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A Kind of Biography

This is an informal, unorthodox and highly diverting biography of the major New Zealand poet, wit and social commentator, Rex Fairburn (1904-57).

James and Helen McNeish have crafted a lively portrait of this tall and exuberant Aucklander through the careful but inspired juxtaposition of oral, visual and written material. Their aim has been to uncover for a new generation of admirers not just the poet but the whole man - a man whom James McNeish describes as 'an Elizabethan figure. Elizabethan men wrote, danced, painted, got drunk, loved women, played the fool, outraged their betters and raised hopes simple by walking through a door.' Fairburn did all these things and, as recorded here, did them exceedingly well. He also printed fabrics, campaigned for enlightened sewage disposal and was probably the first Devonport resident to publicise reasons for making a his suburb a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

The material in these pages has been culled from a rich legacy. The authors have skilfully interwoven extracts from Fairburn's major published works, extensive quotation from his personal correspondence spanning forty years, and numerous taped conversations with family, close friends and an exceptionally wide circle of acquaintances.

The resulting picture is of a man very much larger than life, set against a kaleidoscope of events, some laughable, some serious, drawn from an era of importance in New Zealand's social and cultural history. As James McNeish writes, Fairburn defines that era; if he had never lived, 'we would have lost the definition of a generation of New Zealand humanists.' This biography ensures that the man, the era and the generation he represents, will never be lost.

Hardback - 236 pages

Published 1983

Book is in excellent condition - dust jacket has a closed tear and is lightly sunned
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  • Seller location: Hamilton, Waikato, NZ

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