By Kerry Butler
Available at all good bookstores nationwide – $25
Reviewed by Daryl Crimp
To be frank, I was nervous of this book for the simple reason the colloquial title and reference to a ‘Kiwi Bloke’ had me panicking that it would be be a badly crafted ramble, like some that have crept into the hunting genre over recent years. I should learn to not judge a book by its cover.
While Kerry’s writing style is matter-of-fact, it is distinctive. He writes ‘orally’, which creates a sense of listening to anecdotes and tales while sitting around a campfire; “The next story I’m going to tell you…!”
Much of the enjoyment of the read comes from the eclectic mix of topics covered – observations on human nature and foibles, youthful reminisces, through to various outdoor yarns, and occasionally the warmth from the campfire shines through, especially in the poignant chapter dealing with the loss of a much loved dog and companion. In simple language, Kerry is able to convey sadness, loss, loneliness and hope – emotions that will strike a chord with all.
In essence, Kerry Butler is a ‘Pop-up-toaster’ writer: he uses simple form and function to transform the commonplace into the readable and entertaining. There are stories of chipped teeth, grumpy neighbours, randy women, party antics that border on the ribald, and understated yarns about getting lost in the bush or fog. There is also a heavy sense of nostalgia in his writing, a touch of philosophy, plenty of keen yet whimsical observations and just a hint of cynicism. Nothing is ‘too deep’, which makes the ‘musings’ chapters like “Atmosphere’, ‘Pettiness’, ‘What’s the Meaning of Life’, and ‘Camping’, perfect catalysts for further thought or discussion.
The book is episodic and that is a difficult structure to get right, but Kerry pulls it off, partially because it’s a good pick up and put down read, and also because it is not purely a hunting/fishing book, which will broaden its appeal. However, what I liked most was the sense of insightful irony that pervades his writing: ‘What drives people to work is their dream of retiring, but the reality often leaves them at a loose end and unhappy.’
If you are at a loose end – this is a good book to retire with.