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Edited by Chris Brickell, Vanessa Manhire and Nonnita Rees

The bookRobert Lord Diaries website

'Sometimes I wonder why I have been forced to spend my creative life grappling with words & the logic & rationality they demand … I wish I could find a way of reaching directly into another's heart. Words are my only tool. Sometimes I think perhaps I have not worked hard enough. I am still alive. There is time.' – Robert Lord, diary entry, 31 October 1981

Robert Lord (1945–1992) is an important figure in the history of literature and theatre in Aotearoa New Zealand. He wrote incisive and often satiric radio and stage plays, experimenting with traditional theatre forms and incorporating queer characters at a time when almost nobody else did. His enduring work includes such audience favourites as Well Hung, Bert and Maisy and Joyful and Triumphant. In 1973, he co-founded Playmarket, New Zealand's playwrights' agency and publisher.

Lord also wrote eight lively, candid and absorbing diaries, now published for the first time in Robert Lord Diaries. From 1974, when he first moved to New York, until his death in Dunedin in 1992, Lord recorded the highs and lows of his writing practice, the theatre world and his social life. His diary entries reveal the dramatic contrast between life as a gay man in 1970s and 80s New York – a world of sex, drugs and socialising – and provincial New Zealand, with its respectable living rooms, fields of carrots and the occasional homoerotic demonstration of sheep shearing. Lord had a complex relationship with his homeland and was never quite sure where he belonged. Witty and incisive, his diary entries tell of torn loyalties and reveal the intense creative momentum Lord forged from his dislocated, outsider status.

'Lord's character comes across vividly in entries that are in turns witty, wry, maudlin and insightful.' – Alison Walls, Artistic Director, The Court Theatre

'Robert was one of my favourite people and a wonderful man.' – Sir Sam Neill

'Lord's compelling and intimate diaries chart the unpredictability of a playwriting career, revealing the exhilaration of recognition and the crushing disappointment of rewrites and rejections. The diaries provide an honest, funny and astute record of Lord's life in 1980s New York City and his eventual apprehensive return to Aotearoa. Finally, and heartbreakingly, they reveal a man alone coming to terms with his mortality while simultaneously attaining acknowledgment in his homeland as a theatre, film and television writer.' – Associate Professor Hilary Halba, School of Performing Arts, University of Otago


Chris Brickell is Professor in the Sociology, Gender Studies and Criminology Programme at Otago University. He has written extensively on the history of gay men in New Zealand. His books include Mates and Lovers: A History of Gay New Zealand, Queer Objects (co-edited with Judith Collard) and James Courage Diaries (a Times Literary Supplement 2022 Book of the Year). Vanessa Manhire is a researcher and editor and a trustee of the Robert Lord Writers Cottage Trust, which administers a residency programme at Robert's Dunedin cottage. She has a PhD in English from Rutgers University. Nonnita Rees co-founded Playmarket, and worked at Downstage and Playmarket in the 1970s and 80s. She is a cultural policy analyst and Chair of the Robert Lord Writers Cottage Trust.

Publication details

210 x 148mm, 356pp approx
ISBN 9781990048586, $45
In-store: OCTOBER 2023

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