REVIEWS:

Lives Less Ordinary

New Zealand Listener · 29 Apr 2019 · By MAGGIE TRAPP

Sixteen dark but well-crafted snapshots of Kiwi life.

Michael Botur’s work grabs you by the throat and won’t let you go. In True?, the
Whangārei writer’s second short-story collection, we get up close and personal with a
welter of struggling, striving, forgotten, neglected, complicated, likeable, unlikeable,
smart and, often despite themselves, charming characters, each muddling his or her way
through life in today’s Aotearoa.
These stories dwell on moments of loneliness and regret in prose that is beautiful in its
frankness and charming in its understated humour. In Because I Love Him, we watch as,
maddeningly, a young girl is blind to the tragedy she is making of her life, yet we’re pulled into her story partly because of Botur’s lovely, inviting prose: “We lurch home on drunken streets, waves of tarmac lapping our feet.”
Botur is a master of voice and tone. His stories throb with what feel like real people, real
conversations, real moments of pain and hope, misunderstanding and reconciliation, remorse and surprise. And that’s the magic of this collection – what feels like real life can be so lovingly crafted and captured in all its minute detail. As we read these disparate chronicles of all manner of New Zealanders careering from disappointment to intimacy and back again, we’re left wondering how much of Botur’s content is taken from real life and how much is a crafted lie – and why this distinction matters.
TRUE? SHORT STORIES, by Michael Botur (NZShortstories.com, $25)

REVIEW/INTERVIEW

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AWARDS:

  • Whangarei Libraries Flash Fiction Competition 2019 – 2nd
  • Northland Short Story Award – for highest Northland place in the National Flash Fiction Day Competition
  • North & South Short Story Story Competition 2019 – 2nd
  • Whangarei Libraries Flash Fiction Comp 2015 – 1st and 2nd place winner
  • Guest Fiction Writer (August 2014) – Tākahe magazine
  • Miles Hughes Award – Third place in 2014
  • Takahe poetry competition 2012 – runner-up
  • Dan Davin Literary Award 2009 – Highly commended
  • NZSA Short Story Competition 2008/9 – Third, for ‘Latter Day Lepers’
  • Kiwi Short Story Competition, 2009 – Second, for ‘Home D’
  • Her magazine Short Story Competition, 2008 – Winner
  • F*nk short short story competition, 2005 – 2nd

CRITICS CLAIM

TRUE? (2018)

‘Michael Botur’s work grabs you by the throat and won’t let you go […] These stories dwell on moments of loneliness and regret in prose that is beautiful in its frankness and charming in its understated humour […] Botur is a master of voice and tone. His stories throb with what feel like real people, real conversations, real moments of pain and hope, misunderstanding and reconciliation, remorse and surprise. And that’s the magic of this collection – what feels like real life can be so lovingly crafted and captured in all its minute detail.” – Maggie Trapp, NZ Listener

 

‘He’s in a league of his own, but there’s no denying he should be mainstream. Everyone should have access to this author’s work. His tales are gritty, gutsy and gripping … there’s no doubt you’re inside the head of a master storyteller. True? is a collection of stories, honed by the writer’s skill to a jagged edge. […] Michael Botur’s talent shows a skill broad, diverse and still very focused. He has mastered the art of the short story, letting one sentence say so much, giving his word-people substance and keeping their dialogue or monologue true to character.

The authenticity is so scary, you wonder where this man has been and what demons followed him home. His stories – settings, plots and characters – have a strong whiff of reality. They are either well researched or the author has been there, making for an interesting juxtaposition of worlds.” – Paul Brooks, Wanganui Midweek

 

‘Written in unvarnished street language about the rougher side of life – drugs, jail and death, the book shows rare bravery and honesty […] The thing about Michael Botur is his voice is very much a street voice. His language is street language: it’s raw, it’s coarse, it’s obscene. It’s tough and it’s confronting […] There are gems – some of them are absolutely great.” – Ian Telfer, Radio New Zealand

 

LOWLIFE (2017)

Most of the characters would not cut it at any ‘respectable’, politically-correct middle-class family’s dining table. That is partly why this book is such a tasty, refreshing read. It’s as if Mr Botur hung out at CBD fast-food outlets after midnight – swilling bad coffee on a hard-plastic seat, listening to conversations, and jotting observational notes under the garish yellow lighting. There is a ring of authenticity about these stories – both in the language used by the characters and in the physical descriptions of their environments. It is interesting to speculate as to which stories might spring from Botur’s own experience. His plots – cause and effect, rapid-fire ‘shaggy-dog’, or ‘wtf?’ – are well-crafted and his characters convincing. Botur is not so much a moralist, as an informer – without ever becoming a show-off. […] Lowlife is super phat. Buy it and start reading.’ –Jeremy Roberts, takahē

‘Prosaic gems and beautiful phrasing.’- Paul Brooks, Wanganui Midweek

 

 

‘Botur wields demotic vocabulary, and agitated rhythms, combined in collages of invective and obscenity, with much skill. It’s a neat trick that’s easy to stuff up, but he consistently gets it right. Granny Frankenstein […] is a small, comic masterpiece and the perfect conclusion to a remarkably satisfying collection.’ – Paul Little, North & South

SPITSHINE (2015)

‘Both heartbreaking and heartwarming… Like his previous collection Mean, Botur uses authentic street language and slang to perfectly portray real life in Spitshine. Once again, readers may need to put extra effort in to keep their rhythm going, but they will be rewarded. Botur speaks about the unspoken.’ – Rebekah Fraser, NZ Book Lovers

Spitshine contains 16 short stories from a writer considered one of the most original story writers of his generation in New Zealand. It is a generous selection of work: smart, wry, humorous and very stylish. Michael Botur’s stories investigate the vagaries of perception and the ability of language to convey life on the edge with imagination and art so that we arrive, unexpectedly, at the mysteries of the downtrodden. Botur gives us new, unpredictable views of the world – by turns energetic, exuberant, exasperating, fed-up, ridiculous and serious. He author arranges for things to happen to bad people, with a view to the reader coming to sympathise in some way with them. Markedly different in subject, they all speak about something unspeakable: methods of killing, volunteer work, stealing someone else’s wife, story writing, couch potatoes and more. Reading these stories in close succession left me both exhilarated and exhausted. […] In fluid, poetic, but contemporary language, Botur expertly orchestrates his plots giving them suspense and real feeling for his characters […] Spitshine strikes a beautiful balance between mystery and disclosure, bravery and the desire to illuminate the seedier side of life.’ – Patricia Prime, takahē

 

MEAN (2013)

‘Fifteen short stories that are closely observed, energetic and original. With a wry humour, they depict people on the margins of society who are struggling to survive, people who are up against it in many different ways, who have difficulties with the system and its conformities.’ – Piet Nieuwland, Landfall Review Online

‘These stories are energetic, often breathless, containing concrete detail, close observation, originality and power. Most of them use street language in a playful, or serious manner. The collection is peppered with expletives, topics about sex, drugs, viciousness and breaking the law. Botur’s work might be seen to betray a debt to the tradition of modernism, the kind of luminous fluidity one finds in Rimbaud. […] The words demand an inner listening from readers, and extra effort to keep meaningful their strangeness, their idiosyncrasy, their authentic street language and expletives Ultimately, the voices that emerge from Mean are funny, likeable (or not), poignant. Botur is in an honourable tradition of comic, and yes, ‘popular’ stories.’ – Patricia Prime, takahē
‘As a former journalist he has perfected the skill of telling a story and evoking emotion. Botur is a clever writer. He has mastered the art of leaving things unsaid. Mean is raw, gritty and, at times, deeply unsettling. But it is also funny, touching and bittersweet. A refreshing yet confronting read that will challenge the hardiest soul.’ – Rebekah Fraser, NZ Book Lovers

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