The boss, hard at work
Even the most secretive leader, though, must be careful to find a balance between silence and anonymity. Brett's absence from literary events over recent months has gotten some followers of Titus wondering about his whereabouts, and about his plans for the future. It is common for a sclerotic and reclusive King or dictator to reassure his fans by releasing images that show him working cheerfully at home, or else enjoying some healthy outdoor exercise. In 1966 Mao Zedong emerged from a period of seclusion to swim in the Yangtze River, and thereby destroy rumours that he had suffered some incapacitating injury or disease. Unfortunately for China's writers, the Cultural Revolution soon followed.
Now a source close to Brett has leaked a photo (you can click to enlarge it) which shows the great helmsman of Titus Books working away in his Kaipara lair in the company of his long-time and slightly neurotic pet cat Rudy and his brand-new and delicately beautiful baby daughter, who has been given the first name of one of New Zealand's greatest painters. Brett has been understandably busy with the business of fatherhood over recent months, but his commitment to Titus hasn't slackened. Although he hasn't published any new volumes this year, he has managed to import a large, dispersed and very complicated printing system from the People's Republic of China.
Brett likes to call his imported possession 'the machine', and he promises that his new control of the means of production will make the Titus operation a lot more flexible and dynamic. Because it will no longer have to outsource its printing, Titus will be able to produce books in a wider range of formats, will be able to produce print runs in different quantities, and will be able to cut down costs considerably.
Hearing Brett describe the recent arrival from China, I was reminded of a poem which Richard Taylor used to recite to noisy audiences in Auckland pubs back in the mid-90s:
we gotta get down there
down there and show you guys
the machine the machine is mean
man and its there it lives like
a lung but we gotta get there
we got here but where is there
we gotta get there man I know
you know but it's mean man
and what I mean man is it's
gunna get ya or we gunna
get it and its there it's a machine
it does something which does
something to something but we gotta
get cross town and down to
that god-fuckin’ mean machine
with those wires man what I
mean is we gotta we gotta we gotta
cause its that time man I
mean what you mean we
mean no thing but we gotta
get down there to that lean
that big black lean machine...
While Brett dreams up new publishing projects between nappy changing and burping duties, one of Titus' industrious volunteers has been working on the company's gloriously byzantine website, adding a section full of sound files, so that you can know what Jack Ross or Olwyn Stewart or, yes, Richard Taylor sounds like after a few ales.