for a man of his tastes. And yet, somehow, it just didn't happen.

Health worries, business worries (the sheer complexity of dealing with - let alone handing on - his building and its contents), and of course the epidemic, combined to make this an unattainable dream.

The second-to-last time we saw him, he invited me upstairs into his apartment, and I got some sense of how he lived there, surrounded by pictures and curios, with his rooftop garden out the front, there on the outskirts of the ancient Kauri kingdom of Helensville.

Mind you, it didn't seem too bad a place to live out your days - his apartment had a slightly Latin American air, as if he were one of those retired Colonels in a García Márquez novel, watching the rains come and go across the sinuous flatlands of the Kaipara.

Perhaps Kendrick Smithyman, who grew up in Te Kopuru, just up the coast, put it best, in one of his earlier, uncollected poems:

English visitors find strangely unlovely
a river all silt prospecting coarse paddocks
as though reluctant of its way with tides.
Sluggishly it bends south, half-circling
raw hills which even in summer eat at clouds.
Mornings break out cold on a terse view.
Westward, they bear the Tasman’s unstopped rumour.

They want cars to take them north to an alien bush,
or would get back to the brashest city – its harbour
is famed more tantalising. A city may offer
even the least men a consolation of like crowds.
Whereas, that northern country proffers nothing,
but lies suffering all wounds made in its soils
and knows to be spoiled and rent and made over
is to have estranged spirit, but can be patient.
Sensual men are dulled. Earth is tutored bearing.

Yet if you make your peace with that soil
which burns barren this season the land will give
peace in return. Eyes will learn to open
the clay scars, bush burns, water courses;
learn way of manuka and lank toitoi, harshly winded.
Then, not heard before but some morning unpredicted,
a certain music is sensed to have spoken.
At midday there are birds springing beyond sight,
evening is tempered. Dogs barking summer away.

I can never drive through Helensville without thinking of that phrase: "Dogs barking summer away." Now it makes me remember how much John hated the screech of brakes as cars and trucks hooned round the bend into town. He'd shrug, stop for a moment in mid-discourse, then resume once they'd made their way by.

Rest in peace, John. You'll be greatly missed by all your many friends, here and elsewhere.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Oceanic Feeling on Paula Green's NZ Poetry Shelf

Local poet and longtime poetry supporter Paula Green has just posted a series of readings by me from my latest poetry book on her blog the NZ Poetry Shelf:

Jack Ross reads four poems from The Oceanic Feeling, Salt & Greyboy Press, 2021:

Jack Ross works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University. He is the author of five poetry collections and eight works of fiction, most recently Ghost Stories (Lasavia Publishing, 2019) and The Oceanic Feeling (Salt & Greyboy Press, 2021). He blogs here.

Notes to The Oceanic Feeling

Thanks Paula!