Russell Haley (1934-2016)
I've just received some rather bad news. Ian Wedde has sent out an open letter to friends of Russell & Jean Haley:
Russell died on Monday 4 July of a brain tumour, at home in Whangarei. He wanted to be cremated without any ceremony, as simply as possible, and this was done on Tuesday. There will be a celebration at his and Jean’s place in Whangarei, on Saturday 9 July.
I can't be at that celebration, unfortunately, but I would like to put a few things on record here even so. I've known Russell Haley for a long time. He was (briefly) a fellow-tutor with me in the Auckland University English Department in the early 90s. I also met up with him quite often while Jan Kemp and I were working on the Aotearoa NZ Poetry Sound Archive in the early 2000s (in which he is, of course, included).
He taught life writing for us for one semester at Albany, and I'll always remember the masterly guest lecture he delivered on the relationship between voice and personality: using a recording of Kathleen Ferrier as a starting point, then moving on to his own biography of Pat Hanly, he took the students and me carefully through every stage of a complex argument about identity.
He was always cheerful, always interesting to talk to, always full of new ideas and original aperçus. We didn't meet often, but it never seemed to matter: there was always something to add to what we'd been discussing on the previous occasion.
Of course it's mainly as a writer that Russell will survive: will continue to be with us for the long haul, I'd venture to predict.
Here's a list of his major publications. Most of them I have, though there are one or two pesky gaps still waiting to be filled:
- The Walled Garden (1972) [poetry]
- On the Fault Line (1977) [poetry]
- The Sauna Bath Mysteries (1978) [stories]
- Real Illusions: A selection of family lies and biographical fictions in which the ancestral dead also play their part (1984) [autobiography]
- The Settlement (1986) [novel]
- Hanly: A New Zealand Artist (1989) [biography]
- The Transfer Station (1989) [stories]
- The Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories (1989) [edited, with Susan Davis]
- Beside Myself (1990) [novel]
- All Done with Mirrors (1999) [novel]
- A Spider-Web Season & The Transfer Station (2000) [stories]
- Tomorrow Tastes Better (2001) [novel]
Russell Haley: All Done with Mirrors (1999)
Russell's work figures prominently in Matt Harris's Doctoral thesis on "Metafiction in New Zealand from the 1960s to the present day" (Massey, 2012), which was co-supervised by Mary Paul and myself. There is also a fascinating interview with him included as one of the appendices.
I guess he had a good innings. Somehow that doesn't seem to matter much when one hears news like this, though: Russell was just one of those people whom it's impossible to imagine gone for good: I'm sure I'll keep on expecting to run into him somewhere for quite some time to come - always with that cheeky smile and that fund of good stories and quiet, unobtrusive intelligence.
I was rereading the first few stories in The Sauna Bath Mysteries just last week. I know that sounds improbable, but it's true. It just suddenly stood out from the shelves and demanded to be read. That will probably keep on happening, too, I'm sure.
Love and good wishes go with you, Russell: and my best to all those gathered in Whangarei today, also.
Russell Haley: Hanly (1989)