Dear James George
I had to leave your reading tonight before you had finished answering questions and before the wine was served. If I could have stayed I would have told you both my daughter and I were spellbound by your story. You began with a paragraph from a story by Katherine Mansfield and opened it up into a complex and heartbreaking story of a trucker and his stepson, and the way love and morality are tested and sometimes come up wanting.
The voice of the trucker was so true and delivered with such skill we were fully transported for the 25 minutes you read. And how marvellous it was to be read to for that long - to feel a story build layer upon layer until it became something solid in the room, and then started to push at the walls and belly the windows. At one stage, the door slammed shut on its own.
When you stopped there was silence as the roomful of people tried to adjust. It was a sudden ending, but we'd been abandoned, too, the story gone along with Sonny and Rico and Ceal and Claire. It will remain with me for a long time especially the image of the woman running after the orange and the way that poignant image recurred later in Sonny's guilty imagination; then there was the detail of Sonny's truckdriving, and most of all Sonny's relationship with Rico, and the darker more complex one he had with Ceal.
Thom Conroy who was the frank and cheerful chair for the Massey University event talked of the way all your novels have a strong theme of 'reaching out' - emotionally, physically - and how this gives them depth and humanity. (The story you read was the same.) You replied to Thom - and I'm paraphrasing here - that in reaching out people can experience redemption or damnation and what interests you as a writer is when the act of reaching out means people lose a little of themselves.
Thom was surprised by the story, he said it was very 'intense' and different from your three novels (Wooden Horses, Hummingbird, and Ocean Roads). I confess, ashamedly, that I haven't read any of them to be able to compare - but my 20-year-old son owns and loves Hummingbird so I'll borrow it off him tomorrow.
Meanwhile, what was the name of the story you read? And where can I find a copy of it to show him? [Stop Press: At the Edge of the Road by James George is in the new Vintage anthology Second Violin - New stories inspired by Katherine Mansfield to be released 3 October.]
As we drove away down Taranaki Street from Massey's Wellington campus my daughter, Issy (12), said 'I didn't think it was going to be all that good tonight, but it was really good. James George could be an actor the way he told that story, and Thom was cute.' And we talked about Rico, then, like he was a boy we knew.
James George is reading at Palmerston North's fabulous City Library at 7pm tomorrow night (September 26) with drinks starting at 6pm. The event is free. For more information on him go here. His fourth novel Theme from an Imaginary Western is due out later this year with Huia.
And congratulations to Harvey Molloy for his poetry collection Moonshot launched last night. I missed another good reading there I am told.