lifes’● Au­thor’s short sto­ries cap­ture voices of ‘low

Manawatu Guardian - - BOOKS - By Paul Brooks

MICHAEL BOTUR’S self-pub­lished book of short sto­ries, Low

Life, has that ti­tle for a good rea­son.

He has pop­u­lated some of his sto­ries with peo­ple many of us would have trou­ble iden­ti­fy­ing with, but they’re fas­ci­nat­ing to meet for the first time. They’re not all “low lifes” them­selves, but they of­ten find them­selves in sit­u­a­tions be­neath the norm. Their job is to rise, with the au­thor’s help.

There’s the rock fan — we never know his name — who lam­i­nates kit­set fur­ni­ture. He quits his job be­cause this cool rock chick on the ra­dio says it’s what he should do and he spends the rest of the story cop­ing with “fame” and no money and wait­ing for that op­por­tu­nity to be a roadie for Me­tal­lica.

Or the straight, married guy on good money with a house and mort­gage who thinks he could be happy with a woman who lives one day at a time and some­times can’t re­mem­ber his name.

And then there’s the 60-yearold arthritic grand­mother who dis­cov­ers il­le­gal pain re­lief and a source of in­come.

There are 16 sto­ries in all, ev­ery one well-crafted and they are all well worth the read. Even among all the bad lan­guage and ex­plicit sex talk, there are pro­saic gems and beau­ti­ful phras­ing. And the char­ac­ters are real. What­ever they do seems nor­mal, ev­ery­day, just not our ev­ery­day. If they get in trou­ble it’s be­cause that’s what they do and it’s cer­tainly not their fault. It’s just the nat­u­ral way of things.

This is Michael Botur’s fourth book of short sto­ries and he seems in no dan­ger of run­ning out of ideas. I asked Michael a few ques­tions:

Your char­ac­ters are as di­verse as their sit­u­a­tions. How many are based on peo­ple you know?

Most char­ac­ters are com­pos­ites. I take qual­i­ties from a cou­ple of peo­ple and com­bine them. Some­times the phys­i­cal de­scrip­tion of a per­son will match the body of the per­son a char­ac­ter is based on, but there is lots of mix­ing up. Plenty of char­ac­ters are ex­ag­ger­ated as­pects of my per­son­al­ity.

You’ve worked a few jobs where you got more than a few ideas. Did you ever feel the way your char­ac­ters do, or did the sit­u­a­tion just give you an idea?

The thoughts that go through my char­ac­ters’ heads are thoughts that have mostly gone through my head — how­ever, not ev­ery thought sticks! An im­pulse which seems ridicu­lous to one per­son can seem like pro­found in­spi­ra­tion to an­other per­son. The story Rock or Bust was in­spired when I was lis­ten­ing to The Rock one morn­ing and some tradie rang up the DJ to brag that he had just walked out on his job. We all think about storm­ing out of our jobs at some point; many of my sto­ries ask what hap­pens when a per­son gets a mo­ti­va­tion and fol­lows that all the way to the end.

How long have you been writ­ing and where did you learn to write fic­tion?

I started out as a poet at uni­ver­sity age 20, in 2004. In my class at Otago, a cou­ple of peo­ple were dab­bling in fic­tion and I wanted to keep up. Fic­tion al­lows you to tell sto­ries on a far big­ger can­vas. I re­ally started tak­ing on a dis­tinct voice from about 2008 when I stopped writ­ing short 500-word weird prose pieces for lit­er­ary jour­nals and de­ter­mined to obey the laws of short story writ­ing — that is, a short story re­ally needs to be about 2000-5000 words. I was very priv­i­leged to have lit­er­ary jour­nals like Bravado and

Takahe publish my weird short pieces be­tween 2005-2008.

You write in an in­ter­est­ing mix of almost il­lit­er­ate ver­nac­u­lar (some­times) and clev­erly crafted words. Does that skill come from read­ing?

I get ob­sessed with lots of fic­tion writers, jour­nal­ists and other kinds of word­smiths like rap­pers. Also in my life, I rub shoul­ders with lots of peo­ple who talk in lots of dif­fer­ent styles. It’s es­sen­tial to be a good lis­tener, so I’m al­ways hear­ing the voices of crims, drug­gies, in­tel­lec­tu­als, rad­i­cals, ex­ec­u­tives, chil­dren, old peo­ple, DJs, writers and non-writers, all mixed to­gether. Also, many peo­ple in our world are bilin­gual, and it’s use­ful to hear fresh, cre­ative constructions of English.

Have you tried a mainstream pub­lisher . . . or is that a rude ques­tion?

Mainstream pub­lish­ers in NZ ex­plic­itly say they’re not keen on pub­lish­ing short sto­ries.

Where would I buy your books? Are they avail­able out­side Unity where pro­vin­cial hay­seeds like me can buy them off the shelf?

At www.NZShortS­to­ you can place your or­der for a copy of Lowlife and I’ll post it di­rectly to you, even if you’re broke and can’t pay for a while. Also Ama­

AU­THOR: Michael Botur Low Life: Short Sto­ries by Michael Botur.

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