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Future Histories


The three books I was/am/are having/had/have published/publishing/coming out this year are/were/will be Timelights, Endless Yet Never and Bus Stops on the Moon. Something about each of them:


Timelights cover

A book of photographs with extended captions; or else a book of essays which each concerns itself with a single photograph; except for the middle section, which is a reminscence of travelling in the mountains of Japan a year ago now; with photographs. I have four copies: two of the premium edition, two of the standard. One is gloss and the other matt and we have decided to go matt. It’s published by Lasavia Press on Waiheke Island, designed in Berlin, printed (on demand) in Melbourne. You can find it on Amazon but, at the moment, it is prohibitively expensive so we’re waiting for the price to come down before publicised the book properly – whatever that means these days. 



A short (12,000 word) biography of Colin McCahon omitted, by the publishers, from Dark Night: walking with McCahon (2011). They said ‘people already know who he is’ and wouldn’t listen when I replied: ‘Australian readers might not.’ Now McCahon House is putting it out, in an elegant printing, as a stand-alone work. I haven’t seen a copy yet; they are coming from Italy. There was to be a launch at an art collector’s house during the Auckland Art Fair in April but that didn’t happen. We might re-schedule for the end of the year. I don’t know where or how it is to be distributed; nor what the unit cost might be.


Red Mole NY 1979

Bus Stops on the Moon is a memoir of the seven years (1974-1980) I spent with theatre group Red Mole. It’s written, edited, laid-out, with 80 b&w photographs and 24 in colour and slated for release, all going well, in September 2020. I have the cover but not in a format I can put up here: it’s red and black and white and shows the seven of us, as above, at Coney Island in 1979, standing on a boardwalk before the grey Atlantic. I like it because it actually looks like a bus stop. On the moon. Otago University Press are publishing this, production values are high, editing has been scrupulous and the generosity with which we operated, or tried to operate, in those years, has been realised in the way the book has been put together.



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Simpson’s McCahon


Review of the second volume of Peter Simpson’s McCahon

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May 28, 2020 · 12:02 pm

Law of Torques

Frolic and detour. A detour occurs when an agent makes a minor departure from his employer’s charge and a frolic is a major departure. The employer will be relieved of vicarious liability only if the employee has been deemed to have engaged in a frolic.

Tort: mid-13c injury, wrong, from Old French, crime, 11c, from Medieval Latin, tortum, injustice, twisted, from Latin torquere, turn, turn awry, twist, wring, distort. Legal sense, breach of a duty, whereby someone acquires right of action for damages, first recorded 1580s.

Torture: from Late Latin tortūra ‘a twisting, writhing, of bodily pain, a griping colic;’ in Middle Latin ‘pain inflicted by judicial or ecclesiastical authority as a means of persuasion, torture’, from Latin tortus, past participle of torquere (‘to twist’).

Torque: rotating force, fr. Latin torquere, to twist, turn, twist awry, distort, torture, fr. PIE *torkw-eyo-, causative of root *terkw- ‘to twist.’ Used as a term for necklaces worn anciently by Gauls, Britons, Germans, etc., fr. Latin torques, collar of twisted metal.

Twerk, spelled ‘twirk’, noun, first used 1820 for a twisting or jerking motion. The verb ‘to twirk’ recorded 1848; ‘twerk’ in use by 1901. May be a blend of ‘twist’ and ‘jerk’; in the modern sense, probably influenced by ‘work’.


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Numbered Days in Paradise, rehearsal, Croton on Hudson, October, 1979


Photos by Joe Bleakley





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I had an email this week from a scholar in the UK (if he is not in Germany, it wasn’t clear) which had attached to it a PDF of a work he has been engaged in for a number of years: Select Correspondence of Ronald Syme, ed by Anthony R. Birley and published as a supplementary volume by History of Classical Scholarship, Newcastle on Tyne and Venice. Tony had used some of the biographical information from my 2017 book The Expatriates in his introduction; Syme was one of the four whose lives are summarised in that book. He said of his own work: ‘I hope you find it interesting and are happy with the use I made of The Expatriates.’ I wrote back and said that I did and that I was and he responded with a link to an online piece by historian Jessie Childs which made me very happy indeed. It’s called From Russia With Love and tells how Ms Childs, using details I’d published in my book, was able to track down some letters her grandmother wrote to Syme during and after World War Two. I’d found, read and transcribed those letters when I was working in one of the the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford in 2016. From memory they are in an elegant hand, in blue ink on pale blue paper. They were one of those unknown things that you hope to find; but since you don’t know what they are, you can’t really look for them; you just trawl in expectation. Very beautiful letters, full of love and laughter, in which the character of both the lovers somehow comes clear. In a further coincidence, I own one of Jessie Child’s books. I bought it at St Vinnies last year, it’s called God’s Traitors and has a blood red cover. Unfortunately I had to pack it away, half read, when I moved last year and now don’t know in which of the many unpacked cartons of books in my study it is; but I will in time find and finish it. Something about this story seems to demand further attention. Perhaps I need to drop Jessie Childs a line; or to elaborate further upon Lara’s theme; or perhaps I should just rest content with the connections so made. 


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After Vallejo


And don’t say a word

since you can kill perfectly

because, sweating blood

you do what you can

don’t say a word


We’ll see each other again

gentlemen, with apples

a creature will pass

later, like an Aristotle

with a wooden heart


Or Heraclitus joined to Marx

the gentle sounding roughly

narrated in my throat

you can kill perfectly


Gentlemen we’ll see each other

again, without packages

and until then I ask

and ask again of my frailty

the accent of the day

waiting already in my bed


And I ask of my hat

the fatal analogy

of resemblance

so I can assume

an immensity of weeping


So I can drown

in my neighbour’s voice

and endure the years

I count out with kernels


Brushing my clothes

to the music of a corpse

or sitting up

drunk in my coffin

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