Monday, January 30, 2012

Martin Edmond reviews Road Markings

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.
To read Martin's full review link to his blog here.

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