Rosie Scott Biography
Nationality: Australian-New Zealander. Born: Wellington, New Zealand, 1948 (has dual Australian and New Zealand citizenship). Education: Degrees in English and drama; M.A. in English. Career: Worked variously as waitress, fruit-picker, and script editor, as well as in social work, acting, publishing, and newspaper work. Lives in Sydney, Australia. Awards: Bruce Mason Sunday Times award.
Glory Days. Auckland, New Zealand, Penguin, 1988; Seattle, Washington, Seal Press, 1988.
Nights with Grace. Auckland, New Zealand, Heinemann, 1990; Melbourne, Australia, Minerva, 1991.
Feral City. Auckland, New Zealand, Reed Books, 1992.
Lives on Fire. Auckland, New Zealand, Hodder & Stoughton, 1993; St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia, University of Queensland Press, 1993.
Movie Dreams. Auckland, New Zealand, Tandem Press, 1995; St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia, University of Queensland Press, 1995.
Flesh and Blood. Auckland, New Zealand, Hard Echo Press, 1984.
Queen of Love and Other Stories. Auckland, New Zealand, Penguin, 1989; St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia, University of Queensland Press, 1993.
The Red Heart. Auckland, New Zealand, Vintage, 1999.
Say Thank You to the Lady. Auckland, New Zealand, Mercury Theatre Two, 1985.
Contributor,Nightmares in Paradise, edited by Robyn Sheahan. St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia, University of Queensland Press, 1995
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Rosie Scott was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1948 but moved to Queensland as a young woman. Although she published a collection of poetry and wrote a play that became the basis of a film in the 1980s, her first work of fiction, Glory Days, did not appear until she was forty. Since then she has become an extremely productive novelist.
Glory Days is narrated by a woman who is, in fact, named Glory Day. She is in many respects (including physically) a larger than life figure. Blues singer, painter of renown, heavy drinker, and pot smoker, center of a group of friends who attach themselves to her in Auckland, Glory attracts the hostility of a young woman named Roxy who has been modeling for her. Believing that she has somehow entered Glory's identity, Roxy stalks her, kidnaps her daughter, attacks her paintings, and eventually assaults her with a knife. Glory Days is an episodic, almost structureless novel, but it does end with the dramatic success of Glory's art exhibition and is convincing in its largely good-humored but realistic depiction of a certain underclass of New Zealand life. It was short-listed for the New Zealand National Book award.
Nights with Grace is a novella-length account of a seventeen-year old girl's first experience of sexual and romantic love on the eden-like Pacific island of Rarotonga. Opening with the abrupt sentence, "The summer she turned seventeen, Grace spent a lot of her time dreaming," the work goes on to give a sensitive account of a delicate but inevitably doomed affair between the young girl and an attractive man who is visiting the island in order to investigate the effect of pesticides on the environment. Also caught up in the story is Grace's slatternly mother Mara—troubled relationships between mothers and daughters are common in Scott's fiction—who drinks heavily and sleeps around in defiance of the islanders' conventions. Scott says of Grace, "She was making inroads into life even if her mother hadn't noticed. Her dreaminess only camouflaged intense mental processes. Her allegiances were to a private self that she never revealed to anyone, to the place where was born, and to certain people in her life." The novel captures this sense of private integrity and allegiance very well. Knowing that her lover Jack lives with another woman in New Zealand and that he will soon return there makes no difference to Grace, who is caught up in the intensity and certainty of her own feelings. As in much of Scott's work there is a fierce concentration on physical and sensual beauty.
The main character in Lives on Fire is Belle, a moderately successful actress, passionately in love with her builder husband Tyler and on holiday in Queensland away from the frenetic Sydney scene. Into their idyllic lives comes an extraordinarily beautiful woman named Sky, whom Belle had met briefly during the making of a film. But Sky soon turns out to have a past and a motive that will wreck the relationship between Belle and Tyler. Written in the first person, Lives on Fire is essentially an affirmative novel that reveals how a deeply wounded woman can recover her sense of self-worth by involving herself with other people. Stricken as she is, Belle rediscovers her relationship with her two children, is made aware of the deep affection her gay agent Nick holds for her, and above all immerses herself in working with a group of street kids in a touring theater. Like all of Scott's work it is a generous novel that prides selfless caring above everything sense.
The "feral city" of Scott's third novel is Auckland in the near but carefully unspecified future, a place teeming with homelessness, unemployment, street gangs, and drugs. This is a nightmarishly dystopian novel that savagely attacks the then-contemporary government policies of privatization and economic rationalism. Its protagonist, Faith, is a woman of thirty-eight who is returning to her roots in Auckland after a failed marriage, a drug addiction she has managed to overcome, and in general a not very successful life. In particular she is attempting to resume contact with her sister Violet. The details of a New Zealand set in the not-very-distant future are revealed slowly, subtly, though it is astonishing that Faith seems ignorant of what has been happening in the world. Despite the horrors Scott depicts and the grim ending, there is as always with Scott a deep feeling of affirmation and even optimism. Faith opens a bookshop, rescues and befriends a dog that was on the point of being tortured to death, begins to salvage something of her life as she slowly comes to realize the immensity of what her sister has been doing in leading protests against dehumanizing government policies. A youth leading a street gang proves to have unexpected depths to his personality. A rally against the deaths of homeless people draws a huge crowd, and there are intimations towards the end of the novel of the downfall of the current government and its replacement by a more humane one. Feral City is an uneven novel, its apocalyptic elements mingling uneasily with its satire, its evocation of a dark and disturbed society at war with its feelings of hope, but it is full of ideas and genuine feeling.
Like most of Scott's fiction, Movie Dreams is written in the first person, but this time the narrator is a male youth. Adan Loney breaks out of school in Brisbane and hitchhikes north to Cairns in order to free himself from what he feels is a stifling and claustrophobic existence. Talented, ambitious to make films, Adan is a kind of antipodean Holden Caulfied, disgusted with the world he lives in, shattered by the suicide of his close friend Lee, and harboring ambivalent feelings towards both his mother and his sister Jasmine. Movie Dreams is again a largely structureless, picaresque novel. Adan goes through a succession of experiences, meets a number of people, before once again setting off on the road, traveling even further north. The title refers to Adan's imaginative projections of himself into various, often unnamed but recognizable Hollywood films. In the end, the reader is limited by Adan's own limitations, confusions, and lack of understanding of some of the people with whom he comes into contact.
The stories in Queen of Love are for the most part fairly lightweight pieces, some of them hardly more than sketches, lacking the energy and virility of her novels. "Journeys to the Edge of the World," for instance, is hardly more than a travel piece about the New Hebrides. Some of the stories seem to contain embryonic material for the later fiction. "Warm Nights" has a scene of the arrival of the narrator's mother that anticipates a similar event in Nights with Grace; another story is actually called "Winter with Grace." "Senseless Violets" is also the title of the exhibition Glory puts on in Glory Days. "Two Steps to Heaven," about a worker in the Paradise Bar, also anticipates some of the material from Nights with Grace. Several of the stories concern a social worker, deeply aware of how little she can do to alter the lives of the people in her care, whether they are prisoners or pensioners or, in one of the best stories, "The Saving of Wok Tan," a refugee from the Vietnam War. The difficulty of the relationship between mothers and daughters again surfaces in a fine story with that title. In general, the stories display Scott's characteristically intense, sensual, and optimistic approach to life.
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