Vincent O’Sullivan

Mary's Boy, Jean-Jacques

Publication Date:
March 2022

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Longlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction in the 2023 Ockham NZ Book Awards

In Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, we last see Dr Frankenstein’s Creature shunned by human society and crossing the Arctic wasteland. What if he were rescued by an eccentric English expedition intent on sailing from pole to pole and back – only to be cast away again in a remote fiord in Aotearoa’s deep south?

This intriguing speculation ignites the novella that lies at the heart of Vincent O’Sullivan’s electrifying new story collection Mary’s Boy, Jean-Jacques. Elsewhere, O’Sullivan takes us deep into other times and minds. Two siblings relive a sinister memory of their childhood, an isolated young man learns to walk around the city alone, a Victorian adventurer purchases a human head, and always there is memory, like ‘Stonehenge from a choice of angles’. O’Sullivan’s new stories are wry, humane, unsparing, essential.

‘A bold and unnerving book full of mischief and wonder. O’Sullivan’s eye for why people want the wrong things is wincingly good. And always there’s the striking move from the senses and the physical world to a kind of philosophical tussle. You finish an O’Sullivan story feeling implicated and enlivened.’ —Damien Wilkins

'Reading Mary's Boy, Jean-Jacques and other stories is the literary equivalent of realising everyone around you has the same rich, complex internal life as you do. Vincent O’Sullivan then invites readers into those lives with stories that grow broader and more intriguing the harder you look.' —Jack Remiel Cottrell, Kete Books

Vincent O’Sullivan is the author of three acclaimed novels: Let the River Stand, Believers to the Bright Coast and All This by Chance. He has written many plays and collections of short stories and poems, and several libretti. Being Here: Selected Poems was published in 2015 and Selected Stories in 2019; his most recent poetry collection is Things OK With You? He was joint editor of the five-volume Letters of Katherine Mansfield, and has edited a number of major anthologies. He is the author of Long Journey to the Border: A Life of John Mulgan and The Light Is Dark Enough: Ralph Hotere. He was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2000 and was the New Zealand poet laureate for 2013–2015. He lives in Dunedin.

Cover artwork and design: Sarah Wilkins

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