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Is Eleanor Catton Turning into Keri Hulme?

Jan 28, 2015 etc

First published in the January 2014 issue of Metro.

Eleanor Catton has taken up whitebaiting — prompting fresh fears that she’s turning her back on a literary career, and turning into Keri Hulme.

Catton posted a photograph of herself with a whitebait net on her Twitter account this week. Just as worrying for her publisher, Fergus Barrowman, was that she was smoking a pipe.

“The pipe, the net, the woolly trousers — Ellie looked just like Keri,” he said.

“The implications are serious. Every­thing points to Ellie following Keri’s example of becoming a colourful but not very productive hermit.”

Hulme hasn’t written a novel since winning the Booker Prize in 1985 for The Bone People.

Catton won the 2013 Man Booker award for her novel The Luminaries. Barrowman pointed out that both writers are South Islanders who set their books on the West Coast.

The similarities don’t end there, he said.

“They’ve both got a thing about C.K. Stead. He really seems to ruffle their feathers.”

Catton has withdrawn from the New Zealand literary community since winning the Booker.

He said that the community was very concerned, and discussed Catton’s erratic behaviour when they came over for dinner.

“Emily [Perkins, an author] suggested that we should stage an intervention.

“I said it might have to come to that, and Elizabeth [Knox, an author and Barrowman’s wife] agreed, as did Damien [Wilkins, an author who brought salad to the dinner].”

Catton was also following Hulme’s example by expressing a wide range of opinions in the comments section of blogs such as Public Address.

Hulme’s nom de plume is The Interislander, while Catton is calling herself The Cook Strait Ferry.

“Ellie could be writing another impenetrable Victorian novel set in Hokitika,” sighed Barrowman, “but instead she’s holding fixed positions on passing issues.”


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