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Introducing Maurice Gee

March 23, 2011

Maurice Gee

Remember Fire Raiser on TV? It was on Sunday nights in the 80s I think (was it done as a miniseries?). I remember everyone watched it.  Honestly, Maurice Gee’s children’s writing has been making it to the movies and TV – and into reprints – for ages. HOWEVER, he’s more academically interesting to most for his ‘adult’ writing than for his young adult. Crazy, but there you are!

Anyhoo, his pacifism has been somewhat trademarked and I really like the O series (academically) for that reason – I like it for personal reasons, too, cos it’s just great! The Fat Man is another fav – but I’m a general fan, so… where would I start?

If you have access to a University Library, you’ll find heaps of articles/dissertations on Plumb, for example, but good luck finding mention of his kid’s stuff – there is a very little and I’ll dig it out and share (with appropriate referencing this time) when I get a chance.  Meanwhile, if you can’t afford the associate membership and are no longer a student/staff (bearing in mind most school libraries can request interloans too…)…

Basic Bio

– Maurice Gough Gee, born Whakatane 22 August 1931

– teacher, librarian, writer… husband, father (one son, two daughters)

– winner of multiple awards! Including, New Zealand Book of the Year Award, Buckland Award, James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Esther Glen Award, … Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship etc.

The Fire-Raiser, Maurice Gee

Maurice Gee on writing:

– In 1993, he was quoted as saying: “My books for children are adventure stories, falling somewhere between science fiction and fantasy.  As is the case with most stories of this kind, they describe a struggle between good and evil, or rather, between characters who may be seen as embodying these things.  My concern though is to tell an exciting story, not to point a moral.”  p67 Tom Fitzgibbon and Barbara Spiers (1993) Beneath Southern Skies; New Zealand Children’s Book Authors & Illustrators.  Ashton Scholastic: Auckland.

– He has said: “The act of writing is what matters to me most.  The finished text can seem a strange object, and the way people react to it can be even stranger.  I’m astonished by what people find there – things I had never intended to put in.  I could go on tinkering with my books forever.  When I reread them I’m constantly recognising lost fictional opportunities, ways I could have made someone do something more interesting.” p116 Greg O’Brien and Robert Cross (1988) Moments of Invention; Portraits of 21 New Zealand Writers. Heinemann Reed: Auckland

– According to Gee: “When you ask a writer what he or she thinks, their reply will probably be no more interesting than anyone else’s.  Most writers are practical people, concerned with what happens between them and the page. It’s the way they write that counts – not what they think they know.” p116 Greg O’Brien and Robert Cross (1988) Moments of Invention; Portraits of 21 New Zealand Writers. Heinemann Reed: Auckland

Academic criticism:

Anna Jackson, Geoffrey Miles, Harry Ricketts, Tatjana Schaefer, and Kathryn Walls (2011) A Made-Up Place: New Zealand in Young Adult Fiction (Victoria University Press: Wellington). This work is arranged thematically, so references are scattered throughout.

van RijVivien (2010) The Pursuit of Wholeness in Maurice Gee’s O TrilogyInternational Research in Children’s Literature, 3:2, Dec, 2010, p162+

Mercer, Erin (2010) ‘Monstrous Identities: Critical Realism and Gothic Fantasy in Maurice Gee’s The Fire-Raiser’ The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 45; 23+

Purcell, Uta.: The Fat Man by Maurice Gee: who is the implied reader?” Talespinner (2) 1996, 44-50. (1996)

Vivien van Rij gave a paper on The Fat Man and The Champion at a symposium on children’s literature in 2005.  The paper was titled “Patterns of Exchange – the Villain, the Hero, and the Child in Two Novels by Maurice Gee.”

van Rij’s PhD thesis, freely available online, also deals with Maurice Gee: The Pursuit of Wholeness in Maurice Gee’s Fiction for Children, Victoria University of Wellington, 2008

Louise Clark also gave a paper, titled “The Shadow behind the story: the Dangerous World of Maurice Gee’s Children’s Books.”  The symposium, held at the University of Auckland, was titled “The Place of the Child in Children’s Literature” and was run by Claudia Marquis and Rose Lovell-Smith, but I don’t know whether the proceedings were published or not.

The Halfmen of O, Maurice Gee

Internet info at:

He also made it onto the New Zealand Literature File

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