Coming Rain is the second and latest novel by New Zealand author, from Australia, Stephen Daisley. Kate De Goldi talked with him about his latest book, which won the Acorn Foundation Literary Award at the recent Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
As De Goldi said, “Daisley lives in West Australia but is absolutely a Kiwi.” She started by outlining the key characters, an older man, Painter, and a younger man, Lou. The third main character is a Dingo bitch. Between these three runs tenderness and violence. The dingo is in pup and spends the story desperate for food and a safe place to whelp. The two men work together and the work is an important part of the narrative. Daisley read a long passage in which the men arrive at a shearing quarters and prepare food. As De Goldi points out, all the tools are named by their manufacturer which gives them a sense of importance in the story: a Green River skinning knife, a Kelly axe. It is probably the first in-depth description of actual work since the start of the 1900s.
De Goldi also commented on the prose where pronouns are often dropped which gives a fragmentary effect to the story. Daisley sees this as allowing the reader to become part of the narrative as they fill in the blanks with their own ideas. He creates “a new kind of music within the sentence”.
The influences of Irish and American writers like Faulkner and Steinbeck are important, but so too are Janet Frame and the New Zealand poets of her era. As Daisley quipped, he has a sign beside his computer which states,”Don’t show off, you bastard”.
Dingo is an important character in the story and one reader commented,”the best animal depiction since Watership Down.” Observing his own dogs helped in creating this close relationship with an animal which is so starkly portrayed.
The two men are formed by two wars and a depression. Daisley reflected at some length on how we are what has gone before. As Faulkner says,”there is no such thing as the past, we carry it with us”.
As a boy, Daisley wanted to write, but at 15 his mother suggested he would grow out of it. It took decades before his first book on Gallipolli, Traitor, was published, but the intervening years as soldier, shearer and farmer have seen him continue to write.
De Goldi had a perceptive understanding of Coming Rain, even surprising Stephen Daisley with her observations. It was a wonderful insight into the ideas behind the text and probably more so , to the person behind the story.
I look forward to more from this pen.
Reviewed by Kathy Watson
by Stephen Daisley
Published by Text Publishing