Marshall, Owen 1941-
MARSHALL, Owen 1941-
(Owen Marshall Jones)
PERSONAL: Born August 17, 1941, in Te Kuiti, New Zealand; son of Alan and Jane (Marshall) Jones; married Jacqueline Hill, December, 1965; children: two daughters. Ethnicity: "European." Education: University of Canterbury, 1960-1963, M.A. (with honors), 1963; Christchurch Teachers College, teaching diploma, 1964.
CAREER: Short story writer, novelist, and educator. Began teaching career at a school in Timaru, New Zealand, mid-1960s; Waitaki Boys High School, Oamaru, New Zealand, deputy rector, 1983-85; Craig-head Diocesan School, Timaru, deputy principal, 1986-91; Aoraki Polytechnic, Timaru, teacher of fiction writing, 1993—. Creative New Zealand, member of Arts Board, 1998-2001. Military service: Performed national service in the armed forces.
AWARDS, HONORS: Literary fellowship, University of Canterbury, 1981; Lillian Ida Smith Award, International PEN, 1986, 1988; Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council scholarship, 1987; Evening Standard Award for short story, 1987; American Express award for short story, 1987; New Zealand Literary Fund, scholarship in letters, 1988, Distinction Award, 1989; Robert Burns Fellowship, University of Otago, 1992; Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship for Menton, France, 1996; decorated officer, New Zealand Order of Merit, 2000; Deutz Medal for fiction, Montana New Zealand Book Awards, Montana Wines Ltd., 2000, for Harlequin Rex; Litt.D., University of Canterbury, 2002.
Supper Waltz Wilson and Other New Zealand Stories, Pegasus Press (Christchurch, New Zealand), 1979.
The Master of Big Jingles and Other Stories, McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1982.
The Day Hemingway Died and Other Stories, McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1984.
The Lynx Hunter and Other Stories, McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1987.
The Divided World: Selected Stories, McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1989.
Tomorrow We Save the Orphans, McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1992.
The Ace of Diamonds Gang, McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1993.
Coming Home in the Dark, Vintage (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.
The Best of Owen Marshall's Short Stories, Vintage (Auckland, New Zealand), 1997.
When Gravity Snaps: Short Stories, Vintage (Auckland, New Zealand), 2002.
Burning Boats: Seventeen New Zealand Short Stories, Longman (Auckland, New Zealand), 1994.
Letter from Heaven: Sixteen New Zealand Poets, Longman (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.
Beethoven's Ears: Eighteen New Zealand Short Stories, Longman (Auckland, New Zealand), 1996.
Spinning a Line: New Zealand Writing about Fishing, Vintage (Auckland, New Zealand), 2001.
Authors' Choice: Leading New Zealand WritersChoose Their Favourite Stories, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.
Essential New Zealand Short Stories, Random House New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand), 2002.
An Indirect Geography (radio play), 1989.
A Many Coated Man (novel), Longacre (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1995.
Harlequin Rex (novel), Vintage (Auckland, New Zealand), 1999.
Work represented in anthologies, including I Have Seen the Future, edited by Bernard Gadd, Penguin (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989. Contributor of short stories and articles to periodicals, including Sport.
SIDELIGHTS: Trained as a schoolteacher, Owen Marshall aspired from childhood to be a writer. His early attempts at novels went unpublished; turning to the short story form in the 1970s, he first achieved magazine publication with a story in the New Zealand Listener in 1977. Two years later, he was able to publish a volume of fourteen stories, Supper Waltz Wilson and Other New Zealand Stories. Although he subsidized publication with his own funds, the book was critically and commercially a success. In particular, according to W. S. Broughton in Contemporary Novelists, it brought influential words of praise from celebrated New Zealand short-story writer Frank Sargeson. Soon, using the name Owen Marshall for all his writings, the author was publishing regularly in notable New Zealand literary outlets; some of his stories were also aired on Radio New Zealand. A second collection, The Master of Big Jingles and Other Stories, was published in 1982. In the title stories of the first two collections, which Broughton singled out as among his best pieces, Marshall was establishing his voice as a traditional realist who wrote about lower-middle-class New Zealanders in small-town or rural settings that were so well-described as to become virtual characters in their own right. Many of his stories used the first-person narrative mode, and whether they did or not, they displayed a skill with dialogue that found favor with readers and critics alike. In Broughton's view, "Marshall is distinctive among New Zealand writers . . . for his quiet ironic detachment, and for the clear-eyed recognitions of inevitability and common culpability in his little scenes from the human comedy." He is also distinguished, said that critic, for treating his women characters "with more subtlety and sensitivity than has traditionally been associated with male New Zealand writers."
Other striking stories of Marshall's include the title piece from his third collection, The Day Hemingway Died; "Kenneth's Friend," "Valley Day," "The Paper Parcel," "A Poet's Dream of Amazons," and "The Seed Merchant," an examination of the relationship between a dying father and his son which Broughton called "superb." Marshall changed direction, at least temporarily, in his fourth volume, The Lynx Hunter and Other Stories: he experimented with postmodern metafictional forms, an approach that was popular with New Zealand short-story writers in the late 1980s. In some of the Lynx stories, according to Carolyn Bliss in World Literature Today, the narrator forgoes a conventional ending for direct commentary. In a piece on the nature of literature, Marshall, as quoted by Bliss, describes the writer as a "sacred cripple" lurching with "amazement" through an "opulent" world. However, the stories, Bliss wrote, still contain "social and natural settings which both refract and foster theme and character"; and the book, in the view of a Canadian Literature reviewer, "burns with quiet desperation."
A volume of selected stories, The Divided World, appeared in 1989. Though the title story was nonrealistic, the bulk of these pieces and of his later stories showed the author, in Broughton's phrase, as "still primarily a teller of tales." Stories written after that selected volume were published in Tomorrow We Save the Orphans and The Ace of Diamonds Gang. Additionally, in 1992, while on a Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago, Marshall wrote a novel, A Many Coated Man. It was a view of a near-future New Zealand in which the national identity was in even greater flux than at the time of writing; though it displayed Marshall's considerable literary skill, it also seemed uneven, Broughton found, as if the author's true metier were in the short form. At either length, however, Broughton saw Marshall as one whose "writings seek to remind us of the known and the forgotten alike; their narrative vision suggests the wish to reveal sympathies that are never sentimental, seldom other than compassionate, and always couched in the language of one who is thoroughly sensitive to the power of words."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Novelists, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Reference Guide to Short Fiction, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Sewell, Bill, editor, Sons of the Fathers, Tandem Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 1997.
Canadian Literature, autumn, 1990, review of TheLynx Hunter and Other Stories, pp. 191-192.
New Zealand Books, December, 1995, review by Lydia Wevers.
New Zealand Herald, August 17, 2002, Gordon McLauchlan, review of When Gravity Snaps: Short Stories.
Sport (Wellington, New Zealand), spring, 1989, review by Vincent O'Sullivan.
World Literature Today, winter, 1989, Carolyn Bliss, review of The Lynx Hunter and Other Stories, pp. 166-167.*