Ideas for students
'Like many artists, he says that he writes first and foremost for himself, and that his work is a way of 'sifting the experiences of life and establishing a personal philosophy'. Very often the stories touch on the big issues of existence: love, loss, joy and pain, and they also frequently convey an exquisite sense of the richness and transience of life.
'I'm temperamentally optimistic, but by intellectual conviction a pessimist,' Marshall says about his work. 'I think I have a pessimistic and slightly agnostic view of the end results of life, about many human relationships and whether people's expectations and ambitions are going to be realised in their life. On the other hand, by temperament I'm optimistic. I often have a sense of joy in life and am amused by all sorts of people and by all sorts of things. So sometimes the humour in my stories is slightly sardonic.'
'He draws on the human and natural geography of the South Island in the majority of his stories, involving settings and characters he has known since childhood.'
'Owen Marshall's world is a New Zealand long gone, vividly recognisable in its particulars but which may never have existed.'
Of his settings, Marshall himself says, '... they are often composites of places up and down the country, and Colenso, a small town which features regularly in the stories, is simply intended to be representative of 'small-town' New Zealand'.