Lloyd with partner Carrie Tiffany
John McCrystal on Lloyd Jones:
One of the nicest things about being asked to write an appreciation of Lloyd Jones and his work is that the first time I spoke to him, he felt both had been under-appreciated.
He had a point. It was August 2001, and he had just been honoured with the Deutz Medal for fiction for his remarkable novel, The Book of Fame. You could tell that this recognition had come as something of a relief, because it had been a long time between drinks. The last major award he had picked up had been in 1988, when he was the Katherine Mansfield Fellow to Menton. He had published only one novel by then — Gilmore’s Dairy in 1985. Splinter (memorably described by the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature as ‘that rare thing, an interesting novel about Lower Hutt’) was published during the year he spent in France. He received warm acclaim for a collection of short stories (Swimming to Australia and Other Stories) in 1991, but had seemed to fall out of favour thereafter. At the time I talked to him, even the success of The Book of Fame couldn’t quite make up for the indifference with which his superb novels Biografi (1993) and Choo Woo (1998) had been received, in this country, at least. He considered them, not without justification, to be some of his best work, and he darkly muttered that it was the prevailing market predilection for talented and dazzlingly beautiful young women writers that made it so hard for ‘grumpy old men with no hair’ to make the grade.
By the time I caught up with him in a professional capacity again, this time in 2006, he was on the cusp of literary stardom, even if he couldn’t quite bring himself to believe it. His latest novel, Mister Pip, had been the subject of a bidding war amongst publishing houses, and he had received a cool million dollars in advance on royalties. And within twelve months, he had collected another Deutz Medal, the Commonwealth Prize for Fiction and had been short-listed for the Man Booker for Mister Pip as well.
His subsequent novels have been acclaimed — he would have a strong case to argue that Hand-Me Down Life hasn’t been as highly acclaimed as it deserves — and it will mean much to him that in the wake of the incandescent success of Mister Pip, his publishers are re-visiting his back-catalogue.
The great things about Lloyd are his fearlessness, his restlessness and his seriousness. He is a passionate New Zealander (you only need to look at some of his celebratory side-projects, such as the photographic essays to which he has contributed text, Barefoot Kings and Last Saturday, to say nothing of his compendium of New Zealand sportswriting, Into the Field of Play). But his humanity won’t let him ignore injustice here or abroad. He doesn’t flinch from hard subject matter — child abuse, the lot of the world’s vast numbers of dislocated souls, the brutality which humankind is capable of visiting upon itself. Yet he is the crafter of luminous prose, and adept at lightening the dark places his imagination visits. He is constantly moved to experiment with the way in which he tells stories — the prose poem of The Book of Fame, the indirect characterisation techniques he uses in Biografi and in Hand Me Down World, where our impression of the character is contructed from a matrix of second-hand accounts.
We’re lucky, as a small nation, to have so many excellent writers. We are especially blessed to call our own a writer of such international stature as Lloyd.
DAAD Berlin Artist-in-Residence (2015-16)
Visiting Fellow at the Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice (2014)
New Zealand Post Book Awards finalist General Non-fiction (2014)
Berlin International Prize for Literature [shortlist] (2013)
Longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (2012)
Honorary Doctorate Degree, Victoria University (2009)
Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction (2008)
Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate (2008)
Booksellers Association Independent Booksellers’ Book Prize (2008)
Antartica New Zealand Arts Fellowship (2008)
British Book Awards Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year (2008)
Kiriyama Prize (2008)
Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer-in-Residence (2007)
Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Overall Best Book (2007)
Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book in the South East Asia & South Pacific Region (2007)
Man Booker Prize [shortlist] (2007)
Montana New Zealand Book Awards Montana Medal for Fiction (2007)
Montana Readers’ Choice Award (2007)
Storylines Notable Non-fiction Book (2005)
New Zealand Book Award for Children & YA Honour Award (2004)
Spectrum Print Book Design Award (2004)
LIANZA Children’s Book Awards’ Russell Clark Award for distinguished contribution to illustration (2004)
Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize (2003)
Montana New Zealand Book Awards Fiction [runner-up] (2002)
Montana New Zealand Book Awards for Fiction (2001)
Montana New Zealand Book Awards Deutz Medal for Fiction (2001)
Meridian Energy Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship (1989)
New Zealand Book Council profile page
Arts Foundation writer page
British Council: Literature author page
Penguin Books author page
Text Publishing author page
Stuff.co.nz Dominion Post article (Aug, 2013)
Sydney Morning Herald interview (Aug, 2013)
NZ Listener extract from A History of Silence (Aug, 2013)