Blog description.

Accentuating the Liberal in Classical Liberal: Advocating Ascendency of the Individual & a Politick & Literature to Fight the Rise & Rise of the Tax Surveillance State. 'Illigitum non carborundum'.

Liberty and freedom are two proud words that have been executed from the political lexicon: they were frog marched and stood before a wall of blank minds, then forcibly blindfolded, and shot, with the whimpering staccato of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’ resounding over and over. And not only did this atrocity go unreported by journalists in the mainstream media, they were in the firing squad.

The premise of this blog is simple: the Soviets thought they had equality, and welfare from cradle to grave, until the illusory free lunch of redistribution took its inevitable course, and cost them everything they had. First to go was their privacy, after that their freedom, then on being ground down to an equality of poverty only, for many of them their lives as they tried to escape a life behind the Iron Curtain. In the state-enforced common good, was found only slavery to the prison of each other's mind; instead of the caring state, they had imposed the surveillance state to keep them in line. So why are we accumulating a national debt to build the slave state again in the West? Where is the contrarian, uncomfortable literature to put the state experiment finally to rest?

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Literary Shambles III – Book Sales, Eleanor Catton, the Sorry State of Us.

Following from my Literary Rambles I and Literary Rambles II, I'm afraid the third in the series is a shambles; this post just so much more graffiti across the wall my middle age has hit.

Blogger Whaleoil tweeted me over the weekend - I was arguing on his cruel disregard for animal welfare - that he doesn't read my blog because the posts are too long. This is, I suspect, why his attention deficit readership, the Whale army, gives him hundreds of thousands of page views, while my discerning readership are a little more modest in number. Which is a nice segway into a theme in this post: numbers.

Last Sunday Mrs H and I drove up to Christchurch hospital where my father has been residing uncomfortably over the last three weeks. I’d not seen Dad for some time, and I got a shock. Sitting in the bed was this shrunken, frail little old man with a nose too big for his face anymore, and un-brushed, food-caked teeth. He was a stranger I barely recognised. And I couldn’t remember his age. It was eighty something. You can’t talk to someone in a hospital, not really, so I sat making small talk to my brother-in-law, a lovely guy after-hours, despite being a tax fascist in-hours, (at ya); talked with my sister and their two boys, both home-schooled and all the better for it. It bugged me I couldn’t think of my father’s age, though I didn’t ask it, because I’m a little in disgrace, still, for not going to his eightieth birthday thang some years ago – we'd booked a holiday to Melbourne. No need to scratch those little family sores. But sitting in bed this following Sunday morning, thinking on Dad's age has me recalling, in my middle age, other numerical themes.

Here’s some appalling numbers from New Zealand just over the last three days:

136: being the number of emails in the trail released on the Dunne/Vance affair, sorry, middle aged infatuation, that proves, to quote Patrick Gower, the ‘complete casual disrespect for privacy’ that is life for all of us in our relationship with the state. And of course so: what would Peter Dunne or David Henry know about privacy, other than how to void the nuisance of it.When you deal with their old department, you are doing so from the Soviet Union; I Godwin you not.

$--,---: being the five digit figure which is my provisional tax payable on the 28th of this month, one third only of this year's tax theft, because ours is one of those 12% of households whom pay 75% of the income tax take in New Zealand: this money taken from me, despite it builds a tax surveillance state I have no fundamental agreement with.

Yet all insignificant compared to the shocker number I learned this weekend from a link tweeted on Twitter:

3,500: being the total book sales in New Zealand of Eleanor Catton’s first novel The Rehearsal, despite this novel was written to critical acclaim, and her second novel, The Luminaries, has just made the Man Booker long-list.

What? As in disgraceful, especially as that figure is thought 'respectable'. I read tax all week so I'm not reading statistics in the weekend, but assuming three and a half million reading age adults, including young adults, then only one adult in one thousand bought this book. Don't more people fall off ladders?

I have no idea how the book royalty system works, but I suspect that represents an income to  Eleanor, by all accounts one of the best writers this country has produced, that I can make in only months of filing tax returns. That fact explains an awful lot about the surveillance state we all find ourselves in. If you don't immediately get the connection, let me explain, albeit a qualification before I do: I have read Eleanor’s superb short story, Two Tides, but have read neither of her novels, yet, so this first name basis I’ve assumed is taking a liberty. However, this post is also about liberty, so that cancels out algebraically. Before reading her, for the purposes of this post, I will note only that people I respect hold Eleanor in high regard, and you don’t make the Booker long-list by any sort of fluke. So as another Tweeter pointed out over the weekend, hoping all the articles about Eleanor's Man Booker long-listing weren't going to merely be about the door-stopper size of The Luminaries, 800 pages - that's value for money by the way, because she doesn't get paid by word count - and the fact that at 27 years old she is the youngest person on the Booker list ...

Sorry, that ellipsis doesn't connote blind middle aged envy and jealousy, only a little heart burn I think.

I'm not going to mention size nor age, albeit as I've not read The Luminaries, yet, there's not a lot of additional angles into it, other than musing and concluding from the alarmingly small sales of her first novel, that we are not a nation of readers. The sound of this knowledge was that of a penny dropping. Finally so much of what is wrong around me - read this blog - makes sense.

My family was brought up on books, and I couldn’t, can't, imagine a life without books. People who don’t read are a mischief to themselves and everybody around them. Mrs H and I once made the poor choice to go on holiday with another couple neither of whom read books: worst holiday we ever had because they had to be entertained the whole ruddy time, and they both had the attention spans of goldfish, or readers of ... no, let's not go there. We will never do such a holiday again, it was hard work, but I reckon I've just figured out those attention deficit types who aspire to that black art of bullying me; politics.

Am I too far off the mark to suggest we could start the fix for everything wrong with this kindy of a country by asking every MP in Parliament who can’t off the cuff name their top ten New Zealand novels to stand down please? They're certainly not representing me. And it’s surely not reading too much out of context to say with Eleanor having sold only 3,500 copies in New Zealand of The Rehearsal, it is no wonder middle aged Mr Dunne finds himself in this mess of his own making, which would be hilarious if not so serious for showing the true nature of the state that owns us. Surely no one who has read all Maurice Gee’s body of adult work would be silly and irresponsible enough to think it was prudent, their eight children lined up beside them, ninth on the way, and with Sky decoder in hand, to be complaining about the size of their state house. No one who has been gifted or bought and read Patrick Evans would think it acceptable to ask for the emails of a total stranger in order they could wander through them like a feudal lord, reading another's intimate thoughts, uninvited. No one who has read Elizabeth Knox would think it acceptable that animals be tested – that’s a euphemism for tortured – for the cause of recreational drug taking: and on that score Minister McClay, I’m still awaiting your further answers please. No one who has read that good old stick CK Stead would think a fat tax was anything other than a tax on choice, thus a tax on our basic freedoms. No, I've cracked it; we need to re-find a love of reading. Which will entail finding out why we lost it in the first place. (Though on that score, I’ve a pretty good idea: read my blog).

I urge our MPs to get themselves to bookshelves and buy New Zealand books, not for nationalistic reasons, that causes wars and is stupid: no, buy New Zealand books because they’re books explaining where and how we live, our identity, and they provide the foundation of a civilised society by educating and entertaining the liberal mind. I hope with that word, liberal, a good deal of my readership aren’t now reaching for pitchforks. Remember I’m a liberal: read my byline; a classical liberal. It is a great shame the Left politick whom would force via the Fortress of Legislation, by statute and taxation, the welfare state on us, with its dreadful disincentives, have falsely appropriated that word, liberal, and attempted to obfuscate the whole notion even further with the invention of the diabolical inversion, neo-liberal. Liberal cannot be conflated with use of state force for that destroys it. ‘Liberal’ is about voluntarism, the individual sensibility and creativity, and forms the basis of that paradise lost, the free, charitable society. My own journey seems to continue away from the word libertarian to some form of anarcho-capitalism, but the words classical liberal and intellectual property will always, I suspect, allow me to keep the village camp fires in view, even as I move further out to the fringe. Well, hopefully that’s all I’m doing: of late I’ve been starting to feel like that character in Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, who was going through the inhabitants of the universe, alphabetically, trying to anger every entity by calling them names.

Sorry, this shambles is becoming shambolic.

MPs should buy books, and I don't mean Dan Brown, Tau: indeed, I want you to start with George Orwell's novel 1984, please, before voting the GCSB Bill into law. But so should society at large; buy books. If everyone who has fallen off a ladder latterly, and so with time to read, bought a book, we might increase total book sales markedly. Just go buy books, literary fiction: if enough of us read, if we can get a love of reading back into the kids, then we might all escape having to spend our retirements in gated communities protected from the kids of our kids by high walls and razor wire; and Eleanor might have a decent income so she can keep writing books.

Seriously. This is not satire.

Moreover, if Eleanor can take out the Booker, then that’s bigger than the All Blacks winning the World Cup. It will be interesting, if she does, to compare the volume of congratulatory tweets from our politicians in the Fortress, as against even the Chiefs versus Brumbies this last Saturday night.

And finally, a confession. I must (re)swear my allegiance to books also: my reading is still painfully slowed down upon my own infatuation: this iPad. I’ve written about the distraction of the damned thing before, and I’m thinking the only answer will be to park it in the lounge each night, and take my lowly Kindle to bed, so I can get back to reading again.

That’s it, I think. I apologise to all authors tainted by being mentioned on this site. It’s nothing personal. Rest assured any reader who happens on this will understand, as they will be versed in context; reading broadens the mind like that. Plus let it not be said I’m not prepared to go where I would prod others: in ending, I have too many New Zealand novel favourites to restrict to ten, but looking at my reading log, simply jotting down the ones that scored highest, and thus in chronological order only as I cast my eye down the list over the last few years – noting with trepidation I’ll be wedding into the list both CK Stead and Keri Hulme (sorry!) – some small part of my list:

Maurice Gee:   Live Bodies.

Maurice Gee:  All three in the Plumb trilogy – Plumb, Meg and Sole Survivor.

CK Stead: Mansfield.

Elizabeth Knox: Glamour and the Sea. (I don’t know why this book appeals to me so much, but if I had to pick a number one, this would be it.)

Elizabeth Knox: (to hell with the ten) Vintners Luck; Angel’s Cut, (is there a more fully realised fictional character in our literature than Xas?); Billies Kiss.

Shonagh Koea: The Grandiflora Tree. (Must read if you're coping with grief; your own or someone else’s).

Witi Ihimaera: The Uncle’s Story (further number one contender).

Emily Perkins: Novel About My Wife.

CK Stead: Risk … also Sister Hollywood and My Name Was Judas.

Keri Hulme: Bone People.

Bernard Becket: Acid Song. (How has this novel simply disappeared?)

Maurice Gee: (just everything really; add to above) Blindsight; Going West (another number one contender); Crime Story; Ellie and the Shadow Man.

Charlotte Grimshaw: Foreign City.

Is that ten? How can you stop a list?

Owen Marshall: loved Harlequin Rex because set almost where our holiday house is; also, Drybread is the geography I actually live.

I could carry on: enjoyed Rachael King’s Magpie Hall; Paula Norris’s Hibiscus Coast; Carl Nixon’s Rockinghorse Road (I still spend a lot of time there at a friend’s earthquake busted house); Vanda Symon’s Overkill … and all this, not even to start on poetry.

Just realised there’s a big hole in above: Patricia Grace … any suggestions?


Go. Buy. Books.

Thought: to advocate, circa 2013, that basic right an individual be free of the state, so long as they harm no one, and so the advocacy of a society based on voluntarism, not coercion, is politically, economically, philosophically, and aesthetically the most seditious, alienating position you can take in the West. There was a former age in which writers existing in tyrannies were persecuted and lost their freedoms for daring to thematically inculcate just such a benign classical liberal ethic in their books; now that freedom has been voted from all of us, again, by a tyranny of the majority, where is such a necessary contrarian, uncomfortable literature today?

Right, I've got to go ring Dad and try and think of something to say ... Damn: epiphany - I've just now  figured out why I like Elizabeth Knox's Glamour and the Sea so much.


  1. Or if you can't buy them, get them from the library!

    1. Yes! (Better to buy though and support an author 'if you can' :) ) Most important, though, just read books.

    2. Hey, you're Tuesday Poem. I'm a regular.