The full list, with mild critique, of the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlist.
O’Sullivan is a tough sonofabitch and the favourite to take the crown but he’s up against big hitters. Kidman has experience, stealth, and the popular vote. Jones goes in hard and doesn’t let up. Makereti has to be taken seriously and you can never count out Grimshaw and the guild of Duignan, Gunn and Kennedy are the type who no one much rates or reads except for purists and that could be decisive on the big night – welcome to the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlist, where the main event, the hot ticket, is the $53,000 prize for fiction.
2018 was a golden year for the New Zealand novel. Heavyweight names, heavyweight books. And so the 2019 Ockhams are all about the most exciting contest for the fiction prize in a long, long time. Vincent O’Sullivan wrote a masterpiece with his family saga All This By Chance. Fiona Kidman’s This Mortal Boy, based on a 1950s killing and execution in New Zealand, was the biggest-selling local novel of the year. The Cage by Lloyd Jones was visionary, epic. There were also very good novels by Charlotte Grimshaw and Tina Makereti, and no one ought to be surprised if Wellington writer Rajorshi Chakraborti, the best-dressed novelist in New Zealand by a country mile, makes it onto the shortlist with his inventive book The Man Who Would Not See.
In the other categories, which reward the winner with $10,000, illustrated non-fiction is the usual mix of worthy and bourgeoise. General non-fiction is illuminated by four superb memoirs (two published by the best newish publisher in New Zealand, Massey University Press), by Peter Wells, Maurice Gee, Pip Desmond, and The Spinoff’s pick to win, Chessie Henry.
Poetry is dominated by three classy Victoria University Press titles – Are Friends Electric? (Helen Heath), Winter Eyes (Harry Ricketts), and Poūkahangatus (Tayi Tibble) – but weirdly and shockingly there is no room on the list for two of the year’s most outstanding and acclaimed collections, He’s So Masc by Chris Tse and People from the Pit Stand Up by Sam Duckor-Jones. Poetry judges Airini Beautrais, Karlo Mila and someone we’ve never heard of called Bryan Walpert! WTF! No, make that WTAF! Appalling bullshit. Jesus wept. Ugh. Heads, hang, shame; please make for the nearest exit.
Anyway. The shortlist will be announced on March 6; the awards ceremony is staged as part of the Auckland Writers Festival, on May 14, when the winners of the best first book of fiction, non-fiction and poetry are also announced, and receive $2500; rn, herewith, the complete longlist.
Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize
The Man Who Would Not See by Rajorshi Chakraborti (Penguin Random House)
The Life of De’Ath by Majella Cullinane (Steele Roberts)
The New Ships by Kate Duignan (Victoria University Press)
Mazarine by Charlotte Grimshaw (Penguin Random House)
Caroline’s Bikini by Kirsty Gunn (Faber & Faber)
The Cage by Lloyd Jones (Penguin Random House)
The Ice Shelf by Anne Kennedy (Victoria University Press)
This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman (Penguin Random House)
The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke by Tina Makereti (Penguin Random House)
All This by Chance by Vincent O’Sullivan (Victoria University Press)
The Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction
Filming the Colonial Past: The New Zealand Wars on Screen by Annabel Cooper (Otago University Press)
Song for Rosaleen by Pip Desmond (Massey University Press)
Hudson & Halls: The Food of Love by Joanne Drayton (Otago University Press)
Memory Pieces by Maurice Gee (Victoria University Press)
The Heart of Jesús Valentino: A Mother’s Story by Emma Gilkison (Awa Press)
We Can Make a Life by Chessie Henry (Victoria University Press)
Swim: A Year of Swimming Outdoors in New Zealand by Annette Lees (Potton & Burton)
The Vulgar Wasp: The Story of a Ruthless Invader and Ingenious Predator by Phil Lester (Victoria University Press)
With Them Through Hell: New Zealand Medical Services in the First World War by Anna Rogers (Massey University Press)
Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pākehā History by Peter Wells (Massey University Press)
Illustrated Non-Fiction Award
Fight for the Forests: The Pivotal Campaigns that Saved New Zealand’s Native Forests by Paul Bensemann (Potton & Burton)
Galleries of Maoriland: Artists, Collectors and the Māori World, 1880-1910 by Roger Blackley (Auckland University Press)
The New Zealand Horse by Deborah Coddington with photographs by Jane Ussher (Massey University Press)
Wanted: The Search for the Modernist Murals of E. Mervyn Taylor edited by Bronwyn Holloway-Smith (Massey University Press)
Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing by Sean Mallon with Sébastien Galliot (Te Papa Press)
Mataatua Wharenui: Te Whare i Hoki Mai by Hirini Mead, Layne Harvey, Pouroto Ngaropo and Te Onehou Phillis (Huia Publishers)
Birdstories: A History of the Birds of New Zealand by Geoff Norman (Potton & Burton)
Whatever it Takes: Pacific Films and John O’Shea 1948-2000 by John Reid (Victoria University Press)
Down the Bay: A natural and cultural history of Abel Tasman National Park by Philip Simpson (Potton & Burton)
Hillary’s Antarctica: Adventure, Exploration and Establishing Scott Base by Nigel Watson with photographs by Jane Ussher (Allen & Unwin)
Edgeland and other Poems by David Eggleton (Otago University Press)
The Farewell Tourist by Alison Glenny (Otago University Press)
Are Friends Electric? by Helen Heath (Victoria University Press)
All of Us by Adrienne Jansen and Carina Gallegos (Landing Press)
There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime by Erik Kennedy (Victoria University Press)
The Facts by Therese Lloyd (Victoria University Press)
Winter Eyes by Harry Ricketts (Victoria University Press)
Walking to Jutland Street by Michael Steven (Otago University Press)
Poūkahangatus by Tayi Tibble (Victoria University Press)
Aspiring Daybook: The Diary of Elsie Winslow by Annabel Wilson (Mākaro Press)
All titles are available at Unity Books.