This Is A Love Song

And now, dear Internets, for the final in my series of “the songs I used for chapter headings (that can be found on YouTube)”.

It is “Not Given Lightly”, by the mighty Chris Knox!

I am a bit sad writing this, because Chris Knox had a stroke last year that affected his speech and language centres. He now has much trouble with the words he put together so sweetly.

BUT. He is awesome, and also awesome is the way that the music community rallied to get support for him and his family. His mates and fans played benefit concerts and put together a cover album of his songs. It reminded me of the way fandom and writers do the same when people in their communities are in need. Should you wish to support Chris, you can check out Stroke here.

And should you just want to get some great music, you are also advised to check out Stroke. We are talking people like Boh Runga (Stellar*) and Jordan Luck (The Exponents) and the Finn Family and the Mint Chicks, all of whom I have spoken here in the course of this series on chapter headings. Also, there are international artists like The Mountain Goats and Yo La Tengo. Yeeeees, interested, aren’t we?

So here is Chris singing “Not Given Lightly”, which is my, and many other people’s favourite (a phenomenon he wrote about here). This is a fabulous live performance that encapsulates a lot of the joy and exuberance of his work, by, paradoxically, showing what happens when everything goes wrong. If you don’t have a lot of time, try watching from 1:40:

Karen, you say, that was LOVELY. Do we also get a final cookie to go with our final song?

Internets, I can do you one better than that.

Would you like to read the first two chapters of Guardian of the Dead?

Oh, you would? Then why don’t you toddle on over to Allen and Unwin, click on “Read an Extract” (under “More About This Book”) and download yourself the PDF!

And a round-up of the other chapter heading songs, just in case you missed some:

Why Does Love Do This To Me?
Suddenly Strange
Home, Land and Sea
Sitting Inside My Head
Unity (WARNING: Big spoiler in cookie)
Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
Pink Frost
Together Alone and Won’t Give In
Maybe Tomorrow

And so we have come to an end! It is two sleeps until Guardian of the Dead officially releases. My heartbeat resembles that of a hummingbird.

And the Thought Becomes a Memory

Goldenhorse! “Maybe Tomorrow”! I love girls with magical voices singing pop hits, but I am actually not as big a fan of this song as I could be, largely because everywhere you went in 2003 THIS SONG WAS THERE. I don’t even listen to radio, and I couldn’t get away from it.

But there is no better song for the epilogue than this:

If you think I am going to give you a cookie from the epilogue, you don’t know me at all. Instead, let us have some Iris, because Iris is a delight.


Iris walked straight up to Mark until she was close enough to touch him, her head reaching neatly to just under his collarbone. They looked like something out of a fairy tale; his flaming hair set against her glossy lengths of black. He put his hand on her shoulder and she shook her head hard, then gasped up at him.


“Shhh.” His eyes searched the mists. I clung to my tree trunk. “Ellie?”

“What did you do?” Iris demanded, and kicked him in the shin.

Mark jumped back, yelping out a curse, and Iris yelped too, grabbing at her stockinged foot. She overbalanced hard into the rim of a fountain with a thump that echoed dully, and then lurched upright again, landing a wild punch on his shoulder. He evaded the next one, but he was no longer looking for me.

“What are you going to do?” Iris demanded, limping towards him again. She swung her handbag at him and he danced out of her clumsy, if enthusiastic, reach. “Are you going to bewitch her?”

“I can’t! I just want to explain. Ellie, please! It’s safe, I promise!”

“I’m right here,” I called, and waded through the fog.

He favoured me with a tight smile. “Good. We were just about to start pulling hair.”

I’d back Iris in that fight, Mark, you adorable streak of twiggy uselessness.

Sitting Inside My Head

Inside a Dog catchup!

1) First Prize: Unlimited Supply of Diet Coke, where I discuss the magnificence that would be a reality TV show based on writers’ glamourous lives:

TONIGHT on Monkeys With Typewriters, the Outliners’ well-laid plans finally come to fruition! Can the Pantsers come up with a brilliant twist to avoid their rivals’ trap?

2) i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart), where I share some of my favourite poems:

This first is by Sherman Alexie, who you may know as the writer of the phenomenal The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I knew him as a poet first, and sat through a very confusing conversation with people talking about Diary, trying to mentally place him, until I saw it and exclaimed, “Oh! Sherman Alexie!”

3) Talking the Talk, where I discuss my fears about being a writer in public:

Tonight I am heading to the State Library of Victoria – which runs this very website, what a coincidence! – to do an author talk thing, about which I am predictably freaked out. YES, I am a drama queen from way back. YES, I once pranced across a stage in a tight leather skirt and my bra. But I was being other people then, and tonight I have to be me!

4) Getting Dramatic, where I discuss some of my favourite YA about teenagers and theatre:

Dramarama, by E. Lockhart, features two fabulous teenagers, BFF, off to drama camp in Ohio. But where gay, black Demi fits in better than he ever has before, finding acceptance, starring roles, and a terrific new boyfriend, narrator Sadye is having second thoughts about the whole experience. Her audition piece goes terribly wrong, she ends up in the much despised straight theatre play, and no one is listening to what she knows are good ideas. Sadye wants to be irreplaceable. She wants to be a person that matters. And that means that acting might not be the role for her.

It is my last week as Writer in Residence, and I am contemplating THINGS. If you have any ideas of what you’d like me to write about, please drop a comment here! If you’d like to comment on the posts themselves, I’d prefer you do so on the site.

To The Edge Of The Earth

Tim and Neil Finn, in their various incarnations (in their bands, Crowded House, Split Enz, individually, together at The Finn Brothers, hanging out with Dave Dobbyn and Bic Runga, etc etc) have actually acquired a fair amount of international fame and deserved repute. Because they are great.

The advantage of them being in so many incarnations is that I got to grab two songs – one from Crowded House, and one by The Finn Brothers. Some people might call this “cheating”.

“Together Alone” is a song partially about one of the myths underlying Guardian‘s creation. It was this song that made me think, “Hey, maybe I could use song titles for chapter headings?”

“Won’t Give In” is a song about family, and what it means when you belong to a people and a place.

The “Won’t Give In” chapter is near the end, and horrendously spoilery, so instead I will give you an excerpt of “Together Alone”, where Mark tells an origin story.


“Okay. In the beginning…” He hesitated, then shook his head. “Look. This is a dubious version of the myth. It isn’t the whole story, or an entirely true one, and there’s no way to get around it. I can’t even tell it to you in the right language, because you don’t speak it.”

“Chapman’s Homer?” I suggested.

He slanted a tight smile at me. “Heh. Close enough.”

“So,” I said, and half-bowed, trying to mimic Professor Gribaldi’s drawl. “At least be gloriously inaccurate.”

He returned the bow with an arm flourish that set his charms jingling, and tried again.

“Okay,” he said. “This is a story of how mankind was made, and how death entered the world. A long time after the beginning, there are Papa-tuanuku, who is the Earth Mother, and Rangi-nui, who is the Sky-Father. So strong is their affection that they cannot bear to be apart, and remain always in loving embrace. They bring forth many children, but will not relinquish their grip on each other. Those brought forth from Earth’s womb are forced to crawl upon her surface, while their father presses against her. There is only close, moist darkness and suffocating warmth. Like everyone, these children want to stretch and grow without the constraints laid upon them by their parents.

“Some of their sons gather to decide what should be done. One of the brothers says that they should kill their parents, but he is shouted down. Another proposes they do nothing at all and be content in their closeness, but no one listens to him. As always happens in such meetings, the most charismatic speaker wins the argument. One by one, five of the brothers, crawling in their claustrophobic prison-home, set their shoulders against their father and push. And finally, the last of the brothers, the tallest and strongest, lies on his back and pushes with his mighty legs, and measure by tiny measure, their father’s body moves.

“Rangi-nui calls to Papa-tuanuku, and they cleave ever tighter to each other. But they have seeded their own destruction, and the six brothers fight for every finger of space until their father is a torso’s length from their mother. Then a body’s length. Then as far as they can reach with their arms outstretched. And then, with one final heave, they hurl their father high above the loving reach of their mother’s embrace.

“And Sky-Father weeps in his grief and Earth-Mother tosses and rumbles in her anger, but it is done, and nothing they can do can ever reverse it.”

Just The Thought Fills My Heart With Pink Frost

The Chills are a Dunedin sound band, which is a musical era with which I’m not that familiar, but I have decided is mostly about hanging around with your mates in a horrible freezing flat in the early 80s and eventually someone suggests that you start a band as a way to keep warm damn the man! Then Flying Nun Records signs you up and you make a million dollars become an indie-pop cult hit.

This is “Pink Frost”, a lovely little ditty about a man who has accidentally murdered his girlfriend and is now really distressed about the way she’s not moving. I feel awful sorry for him!

No one murders their girlfriend in Chapter Eleven, but it’s the bloodiest chapter by far until [SPOILER]. And meanie that I am, I’m not going to tell you who dies, and instead proffer this:


Then we were standing in the middle of a creek that came up to my knees, long river grasses winding about my calves. Iris moaned, a low, wavering noise that cut off into abrupt sobs. Bare-limbed European trees stood on the banks, with the odd patch of green indicating a cabbage tree or pine. I peered through them and made out a familiar squat, large structure, lit up by harsh white lights – the student association building. We were in the part of the creek that the pub looked over, but it seemed that no one had been out on the cold terrace at the time we appeared. At any rate, there weren’t any cries of alarm.

Mark staggered and fell against me, dragging Iris with him. I stood, somehow, against their double weight, and shoved back until we were all righted again, and splashing towards the bank. We collapsed in a tangle of cold wet limbs and bruises.

Why You Looking So Down?

The latest vid+cookie was so spoilery that I deemed it important to make sure you didn’t skim it accidentally. So if you are okay with that, click here.

The Mint Chicks! They headed overseas, and are now based in Portland, which is a Big Deal in NZ music. Like, I am pretty sure American musicians are all, “Oh, I’m number one in Finland? That’s cool, I guess.” But NZ musicians playing original material generally need international sales and tours to be financially solvent. I think the pressure is good for the music, but probably bad for the musicians.

Anyway, this is “Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!”, which has the most punctuation of any song title I’ve ever heard. I am very sad I can’t show you the music video, because it is awesome – a sort of suburban Red Riding Hood runs through the dark streets with a big German Shepherd, looking for love! Love is a dude in a paddock singing this song. But you can at least hear the song itself.

This titles Chapter Seven, which is so full of spoilers that the cookie below is pretty much the only non-spoiler laden bit in the whole thing.


When I arrived at Classics for third period, having spent all twenty minutes of morning break* struggling with the computer lab printers, a note taped to the door informed us that Professor Gribaldi was on leave; we were to have a study period instead.

I’d passed most of my classmates in the corridor, but one of them — Hannah something — was scowling at the notice, her own essay crumpling slightly in her hand. “I was up until four on this,” she said. It wasn’t exactly to me, I thought, just a necessary burst of frustration into the corridor. The skin under her eyes was dark and tight.

“I turned down coffee with a hot guy,” I offered.

“Oh, that sucks! And after all her crap about dedication and sacrifice. I bet students in Virginia never take sick days.”

“Are you kidding? Students in Virginia attend classes when they have the plague.”

She grinned. “I heard that one senior in Virginia died in the first term, and his decomposing corpse still attended all the classes.”

“And got top grades,” I said, nodding.

“And got into Yale, Harvard, and NYU.”

“Unlike slack Mansfielders, who have no Advanced Placement and no Ivy Leagues to aim for and no work ethic whatsoever.”

She laughed and shook her essay. “Four a.m.! I’m going to hand this in at the office. Want me to take yours?”

* Robyn informed me that American teenagers didn’t usually get a morning break – just lunch. “But when did you EAT?” I asked, horrified. I was hungry throughout the entirety of high school. I cannot imagine going without my precious precious break, during which I routinely ate a giant afghan biscuit and drank a can of Coke.

In The Ghost Town Where We Live

Oh, Supergroove, so short-lived, so awesome. “Sitting Inside My Head” is probably my favourite of all the songs I used for chapter titles. It is so indelibly funky.

This title opens Chapter Three, and has thematic resonance I can’t tell you about, so instead I will share a cookie with Kevin in it, because he hasn’t had any screen time yet, and I like him a lot.


Everyone perked up and bounced towards the greenroom – except Reka, who apparently did not bounce; me, who was largely uninterested; and Kevin, who lagged behind to speak to me.

“Don’t you want to play dress-up?” I asked.

“Oh, I do,” he said, grinning. “I was holding out for Theseus in a feather cloak, but none of the local elders wanted to lend a taonga* that precious to a bunch of ignorant students.”

“Theseus is Māori?” I wondered.

Kevin pointed at his chest. “Duh. It’s a reimagining of Shakespeare’s classic comedy for extra extreme relevance to modern new Zealand audiences. Come on, I told you this. Last night.”

“Oh, last night,” I said pointedly. “I think I remember bits of it, before someone got me drunk and nearly expelled and dragged me into his play.”

*taonga = precious, treasured thing, which can be either tangible (like a cloak) or intangible (like language)

From The Tail Of The Fish To The Tip

“Home, Land and Sea” is by Trinity Roots, a group who are reportedly even better on stage than they are recorded. I don’t go to live music much because I don’t like crowds and I am essentially a lyrics kind of gal, and live gigs can be pretty hit and miss on lyrical clarity.

But here is the last performance of Trinity Roots (the preamble about one waka becoming three means that they’re splitting up and taking different journeys now), and the last performance of “Home, Land and Sea,” and there’s absolute clarity, and I really wish I’d been there. (NB: Cursing.)

I’ve read stuff that says Trinity Roots aren’t pushing any particular political agenda, and people can take what they want from the (lovely) lyrics. I read the lyrics as a lament at the way the Pākehā settlers moved in and took land and sea rights, often without agreement or adequate compensation, and now, generations later, we’re all dealing with the resulting hot mess, where insufficient money is meant to, but of course can’t, substitute for “home”, and what the heck is up with the foreshore legislation anyway?

The fish, by the way, is Te Ika a Māui/the North Island, Ellie’s home island. In Chapter Fourteen, she goes home.


I’d known that Te Ika a Māui drifted through his uneasy slumber, while the children of the maiden of the dawn walked blithely on his back. After the canoe, I’d even prepared to see him.

But I hadn’t realised the scale. I couldn’t see the whole of Māui’s fish, any more than I could see the whole island. Valleys and mountains were enormous slashes and humps in his skin, where the tools of Māui’s brothers had torn at him. And as we came in to land at Napier, the worst of his wounds showed itself to me. All the green-drenched winter landscape vanished, the vineyards and patches of paddocks, and beaches as familiar as my own face in the mirror. Instead I saw the festering flesh of the great fish’s belly and the massive bone hook, yellow with age, that was the steep curve of the bay.

I Hate That Joke.

Occasioned by seeing this in a TWoP recap of American Idol:

Simon calls her “gloomy” and congratulates her for even showing up, which coming from Simon is like getting a gold medal that says “Special Olympics” when you turn it over.

World, please stop saying, “[Achieving something you think is awesome but it’s actually pathetic] is like winning a gold medal at the Special Olympics!”

A Special Olympics gold medal is not a dummy prize. It is awarded to world-class* athletes who have managed to beat dozens of other world-class athletes to achieve a distinction to which very few people can aspire. Special Olympics gold medalists think their medals are awesome because they actually are awesome.

You might try this instead: “[Achieving something you think is awesome but it’s actually pathetic] is like making ablist jokes for cheap laughs that are both unfunny and deeply stupid!”

Aw, doesn’t have the same ring?

*I should here note that the Special Olympics is in fact also run on a community, regional and national level – but when people say this, I think they say it in comparison to the Olympic Games. The motto of the Special Olympics, by the way, is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” That sure sounds non-competitive to me!

A Passer-By Point Of View

Today’s song is “Violent”, by pop-rock band Stellar*. Hey, you say, that lead singer looks familiar. Is she connected to the awesome Bic Runga we saw in the last video?

Yes! This is the awesome Boh, Bic’s older sister.

This song gets extra points for including “nihilistic” in the chorus TWICE:

This song title heads Chapter Eight, where, surprise surprise, Ellie gets violent!


I shoved him again, bouncing him off the fence. “Then I’ll tell you what I know.” There were tears welling out my eyes. I ignored them.

“I know she tried to kill me, and that she’s after my best friend, and that this is enarly the worst night of my life. And I know that I don’t owe you any favours. If you don’t tell me something, I’m going to beat it out of you.” Pain flickered across his face when I shoved him again. I smelled smoke and the wet scent of growing things, and under it, the acrid tang of my own seat. “So!”

He closed his eyes. “So what?”

Fury roared through my head, drowning out the small, inner voice that protested. I pulled my fingers back, and drove the heel of my palm under his chin.

This scene was a lot of fun for two reasons: 1) I got to demonstrate that torture doesn’t work, which I think is always worth reinforcing, and 2) I got to do some gender-role switchery. Ellie is the physically capable strong one; Mark is the magically capable pretty one. GOOD TIMES.