Keith, Sheridan

Keith, Sheridan

Information

residence
Auckland

In Brief

Sheridan Keith is a fiction writer with a background in English literature and Zoology. Her occupations have included broadcasting, reviewing, journalism, and teaching creative writing. She has written short story collections, and has published fiction in journals and magazines. Her third book, Zoology (1995), was winner of the 1996 Montana Book Award for Fiction.

FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE

Keith, Sheridan, was born in Wellington and studied at Victoria University, combining zoology and English literature. She lived in London for ten years and now lives in Auckland. Her work has included broadcasting, reviewing, journalism, selling advertising space on London buses, teaching creative writing, and running her own Northcote Point antique shop. Her stories have been published in London Magazine and Landfall, and her articles in Art New Zealand and NZ Listener, and elsewhere. Her first collection of short stories, Shallow Are the Smiles at the Supermarket (1991), was shortlisted in the Best First Book category of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. The second story collection was Animal Passions (1992). Then came the successful novel, Zoology (1995), winner of the 1996 Montana Book Award for Fiction.

Keith’s fiction focuses on personal, intimate situations, analysing relationships and emotions, families and marriages. She has identified a concern in her work with intensity and sensuality, ‘that intersection between animal and civilised behaviour’. The stories are economical vignettes—a woman gains the courage to ditch a married lover, a suburban mother defies her husband and digs a swimming-pool, a girl left to stay with her grandmother falls in love with a boy at her new school. Zoology is a retrospective of its hero’s relationships with women—wives, lover, daughters—each hopelessly unequal yet building a cumulative understanding. The action illustrates the paradox of free will: ‘We seem to be programmed to believe in free will, and yet if that’s a programme, how can it be free?’ she remarked in an interview. The novel also explores the belief that ‘men and women are geared for different sorts of biological situations’. Though the issues are serious, Keith relieves a bleak recognition of failure, inadequacy and loss with gentle humour and a tart sense of the eccentric.

Updated January 2017.