Leicester Kyle. Letters to a Psychiatrist. Afterword by Jack Ross. ISBN 978-0-473-41327-9. Paper Table Novellas, 1. Auckland: Paper Table, 2017. iv + 87 pp.
What might happen if you decided to leave civilization behind and live rough on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island? Leicester Kyle’s intimate knowledge of the ecology of the region provides a solid underpinning to this compelling tale of a mid-life crisis that turns into a visionary quest.
The Rev. Leicester Kyle (1937-2006) trained as a botanist before entering the Anglican Church in his twenties. He took early retirement in 1995 to devote himself to full-time writing. In pursuit of this, he moved to Millerton on the West Coast in the late 1990s. He is perhaps best known for his experiments in eco-poetics, but his prose work shows many of the same themes and concerns.
The twin websites set up by Leicester’s literary executors, David Howard and myself, have been designed to hold all of his extant work in electronic form, along with secondary and critical material.
Jack Ross: Leicester in the Bush
6 Hastings Rd
Reviews & Comments:
- Stu Bagby, Launch speech for Leicester Kyle's Letters to a Psychiatrist (December 3, 2017):
The book's blurb asks: “What might happen if you decided to leave civilization behind and live rough on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island? ...”
Or, perhaps we could say: It's a tale wherein the seventeenth century divine Norris of Bemerton, partly disguised as an unarmed Barry Crump/Robinson Crusoe, lets an omelette stand between him and sacrilege. (See Page 59).
... I wrote a small series of poems called “Letters to Leicester” one of which finishes by asking him: “perhaps you also saw The Secrets of the Great Illusionists Explained?” I was referring to a television programme, but over the years I've come to think I was onto something, that is, there was something of the shaman about him. Having said that, perhaps it is true of many priests.
Reading Letters to a Psychiatrist sometimes reminded me of Graham Greene's whiskey priest, though I picture Leicester being more at ease with the sherry and fruit cake he once offered at a book launch
... Readers can be reassured that the writing employed in Letters to a Psychiatrist is not stilted or hard going. It is a beguiling read, written with skill and sureness. If today's publication could be described as a canoe with two outriggers, I have great pleasure in claiming that this third of the vessel has been launched.