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Perkins, Emily

IN BRIEF

Emily Perkins is a writer of contemporary fiction, and the success of her first collection of stories, not her real name and other stories, established her early on as an important writer of her generation. Perkins has written novels, as well as short fiction, and her writing has won and been shortlisted for a number of significant awards and prizes. She was the 2006 Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow, and she used the fellowship to work on her book, Novel About My Wife, published in 2008. She is an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award winner (2011) and her acclaimed novel The Forrests was released in 2012.


FROM THE oxford companion TO new zealand literature

Perkins, Emily (1970– ), won attention when Picador (UK) published her first collection of stories, not her real name and other stories (1996), while she was living in London. It was shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Award, won the Best First Book (Fiction) Award and subsequently won the Faber Award in the UK.

Born in Christchurch, she grew up in Auckland and Wellington, worked as a TV actor, and studied acting at the New Zealand Drama School / Te Kura Toi Whakaari and writing at Victoria University. Both are evident in the deft narration and tellingly authentic dialogue of her stories of contemporary weltschmerz. These are mostly sketches in the joyless lives of the young generation of the modern city, conducting relationships with the same sense of anaesthetised necessity with which they work in shops or restaurants. Tama Janowitz’s anodyne New York and Martin Amis’s pleasureless London are discernible in the droll despondency of tone, as are the mannered ellipticalness and emotive reticence of the Manhire, Sport or Wellington School of the 1980s–90s. Chad Taylor and Maria Wickens are the most comparable New Zealand contemporaries, though Perkins’s dismal tales are edged with an adroit downbeat wit and aptitude for episodes that tilt into black-absurdist comedy.

RR



Author entry from The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature,
edited by Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (1998).
 

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Additional Information

Emily Perkins' novel Not Her Real Name won the Best First Book Award for Fiction at the 1996 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

In 1999, Victoria University Press published The Picnic Virgin, a selection of writing from the most exciting contemporary writers, chosen by Emily Perkins. It offers some surprising perspectives on the New Zealand experience, seen from both home and elsewhere.

Perkins' novels include Leave Before You Go (Picador, 1998), The New Girl (Picador, 2001), and Novel About My Wife (Bloomsbury 2008).

The New Girl
was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.

Emily Perkins was the 2006 Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow. She used the fellowship to work on Novel About My Wife, which later went on to win the Montana Medal for Fiction at the 2009 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

Emily Perkins was the recipient of one of five Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Awards presented in 2011.

Emily Perkins novel The Forrests (Bloomsbury, 2012) charts family relationships, the nuances of growing up and aging, and the charged sensory thrill of daily life as seen through the eyes of Dorothy Forrest. The Hay Festival stated that 'The Forrests is our tip for this year's Man Booker', while Arifa Akba reviewed it in the Independent, writing: 'Extraordinary ... It is so sensitively rendered that you feel every detail, down to the blades of grass that grazes the children's knees ... It seems, in these pages, as if Perkins has a special gift for capturing a child's inner universe, but the talent extends itself as the novel progresses to the incandescent joys and devastations of teenage love, the compromises of mid-life and the tragedy of old age ... a magnificent novel'.

In 2012 Perkins appeared at the Sydney Writers' Festival and the Hay-on-Wye Festival through the Book Council's International Travel Fund. You can read an account of her time at these festivals by scrolling down to the Links and Media Clips section below.

Emily Perkins took up a teaching position at Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters in February 2013.

Perkins novel The Forrests was a finalist in the Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards.

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Media links and clips

  • Emily Perkins' bibliography in the Auckland University Library's New Zealand Literature File
  • Emily Perkins website
  • Emily Perkins shares her notes on the Sydney Writers Festival on the Book Council blog
  • The Forrests book page on the Bloomsbury website

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Wellington 6011, New Zealand