Key says there were better New Zealand novels than The Luminaries, such as Lord of the Rings

Key acknowledged that The Lord of the Rings was ever longer than The Luminaries, but said it had “trolls and that sort of thing” to hold your attention.

Key acknowledged that The Lord of the Rings was ever longer than The Luminaries, but said it had “trolls and that sort of thing” to hold your attention.

Prime Minister John Key spoke to media outside a Rotary lunch in Auckland ahead of his State of the Nation speech this afternoon, during which he briefly addressed comments made by Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton about his Government.

Catton made headlines yesterday when, at the Jaipur Literary Festival in India, she remarked that she was uncomfortable being an ambassador for New Zealand, as it was led by “neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture.”

Key said he was “disappointed” by Catton’s remarks, but wasn’t “overly worried” as her book The Luminaries “wasn’t my cup of tea, anyway.”

He granted Catton that The Luminaries was “a pretty good” novel about “the moon,” but he had “read better.”

“I mean, obviously, look, yeah, I think most New Zealanders would agree that Eleanor did pretty well and we’re all quite proud of her,” he said. “But at the end of the day, they’d probably say ‘Look, I haven’t read the copy I was given for Christmas, and neither have any of my friends, and my kids thought it was boring because there were no dragons.’ And that’s just how it is, but all the best to her.”

Key said that, ultimately, there were “much better” and “more famous” pieces of New Zealand literature, such as “The Lord of the Rings” and “that one about the hairy black dog.”

“Look, to be frank, it’s just the Man Booker Prize, which we also have to keep in mind,” he added, upon being pressed further. “The best books don’t usually win that prize; it’s a prize for boring books.

“I’m fairly certain that there hasn’t been a Jack Reacher novel to win that prize, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar didn’t win one either.”

“I think if your prize hasn’t been awarded to The Very Hungry Caterpillar it says something about your prize,” he concluded.

The Prime Minister admitted that he had not read Catton’s book, but said that would be a “big ask” because, at 832 pages, it’s “very long.”

“I think most New Zealanders would agree that’s a few too many words.”

Asked about Sean Plunket’s aggressive comments towards Catton this morning, Key said that Plunket was “a radio host.”