In a surprise move, lawyer and blogger Cathy Odgers has been appointed part-time assistant editor of Landfall, New Zealand’s most prestigious literary journal.
Odgers, who is better known by her blogging name Cactus Kate, came to the attention of the journal’s publishers after she wrote a scathing blogpost about the literary pedigree of the late and much-loved children’s author, Margaret Mahy. In her post Odgers suggested that Mahy was an unremarkable writer whose passing was barely worth noting.
Landfall’s editor, Dave Eggleton, confirmed the appointment today.
“To be honest, I was surprised when Ms Odgers accepted our invitation,” said Mr Eggleton. “She’s a successful lawyer who doesn’t even live in New Zealand, and her disdain for our literary heritage suggests she wouldn’t even have known who we were.
“When I made the offer to her I had no idea she would accept the role. I’m shocked, actually. Shocked but delighted.”
While Ms Odgers has refused to give interviews explaining why she has decided to take up the role, those close to her say she had been looking for an opportunity to contribute to cultural life in New Zealand.
Odgers’ admission that she was influenced more by accounting and mathematics textbooks than anything Mahy had written, delighted the publishers of Landfall, Otago University Press.
Editor David Eggleton said they had been looking to broaden the appeal of the journal for some time.
“Landfall has always been known as a bit of a high-brow journal, much loved by the literary set, but barely read by the average man on the street.
“The pages tend to be full of essays, literary commentary, reviews of important local works, and poems by obscure people.
“My god, some of it’s dense wordy stuff. I can see why an accounting textbook would appeal more to some. Sometimes I’d just much rather read a Wilbur Smith.”
Mr Eggleton said he hoped bringing Odgers in to assist with editing duties would help widen the appeal of the journal.
“If you look at what sells it’s generally Harry Potter, or Fifty Shades of Grey, or pulp airport bookshop thrillers written by the likes of James Patterson or Clive Cussler.
“Our focus on New Zealand literature prevents us from celebrating the achievements of these blockbuster authors, so we’ve decided to break with tradition and focus entirely on popular American and British authors.
“I know some of our traditional readers will be up in arms, but, while someone like Dan Brown may not have the literary finesse of a C K Stead or Patricia Grace, his books are fast-paced and full of action.
“I have read The Da Vinci Code eight times.”
Mr Eggleton confirmed rumours that the look and format of the journal would change dramatically.
From September the journal will be published in a new weekly tabloid format, and the publication will include regular columns from a number of literary icons, including Bob Jones, Michael Laws and Murray Deaker.
A new sports section is expected to further broaden the appeal of the journal. Younger readers will also be catered for, with regular features on celebrities and All Blacks.
Mr Eggleton said that Odgers’ talents would be utilised in writing reviews on technical textbooks, and essays demolishing the reputations of New Zealand’s literary greats, like Katherine Mansfield, Janet Frame and Frank Sargeson.
“Our readers will have no difficulty with our new focus on best-selling foreign authors, once they discover how average and talentless all our great literary heroes actually were.
“We made it very clear in our contract with Ms Odgers that we don’t actually expect her to read any New Zealand works. We can hardly expect her to waste her time reading such trash, can we?”