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July 16, 2007 | by  | in Books | [ssba]

Waimarino Country & Other Excursions

When I saw the cover of Waimarino County & Other Excursions, I had that sinking feeling, no doubt familiar to everyone who has ever had to read a book about high country sheep farming or rural New Zealand in the 1930s. Fortunately, I managed to stay awake long enough to get through the first page, and with the opening sentence: “A wagon load of shattered glass on a siding beneath a sky bright with rain”, I knew my initial hasty judgement had been wrong.

Martin Edmond is a New Zealand born writer and poet, having written film scripts, essays, and has won or been short-listed for numerous awards, including the award for biography at the Montana NZ Book awards.

His latest book consists of childhood reminiscences, essays, musings, poetry, and debate over a wide range of topics. At times pretentious, dense, wordy, beautiful, poetic, blunt, musical, self-deprecatory, nostalgic, and contradictory, Waimarino County makes for generally rewarding, if occasionally rather difficult, reading.

From the Proustian concept of memories that are created by the act of remembering to the idea of a history that may or may not be real, literary references are found throughout the book. Memory and recollection are recurring themes, and the contradictory nature of memory versus actual experience is implied by the way that metaphors are re-used over the course of the book: memory itself is a palimpsest, later a map, covered in annotations and corrections. Later still, the map is used as a metaphor for life.

While a lot may be read into these themes, and others that appear (Cityscape versus countryside, past versus present), many repetitions and cross-references occuring throughout the book are the result of Edmond’s own “obsessions or predilections”, leaving the reader free to draw their own conclusions as to their meaning.

While tending at times to the obscure, if not willfully confusing, Waimarino County is worth the effort required to understand its more difficult passages, and with the wide range of subjects and styles it encompasses should stand up well to repeat readings.

(Auckland University Press)


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