Waitangi Day, the 6th of February, is New Zealand’s national day, commemorated by official ceremonies at Te Tii Marae and elsewhere.
In Wellington, it was the second and final day of the Wellington Sevens, an event which (apart from being a seven-a-side rugby tournament) doubles as Wellington’s version of Mardi Gras; and also the day of the One Love music festival.
While all these good things were going on, a short story anthology with a new story by me was published. Called Lost in Translation: New Zealand Stories, it’s edited by Victoria University academic and translator Marco Sonzogni.
Lying at the core of our interactions, words are both salves and weapons, they can be simple and fork-tongued. How we read, how we misinterpret each other, can reveal the nature of our society – its diversity, complexity and richness. These stories riff on this ambiguity of understanding: there are vivid scenes from our colonial past right up to the current day; a previous prime minister tries to dodge a photographer; a writer reworks a film premise over and over again; taggers express themselves in their own language; couples lock horns while strangers are brought together. There is humour, there is poignancy, there is terrific writing. This is a collection that will provoke, stimulate and delight.
My story in the collection, “Thank You Very Much” – and yes, for New Zealand readers who may recognise the phrase, it does include a scene set at Telethon – is about a fictitious Dunedin 1980s rock band, from back in the days when Dunedin seemed (at least to a Dunedinite) to be the centre of the musical universe, and Flying Nun ruled. I’ve always been fascinated by announcements that a band has broken up due to “musical and personal differences”, and this story explores what those musical and personal – and lyrical – differences might be.
James Dignan kindly helped to supplement my memories of that time with actual facts about who played what where when, although I should stress that the characters and situations in the story are entirely the product of my fevered mind.
I don’t yet know how well my story fits with the other stories in the book, but I’m pleased to be included in a lineup of authors that also includes Michelle Arathimos, Ben Brown, Ellie Catton, David Eggleton, Travis Gasper, Stevan Eldred-Grigg, Briar Grace-Smith, Charlotte Grimshaw, Peter Hawes, Fiona Kidman, Tze Ming Mok, Kelly Ana Morey, Paula Morris, Sue Orr, Vincent O’Sullivan, Alice Tawhai, Apirana Taylor, and Albert Wendt. I’m looking forward to reading the anthology.