February 26th, 2008

Wanaka tree

Joe Bennett

Because I don't have any photos to post, which is in turn because I was unwell at the week-end, I have decided to do another of my occasional posts about the people and things that crop up in my interests list.

Joe Bennett is a writer. He writes books, but is especially known for his regular newspaper columns. I suppose this makes him a columnist - great word. He lives in Lyttleton, near Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand but is originally from the UK. He was a teacher before writing earned him a living, and he moved to New Zealand about eighteen years ago to teach in one of Christchurch's Grammar Schools. 

But I know him as a writer. A clever writer; a funny writer; an incredibly well observed writer and a good writer. He seems to be able to write about anything, pricking and bursting bubbles of pomposity as he goes. His writing is down-to-earth and happy to question the things everyone else takes for granted, accepts or ignores. It can be a roadsign next to a tunnel that actually gives no information at all; it can be about his beloved dogs; it can be about matters of global import but always with a slant and viewpoint that are startlingly original and breathtakingly fresh. He doesn't care whether his readers agree with his views; that's certainly not going to stop him saying the things he does. I don't agree with all the things he says but I love the fact that he says them, continues to say them and delight in the way that he says them. 

I read his column avidly and regularly. I thank all the deities, wherever and whomever they may imagine themselves to be, for the Interweb because I can get to follow his column from the other side of the world as soon as it is published. I adore Wednesday mornings because that's when Joe's latest rant, homage or critique comes bounding off my screen. 

If you fancy giving him a go, and I hope you will, you can click on the link below. It will take you to his syndicated (whatever that really means) columns in The Press, Christchurch's local, regional, national and international newspaper.


And you can get a flavour of the books he has written, most of which are collections of his columns anyway, here on this link. 


Joe Bennett says the things that most people wouldn't dare to say, or even think. He also says the things that most of the rest of us wouldn't think of saying. Sometimes I wonder how he gets away with it, but I just delight in the fact that he does. I assume that New Zealand has a version of Tunbridge Wells, somewhere gentile and probably up itself where the retired masses sit and complain at the world from shabby armchairs. I also assume that Joe gets most of his mail from there. Assuming all that, I'm really pleased because it must mean that what he says, writes and thinks is working. When the pompous establishment complains and feels affronted enough to put pen to paper in incredulity, it means that you've scored a hit. I think Joe scores lots of hits.