The real deal
After you launch a book, you and your publishers face the troublesome business of trying to get it reviewed. Titus Books has at various times asked me to write an (auto)biographal note, to send out with review copies of my book. Here is one of the versions they rejected, or at least politely ignored:
I grew up on a dairy farm in Drury, a suburb of the southern motorway at the edge of Auckland's Hunua Ranges. Nothing much happened until I was eleven, when I founded a gang called BMX Bandits Explorers, which I later renamed BMX Bandits Ninjas in acknowledgement of my declining interest in Jules Verne and my growing interest in martial arts movies. My parents' decision to buy a Beta rather than a VHS video player imposed strict formal limits on my cultural education, and in my final years at Papakura's Rosehill Secondary School I was reduced to founding a series of still-born Doors and Hendrix covers bands with names like Dead Men Rising and Cosmic Caravan.
Things looked up a little when I encountered the young Hamish Dewe during the first of the five years it took me to finish a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Auckland. Hamish and I founded a little literary journal called Salt, which began in 1994 with an editorial invoking 'metre and rhyme and the sacred cloak of Samuel Johnson', and ended in 1998 in a haze of post-structuralist in-jokes. In between, Salt published a loose group of writers that included Jack Ross, Simon Field, Michael Arnold, Richard Taylor, Richard von Sturmer and, on one occasion, the redoubtable CK Stead.
Since the end of the nineties I've taken part in a series of political projects. In 1999 I helped plan the occupation of the administative headquarters of the University of Auckland - luckily, though, I was in a pub down the road watching the cricket (New Zealand versus India, we lost) when the cops and dogs came in to break the protest up. In 2001 I was a founder of the Anti Imperialist Coalition, a United Front which raised money for Afghan opponents of the US army, campaigned against the invasion of Iraq using the slogan 'Victory to the workers' resistance', and attracted the sustained attention of Auckland's police force and the US embassy.
In 2002 I began a PhD on EP Thompson, the English historian, political activist, lapsed Marxist and failed poet who died ten years ago picking blueberries in his Worcester garden. Thanks to Thompson I had the pleasure of visiting Hull in 2005, in a successful search for letters and missing manuscripts. Work on the thesis was for a while balanced with the editorship of brief, the disreputable literary journal which Jack Ross foisted upon me.
My favourite movies are John O'Shea's Runaway and John Sayles' Lone Star, my favourite book is Judith Binney's Redemption Songs, my favourite album is Syd Barrett's The Madcap Laughs, my favourite Beatle is Bill Direen, and my favourite colour is orange. What more is there to say?