Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Old debts

The University of Auckland, where I was institutionalised for many years, has put a plug for my book about EP Thompson on its website.

I'm pleased that my alma mater is prepared to associate itself with my name, but I'd be even happier if the university would consider voiding my library fines, which were, by the time I graduated, about as large and as intractable as Greece's foreign debt. How about it, folks?

[Posted by Maps]


Blogger Ochlophobist said...

Do you think your book will ever come out in paperback? I ask because I'd like to read it but no library near me has it (I'm in Memphis, TN, USA) and I can't afford the $75 for it on Amazon.


2:31 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Owen,

book prices are ridiculous, aren't they? Sheila Rowbotham, who was one of the readers who recommended the manuscript to MUP, argued that a paperback as well as a hardback edition should be produced, but I don't know if her suggestion will be taken up. I know reading on the screen is a bit of a drag, but if you e mail me at I can always flick you an electronic copy...


8:45 am  
Blogger Skyler said...

Owen, Have you asked your libraries to order it? They usually do if requested :-)

10:13 am  
Anonymous Redbaiter said...

American libraries do not stock subversive filth I hope. And if they do they won't once Sarah takes the White House.

10:52 am  
Anonymous Keri H said...

Apropos Redbaiter's usual stupid comment (whatever forum, whatever thread, I will dirtyscum it)

-umm, she's withdrawn her presidential bid eh?

7:30 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Redbaiter - you are so wonderful

7:42 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Maps - I thought you had cleared up your fines?

When I was at Uni in 1968 we had Kate Shepard lecturing us on Henry James. Years later Bill Leadbeater (who you know of course) found a copy of a book in The Dead Poets Shop written by her brother. I also found one. Bill and I both knew her. I read his biography. It was quite intriguing: she had started as palaeolithologist (to do with cryptology etc) or whatever it is. She was quite brilliant but (perhaps obsessed?) she became very very focused on Henry James and in fact wrote a book about "The Turn of the Screw" which I also have.

She had spent time at Oxford etc and came back to NZ with hundreds of books from there on loan. She also had thousands of Auckland University Library books which she simply refused to return. Her house was a million times worse than mine, yours or Jack's(!) Peter Durey was the librarian in the 80s (I used to study at the library - I was at the then ATI or Manukau Tech) for an NZCE, and I used to see his name, and there is also Smithy's poem mentioning him)...

Now added to that, she used to study those cards they used to have with the borrowers names on. And if say (in one case it was him!) C.K.Stead borrowed a book on or about or remotely pertaining to James she would take him to task. None of the university staff (or students I suppose) were safe!

Now Peter Durey was a pretty kindly and patient person and used to go around to her house in Mt Eden to cajole some of his library's books back. But she refused. She was adamant. They were HER books. He got along well with her. (She made a great cup of tea and scones, and was fascinating to talk to I believe.) She could hardly move for books. Books were everywhere. Books were in the hallway, the kitchen, her sitting room, on the chairs, the bed, and even in toilet there were books. The house she lived in was a book. A huge living book.

Don Smith told me her book on James didn't add anything to scholarship - or did it? Had he had been taken to task!!

In the end, both the libraries in England and the Auckland University had to wait for her death. A friend of mine had a job recovering the books.

So, don't be too concerned about all those (200,000?) books you have subsumed Maps...on your decease they will be returned!!

8:15 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

I remember Richard that you had a hefty fine for a book you insisted was lost, and turned out to be stuck (was it a hefty book?) under your car seat!

You know Smithyman's poem for Peter Durey?

9:14 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I had Olson's complete Maximus poems and a kind of commentary by Butterick. Both books were huge and would be very very expensive to replace.

I have to concede that (apart from the first page) I was pretty baffled with Olson's epic but I want to see that complete thing again some time as the typography is very interesting.

I came back with some books in my car and put my books back, but then got an overdue notice for those two.

I was absolutely sure I had returned them...I looked on the shelves...and went back to the assistant in the library and I argued for about an hour. Then the person wiped the books off for me. I don't think it was a heated exchange, it was more that I was emphatic. I was convinced in my own mind I had returned them!

But later I was emerging from my car (a bomb of some kind none of my cars have ever been late model, I never did get into computers); and I noticed something under the LHS seat. It was both books! The bloody things had crept crabwise down and hidden under there! Well, I got really angry, and I tore into them and said things to them I felt ashamed of later but I wasn't going to let them thing they could ever pull that trick on me! Again!? Just because I couldn't make head nor tail of them! Accursed and malignant things of cellulose! Ho ho! (Again!) No! No way!

Why didn't I just grab them, the miscreants, and add them to my own hoard? They had caused me enough trouble as it was...the Library had written them off! But I took them back and I think I and the assistant had a good laugh about it.

But in the end I was glad that the library got those books back. When Creeley was here he read from the very book I had returned. The later parts have the type going around in circles etc so he was to be seen rotating this very large book as he read from his friend Olson's book...

This kind of (typographic innovation) thing was initiated with such as Mallarme and others in (mostly) France and later we see it coming via Olson to such as Susan Howe (and many other of the particularly Language poets) and Loney and Ted Jenner etc

But yes, quite a saga.

9:50 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes I saw Smithyman had written about Durey. I forget the poem though. Is it good? Smithyman wrote so many poems!

9:51 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Owen White has an interesting Blog where he talks about Marxism and politics and also literature and books etc

10:22 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Link to it:

10:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

heh...sounds like RT's SUBCONSCIOUS wanted to THIEVE...

11:44 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

No! The books played a trick on me. They didn't want to go back to the library!

12:04 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Richard: Transtromer takes the Nobel!

3:16 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Transtromer! I just googled! Yes! Great choice! Remember you used to ring me up (remember those days!!? You bastard!) one of the first poets you were keen on I hadn't heard of was Transtromer...Celan was another. I preferred Transtromer. Celan I found/find too dark and obscure. Trakl was another I liked of your recos but I did discover (various) French poets.

Also there were David Jones, Geoffrey Hill, Middleton, and such as Raworth (my discovery as well as found John Ash ?!!) and Keith Douglas. Of those Hill is alive and a candidate (in my view). But there are so many.

I was passed over for some reason?!

But Transtromer...I recall that poem you pointed out a poem where he (or his alter ego) is driving and then stops and, he even has an accident I think and walks away into the fields towards eternity or something (it loses in the telling)...I forget it exactly but I recall the magic of it.

I would call Transtromer not a poet of magic-realism or a surrealist, but a magic-real poet. He is magical. All great poets are children and magicians. As say, Jack Spicer was...

3:52 pm  
Anonymous markus said...

"...but I'd be even happier if the university would consider voiding my library fines, which were, by the time I graduated, about as large and intractable as Greece's foreign debt."

Ha, Ha - Just like me. I completed Honours in 1999 and still have a Victoria University Library fine of about $250.

One of my former lecturers once said she found there were two types of students - "minimalists" (who do the absolute minimal amount required for an essay) and "maximalists" (perfectionists who go to far greater lengths than they really need to). I suspect we're both maximalists, Scott.

3:15 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

I think you're right Markus: I found that my reading sprawled. I found I had to work on essays away from the library, Markus, or else go to a section of that labyrinth made up of very dull books - histories of gout in early modern Europe, or engineering handbooks - or else I'd get distracted! I think most of my fines came from books which were only tangentially related to what I was supposed to be studying...

9:24 am  
Blogger Dr Jack Ross said...

Smithyman's poem on Peter Durey is an excellent one, I think. In fact I use it every year in the first lecture of my first year poetry class to introduce the whole subject of what poetry is (or could be):

12:41 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes, I agree. I looked it up and remembered it. What is the answer to the poem Jack? !!

Typical of Simthy's raconteur style...

4:42 pm  

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