Two little boys

Two little boysDeano and Nige are best mates who’ve had a falling out.  However when Nige has a bit of an “accident” that results in the death of a backpacker it’s Deano he turns to for help.  Unfortunately Nige is a complete twit and Deano…well, he’s got issues of his own.  And so begins a sort of twisted boys-own adventure with drugs, alcohol and the occasional corpse (both human and feline).  Penned by former Dunedinite Duncan Sarkies, best known for his Otago based films Scarfies and Out of the blue, Two little boys is just the thing if you like your humour dark and your protagonists gormless.

While the book isn’t laugh out loud funny, it’s consistently amusing if only for how well it portrays the emotionally retarded qualities of its two main characters.  Sarkies does an extremely good job of committing to print that strange, shuffling creature known as “the Southern man”.  Two little boys is a entertaining mix of bad driving, mateship, and perfectly drawn “kiwi blokism” (yes I just made that phrase up).  The only downside is that you might get that song stuck in your head for a few days (I know I did).

If you’re in “the big smoke” later this month you can hear Sarkies talk about his debut novel at the Auckland Writers and Readers festival.

Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2008 – 14-18 May

Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2008It barely seems like a year ago since we started this blog … but it must be, because next week the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival for 2008 kicks off. We launched the blog there last year by bringing you all the literary action of the 2007 festival.

This year we are heading back with an expanded team of contributors to bring you interviews, report backs on sessions, and an idea of all the literary flavours of Auckland.

To whet your appetite, take a look at our interview with festival director Jill Rawnsley, our page on authors at the festival and the Festival’s pages.

Young StalinAs a fan of a good biography, I’m particularly looking forward to the sessions focusing on biographies and memoirs. Simon Sebag Montefiore has explored the life of Young Stalin and Hermione Lee who has written about intriguing characters like Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton. I’m also keen to hear from Sarah Hall after having been thoroughly captivated by her novel The Carhullan Army.

Other sessions on my must see list: Addicted to the Dark brings together Duncan Sarkies, Luke Davies and Heather O’Neill with Festival creative director Stephanie Johnson chairing the session. “Like any good drug, dark literature makes you laugh and cry, makes you fly and pulls you down”.

History and the Novel chaired by Fiona Kidman: “War and Peace is perhaps the greatest historical novel of all time. Was Hardy also an historical novelist? Why is the term faintly pejorative when these great works aim to eviscerate the past?” Simon Montefiore, Luke Davies and Sarah Hall make up the panel.

What’s true and what’s not

The recent publicity over various books which had been marketed and produced as true stories but turned out to be either partially false or totally fabricated has led to people (mostly staff) asking that the book be classified as “fiction.” In all these cases we have replied that we can’t do that as the book is not fiction.

Forbidden loveNorma Khouri, that shrewd character whose bestselling book, Forbidden love, is the best example. She had certainly read the market right when she concocted a tale of the sad and sorry lot of Arabian women and the book became a bestseller. Shame it was all made up. Shame too that James Frey’s A million little pieces upset Oprah when she found that a book about a terrible childhood told things that weren’t necessarily true – or as terrible.

And, most recently, we have Margaret Seltzer’s Love and consequences which was an eye-opening account of gang life in L.A. The problem was whose eye as the author came from a very different background.

There’s also the book about the girl who trekked 1,900 miles across Europe with a pack of wolves in order to find her parents. Okay, it wasn’t exactly what happened said the author but she found it was hard to differentiate what happened with her imagination.

Where does all this end: are all the truckload of so-called misery memoirs coming out of Britain all true? As the ante is constantly upped with memories of horrible childhoods becoming more and more outlandishly horrible, questions are being raised about whether the decision to publish so many of these is purely commercial: the market is there so let’s supply it.

It is true to say that libraries can only categorise books by the intended genre of the book and a novel is written as a work of fiction and therefore something intended as a nonfiction title (however made up it is) can’t be a novel. Hopefully the books that are almost totally fabricated may die out but I wouldn’t hold my breath: the dreaded Tuesday Lobsang Rampa is still in print despite the fact that he wasn’t really a Tibetan lama but a plumber’s son from Devon and everyone accepted that the Baptist minister who had his hugely bestselling 90 days in heaven wasn’t making it up.

See also our post on Autobiographical Honesty: fact or fiction.