From the Mars Hotel

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One day in 1976 I went down to clear mailbox #214 at the Central PO in Wellington. There was a brown manila envelope in amongst the day’s takings and in it were six photographic prints – reproduced above. I wonder now what happened to those prints. Probably we had bromides done and sent them back to the artist by return post. The series was called ‘From the Mars Hotel’, which is the title of a Grateful Dead record. But perhaps the photographer, Peter Peryer, did not derive that title from listening to the album but from a graffito written upon the derelict building he photographed for #5 in the series. Anyway, we did not know who Peter Peryer was or where he came from or what he was up to – but we did publish the portfolio in the next issue of Spleen, #7, early in 1977. Each image had its own page and there was no commentary, no words. The reproductions were a bit grainy because we had had to switch printers, from the Levin Chronicle to the Wanganui Chronicle – Levin had taken offense at certain explicities in a poem/play written by Christina Beer – and Wanganui used paper that was browner, less bleached, than the whiter sheets of the Levin printers. None of this matters now, it is of historical interest only. But still. I remember how, when the decision came to be made, we all went yes, absolutely, no question, we will publish. I also remember Alan (Brunton) saying to Arthur (Baysting) that there was one really good photo in the set and which was it? Arthur said #4, the caravan; at the time I agreed but now am not so sure. I think they’re all good and #4 just sounded the paranoid 1977 chord better. Anyway, a few years later, I ran into Peter in Kings Cross in Sydney. Early 1980s. How did I know who he was? How did he know me? I was a bit forward in engaging. Perhaps I thought that, because ‘we’ had published ‘Mars Hotel’, he should therefore be ‘Grateful’? I don’t know. He was gracious and kind and before he died let me know he liked my sentences. For a prose writer there is no higher praise. There’s people you love because you love their work; but that doesn’t mean they’re loveable; or, even if they are, that they may love you back. But Peter was loving and loved and loveable in equal measure; all three; which sounds a bit Shakesperean. I keep looking at his work because of the way the images he gives you give you a way of resetting the way you already see into another way of seeing. He does that. He did that. He does that still.

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