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Breton Dukes

by The Close Readers



I was supposed to be in a bar in Dunedin raising a glass at the launch of WHAT KIND OF MAN, the wonderful book of stories by my friend Breton Dukes. But instead I'm in a bedroom in Wellington with shingles. Last week I started writing my launch speech. I was trying hard not to add the word 'toxic' to the word 'masculinity'. I mean there are toxic men in these stories; it's just not an adequate description of Breton's feeling for these characters and the way he summons their worlds in astonishing language. Then I got stuck on some bad joke I wanted to make about the Hazard of Dukes. And the shingles were creeping up my leg. That's when I picked up my guitar. I wanted to express my gratitude and also that feeling of shock you get in the presence of . . . the real thing. (Not the shingles, the book.)

Oh and buy the book! Breton needs the money.



This new book is called What Sort of Man
There’s no question mark but the interrogative stands
There’s a bunch of questions posed about masculinity
And they aint going to be solved by an appeal to a divinity
Breton Dukes is the author of this tome
The mystery is why he’s not more famous in your home, your lockdown home

I commend this book to you in all our shared loneliness
Through all the shadows it comes right through
Though it is composed of those same shadows
Though it shows how hard to make the effort it is
And it doesn’t blink from all the mess we’re in
Still it calls us to make the effort again – and again

These stories offer no false comfort
But somehow they’re comforting all the same
Maybe because the writer’s put all his energy
Into things from which we normally turn away
You'll meet a lot of fathers trying to be good
Making mistakes and trying to be brave
Trying to figure out could from should
And if I throw out all these things, what can I save?

Not all the characters in these stories are young
One of them features two old codgers
They meet at the pool as they’ve always done
They need each other, hate each other, that’s what friendship has become
I won’t spoil the ending in a tribute song
Just to say It’s amazing to feel yourself in art
You don’t think it’s much, just words, then your heart

You know I’ve tried to write a few stories of my own
Maybe a couple of them even came out half right
I could never get the people to say what I thought they should say
But really that’s not how the best stories shine.
You sort of gotta get out of your own way.
The aforementioned Breton Dukes sits with a story for a long time
Because real stories grow in the dark
of our minds


released April 21, 2020
music & lyrics by Damien Wilkins



all rights reserved



The Close Readers Wellington, New Zealand

Formed in 2010, this band records the songs of New Zealand fiction writer Damien Wilkins.

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