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CUP book

The Father of Octopus Wrestling, and other small fictions

20 November 2023

By Frankie McMillan


August 2019
146pp, softback
230 x 165mm
ISBN: 978-1-98-850312-7

Darkly comic, surreal and full of perceptiveness about human vulnerability and eccentricity, Frankie McMillan’s small fictions often duck and dive away from the reader’s expectations.

With a poet’s sense of how single words or phrases ripple out with alternate meanings, and a dramatist’s feeling for how apparently small gestures reveal character, and how sudden, cataclysmic change can wrench us out of comfort, routine and unthinking assumptions, the author leaves us ransacking the language for finer genre definitions.

The Father of Octopus Wrestling Cover

This collection teems with both the animal world and a vivid circus of quirky human individuals. The pieces globe-trot all over the planet: from Russia to America to New Zealand; and yet often their piquant wisdom comes from how they bear down into ‘micro-geography’ of intimate relationships: the troughs, peaks, cliff-sides, the warm, still pools of recognition.

Frankie McMillan is like a quietly outrageous Zen master, showing us human folly and idiocy, steering us carefully over the dark river of vulnerability that swells under it all.

‘Every story is like a sky rocket we haven’t seen before – flaring and sparkling in unexpected ways.’ Lloyd Jones

Frankie McMillan’s last collection, My Mother and the Hungarians, and other small fictions (CUP, 2016) was longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She co-edited with Michelle Elvy and James Norcliffe, Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand (CUP, 2018). McMillan’s poetry collections include There are no horses in heaven (CUP, 2014). Her poems have been selected for Best New Zealand Poems 2012 and 2015. She currently teaches at the Hagley Writers’ Institute.

The Father of Octopus Wrestling is an artisan production, designed and printed by Ilam Press, Ilam School of Fine Arts, and is published with the support of Creative New Zealand.

Listen to Frankie reading one of her stories from The Father of Octopus Wrestling, 'The honking of ducks', on NZ Poetry Shelf.

Read Paula Green's review of The Father of Octopus Wrestling on NZ Poetry Shelf.

Read Tracy Farr's speech Launching The Father of Octopus Wrestling (PDF 0.6MB) from the book launch at Scorpio Books, 31 August 2019.

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