Elizabeth Knox

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Why I wrote The Absolute Book

  Why I wrote The Absolute Book The Absolute Book owes its existence to my sense of coming back to life as time and events intervened between me and some bad years. Years during which my mother was dying of Motor Neuron Disease (ALS) and my brother-in-law was killed in much the same way the […]

Useless Grasses: On Imagination

This was the opening address of the New Zealand Festival’s Writers’ Week. I was honoured and privileged to be asked to open Writers’ Week. It’s Saturday not Sunday morning, but let us imagine we’re a congregation. Each of us owes the other, we keep ourselves in check, we look to one another when we’re low, […]

My Prime Minister’s Award Speech

For about ten years between when their daughters left home and Dad lost his licence and confidence after a couple of accidents while reversing in the supermarket car park, he and Mum would go on long late summer, exploratory driving holidays. Dad with his two Canons, photographing landscape – the sun-blistered jarrah waterwheel at Mount […]


This essay appears in The Fuse Box: Essays on Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters   At some point in every writer’s life they’ll find themselves facing the question, ‘Why write?’ Because it can be a lonely slog, and you have to like it. Because it’s always been difficult to make any money, […]

Cast Down: My Olympic Essay

I wrote this essay in 2002 for an exhibition of Tracey Moffat’s work at the City Gallery. My subject was Moffat’s Fourth series. Now seems a good time to put this essay up here. I couldn’t find all the images I talk about in it, but I’m sure you get the picture. Cast Down In 2000, the artist […]

Nigel Cox’s Skylark Lounge

“Ah, there he was, standing in the blue, making a dome with his song.” Skylark Lounge is my favourite of Nigel Cox’s books, though it is a close run thing with both Responsibility and his posthumous collection of essays, Phone Home Berlin. Skylark Lounge appeared after a long gap in publication – Dirty Work, Nigel’s […]

My notes for a panel on the topic “Is Romance Dead”

          I found a hand written draft of this in a filing cabinet. Any electronic version has long since vanished (it would be on a 2 inch disk!) I was in the habit then of presenting essays and talks with these subheadings – thanks to the titanic influence of Anne Carson […]

Tata Beach, New Years Eve, 1974.

  Three weeks without rain. The motels have had a water tanker in, but all the locals are toughing it out. The air at sea level is hazy with evaporation and the black grid-work of the oil rig they’re building in the shelter of the Bay has disappeared completely. I’m on the beach with David MacDonald, my same age cousin, who didn’t do well […]

Thoughts upon watching people shout people down

I began writing this in October in response to one ‘storm on twitter’ and finished it today, prompted by another. I’ve been wondering whether, in most people, the instinct for agreement is stronger than the one for self-expression. When people agree they belong. And belonging doesn’t necessarily mean feeling yourself part of a larger society. […]

Don’t say ‘sacrifice’

For Armistice Day here is my foreword to the Second Edition of my 1987 novel, After Z-Hour. More photos will follow. They are are being scanned by my scanning-elf.   After Z-Hour is a ghost story in which one character declares, ‘We we all ghosts’, and in which time and space, period and place, are […]