Sunday, October 02, 2016

Arguing about intellectuals

Has New Zealand been an intellectual wasteland for much of its history, or has it teemed with sometimes sinister thinkers and complicated ideologies? Did the notorious philistinism and conformism of the 1950s reflect the nation's innate anti-intellectualism, or were they the result of the smashing of the radical parts of the labour movement and the left during the Waterfront Dispute of 1951? Can an avant-grade poet sit on the boards of some nasty corporations, without expecting critics to connect his business and literary careers?

I admire Roger Horrocks, but he and I offer quite different answers to these questions. I've reviewed Roger's latest and largest book for Landfall.


Blogger Richard said...

I am reading Roger Horrock's essay about Leigh Davis. It is brilliant. It is of no significance that Davis worked for a large business firm. His poetry and work are not connected to that. Horrock's rebuts the attack that the difficulty and indeed the complexity and wit of Willy's Gazette are equivalent to neoliberal theoretical mystification (as someone maintains in a PhD on Davis and language)...The slipperiness and subtle ambiguity of possibly NZ's great long poem is explained excellently by Horrocks.

Davis shared the same interests in literature that I have: he admired the great Dream Songs of Berryman, Eliot's work, Pound's, Mallarme, Valery and certain post-symbolist work. He, like Brunton, Wystan Curnow and others, was a major innovative poet and writer in NZ.

Davis had a valid interest in Te Kooti and other artists and philosophers.

As Horrocks says the connection between art or poetry and politics is complex. Wallace Stevens was a wealthy businessman and wrote great poems, Eliot was a partner in Faber and Faber, while the innovative genius Charles Ives was a billionaire...And Davis admired Heidegger and Wittgenstein (not you could say ever a pauper or indeed much of a conscientious political person with his enlistment in WWI for Austria and then living well as a "don" in an English University), and the former a Nazi, who, who was it, oh, of course, one Kendrick Smithyman was a great enthusiast for him...These might be damning connections but they aren't. It is clear this aspect of the "political objection" fails.

No, for me, so far, Roger Horrock's book is great.

12:56 am  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

Hi Richard,

I certainly try to recommend Roger's book to readers, despite my disagreement with him on a couple of subjects. I think it's a great resource.

But I think that Horrocks' essay on Davis goes down the wrong track early on. Horrocks is impatient with critics like Emma Fergusson who want to try to talk about Davis' poetry in terms of his life and politics. In an effort to get these critics out of the way, he mentions that writers like Ezra Pound and Wallace Stevens also had lives and ideas that many people found objectionable, and yet produced writing that, almost everyone agrees, is valuable. Why, then, Horrocks asks, can't we read and enjoy Davis without worrying about his politics?

But Horrocks' analogy with Pound et al doesn't work, because the many scholars and critics who argue for the value Pound's poetry don't do it by setting aside his politics. They don't say that the man's fascism was irrelevant to a consideration of his work. Such an argument would be ridiculous, because there are so many threads in the Cantos - that famous passage on usury, for example - that can be followed to Pound's politics. What they say is that despite Pound's politics there is value and enjoyment in Pound's poetry. The politics has to be considered, when the poems are analysed, but the politics doesn't drag everything down with it.

Horrocks would have been justified in making an analogy with Pound if he had been arguing that Davis' politics was relevant to his poems but didn't determine their ultimate value - if he had been arguing, in other words, that one could enjoy a book like Willy's Gazette without being a supporter of scorched earth neo-liberalism. I wouldn't necessarily have disagreed with that sort of argument.

But Horrocks makes the much more radical, and to me much more dubious, argument that Davis' life and politics can be set aside when we read his poems. This argument is oddly anti-intellectual, and it flies in the face of Davis' own protestations - in his essay for Midwest journal, his interview with Emma Fergusson, the essay he wrote for the aesthetics issue of brief - that his politics and his writing were connected, and that the market should be used to evaluate poems and art works.

I think, then, that Horrocks' attempts to dismiss the likes of Emma Fergusson are unfair. Fergusson doesn't want to ban anyone from reading Davis - she just wants, like a good scholar, to put the man's poems in the context of his ideas, his era, and the milieux within which he moved.

11:12 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes. I agree. When I read your reply I dived into the old Brief History Books...and I recalled the events leading up to your emails to Geraets (and just then the attack on 'Te Tangi a te Matuhi' (based on the art exhibition which we both saw, it was a poem), by Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul ...her essay in ABBDOTTWW 14 was called "Between Meaning and Nonsense" and it pointed to appropriation and possibly a racist stance either by Curnow or Davis and or both. Now you poprosed a debate on "the paradox of Davis" which Geraets cleverly evaded. It was around this time that Geraets wanted to see my "Chains" but when he saw I was 51 he didn't want to know...So he published Hamish and others (young mostly).

But the issues were complex and the essay by Tina E. was never addressed. Nor were your comments, and when I tried to send an email and reply, essay, or comment, Geraets dismissed it.

It is interesting how persuasive / or seductive things like this can be. I was never really in that club of Curnow etc. I came to poetry later.

Also, indeed, I was also affected by the changes around that time. I haven't seen Davis writing about Capitalism as such, I would like to read it...But in an essay on poetry, he talks (very well) of Michelle Leggott's 'As Far as I Can See' (which is good, looking at it again I see I have written notes through it as I did on DIA)...

But it was only with reluctance that either my appreciation or criticisms were welcomed. Albeit I made the mistake of repeating the story |Alistair Patterson told me about Loney, when Jack took over. That was when I got angry at Loney's rejection of Brief and his attempt to divert his own group of cobbers away.

It is a complex issue and while Roger Horrock's article on Davis is fascinating in so far as it addresses Davis the poet, it is a failure, that that very issue was not dealt with in depth. Do you know the woman who did the PhD? I thought she was doing a "confused complex language is bad - simple and clear is good" hatchet job...That kind of approach is too simplistic. A writer would be eternally condemned to be an Orwell who used up his own invented cliches.

But the direction Davis went in fact was that he, it seems, didn't actually understand a lot of the theory he had read (Horrocks places him as a modern symbolist and in that sense with the comparison to Berryman's 'Dream Songs' which I like hugely, 'Willy's Gazette' with it's complex of puns and language and multiplex of references, works...). But there is something cold and distant I find even in Roger. His enthusiasm for abstractions and complexity is too much I feel I know what his struggle was, and I too would recommend his book. I have yet to read more essays.

I think you weighted the case against too highly but nevertheless....hmmm....

As they say: you I and Geraets etc have a history (I "hit" Loney with something bitter regurgitated from Patterson!! When I went on hs site I was persona non grata forever, as Ted tells me (I think Ted got sick of Loney also, stuffing up his poems and typography, which hits another one, Loney did a lot of good, but like Lear, as soon as he lost his power, gave it away to Goneril and Reagan (!) Geraets etc he began lamenting (the essay I am most fond of by Orwell is on a comparison of Lear with Tolstoy, who also foolishly "gave away his power"....BUT Wittgenstein renounced his huge inheritance which Geraets called the action of an aristocrat...THAT comment should give us pause...)

11:08 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes. There is a big difference. The issue of Pound and Eliot's (Davis lie myself loved T S Eliot's work and others of course) anti-Semitism and growing facism - and I think that Derrida, misinterpreted, can lead people into theories that justify anything but we have to keep thinking of children, we cant elevate art outside the valorization of the human which is why my EYELIGHT eschews complete fragmentation (although ideas of Barthes etc etc are there), as along with it are poems about my son and, well you have seen the wide range of things I write, these provide a complex, it is almost as if I was having my cake and eating it: but Davis in that essay on poetics, suddenly veers away talking about NASDAQ and how he can communicate throughout the world (re Stevens ...Horrocks sites him but I think a) that he was a businessman and successful DOES inform his poetic (although it doesn't mean it was "bad", for me he is a great poet) and b) not many of his colleagues knew he was a poet so he didn't boast of his love of Capitalism and so on, and Charles Ives hardly used much of his huge fortune. From what I read it wasn't his thing as such, music was. But for Davis:

NASDAQ now teaches us about poetry in the way that the Eiffel Tower taught Guillaume Appollinaire and Vicente Huidobro, and the aeroplane propeller was so full of messages for the Futurists [people may not know that the most famous Futurist Marinnetti was a fascist and keen supporter of Hitler and Mussolini] ....Not all Davis did or said was "wrong" I think he was seduced by money, the mechanics and interchange of goods and services (I studied Accountancy I once and it was fascinating but while I learned from it I didn't pursue it) and so on.


However derived, culture is material and has a market reference point. One can consider the example of NASDAQ tech stocks (!) [whatever they are I noted in the margins]: the most valued companies in the world are those that are the most extreme at building a future on new told and on the new behaviours these aere expected to produce...NASDAQ has its antennae up, rewarding those who are driving hardest into incomprehension.

I like the drive to incomprehension: but I think Davis is, in the middle of quite a good essay empathising with Michelle Leggott whose book 'As Far as I Can See' he says shows the terror of becoming blind. And it has some beautiful poetry.

But then he switches, empathy or complexity in poetry becomes too much....

11:08 pm  
Blogger Richard said...


We inhabit different virtual communities at once. Today, 3 December 1999, I talked to a business analyst in Jamaica and then spoke to my remote children [his REMOTE children? No man should put business and power ahead of his children] inside 5 minutes and taking advantage of 3 overlapping waking time zones. Partly simultaneously, and still at breakfast, I read an article Umberto Eco in the Australian Financial Review. I sit at a restaurant table that also holds a newspaper with a story of a fatal train crash on the mobile telephone [he is still reading Umberto Eco's theoretics] the size the restaurant table where I type this into my laptop...In a few minutes I will join my colleagues from Houston, Chicago, Baton Rouge, and Sydney for a meeting about forcast behaviour for a new business model. I am not the same as I once was and this crumbling and re-assembly will continue.

I think he was so obsessed with all this feverish hunt and hunger for money and power that indeed he started to unravel. He may have been, in a complex fact, I wonder how if his brain was already affected by the tumour that was to kill him? Whatever.

It was tragic that Davis died so (relatively) young. And he was a highly innovative writer, but the whole story of Davis, in any recounting or assessing, needs to be told.

We know about Pound and his Hitler salute after discharge from Hospital, we know that Berryman's father committed suicide in front of him, that Virginia Woolf suffered terrible mental illness that drove her to commit suicide, that Plath was obsessed with suicide years before she met Hughes, that Cendrars was such as strong Nazi the Germans were embarrassed by him...But we need to take also into account Davis's life, and some quotes from Emma Fergusson's I think of it, people don't get to do PhD's lightly. It is a serious business. Those who do such research are very intelligent. We may not agree that the "slippery language" was [or is ALWAYS] an issue (Orwell oversimplifies this stuff too much, although of course his place in history as a major writer is secure)...So indeed, it is problematic. One is attracted towards great poetry and ideas, and the thoughts that moved Davis to challenge the established, and often quite tired poetry in NZ with his own quite strange long poem (it is also a bit like Ed Dorn's 'Gunslinger' in a round about way, but Ed Dorn, well, he was man who came from poverty and kept his "anger" at injustice [Creeley talked about him when he was here in 1996, and his 'Abhorrences']...

11:58 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

But Davis could write well, after this digression [which I understand] he writes:

The eroticisation of language at its limits sirens. Just because we are fatigued with a poetic bound in agrarian metaphor....[round here he loses me again]...does not mean the artform is dead. At breakfast, or in the evening as we drive our cars, poetry is there where it has always been in the shapes at the edge of the headlights.

Now here is a point, we are talking (albeit in an empty room, I don't care, I love the silence of it) about Davis the man and his poetics and his work and that is what Roger says, that his work hasn't been discussed enough (I think that is why he elided from Fergusson's "charges" as he wanted to concentrate on his friend's writing and art etc); so we are discussing it and we need to bring in Fergusson's comments. At this point Davis is almost contradicting himself. There is no need for all the business activity, it didn't do him much good. (If you want to discuss my financial career, well I was hopeless at saving money, am in debt to the tune of about 12,000 on ccs and on a pension in a run down house that no one will probably ever want when I die: so in those terms I am a Passerist!! The point is, all this clamour for money and ripping people off is a power obsession and is useless, as in fact Davis died at 56 or something, I am still alive with almost no money and never having even managed lately to travel to Australia (all my own fault as I pissed the money I had from a house against the wall, having got in my second only trip, to NY - Fiji only because my ex won a competition and my mother lent money - and of my 60 odd jobs, I mostly worked as a labourer, I have never worked as an academic or in an office, I have "failed" brilliantly, being hopeless in my life at most things including saving money!!)...However, I don't resent those who do make money. And increasingly, I am thinking of Davis as the poet-millionaire....

But Davis says it "poetry is there where it has ever been"....O.k. Silliman could use technical terms and so on and his books are great, but poetry is not directly to do with (or necessarily) finance and a frenetic up to the minute life. But certainly it seems that Davis's life, he felt, that is he felt that business was a kind of poetry (except as above)...

But just before he says:

Once more: this is partly why poetry anthologised in New Zealand at least is dying. There is no New Zealand signified anymore because we have acclimated to a richer menu of content. We obtain our abstract emotion ....'

No New Zealand signified anymore ...richer menu of content....

I know what he is saying....But poetry is dying, at least anthologised?

These things need revisiting.

I think Horrocks's answer (in effect to Fergusson et al) is like that as that of Geraets who failed to engage in the debate that you felt was essential at that time. The debate, discussion, is important, as is Roger's great book which I would deeply recommend myself to anyone. That we are still (or we were!) friends with Geraets and I hope with Wystan (both writers whose work I admire, but who also cant be separated from what he did in their lives, but not that we want to "attack" these people.) Not attack, we need to look into these matters which it is surprising that those embracing the innovative veer away from.

I am thus conflicted. It is almost as if your emails to Geraets in Nov 1999 [ABDOTWW/14] were not answered but deftly swished aside.

11:59 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

That should have been "Celine" was such a strong Nazi...

Davis also mentions Cendrars.

Horrocks essay, is, nevertheless, quite fascinating. One reference is to Foucault (possibly) via his rare book that I actually own called "Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond Roussel" introduced by John Ashbery and has an interview with Foucault at the end.

This comment on authorship etc by Foucault is significant:

[Re Roussel and why he concealed much of the personal side of his life during his life] ...Therefore I think it is better to understand that someone who is a writer is not simply doing his work in his books, in what he publishes, but that his major work is, in the end, himself in the process of writing his books. The private life of an individual, his sexual preference, and his work are interrelated, ... because the work includes the whole life as well as the text. The work is more than the work: the subject who is writing is part of the work.

Foucault discovered Roussel (not knowing Robbe-Grillet had wanted to name a novel of his 'La Voyeur', as 'La Vue' ( the title of a book by Roussel ), and it was the only work of literature he dealt with as such: so it is an unusual and interesting book.

I also had the Parallax (I may have all of them) where the complete called 'Einstein Taught me Physics' by Davis that Horrocks quotes is printed.

And he was certainly venturing into new territory for New Zealand with his 'Willy's Gazette' and other works.

12:26 am  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

Thanks for your talanoa Richard: will reply properly tomorrow. It's a testament to Horrocks' book that it can encourage discussions like this one (and there have been other thoughtful responses to review I've received, via e mail and social media)...

8:42 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes. I don't want to de-emphasize my support of Roger, when I said "a bit cold" I was thinking of (not Roger himself, that was an error) the complex relationship or tension that is generated when say, someone such as Roger, Davis, Loney and the others in AND and later Parallex etc generate. One the one hand they are trying to disappear out on the other side of the horizon [history of NZ culture might not have been then their main interest especially in the wake of the Alan Curnow of the "High Priest of NZ Lit" (not the other that Curnow that Davis, and I, and many others, admired as he kept making great innovative, poetry into his 90s)] into some AFTER Modernism...they turned, as Raworth and Steve McCaffery did (and Prynne, the Grossetestte Press people etc) toward the US innovations (even as they are influenced by French theory and say Symbolism, and modern poets), so Raworth, McCaffery and Prynne actually went to the US or Canada and stayed. Prynne returned but the others stayed. Ashbery (he went to France and returned) and previously Stevens (went there in his head) were also influenced by various strands of Modernism and French and European art and literature. Then there was Stein and the language poets and before that Olson (influenced by Pound and Eliot and possibly Zukofsky, affected by Pound also).

As you say, we see all these writers in light of their totality. I think that Foucault's comment is significant. Unlike perhaps Barthes (although perhaps like the Barthes of his books such as 'Camera Lucida' which is really a deeply disturbing book re photog. and ideas & also a moving homage inter alia to his own mother): Foucault places the Author there, in his totality in the work. (But he also asks "Where is the author?") So the totality of a writer is involved. (This doesn't mean we have to know everything about an author but we need to know more than the early Modernist would have us think).

Davis came out strongly, it seems, in favour of Capitalism (I think he was seduced by it all, in a way I can understand that, if I can see the negative aspects of it for me [which imply positive aspects])...

But the writers of AND etc were trying to innovate and to reaffirm new ideas and so on. That is all good. But then they slowly begin (began) to feel besieged by (we have to concede, what I used to call 'the Conspiracy of Dullness' in NZ literature - Domett was a friend of the great poet Browning, who I love a lot, but he is not in his league as far as I know): so there is a modal change (Smithyman incorporated his modal differentiation within his works, so he is innovative, his 'structural' change is less easy to discern than say the AND writers) by such as Davis and to some extent Loney, and Roger [his great Transit thing - modeled or influenced clearly by Silliman's Bay Area poems which I think are also great]; and Curnow especially in the interaction of his art writings...there are others, but later Geraets is also writing his own books like Davis and mixing (cleverly) meditations and then sudden "bursts of light" into his poems (certainly influenced by the AND people [and theory and Buddhism] and so on)...

[Another aspect is Davis's great interest in religion and his love of NZ as a place and a culture, despite all the confusion].

10:17 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

The trouble is they become so "on the outside" as Loney wanted to be, that they start to form a kind of group that is,or seems to many, remote: theory laden and prolix [Lisa Samuels is more or less in the same creative innovative high revving camp, I think Murray Edmonds is dancing around in the centre of the vortex: Murray is the least remote perhaps: his sin for me was his laceration of poor old Patterson when he did his 15 NZ Poets and the Open Form thing - now Lisa supports the efforts of Patterson's openness to alternative poetics]....But the charge of academicism is perennial and those not "in" feel they on the other side of an "elitist" group. It seems that the distance grows.

However, this could be the way at one stage that you, Jack, Leceister, Hamish and I and others were perceived. Especially in the London Bar, SALT and Pander days. So the struggle to be, in art and lit and life, involves, in fact, a kind of political-social action. Groups, oppositions, ideas and loyalties as well as "falling outs" and differences arise.

This thing of NZ history and the elision of politics is significant. I went in that direction myself for some time and as a writer still largely do if it is applicable. But then I haven't come out all guns blazing for Capitalism or for ripping the guts out of NZ using...well, in the case of Prebble, Prebble lied about the NZ Post Office that I was working for in his book 'I've Been Thinking' which has no index but was very popular, almost like a revivalist religious tract: he said things such as Lineman (Faults) at the Newmarket Depot had two working together when one was needed....But, in fact that is completely wrong. The implication was that work was easy there maintaining telecommunications: but when Iwas on what we called Line Faults I hardly ever had time for lunch. I couldn't work fast tenough and was criticised. Prebble, like a typically superficial politician: forgot or misrepresented that the two included, in some cases a trainee. In the "line gangs" he talked about, it was necessary, because of the nature of things at the time, to have a larger staff as the work patterns were complex and involved at the time he looked, trainees...Now all that led to the decimation of Rogernomics. If Davis is part of that, it is hard for me, also, to feel much for the demise of Davis. It is a pity...However and this is another aspect of it all, while I obviously am not against intellectuals or theory or innovation: I experienced work, manual labour and work as a tradesman, in a way that University intellectuals never did. This causses the distance.

10:19 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

However, it is more complex than that. I also felt and alienation from working people. As a writer-poet myself I admire academics and theorists...I have to change gear, and look at Davis (and others such as Loney) more dispassionately. Loney did a lot for NZ literature: a huge amount, as did and does Roger, and Davis, whatever his faults (and we cant, none of us, know the soul of any man in great totality, it seems as Roger notes, his business life, for him, was not mentioned as a major theme in the last work he did. His "Stunning Debut..." was a courageous and interesting work as well as the other last and complex work he did. I recall him reading Willy's Gazette at the University, and he was very quietly spoken (I didn't know much about him at the time, but heard something about his poem) and he asked if he should continue at one point. He was almost apologetic for his work....So we are dealing with a complex man and I agree with Horrocks that his efforts to go against the Conspiracy of Dullness were noble in motive. I think that the MODE of his writing was almost unique for most of his life, and he never published anything that looked like what is pouring out of VUP or AUP (not that they are all "bad") but that was a commitment to the alternative he kept to. That in itself is interesting. His distance, and the "paradox of Davis", he was probably aware of at some depth in himself.

And it is not as if the whole of Roger's book was about Davis and the history of NZ culture as such...o.k. it was, in a sense. But he covered film, Len Lye (and Roger and Wystan's support of Len Lye and say Roger's lyrics written for the NZ Opera on Len Lye...all these things are great). I recall Roger got me to watch some experimental film one day (Brakhage was one) and that led me into reading Iain Sinclair's "Flesh Eggs and Scalp Metal" by Sinclair, and I used some of it in "Chains" which I consider one of the best things I have done. (But Geraets, bless his socks, thought, otherwise! I mean otherwise than the "best" part...)

But I am trying to point to the paradoxes that arise when one is or sees oneself or selves, to be on the edge, out there, on the outside, trying to be, but also trying to disappear ....

10:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“” If the intellectuals are like-minded, as they often are, then the validity of an idea depends on what those intellectuals already believe. This means that an intellectual’s ideas are tested only by internal criteria and “become sealed off from feedback from the external world of reality.””

In a nutshell. Intellectuals never have to face reality.

9:45 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:19 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Well "anon" that just doesn't make sense. It might in certain limited cases. It sounds like something Hobbes might have written. He himself an intellectual was opposed to the intellectuals who had taught him Aristotle etc and in fact Hobbes did a brilliant analysis of why certain of Aristotle's ideas of being depended on the misuse of the term "to be". [Unfortunately, because he was a materialist (who also believed in God!)
he tried to square the circle. His attempts failed. But as a materialist he wanted that shapes in Geometry could be part of a physical reality. But while his realization that language was one of the problems in science and philosophy (hence he foreshadowed Wittgenstein and Derrida, philosophers who influenced Davis) was innovative, his mathematics were wrong.]

But his attack was on the use of abstruse and overwrought language. But of course no one can be a poet or an artist who is not in fact an "intellectual". Even Barry Crump was - compared to some "ordinary people" - an intellectual. He wrote books and thought about things.

The statement above is irrelevant even if it was slightly true. Theory needs to be tested in reality but the question is not that anyone is or is not an intellectual: it is the way of thinking, the philosophy or ideals of those thinkers that are in question. And also their actions in their life. Is it important that Leigh Davis was a big shot Capitalist and how much does that affect his writing: especially as he was a part of say the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E camp (in general) especially in the AND years: and one of his books was reviewed favourably by Marjorie Perloff, who supports such innovative writing as Charles Bernstein and others supported and promulagated. Poetry is difficult and that it is so is not the question. Perhaps Davis was too limiting, but I think in the interview on EPNZ he says that poetry in NZ for him was boring [or was in a structural sense] hence the decision to go towards this complex, innovative, even maverick approach]...

The question that was not debated came from Scott in 1999 and also Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul's essay (that critiqued Curnow and Davis's book "Te Tangi a te Matuhi", and this was in ABHOTWW, the editor being John Geraets. The issues or questions arising from that time have never been fully explored or engaged with. Scott's challenging emails were not ignored and a debate was entered into. After 9/11 it seemed that politics became even more important: but the question Scott and I agree on is (not whether intellectuals are bad or aggree with each other too much, maybe sometimes they do) whether Leigh Davis's connection to [Finance companies that went in and decimated the Railways: Davis was a director (or he had some significant part of) of NZ Rail and some Canadian company, and later started his own company Jump Capital]. It is not a question of whether someone is an intellectual or writes writing that is difficult (all good writing is difficult, try to write something as good as Wordsworth's 'Daffodils', and all writing varies in degrees of complexity and or challenge, and we can never get free of theory). It is that issue: the big issue of NZ in 1984 to now. The sudden changes that had a dramatic impact. Now for some they were good. Others not so. But to avoid these questions is a big mistake and contributes to the resentment. It fuels those who are anti-Intellectual. It is of course, I repeat, impossible to be significant writer or Artist of any kind without being an intellectual. We are thinking reeds.

3:51 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"The issues or questions arising from that time have never been fully explored or engaged with. Scott's challenging emails were not ignored and a debate was entered into."

But I left off the rest. It should have been: "...however certain aspects of that debate were sidelined. Scott has now "replied" to the Anders with his review: which I think now is good as it is honest (perhaps he could have been a bit more generous and show the positive aspects of Roger's book more, however he laid a strong emphasis on the history of the NZ intellectual etc, so, I suppose that, largely, is what RE-INVENTING NEW ZEALAND is largely about...). It is perhaps a bit too much weighted to the "political" side. That aside, it seems to be the only review that had any impact, the others were all "wonderful writing, great bloke, etc" kinds of reviews: but one of those was in the New Zealand Business Review (if that is what NBR is)....whatever, they were good and I would have agreed with a lot of what they said: but Scott's got me going.

So I went back into the history of these things as much as I could, and then started remembering and re-thinking.

So: no this isn't an attack on academics or intellectuals. It is nothing to do with that.

4:01 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

And Davis as an intellectual not facing reality? He had to face reality. The reality that he was dying. And he did. And he faced reality. He rallied even when he knew he was dying and completed a whole book with help, and did most of another book he had worked on before. So that showed a courage and commitment. So reality was faced. He kept going to the end.

And I think he was an important writer in NZ.

4:06 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

But I think that your attack on Horrock's essay on the history of intellectuals ignores what Horrocks says. He is in fact putting the case that, that that tendency was world wide. And in the 30s there was the beginning of a reversal. In European culture and literature we really don't see anything of significance until about 1930 and he doesn't always dismiss the left wing. In fact his main point is the change since the 1930s and especially the struggle now against such as Laws etc who quotes Hiter and his book burning. He shows the dumming down of NZ culture in recent times. Eerily, it has occurred to me, that a man who the power elite would fear, would in fact be Davis. As Davis while being or acting "right wing" was creating something highly resistive and intellectual and fascinating. Yet he was potentially, at least, in a position to counter the charge that inellectuals were bludgers or wanted hand outs: as in his case he had used his own abilities to get to a position of being able to be an intellectual totally on the outer. An innovator like Ives or Stevens or the Language poets or whoever you want to name. O.k. he could be seduced away. But what say he had lived? He might have reassessed everything. Stopped all this Jump Capital excitement (nothing wrong with it per se, it is what one DOES with money that counts, and how one lives: and lets face it Rogernomics etc was all done and dusted): so now he might have continued to work perhaps on the income of Power, but going against such as Laws etc who considered all the art in the Seargent Gallery to be "Crap" (his term)...And now where does Laws look? He (Davis) was some one who is an intellectual with a vengeance, but who is more "right" than such as Laws or those who are crapping on our TV and media....Now Horrocks does a great essay on all this. You are attacking the wrong end of the snake Scott. You have seized on the attack on the Left. Many of those who joined the Communist Parties and so on steered away from the production of art or literature because of this deep seated philistinism in NZ...despite the Dommetts etc....It is hard to think of Dommett as an innovator. Yes the left did produce a lot of art, but they were intellectuals and I am sure Roger understands those people. He quotes Bill Pearson's essays and also R A K Mason (who was a classics scholar, and Baxter was highly learned in literature and the classics also), if not quoted, would be an example. As, while not modally an innovator, he was an intellectual and a communist. Curnow sets the scene and then there is a reaction against him: all of this is dealt with very well. Also outlined is the struggle to save TVNZ from a sell off....and his main thesis in his excellent book is very valid. He is not writing a history of the New Zealand Communist parties and movements: leave that to some future E P Thompson or yourself to enlarge on...but engaging with the arts, with poetry, literature music, and bad and dummed down has NZ culture become that I cant bear to watch television. I have completely stopped. And the Herald is awash with drivel and also the Sunday papers. I can learn more from the Guardian from England. Your point about Davis has some validity, but not his Intellectual History essay. You have turned your critique into propaganda for such as Dave the Trotskyist and others...

But Horrocks is on our side. He is fighting: he is actually on the boards of radio on air or whoever (and in other areas) they are trying to convince Big Money they don't have to make programmes or have art that is for cretins. He is a thinker. It is an excellent essay.

11:05 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

And television, for example, was better when I first saw it about 1967. And radio was better when Big Money was out of it in the 50s and 60s and there were no commercial moron pop programmes. God save us from all that terrible jabber they blast out...

For myself: no television at all if I can avoid it. No radio except the Concert Programme. We are better with books and silence.

But it may have been possible for something better if NZ's attitude to High Culture as Wystan Curnow calls it, and High Art, had been much better.

Of course, it gets complex as not all "low culture" is "bad" but the point remains. The High Culture stance is necessary as people feed incessantly on pig's swill, unfortunately. We have to revere our intellectuals. Remember that those who attack postmodernism also attack art in general. It is as if some of those who create the kinds of works that are so tame and almost mass produced in NZ hugely lack imagination or interesting ideas. They cater to the "norm", to what is easily comprehensible, they will do anything to be published. They want fame over making great Art. But if you are famous for a few years, then later people lose interest, and eventually it is realized you were no good: the fame is no good. So the art has to come first. O.k. we all need to be seen in print or in art works or whatever art one is in, but the point remains.

11:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roger Horrocks is a NZ icon. People reviewing him should have the same stature...or what do their words mean?

10:33 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone is interested, a fun book I recently finished - Soon I Will Be Invincible - is pretty good. First time author writes a novel about superheroes and vilians. A pretty good perspective on the genre. It's not Hemmingway but if you like and/or have read comics, then this is a fun book and a good read.

10:24 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Scott became a national icon when he walked mightily up the Great South Road, consuming 10,000 mueseli bars, knocking back 200,000 pints of speights and other beers, talking to 3000 'locals' in the company of Paul Janman the iconic film maker who iconically accompanied the iconic (to be) Dr. Hamilton....

Had Scott and Paul been walking upwards the same distance, they would have been able to claim about the same iconicity of Sir Edmund Hilary. As it happens, they managed to stay "vertical" while boozed to the gills and walking towards horizontally. This and other feats tipped the Icon Committee to give them both Icon status.

10:25 pm  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

Ha ha Richard, far from iconic, you make us sound like a couple of Rabelaisian clowns. Gargantua and Pantagruel, reversing history by swilling like pigs on a strange romp to obscurity in the NZ countryside!

5:06 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

But the Iconic Sam Hunt used to booze and swill in the "good old days"...I believe he has stopped or slowed down....

Well, if you are not Iconic like Roger, then according to the ubiquitous anon, all is lost!

5:57 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I think your film / book / epic walk wont "take off" shall we say, but it is certainly original. It will retain a place. Strike a chord as they say.

It might earn the Nobel Prize...who knows?

5:59 pm  

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