Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Review and overview

                                            A pen, not a rolling pin.

The NZ LIstener's review of Road Markings has appeared (March 3-9 2012) and it's a good one. Nicholas Reid has written  . . . actually, it's not a review that lends itself to excerpting, but he calls it  'another drilling into the abscess of New Zealand Pakeha identity.' (In fact the book ponders human identity so I hope that the rest of the reading world won't be put off by this parochial, dental imagery.)

' … a book of much mature wisdom … '

' … often provocative and always a little unsettling in what it says about New Zealanders. As it should be.'

I'm hoping the full review will appear online in a week or so, otherwise, I'll transcribe it for you.

Talking of abscesses, the dog is brewing one beneath her dew claw; we're off to the vet.

Then I'm going offline for a few days and heading for the hills: time to ponder, among other things, Rosa Mira Books — the resources available; projects in the pipeline; possible new directions, and how to go on operating on a teeny tiny budget. (I'm open to suggestions, as well. At least, I think I am.)

Monday, 20 February 2012

Isgar and Dasychord

I strode up to the shop today, thinking that the NZ Listener had posted a review of Road Markings . . . Well, it's a big step, that they're planning to review a digital-first book at all. Good on them. However, I had my wires crossed and no review appeared this week. I'll be on tenterhooks on Mondays until it does. Meanwhile, readers have loved the ebook (one wrote yesterday, 'I felt quite bereft when I finished it') and you can read (and hear) more about it, and Michael, in the blog posts preceding this.

And what's become of the Rat? Fatherhood has been a potent distraction, especially since Lily has taken one of the ratadillo twins back to the pampas to show him off to the wider fairy armadillo family, leaving Ratty with the other.

Remember, I asked for names? Congratulations and thanks go to Jayne and Pam who each offered two possibilities, from which Lily has plucked the component parts to make . . .  well, you've read the names in the title. Isgar is in Argentina. Dasychord is alarmingly quick on the uptake and at six weeks of age is thrashing her father at chess. With that strategic little mind sharpening by the day, I hope she might be persuaded to join the Sales Department.

Monday, 13 February 2012

A riveting interview; mellifluous listening

In the weekend, Lynn Freeman of Radio New Zealand's Arts on Sunday interviewed Michael Jackson about Road Markings: An Anthropologist in the Antipodes. He talks about the awareness he gained on his road trip through the country of what it means to be a New Zealander by birth, by formative first experiences, by a sense of belonging and exhilaration in the landscape, but not entirely by inclination.

Listen here.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

An anthropologist in Taranaki

Today an article appeared in the Taranaki Daily News, which I'm told has piqued the interest of many readers. Journalist Hannah Fleming was interviewing author Michael Jackson:

A man who won a Taranaki Herald essay competition in 1952 has recently returned to the region to research his latest book. Anthropologist Michael Jackson, 71, spent his youth in Inglewood and at age 12 won the accolade for his essay, "A Day in the Life of a Taranaki Schoolboy in 1875". His new book Road Markings: An Anthropologist in the Antipodes, released last month, saw him pass through Taranaki while he travelled New Zealand, researching the idea of origins and the value of staying in touch with your roots. 

Dr Jackson said he was surprised at how Taranaki landscapes and industries had changed, in particular the way Inglewood had become a dormitory suburb of New Plymouth. "What used to be a half-hour journey by bus on winding roads, is now a 10-minute car ride," he said. "When I was a child, Taranaki towns like Inglewood were dominated by the dairy industry. Not only has dairying become industrialised, but natural gas, oil and petrochemicals have transformed the landscape." 
 Now a professor of world religions at Harvard Divinity School in the United States, Dr Jackson said his book touched on how personal stories interwove with social and historical events. Those stories explored the search of adopted children for their birth parents, calls from Maori for recognition and social justice, and our preoccupation with geographical and genetic backgrounds. 

Dr Jackson said his journey through New Zealand outlined the improvement of Maori-Pakeha relations and how Kiwis had become more worldly. "New Zealanders are less bothered by their geographical remoteness from Europe, Asia and the USA, compared with 50 years ago," he said. 

Dr Jackson has worked in welfare and community development in London among the homeless, and in the Congo with the United Nations. He returned to New Zealand to resume his studies in anthropology and gained a Taranaki scholarship for doctoral studies at Cambridge University. He then did fieldwork in Sierra Leone, and in Aboriginal Australia when Sierra Leone was plunged into civil war. 

In New Zealand, Dr Jackson is best known as a poet. He won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1976, and the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 1981.
Dr Jackson said Road Markings would appeal to any New Zealander who had lived overseas and faced the dilemma of keeping the home fires burning."For those less travelled, it may offer a perspective on the country from outside, but without the distortions you often find in books written by foreign visitors.

This article uses excerpts from a fascinating Q and A between Hannah and Michael that you can read in full  here.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

It's a Yes for Road Markings

" … this book is certainly the place to begin a re-consideration of one of our most astute, humane, idiosyncratic, neglected and perdurable writers."
 So writes Martin Edmond, author of the  recently published Dark Night: Walking with McCahon. This week, on his website Isinglass, he reviewed Road Markings: An Anthropologist in the Antipodes:

"A nation exacts a penance from those who dared to leave her wrote James Joyce, explaining why his only play was called Exiles; the line is much quoted but most people who do so leave off the next bit: payable on their return. Michael Jackson left his native New Zealand while still a young man, in the first instance for Melbourne, where he worked among the homeless and had his first encounters with Aboriginality. Later he did similar work in London and the Congo and later still went to Sierra Leone, beginning there the fieldwork that has distinguished his vocation as an anthropologist. He has been far more diligent in his repayments than JJ ever was, returning again and again and, each time, illuminating forgotten corners of what he calls the diffuse and dimly lit world of New Zealand’s collective imagination.

"In Road Markings, published as a ebook by Rosa Mira Books of Dunedin and subtitled An Anthropologist in the Antipodes, Jackson sets out on a road trip through his natal land that is also an inquiry into the idea of firstness: the place of origin in our consciousness, the meaning of beginnings, the aura of the primary as a way of authenticating both personal experience and historical truth. This might sound daunting as a theme but his exploration of it is not: this is autobiographical writing of the highest order, in which the personal is resolutely explored but never just for its own sake: Jackson’s own history, that of his family and friends, his colleagues, his mentors, his literary heroes, are woven together to make, not so much a tapestry as a finely calibrated, gorgeously textured, many-coloured mahi harakeke." Read the rest here.