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This experimental book by New Zealand poet, playwright and author Courtney Sina Meredith pushes the envelopes, writes Victor Billot.
TAIL OF THE TANIWHA
Courtney Sina Meredith
By VICTOR BILLOT
Promoted as a short story collection, this book is more of an experimental text, made up of an interconnected series of 18 pieces by young New Zealand poet, playwright and author Courtney Sina Meredith.
She has described her writing as an"ongoing discussion of contemporary urban life with an underlying Pacific politique'' and this is a more concise definition than anything I could come up with.
The physical setting shifts from London and Berlin, to Auckland and the Pacific. Competing for attention is a fluid complexity of voices and shifting perspectives. Many bear the standard markers of the globalised Generation Z, overeducated and underemployed, yet these Urbanesian argonauts still remain enmeshed in extended families and cultural expectations, part of several worlds, yet belonging to none.
Ironic conversations between wisecracking cultural workers in the Auckland art scene contrast with naturalistic narratives of Polynesian island life and surrealistic, dreamlike streams of consciousness. The author is fond of ambiguity and playful language, and the text on the page is also manipulated, with the use of colour and novel typography.
It's clever and knowing writing, experimental and different. The cleverness sometimes crowds out emotional veracity and the experiments don't always succeed, but that's what pushing the envelope is about. Meredith is a confident voice among the clamour of a new generation of New Zealand writers who are striking out in all directions.
As an endnote, it's worth mentioning this compact volume has a beautiful design and very high-quality production - publisher Beatnik Press should be congratulated.
Victor Billot is editor of The Maritimes, the magazine of the Maritime Union, and a Dunedin poet.