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March 6, 2006 | by  | in Books | [ssba]

Pictures by Goya and other stories

For those of you who have not encountered Vincent O’Sullivan on the shelves of bookshops and libraries, or in magazine articles, I’ll give you a quick catch-up. He’s one of New Zealand’s most highly awarded writers, not just as a novelist but as a poet, playwright and biographer, he currently holds the Michael King Memorial Writer’s Award and has, until recently, been a Professor of English Literature at our own fine university.

It would take a gutsy English lit. student to give this man a bad review. I am not, by nature, what they call “gutsy”, so it’s fortunate that I sincerely enjoyed Pictures by Goya and would suggest it to each and every one of you who doesn’t suffer a phobia of short stories. There must be a name for this fear, because just about everyone I know (who isn’t lying) has admitted to preferring a novel to a collection of stories or poems. Is this because one continuous text feels more rewarding? Are people afraid that if they are seen reading short stories, people will assume they can’t read anything longer? Because I think short story collections are the bee’s knees when done well, and I’m going to try and sell them to you, starting with Pictures by Goya.

(I’m not out to preach to the converted; if you’re a fan of the medium you’re excused from reading the rest of this review. Basically, get a copy of the above title as a satisfying literary present for older siblings/parents, borrow from library for self, and enjoy the unexpectedly affecting, utterly New Zealand, cleverly characterised stories within the attractive Penguin cover).

Vincent O’Sullivan
$28.00, Penguin


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