Sunday, January 27, 2008

Duncan Fallowell - New Zealanders rage over book

As Arcati devotees will know, Duncan Fallowell's travel book Going as Far as I Can: The Ultimate Travel Book is out Feb 21 - and if you wish to order a copy, click here. It's his chronicle of a long journey through New Zealand (significantly not mentioned on the front cover) - and already I have received some negative responses from New Zealanders, two reproduced below. I shall be reviewing the book later in February - but having read it all I can say for now is that I think Duncan's view of the country more complex (and comic at times) than may be supposed and is as much about the idiosyncratic Duncan Fallowell in NZ as NZ itself ...

Anonymous writes ...
Duncan Fallowell books would only be used as cat litter box lining in this house (but wouldn't waste a cent to buy them truthfully) as in his lastest uninformed and negative book, his comments about New Zealanders' being ugly and fat and our architectural ruins of cities and over rated wine. Good to see a one eyed writer labeling everyone with the same brush. When he can only write a book full of negative comments why would anyone buy such a great informative tour guide!! This guy obviously needs to tour Iraq for his next tour guide or start rubbishing his own back yard.

RyanGNZ writes ...
Well, I'm from New Zealand, currently living in London. I think it's a shame that someone would liken New Zealanders to the Philistines. I've always thought we had a strong connection with art and culture. Especially music. I haven't read the book so I can't really comment, but realistically any book calling my homeland a 'hellhole' of any description isn't really on my list of books to read. New Zealander's are good people, shame we get stood on in such ways.


drf said...

This is weird, Madame A. My book, as you point out, is not published here until late February, and is not published in New Zealand until March. These people will not have read it.

Best wishes, Duncan F

Anonymous said...

Crikey Mr Fallowell! Have you cast your scathing eyes over your fellow countrymen and women, who blot the landscape and jar the sensibilities wherever they go - especially Spain and Portugal???
Talk about fat, ugly, tattooed, tacky, nouveau bloody gauche!
Give me a break!

Anonymous said...

Is Duncan a New Zealander?

Anonymous said...

I love this guy!

Anonymous said...

All I Can Say Is Duncan, Your No Oil Painting Yourself. As For New Zealand, Its The Most Beautiful Place In The World With The Most Friendliest People I Have Ever Met. New Zealand Is Heaven On Earth And Britain Is Where Ugly People Like Yourself Live. You Are A Vile Jealous Man, Get Over Yourself!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Duncan toured his own hell hole of a country, not New Zealand. Duncans book is so full of crap, New Zealanders should just ignore him. I don't know what country he visited but it sure as hell was not New Zealand! Hes jealous of NZ because its beautiful and breathtaking with some of the most friendliest people in the world.

Russell Brown said...

I trust Mr Fallowell satisfactory got his end away during his brief visit to my country.

But I do hope he has more new to say than has thus far been suggested by his book's publicists. Astonishingly, it has occurred to us that our major CBDs are architectural calamities (it occurred to us in the 1980s, actually) and we have a great many commentators of our own who regularly remind us that we tend to invest a little too much in the All Blacks.

This isn't going to be an embarrassment like the time Julie Burchill discovered New York, is it?

One more thing: I appreciate that Mr Fallowell has dedicated himself to the search for "the perfect rose", but New Zealand, where almost no one bothers with it, is hardly the place to look.

Perhaps he could go to California to try some of that zinfandel stuff, or, alternatively, seek out a grown-up wine, such as the Clearview Estate Premium Reserve chardonnay, or the Ata Rangi pinot noir. They really are very good indeed.

Anonymous said...

NO, thankfully Duncan is not a New Zealander. Roger Lewis had an advance copy of the book, which he reviewed in The Spectator earlier this month. The internet has done the rest ...

Duralex said...

Oh my, it seems Mr F. has touched a nerve here. But wasn't this the purpose of his book, in some way ?

Anonymous said...

I have read Mr Fallowell's To Noto book and very fine it is too. But isn't he a bit rarefied for New Zealand? I can't imagine what a nation of inbreds and sheep shaggers and Christians could find to appeal to such an aesthete.

Anonymous said...

His book coincides with all those NZ holiday ads on TV - I never imagined an unpublished book could have so much power.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr.Fallowell about the architecture - this is coming from a New Zealander who grew up in Britain. But he should be reminded that British architecture built in this century is no superior and it's a sad day when the Brits revel in buildings that were built before their great grandfathers - they had no hand in their construction.

Likewise, he should be careful when calling us fat because his countrymen have similar bellies. We may not be as romantic or chic as the French or as classy as the Italians but we are cultured in our own right - walking around shopping malls without shoes for instance- and who's to say that we should not be equally as proud. Sir, I hold two passports, British and New Zealand, and when people ask me where I am from I chose the latter despite living longer in your country.

Despite all, it should prove an interesting read. Who knows it might be telling. I just hope he critiqued his own country with the same harshness - or reality.

Anonymous said...

Here's the New Zealand Herald's lead on Fallowell's book on Monday 28 January:

"New Zealanders are fat and ugly and the country's cities are architectural disasters, according to a new book."

Kiwis are as sensitive as adolescents to any perceived slight, and react with petulance. This issue will doubtless stay in the headlines for weeks and Mr Fallowell will not be welcome to return.

Since leaving NZ for good a few years ago I have been shocked to discover that it is possible for people to hear criticism of their country without wetting themselves with horror. A sense of humour helps, but we New Zealander have yet to develop one.

Anonymous said...

Lordy, these colonials are so touchy !

surfpup said...

don't worry too much over my compatriots, dunk - it's just that nobody's noticed us before - I'll do the right thing and read it before reacting. If ever you neeed a bed there's a warm one here in Wankaroo

koshka said...

Hi, look forward to reading this book. We're foreigners currently working in NZ. Stunning views, but true: no art (what Nz-ders call "art" would go straight into rubbish bin in Europe)), no architecture, beaitiful people rare to meet. Young people drink too much to look good by the age of 30. Those who were not worthy to go abroad, are patriots and wear t-shirts "I love NZ". Overall, nice place to stay for holidays, although too far to go to just enjoy sun and the sea.

Liz said...

As I said to Duncan, his book will make a mint.

Last year I slated Rockstar's Bully in every games magazine on the planet and as a result it made a fortune. I should have been on Rockstar's payroll.

I'm sure the controversy will keep him awake at night - while he's counting the extra sales.

Anonymous said...

Sounds just like Russia, Koshka, except Russia doesn't even have the scenery

Dolores and Jim said...

We're going to Kenya for our next holiday. Any tips?

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I have not read the book.

However, I am in living and working in New Zealand, close on two years now (originally from Europe, [not U.K.]).

I have made the following insights since being here. Not saying that they are good or bad. They are just my insights.

1. Sugar in food. "watties" brand of foods (which I believe are Heinz-clones or subsidiaries) are really really sweet. Do not want to think about the rate of diabetes in NZ.

2. Wine. Very self-promotional. I drink red wine with steaks, and find the various Cab-Sav, or Merlots ok. even good. even pretty good. Not nectar from the Gods, but that I suppose is a matter of taste and opinion, right?

3. Architecture. Have only seen the North Island, but Auckland in particular could do with a paint job. Lots of clutter and harsh billboards covering up poorly kept buildings. But, in fairness, what city housing a million+ people is any better?

4. People. Find the people in NZ to be good. Certainly not loud and in your face. Quiet and reserved. Nothing wrong with that.

5. O-Zone. This is a tough one. The Sun in NZ is harsh. Really really harsh. didn't see that on too many ads before coming out. Sun burn happens fast. Lots of skin treatment clinics.

6. Public liability. Apparently NZ does not do public liability insurance. So if you are walking down the street and a ladder falls on you, tough luck. No law suits, nothing. There is a compensation board you can apply to, until your back on your feet. This is why activities in NZ are so cheap (surfing, kayaking, etc.)

7. She'll be right, incompetence. As a direct response to the lack of lawsuits/public liability (and therefore accountability) service providers do not have to worry about doing a solid job. You can expect to have hassles, delays, and "hiccups" right across the board. The echoing sound of "She'll be right, mate" telling you to relax, and be patient.

8. Medical / Health care Again, a harsh one. Almost weekly reports of medical incompetence. Again, I think this harps back to lack of public liability insurance.

9. Casual Racism. Lots of derogatory comments can be heard quite loudly in restaurants, mostly directed towards the Asian members of the society. I guess racism is everywhere, so it is not a uniquely NZ thing.

10. Education. Again, almost monthly reports of poor educational performance. NZ has several cutting edge R&D centres, and very high calibre university graduates, but also a high number of high school drop-outs.

11. Politics. The senate is broadcast on TV here, and it is pretty informal and relaxed, to the point where representatives curse and shout and ridicule each other in highly unprofessional ways.

12. Broadband. Third world. The worst thing about Auckland (for me, an I.T. professional) is the lack of quality broadband. Hugely over-priced, with data caps, and so forth still in use. This alone made me consider leaving again for Europe. Look at Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, and see how they can get 24MB lines to almost everywhere, so surely Auckland should be able to have the same 24MB lines (or faster) for 25 Euro / $50 NZ a month. Anything more is a rip-off.

13. Charges Because of the small population (4 million or so) NZ businesses are "thriftier" than those in the rest of the world. They charge you extra for using a credit card, insisting on passing the fees onto the customer. It does not matter that you just spent $200 on a meal, they will pass the fees of credit card charge on to you as well. Kind of like biting the hand that feeds you, right? Also, on bank holidays, as the restaurants have to pay their staff more wages that day, they pass that cost on to the consumer, so there are surcharges on public holidays. No concept of sucking up the loss, as a cost of doing business. Harsh and non-progressive.

14. Work Very few bank holidays, comparatively speaking. No mention of health care, dental and pensions in most contracts. Again, not as progressive as you would like.

Right that's about all I have. I have tried to keep it impartial.

Maximus said...

Duncan, don't back away from your comments. As a kiwi living in NZ, i've got to say: sounds like you're absolutely right to me! The architecture of the cities do suck, big time, and show no signs of getting better. The straight/gay/rave scene here is pretty unsophisticated next to Sydney or London, so i imagine that if you were here for that, you'd have been very disappointed. Auckland has two tiny red light districts, Wellington has just the two tired trannie hookers... its all a bit sad and folksy.

We're nearly all descended from butt ugly middle class English folk, so its no wonder that we're all butt ugly as well. Anyone walking down the street who actually bothers to dress up and look smart gets gawked at, or treated with derision. Milan or Paris: we're not, and never will be.

But then that's not why anyone comes to NZ. People come because its the opposite end of the earth, like you, just to go as far as you can go. Kind of pointless really. Other people come here for an adventure in a (relatively) safe land, with no bugs to bite you, or sharks to eat you, and to enjoy the clean and green surroundings.

Most of the interesting people, gay and straight, leave town, in fact, leave the country, and fly to Sydney or London and mostly never come back. Hence, leaving the fat, tired, boring old farts behind, to work on their tattoos. Others come back to breed, and start the whole trend over again....

The only area you're wrong on is: the wine. Best in the world mate, you should have stayed and tried some more. Your loss.

Anonymous said...

New Zealanders really do have a very immature attitude when it comes to criticism. They all say that “we are a pretty easy goin lot here in Godzone”, and yet bleat like sheep when someone points out the obvious. I’ve lived for most of my life here in this country and I’ve enjoyed my time out of it more. One meets the best people from New Zealand overseas.

I find the New Zealand national character to be rather immature. It was developing slowly. It was naïve and shy but New Zealand is a young nation after all. Then about 10 or 15 years ago things turned ugly and Kiwinism started up. It is loutish, arrogant and aggressive identity. New Zealanders believe their own tourist marketing and still walk about going on about how sweet and nice they all are while ignoring the broken Tui beer bottles, tagging on the buildings and an ever increasing murder rate.

They are touchy about people who voice an opinion against New Zealand. People look at anyone who makes a critical social comment as immediately being a total weirdo and they gather around this nay sayer and start a barrage of “facts” about how worse it is in other countries. In other words, “shut up, it might be true but we must keep up the myth”.

Adrian said...

Congratulations, Duncan. From the few quotes I have read in the Listener, you seem to be right on the mark.The dress sense of New Zealanders would have to be the worst in the world; the term 'New Zealand intellectual' is an oxymoron; New Zealanders do, indeed, 'lack the necessary verbal repertoire for dealing with inevitable complexities'; there is, indeed, a ' honky-tonk obedience to ordinariness'; the people in the street are, more often than not, 'fat and ugly.'Anyone with two good eyes and an aesthetic sense must admit this.I can say this as a 5th generation New Zealander.If New Zealanders capuld only realise how ugly and stupid they can be in their fat, mindless complacence, they might be able to grow up and to soar, despite being wingless birds who only come out at night.


Gala said...

My big applause, Adrian, - my big foreign applause. I need some help, by the way. I don't know if there's a place in Wgn where I could find some books in foreign languages. Either to borrow or to buy. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Calm down New Zealand. If you read the book you will find its a profound appreciation of your country - though more re its great natural beauty and less its cities. Bought the book in Auckland on Feb 21st after a three week jaunt through South Island and couldn't put the read down as I read in it much of my own observations and reflections of your great country - the good , the excellent, and the tacky.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the Book, but I might now.
I'm a Kiwi, and I agree with a few of the things Duncan says.
Especially the destruction of our older buildings which make way for new crud that will be demolished again in a decade or two.
Surely people can see that a lot of what he is writing is done in his own particular type of off-beat humour?
Some people really don't care what they look like either ;)

Anonymous said...

Duncan Fallowell I think you should stick to essays and selling them on the streets to people who care. Oh even better go back to the UK and try and write a decent book. Yes start from the bottom. Anyways this is just an edited version of my email before. I suggest your next book should be As Far As I think I am Going....Not Too Far!
I think its a great title and very creative. It definitely has a ring to it and you definitely arent respected. Therefore the title will suit your next blog on Twitter just well.
As a fan of literature, I think you would have to be the funniest and least inspiring authors in the 21st century. Spending 3 months in a country and then writing about and degrading the people and its architect buildings is not exactly Pulitzer Prize winning material. Just another author trying to find ways and means in belittling people. So funny because 10 -200 years from now that book wont even be in schools, bookshops or even in someone's garage sale....In fact its just another toilet reading book where someone will read and then will laugh at the silly derogratory opinion and nonsense of a guy who cant write anything academic or educational enough to make it on the worlds top 3 best seller shelves...
You really should stick to blog writing on twitter, myspace or forums where ugly old people who look like you, who by the way need alot of botox injections who write about senseless dribble like yours all day long.Your honesty and opinion are so laughable, people going to your country have never heard of you! hahaha..They only know shakespeare and The Tabloids - even they (The tadbloids) make more money and get more media attention than you. So maybe you need to get inspiration from trashy magazines and tabloids newspapers and write your 2 cent piece in New Zealanders can use it to wrap up all the great fish and chips you've ever eaten.
The point is not to degrade you in any way, but just to tell you that you are a litttle man in a big world....Some opinions should be kept to thy self! Im laughing at your belittling of New Zealanders. Its a pity you had to land your there because nobody would have recognised you. I think that was your real problem - no one in New Zealand thought you were attractive or recognised you as an author. So maybe you need to go back to the UK and try and think of something more decent and creative - we might even see a decent piece of literary on the shelves if you do decide to write something decent and with some form of enlightment like a 21st intellectual invidual would.
Sorry but trying to make money out of an opinion is cheque book writing and nobody in the world or even in an illiterate country would pick up your book and read it. They would rather walk around with spotty complexions and tattoos themselves until you come up with something original and worth reading in schools around the world. Conclusion stick to blogs on the internet - you will be anonymous as you are!!! - Thats where your writing should be.
Good Luck on writing a decent classic literature book!!! And good luck for me in finding your books 20 years from now.
Fan of real books

Anonymous said...

And the above comment proves my point of how immature some people are when they see their national character under threat.