Thursday, October 28, 2010

The bliss of Kathleen's Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield, The Storyteller by Kathleen Jones (Penguin NZ) is a triumph - I am still reading it and I am well and truly wound tight in its web. For a start the writing is so immediate, and then there are all those 'mysteries' resolved. I just had to share some of it ...

Here's an Extract at the very beginning

What, think you, causes me truest joy
Down by the sea – the wild mad storm of waves
The fierce rushing swirl of waters together
The cruel salt spray that blows, that beats upon my face . . .
The song of the wind as I stretch out my arms and embrace it
This indeed gives me joy.
 The first thing you notice in Wellington is the wind. A full southerly buster was blowing as I drove in around the bays of the harbour, hurling the waves onto the rocks. At the hotel on Tinakori Road, shutters slapped and banged in a crazy percussion, just as Katherine described in one of her earliest stories, 'The Wind Blows'. I recognised the way it blew the stinging dust 'in waves, in clouds, in big round whirls', heard the 'loud roaring sound' from the tree ferns and the pohutukawa trees in the botanic garden, the clanking of the overhead cables for the trolley buses. Clinging to the car door to steady myself, the street map levitating from my grasp, I experienced the exactness of Katherine's images – 'a newspaper wagged in the air like a lost kite' before spiking itself onto a pine tree; sentences blew away 'like little narrow ribbons'.
Tinakori Road, where Katherine was born and where her father occupied progressively larger houses as his status rose, runs along a steep hillside with spectacular views of the city. Above it, a tree- clad slope climbs upwards towards the ridge and below it, houses stagger downhill towards the brief fringe of level ground that edges the circular bay, enclosed by hills.


Rachel Fenton said...

Mansfiled wrote one of my absolute favourite stories and I am definitely going to read this book.

Thanks for the excerpt and review.

Anonymous said...

A small note: the Tinakori Road house makes a cameo appearance in my story "Belvedere's Paw" (written years ago) which pays homage both to Wellington and to Ms. Mansfield. I suspect Kathleen -- and you as well, Mary -- would find the story interesting. So an audience of two, at least. has talked about publishing the story on its website. It is one of the best New Zealand stories I've ever read (and written). Look forward to reading Kathleen's book. -- Zireaux