Author is free to make her criticisms, but her tall poppy claim is a bit rich

The lesson to be drawn from the controversial remarks of author Eleanor Catton is perhaps that those who do their thinking on paper have more to lose when they open their mouth. She should be allowed to live down her comments to a literary audience in India this week.

They were not the quality of thinking that distinguishes the novel that brought her the Man Booker Prize, not on a par, either, with the grace and maturity she displayed in interviews at that time.

Among many accolades she received in New Zealand, the Herald named her one of its New Zealanders of the Year. We remain proud of her and do not believe she misunderstands these gestures in a country that was proud of her.

Nobody has claimed her achievement "belongs" to the country. It was hers alone.


Her book is a novel set in New Zealand, authentic in its setting in time and place.

Every country takes pleasure in art that reflects it well and counts itself lucky to have artists capable of doing so, especially if its population is small.

Catton is entitled to criticise the level of public funding of art and express any view of the Government. But to suggest she is a victim of the "tall poppy syndrome" is a bit rich.

If the comment was motivated by missing out on the top prize in the New Zealand Post Book Awards, she has drawn more public attention to that decision than it previously received or deserved.

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