Privatising Parts by Richard Meros and Getting Under Sail by Brannavan Gnanalingam review

by Listener Archive / 06 August, 2011

Richard Meros’s bizarre political-romantic treatise On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover (2005) was nothing if not thorough in exploring its conceit, and it’s unsurprising a new political age has drawn forth a loose sequel, PRIVATISING PARTS (Lawrence & Gibson, $16). Readers previously driven up the wall by Meros’s gleefully scattershot satire need not apply here, but for those so inclined there’s a lot to enjoy, as Meros deploys the language of economic efficiencies and private sector know-how to make a case for the privatisation of romance and swingeing cuts of a very personal nature. Privatising Parts may not strike the nerve its predecessor did, but look no further for the darkly comical, occasionally queasy send-up New Zealand politics in 2011 merits.

From the same offbeat publishers as Meros’s treatises, Brannavan Gnanalingam’s debut novel, GETTING UNDER SAIL (Lawrence & Gibson, $24), is something charmingly different to what the barest outline of its plot – three longtime friends setting out on a trip across West Africa – might suggest. Borrowing an unspecified amount from Gnanalingam’s own experiences, and presented in the matter-of-fact tone of a travel journal, it is a story of travel as it really happens: the trip races by in sparkling moments and pits of deep boredom, the travellers bargain, bicker and fall out, and the “authentic” proves remarkably tough to winnow out from stere-o-types and preconceptions. The narration’s wry honesty, miles away from the usual Africa travelogue clichés, and the inherent humour of the events are both lifted by Gnanalingam’s knack for the striking image. Some thought-provoking, unsentimental reflections on travel and belonging round out this unique, beguiling effort.

Sam Finnemore is an Auckland reviewer.
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