Monday, May 9, 2011

Dewey Back from the Dead (back-catalogue revised!)


In anticipation of June's eLaunch of two new Lawrence & Gibson titles, our tanned intern James Marr has set the following questions to William Dewey, author of a novel and short story collection through this publishing collective. Not sure what "BEAVER" has to do with it, though...

Q: Kia ora William Dewey. How is the weather wherever you are?
A: I'm in Denver, Colorado, on the brink of summer, but the weather these past few days seems determined to relapse back to winter. I'm talking bitter winds. I'm talking cold and snow.

Q: In Aotearoa/New Zealand you released stories based in cities you have lived in in the United States of America. Has Wellington since taken up such a place in your newer writings?
A: I've recently finished work on a novel called The Homeland of Pure Joy that is basically a gushing love letter to Wellington. The city is personified as a moody, tempestuous lover, given to stupid fits of gloom, but irretrievably beautiful and vibrant no matter what is pouring out of her.




Q: What is it that you suspect pours out of Wellington? I always feel that the wind is the wrong metaphor for how people relate to the city, unless taking shelter is invoked.
A: But the wind is part of it. Wind and icy rain. It's those little unpleasant things she does that make her that much harder to love.

Q: What writing are you working on at the moment? What sort of inspirations (literary or otherwise) have made these possible?
A: Most of the writing I'm doing lately is taking the form of pleas for money. Some people, you know, and some institutions, have more money than they can reasonably handle, and I feel compelled to offer solutions to ease their burden. 
I've started a writing workshop for the homeless community here in Denver, and that has led me to witness some pretty remarkable things, inspiration-wise. As an aside, what does Wellington do with its homeless? That's a question that always confounded me. 

Q: The homeless in Wellington either go to jail, a couple of night shelters or Auckland. In my many affected moods where I affirmation the worth of the Ancient Greek Cynic fondness for homelessness, I imagine the homeless Wellingtonian as living, uncomfortably (in a psychic sense) on High St or Wellesley St. Or I think of that great book by John A Lee called Shiner Slattery, about a bum on the road in the South Island at the start of the 20th century. I guess we also don't have as many homeless because of the whole Unemployment Benefit arrangement. Oh, and that reminds me of a James K Baxter poem from Jerusalem Sonnets where he talks about walking barefoot through Kelburn and staring at the turds and oil in the harbour, snoring off in pigeon park and a literary skirmish with the now defunct The Truth tabloid. Say, what was one of the inspiring things that writing with the homeless has taught you.
A: Let me just say I understand there's a risk here of coming across as patronising. I want to avoid that. All these men and women have remarkable stories to tell, and I'm happy to encourage them. Sometimes it's just about exorcising those stories, get them out, cleanse the soul. The writing itself is not remarkable. Sometimes it is not even comprehensible.
I should say the style is not remarkable. What does impress me is the power of metaphor so many of these writers have. It is not showy, not overly poetic like that tripe above about Wellington weather, but metaphor at its most basic as an extension of language. They're trying to convey very complex ideas about abandonment and isolation and desperation, and it comes out very organically in simple, beautiful metaphors.


Q: What are the conditions needed to be met for the possibility of your returning to the fair isles of NZ? There is, you may know, a shortfall of bouncers for the Rugby World Cup... any interest in getting involved in that?
A: I'm sort of counting on Lawrence and Gibson to keep blossoming, as it has done so remarkably over these past few years, to become what Immigration New Zealand deems "an organisation of national repute," at which point in time I expect Mr Meros will rush to sponsor me for a residence permit. I'm sort of reluctant to try the whole bouncer thing, because someone told me that bouncers aren't aloud to carry concealed weapons in New Zealand. You people are barbaric.

Q: What can you tell us, then, about what is required of immigrant writers like yourself?
Why not just marry a Kiwi (note to party people: I think we still have the Male 25-25 drought)?
Or immigrate as an IT wunderkid or nurse?
BTW, have IT wunderkids or nurses ever featured in your writings?
A: I see four questions there.
To the first, my response is: "Not much."
To the second: What I want you to understand here is that it is not enough for me to marry just "a" Kiwi; I want to wed myself to the entire race.
To the third: I lack the vital skills necessary for either nursing or IT wunderkidding.
And to the fourth: No. Not yet.


For more on William Dewey at Lawrence and Gibson. Or his own website.