'I said many times I would not write autobiography - partly because it might signal, either to my inner self, or to others, a ""signing off"" as a writer; and partly because I did not want to mark off areas that were fact in my life from those that might yet be invented. Fiction likes to move, disguised and without a passport, back and forth across that border, and prefers it should be unmarked and without check-points.' - C K Stead. Happily for the many readers of his novels, poems, criticism and essays, C K Stead has changed his mind. In South-West of Eden, a coming-of-age memoir by New Zealand's leading poet, novelist and critic writes of a life 'lived by history' -running wild in Cornwall Park, joining the Labour Party aged seven, discovering poetry in a third-form English class and enjoying a newly married annus mirabilis in a flat on Takapuna Beach down the road from Frank Sargeson and Janet Frame. An Aucklander to the core - 'Most things of real significance in my life and the life of my family had happened somewhere in sight from the summit of Mt Eden' - Stead here turns his home town into a land of myth and symbol: Tamaki of many lovers, portage for ancient waka, wasp-waist of the fish of Maui, site of a Pakeha-planned and never built coast-to-coast canal and of the harbour-to-harbour ghost-tram, no longer running except in the head of an elderly writer, late in the night, remembering at his laptop. In a virtuoso performance, C K Stead wonderfully illuminates 23 years of his time and his place.
From the late 1950s, the young C K Stead began to earn an international reputation as poet, literary critic - his book The New Poetic (1964) has sold over 100,0000 copies - and, later, as a novelist. In his long career he has published over 40 books and received numerous honours including, most recently, our highest honour the Order of NZ (2007) and, in 2009, a Montana NZ Book Award and the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement. In 2010, he will appear at the New York PEN Writers Festival and the Auckland Writers Festival.