This letter from Duncan Fallowell was published in New Zealand's Sunday Star-Times recently in response to the controversy over his (still) unpublished Going as Far as I Can: The Ultimate Travel Book ...
I was very saddened to discover the caricature of my travel book which appeared on your front page. You presented a few specific remarks about specific things as my conclusions on the country as a whole and this was terribly unfair, especially as the book has not yet been published and people are not in a position to make up their own minds about it. I did not describe New Zealanders in general as 'fat and ugly'. Nor did I call your country 'a philistine hellhole' - I was as shocked as you that somebody else had done so.
I spent four years working on this book and funded it with my own money and without knowing who might publish it. Would I do all that on a place I regarded as nothing? The result is not the mean thing you imply it is, but a deeply engaged, human and, I hope, humane piece of work.
Life is not black or white, nice or nasty, and neither are countries, and yes, I have been robust at certain points (and even more so with Great Britain). I was particularly upset by the destruction of the historic centres of New Zealand's cities, carried out not long ago by a group of developers, 'the needless destruction of fine things by blind, philistine men' as I put it.
This is the only use of the word 'philistine' in the entire book and more than justified in this case. If my book gives a boost to the conservationists trying to halt further destruction I shall be delighted and so, I suspect, would be the majority of New Zealanders.
My journey through New Zealand was strange and magical and I am still haunted by it. This isn't only because of the geography. It is also because of the history which deeply connects our two countries. I trust my book conveys this.