Mansfield Questionnaire: Owen Marshall
Our slightly irreverent literary questionnaire, inspired by New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield.
Write a prelude to your life in one sentence: A continuous process of experience, assessment and correction.
Would your father have accepted your plea for musical training? In light of my lack of musical talent, he would have thought the money better spent elsewhere.
Do you speak French? Atrophied schoolboy French only, despite my time in Menton.
If you were to, at any stage, become a ghost, who would you haunt? Places not people, especially those of my youth. We leave something of ourselves in the landscapes and city scapes in which we have lived.
Do you keep 'great complaining notebooks' a.k.a. journals? I make occasional, fragmentary and confessional jottings.
Garden parties. Yes or no? Too genteel for comfort.
Where have you had the best time of your life? Within my family.
Where have you had the worst time of your life? Within the court of my own conscience.
If you were to use a nom de plume, what would it be? I use one now. My Christian names, the second of which was my mother's surname.
Virginia Woolf wrote 'I was jealous of her writing-the only writing I have ever been jealous of.' Who are you most jealous of? Alice Munro and William Trevor.
Where are you in the family birth order? The third of nine.
You left home and then: Abandoned myself to what I imagined was an intellectual life.
What is your favourite short story? `The Dead' by James Joyce.
What was the last real letter you wrote? Alas, I have forgotten. Probably to an editor.
What brings you bliss? The state of bliss is unknown to me.
How would you like to die? In full possession of my faculties and without foreknowledge.
'There is no twilight in our New Zealand days, but a curious half-hour when everything appears grotesque—it frightens—as though the savage spirit of the country walked abroad and sneered at what it saw.' What are your feelings on New Zealand twilight? It has sometimes at the turning point a wonderful and muted luminosity.
Has anyone ever said of you that you're 'a dangerous woman'? Not even that I'm a dangerous man.
Have you ever had an X-ray? Yes, but there was no epiphany.
Write a brief history of your eyesight: A steadily increasing ability and inclination to take the long view of everything.
Is there 'the taint of the pioneer' in your blood? A Marshall came to the Nelson settlement in the early 1840s.
'I want to be REAL.' True or false? This simply poses the next question - what is it to be `real'?
Owen Marshall is a leading New Zealand short story writer and novelist. In 2000 he became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to literature and in 2012 a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM). In 2013 he was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement. For more information about Owen Marshall, visit his Book Council Writers file.