Shelf Life: Reviews, Replies and Reminiscences
C. K. Stead
The best of C. K. Stead’s ‘afternoon work’: reviews and essays, letters and diaries, lectures and opinion pieces.
What ghost was being appeased? What wrong was being righted or sin atoned for? I didn’t know. It was all, this writing business – and had been since it first began when I was still at school – mysterious, possibly even neurotic. I knew only that for a moment the world which ‘out there’ seemed so imperfect, so ‘fallen’, so much less than the heart desired, ‘in here’ had been called to order.
Every morning for the last thirty years, C. K. Stead has written fiction and poetry. Shelf Life collects the best of his afternoon work: reviews and essays, letters and diaries, lectures and opinion pieces. In this latest collection, a sequel to the successful Answering to the Language, The Writer at Work, and Book Self, Stead takes the reader through nine essays in ‘the Mansfield file’, collects works of criticism and review in ‘book talk’, writes in the ‘first person’ about everything from David Bain to Parnell, and finally offers some recent reflections on poetic laurels from his time as New Zealand poet laureate. Throughout, Stead is vintage Stead: clear, direct, intelligent, decisive, personal.
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This is a fascinating collection of 436 pages of erudite, wonderful writing that would be of interest not only to the engaged literary reader of Stead’s work, but to those who appreciate Stead’s wit, poetry, criticism and references and who are familiar with the authors and books about which he writes. - Patricia Prime, Takahe
The book is a delight of words. - Lesley Vlietstra, Booksellers NZ
Karl Stead is like a grand old sideboard in the dining room of New Zealand literature: well-stocked, stylishly set, scratched in a few places, polished in a lot more, a go-to place for when you want a savoury, occasionally tart dish. - David Herkt, NZ Herald