Still a Good Keen Man

Book coverA Good Keen Man turns 50 next year and there’ll be a commemorative edition of Barry Crump’s celebrated book published to mark the occasion. Barry himself might have preferred ripping the scab off a few tinnies whilst bubbling up a stew on the campfire, but you can’t hunt a pig in deer country, eh?

Crump isn’t the sort of writer who makes it on to book lists for courses about New Zealand literature, but he remains one of our highest-selling authors. The tales of quirky characters and colourful yarns that started Crump’s writing career still have nuggets of Kiwi-ness in them and are well worth revisiting.

I spoke with Martin Crump, Barry’s son, this week. His voice boomed like a car-load of kakapo on a night out, and I could tell he was no stranger to spinning a yarn or two of his own.

Yet he didn’t. We talked about the book,  how he had to “share” his father; meeting one of his brothers for the first time at his dad’s funeral, that kind of thing, as well as how some of the books and tales came about. Keep an eye out for the full interview on the library website.

I found that despite the many things that didn’t work out so well in Barry Crump’s life, what survives for Martin, and for all of us,  is the power of the humble story, the joy of telling and sharing, and the fact even the most Kiwi of blokes could write with a deft touch.

So don’t judge the book by stereotypes of its author. Read A Good Keen Man if you haven’t, or try some of the other 30-odd titles that Crump penned. With the movie version of Wild Pork and Watercress in the wings (Taika Waititi at the helm) you can expect Crump to be a name that lives on for generations to come.

Swan Lake

I have never understood the desire by those attending a live performance to consume wrapped sweets. Why pay good money to watch performers and then distract them from doing their best?

Last weekend I attended the performance of Swan Lake, danced by the Imperial Russian Ballet, with some trepidation. Last time I went to this ballet a woman in the front row destroyed the magic by rustling her way through, what must have been a whole packet of sweets, in some of the more beautiful scenes. Having seen the headlines about the distractions endured by opera lovers on the first night of The Magic Flute, I wondered if I was in for another such evening.

The performance started with the usual chorus of wrapper rustling, coughing, sneezing and things being dropped. However it was not long before silence descended. The performance was charming and elegant and the sets beautiful and simple, the costumes a delight. By the time the swans arrived on stage even my neighbour, who had spent the first part of ballet sneezing, fixing her hair, delving into her pockets, checking her cell phone, consuming water from the ubiquitous water bottle, stretching and yawning, subsided and the ballet company had successfully subdued both the loud and the restless.

Perhaps this is the greatest of tributes in our modern restless age? Or have I simply become, in my old age, such a curmudgeon that I should stick to borrowing the Swan Lake CDs and DVDs from the library to enjoy in the peace and quiet of my own home? Perhaps I should check out the books on etiquette to see if it’s now acceptable behaviour to eat lollies at the ballet?