Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A turn-up for the books

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    I'm wondering whether the copies with the unacknowledged intertextuality will be valuable collectors items in a few years?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4218 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    A signed copy even more so. But I really don't rate my chances of getting one...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1408 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    It seems his original contrition and apology have been thrown overboard -- Prof. I. now he has gone rogue, and torn up the script (presumably provided by Penguin?) in favor of a "very, very exciting new approach to creating a framework to those new fictions".

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 254 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Are you buying it?

    What, the book or the explanation?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    I'd buy the "exciting new development in literary technique" explanation if it had come out first, before the "dog-ate-my-homework" explanation.

    On top of that (apart from the plagiarism) no-one who has read this book has found it be radically different from countless other historical novels. Thomas Pynchon it is not.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 254 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    This is starting to piss me off a wee bit.

    So I think what Trowenna Sea is, is the beginning of a hybrid book in which [you have] the problematics of acknowledgement of historical material and historical inspirations. Where you have non fiction writers traversing that area then they can use footnotes but fiction writers can't so I am having to try to figure out creative ways of addressing that and I think that what we will end up with is in fact a very, very exciting new approach to creating a framework to those new fictions.

    Can I just say, that's a bunch of horseshit (quite apart from largely contradicting the previous explanation.)

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    What richard said.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Reid,

    I concede I have yet to read the book, but this explanation after the fact seems like one of those "bullshit baffles brains" exercises. We are not to know and will never know what that first draft was, but the apology seemed disingenuous and this account even more so.

    He is inviting us to think he is being pilloried for being courageous enough to be trying a new kind of historical fiction.

    I am still thinking of that lovely scene in I'm Alan Partridge where Alan goes to see his autobiography being pulped.

    Will Witi be "Bouncing Back" like Alan?

    Will he, like Alan, be able to write, "needless to say, I had the last laugh".

    Ah-ha!

    auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Can I just say, that's a bunch of horseshit (quite apart from largely contradicting the previous explanation.)

    I'm waiting for the English translation to come out.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11617 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Curtis,

    Interesting interview in The Age earlier this year when Witi says he has been 'rewriting' his previous novels

    Yet, as he has grown older, Ihimaera has become unhappy with some of his stories. The early books, he believes, were written as if he was "a possum caught in the headlights of a truck". Ihimaera suspects his readers have embraced his fiction for all the wrong reasons, because he wrote within a European framework, and did not let his culture speak for itself.

    For all the wrong reasons ? I think someone has let his self importance get away with himself

    Each book has required a different treatment. Tangi has been entirely rewritten and is twice the length of the original, while The Matriarch is now just a fifth of its former length. There were problems with joins and links to its sequel, The Dream Swimmer, which was republished last month. Some "anger and irritation" came withPounamu, Pounamu, a book of short stories that lacked political content. The new versions are "slightly darker and more true to the times", while Whanau II is a clearer reflection of Ihimaera's ancestry and heritage

    .

    Cutting Edge ? More the style of a travel guide, new and improved every year

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 183 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Great set of questions from BookieMonster.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1408 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I didn't realise the quote from AU was "no deliberate wrongdoing". Their plagiarism guidelines explicitly state that plagiarism can happen inadvertently - but still counts as plagiarism.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaire BookieMonster,

    Thanks for the link Jolisa. :)
    I hadn't seen this interview on Stuff, but it doesn't address any actual details, does it? Still no answers but plenty of obfuscation.

    I have two more questions now. What's problematic about "acknowledgement of historical material and historical inspirations"? I'm sure I could probably pull several novels off my shelves that do that with no problems.

    And why can't fiction writers use footnotes? If we're going into bold, new territory why stay stuck in past conventions...

    And I noted in the Stuff article this comment from Geoff Walker "It is a long and accepted tradition that goes back to Shakespeare" in regards to drawing on the work of others. Almost needs an attribution to Andrew Motion http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/poetry/article6908977.ece
    :) Yes that was just being mischievous for the fun of it.

    At the foot of Mt Te Aroh… • Since Nov 2009 • 173 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Erm. So, just how stupid does he think we are?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3583 posts Report Reply

  • Scott A,

    Danielle: not stupid, just cowed. And, no, I ain't buying it. Fiction writers have long found ways to acknowledge and use others ideas in their writing; a very common device is extended quotes opening chapters. But, do I feel that it'll be insesnsitive for us to suggest that Witi Ihimaera might have to follow such traditional methods of attribution? Or, maybe, cowed in awe of such literary genius. In awe of such a national treasure?

    Well, I don't, but maybe he does.

    The wilds of Kingston, We… • Since May 2009 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Bennett,

    Fiction writers can't use footnotes? Maybe some fiction would have its flow spoiled by footnotes. Endnotes maybe?

    If historical fiction would be spoiled by that, how about just a bibliography at the end of the book that acknowledges both the works relied on generally and a more detailed section that identifies any passages that would be plagiarism but for that acknowledgment.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Footnotes can be fun. See Terry Pratchett, for example. (See Terry Pratchett for anything, really, he's great).

    You could certainly do footnotes,and it could be all terribly postmodern and interesting, and you could go further and use different fonts and insert photographs and original documents, to draw attention to the heteroglossia of history, etc etc... You could, but you'd still have to hang it on a well-written and well-told story, I think. Even more so, because you'd be presuming on the reader's patience and attention to a more consequential degree than with a straightforward narrative.

    It could work, but it would look very very different from The Trowenna Sea, which is, in the end, a fairly conventional historical novel with plagiarised chunks masquerading as the author's own work. It's not cutting-edge in any sense, just cut-and-paste, which is a different thing altogether.

    Another possible approach: one could just sit down and write one's own novel. Other novelists do it all the time, or so I gather.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1408 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    I wonder if "I'm buying up the un-sold stock" is actually spin for "I've had to give back my pay to cover the expenses I've caused my employer in loss of sales and pulping"?

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 782 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    If Ihimaera had just released the book online we could now be looking at "The Trowenna Sea", SP2 and all the fuss could be written off as a coding error.
    Re-Kindleing the fires of Fahrenheit 451 anyone?.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4453 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Fiction writers can't use footnotes?

    Don't tell Nicholson Baker because his second (and IMO best) novel, The Mezzanine, is full of the damn things.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11617 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    CK Stead weighs in very critically on both Ihimaera but most especially the university that employs them both. Money quotes:

    "You reject students' essays for doing this and you fail them in exams for doing it.

    "It makes you wonder what the title of a distinguished professor means in the University of Auckland if they then say what Witi Ihimaera has done doesn't matter."

    And concerning the "it's only half a percent" thing:

    It's really like saying'well yes I did steal from 16 people but I only took a dollar from each'," he told Radio New Zealand.

    "You haven't harmed them much, but you've harmed yourself enormously."

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    "The first draft for instance was completely historical. With historical fiction what you traditionally get is the history as background but I wasn't happy with that because as a Maori writer detail is important to me and so therefore making sure that detail wasn't background but fully integrated into the whole novel itself is what I was attempting."

    In short, the Iwi made me do it.

    I am impressed by the way in which Ihimaera combines the Argument from Indigenousness with PoMo variations; what we end up with is in fact a very, very exciting new approach to talking utter bollocks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    When I was a fresh first year at Uni I was so impressed by one particular lecture that it changed my perspective of that part of my subject, it didn't fit with the other lectures but was somehow more enlightening. I did some further reading, as you do and in checking some detail on line I discovered the entire backbone of the lecture written by some professor in Chicago. I proceeded to cut and paste large chunks of said lecture into my assignment. The next week I was called up to the head of departments office and told in no uncertain terms that I would be receiving no marks for the paper as it was too close to the lecture and that was plagiarism. Not so said I and referred him to my sources in the endnotes. I got an A for that assignment. Nothing more was said but needless to say that particular lecturer never spoke to me again.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4453 posts Report Reply

  • NBH,

    Re: fiction writers using footnotes, if you really want to see someone not only use them well but make the whole concept of citation an integral part of a work, then IMO you can't go past Mark Z Danielewski's absolutely brilliant House of Leaves.

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    Hopefully Peter Wells won't mind if his comment at Graham Beattie's blog, under the CK Stead story Giovanni linked to, is also posted here. Only Peter can get away with phrases like "poltroons of pusillanimousness" ...

    Thank you CK Stead for saying something so obvious. The role of Auckland University in this is scandalous. They are the poltroons of pusillanimousness. The least they can do is say they are investigating the novel closely to establish how much is 'sampled' without creditation. But to wave it all aside is to embrace the most fatuous aspects of celebrity culture.
    It interests me that there is a resounding silence from other authors on this subject.
    'Cultural sensitivity' can become a gag. We all like and to a degree respect Witi for his past work. But the fact is as authors we all labour daily with the problem of 'making it new', creating something - it is very hard work - so this instance of 'sampling' cannot be brushed away as some small fault, which somehow happened without anyone knowing about it...or taking responsibillity - until - humiliatingly - the author in question is caught out.
    I also have to say the acceptance of the 'laureate award' was a masterpiece of mistiming for this one-time diplomat.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 638 posts Report Reply

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