Te Herenga Waka aka Victoria University Press

The Commercial Hotel

John Summers


Specs: 210 x 138mm

200 pp

ISBN: 9781776564217

When John Summers moved to a small town in the Wairarapa and began to look closely at the less-celebrated aspects of local life – our club rooms, freezing works, night trains, hotel pubs, landfills – he saw something deeper. It was a story about his own life, but mostly about a place and its people. The story was about life and death in New Zealand.

Combining reportage and memoir, The Commercial Hotel is a sharp-eyed, poignant yet often hilarious tour of Aotearoa: a place in which Arcoroc mugs and dog-eared political biographies are as much a part of the scenery as the hills we tramp through ill-equipped. We encounter Elvis impersonators, the eccentric French horn player and adventurer Bernard Shapiro, Norman Kirk balancing timber on his handlebars while cycling to his building site, and Summers’s grandmother: the only woman imprisoned in New Zealand for protesting World War Two. And we meet the ghosts who haunt our loneliest spaces.

As he follows each of his preoccupations, Summers reveals to us a place we have never quite seen before.

‘Clever, funny, boundlessly curious, The Commercial Hotel is a dazzling New Zealand opportunity shop, floor to ceiling with lost books and impossible treasures, railways and eels, ghosts and daydreams.’ —Toby Manhire

'Meticulously researched, gorgeously written and endlessly surprising, The Commercial Hotel is a compendium of sparkling oddities.' —Tom Doig, The Spinoff

'Nowhere is like anywhere else, and this collection shows us our own peculiarities from the inside, with a loving and observant eye.' —Tim Upperton, NZ Listener

'a pleasure to read' —Jim Sullivan, Otago Daily Times

Ships from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland
01 / 01
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Artist Statement

John Summers is the author of The Mermaid Boy, a collection of non-fiction stories published in 2015 by Hue & Cry Press. His work has appeared in many publications, including The SpinoffNorth and SouthLandfallNewsroom and Sport. He won the 2022 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Imaginative Prose, and was a finalist in the 2019 Voyager Media Awards and won the nonfiction category in the 2016 Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition. He lives in Wellington with his family.