A.K. Grant was a satirist, parodist, columnist, lyricist and scriptwriter. Grant was a key figure in the renaissance of satiric comedy in New Zealand from about 1975 onwards, and in addition to writing he worked as a barrister and a television script editor. His satiric history of New Zealand first published as Land Uprooted High (1971), and later rewritten and enlarged as The Paua and the Glory (1982), is a comic classic, along with his many literary parodies. Grant passed away in the year 2000.
FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE
Grant, A.K. (Alan Keith) (1941–2000), was a satirist, parodist, columnist, lyricist and scriptwriter. Born in Wanganui, he was educated mainly in Christchurch, at Linwood HS and University of Canterbury (LLB 1964).
After legal work in New Zealand and London, he practised as a barrister in Christchurch 1976–80 and then became a full-time writer and (1980–87) TV script editor. His satiric history of New Zealand is a comic classic. First published as Land Uprooted High (1971), it was rewritten and enlarged as The Paua and the Glory (1982), and the sequel dealing with recent events, Corridors of Paua, was added in 1996. It includes memorable passages of absurdist literary history.
His literary parodies are also notable, such as his anthologised ‘An Inquiry into the Construction and Classification of the New Zealand Short Story’ (in I Rode with the Epigrams, 1979), his VCR update of Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Doll’s House’ (‘I seen "The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes"’) and his version of Denis Glover’s ‘The Magpies’, which after six quardle oodle ardling stanzas ends: ‘Tom said, "I know I’m finished, / But I couldn’t give a hang. / I’ll take that bloody magpie / With me!"—Bang!’
Other publications include The Bedside Grant (1985), The Dictionary of Wimps (1989) and I’m glad I asked you that: Exclusive interviews with charismatic Kiwis (1989), in which ‘The Feminist Actress’ and ‘The Writer’ have significant literary content. These volumes mostly collect columns and occasional pieces from NZ Listener and elsewhere.
He wrote TV scripts for A Week of It, 1977–79, McPhail and Gadsby, 1980–87, the Billy T. James Show and Letter to Blanchy (1996– ). He has also written lyrics for musicals, notably ‘Footrot Flats’ (1983, book by Roger Hall). Together with Hall and Tom Scott, who is frequently his collaborator, Grant is a key figure in the renaissance of satiric comedy since about 1975, his downbeat absurdist wit being among the best of the deadpan self-deprecation which characterises much New Zealand humour.
Parodies Regained (2000) is a parody on poets A. K. Grant knew personally.
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
- There is a bibliography in the Auckland University Library's New Zealand Literature File.
Updated January 2017.