The Catton connection

01:52, Oct 21 2013

I'm trying very hard not to sound like a rabid fan girl as I write this post but HOLY HECK, ELEANOR CATTON! You go, girl!

This is my second Catton post, the first being right after she was shortlisted for the Booker. I went through a slight internal struggle about whether or not to cover ground I had already trodden before, but some other wittier person on Twitter said - this prize is the equivalent, in sporting terms, of someone winning the Rugby World Cup, all by themselves.

It would be irresponsible and really remiss of me not to cover it. I've been to Unity Books in Auckland two days in a row now. The first time was on Wednesday evening, where I chatted to a nice young woman at the counter who told me they had sold lots of books. In fact, three people came up and bought copies in the perhaps 10 minutes I spent in the store. 

The second time was during lunch yesterday, when I finally bought The Luminaries and lugged all 828 pages back to work and, eventually, home in my backpack. 

I can't really begin to explain why Catton's win has left me feeling so effervescent. I'll admit there is an element of envy too. I'm human. Catton is in my age bracket, and she's had more success now than I'll probably ever glimpse in my lifetime. But it doesn't stop me from feeling strangely elated, proud and a little bit giggly and schoolgirlish on her behalf.

I mean, this one's for all of us. Everyone who loves reading. Everyone who loves writing. The literary community isn't particularly glamorous on the whole. Readers don't have the same reputation for hipster cool as music buffs and TV fans.


I will confess it...I am just a tiny bit in love with Eleanor Catton. At least, with her public face, because I don't know anything of her private persona, which I'm sure is nothing like what I imagine it to be. I love that she says smart, book geek things like "I think that falling in love with a fictional character is one of the greatest pleasures that exists. The characters we love become a part of us; they shape us and change us, and we remember them as we would real people."

I love that she splashed out and bought a Kate Sylvester frock, the most expensive in her wardrobe (Kate, are you paying attention?) and a new handbag, and that she superstitiously hid her thankyou speech at the bottom. I love that in interviews, she dared to lash out at the things that irritate her without feeling the need for more sophisticated, carefully chosen words to act as veneer.

Those are such warm, human things to do, and are all qualities that the passage of time will surely and relentlessly erode.

But for now, she's still one of us. She hasn't been swept far enough away by the intersecting and interlinked tides of fate, luck and frightful, shining talent to become a legend like Mansfield or Plath or Morrison, or any of the other wonderful, beautiful women writers before her. For now, at least, we can still close our eyes and pretend that she's Ellie, going about teaching her creative writing students in Auckland, or selling a cordless drill at Bunnings, as someone mentioned in the Stuff comments section a couple of days ago.

So hey, Ellie, here's to youth and heft. Well done, and congratulations. I, for one, am looking forward to tucking into my copy of The Luminaries this weekend.

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P.S.: While I'm loath to mar this occasion with sadness, it's with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to Nick Barnett, blog editor extraordinaire. Nick has been a real champion of the Stuff blogosphere and as a former book section editor and fellow avid reader and animal lover, a real pleasure to work with - albeit from afar, as we live in different cities. Please join me in wishing him all the best for the future. Go well, Nick!