No depression in New Zealand
I was reminded of this particular repressive trait this week, when Bill English took a phone call from Donald Trump and reported that he did not upset Trump at all, and they chatted amiably for 15 minutes. English did mention that he had some concerns over the U.S. immigration policies, but climate change never came up. He seemed so proud of his restraint, but was this something to be proud of? I am always alarmed at how ferocious New Zealanders are inside their cars, how if you cut in front of them they will scream and swear and contort, completely out of proportion to the misdemenour. They are encased in metal and glass, a smooth glinting exterior – you can’t hear a word of what they’re saying – but inside they’re going mental, flecking their windscreen with spittle.
I fact-checked this comic after I drew it, and although this is my memory of events, my mother tells it differently. Her mother did finally admit that Nana had hung herself, 7 years after the event. My mother knew at 9 – “little pigs have big ears” – but her parents denied it. What she learnt from her aunt almost 30 years later was the reality of living with bipolar disorder. Nana would be depressed, or elated, spending way too much money on goods that my grandmother would have to secretly return. Nana drank too much, Grandad kept a fancy woman in Whanganui. Nana left him and had to work as a housekeeper. They were Catholic – this was a big deal. My grandmother kept this all a secret from her children. Such things were the family shame, not to be talked about.
Right now I’m reading Michael Chabon’s hybrid novel/memoir, Moonglow. It took me a while to get into, but I’m fascinated by how memoir bleeds into novel writing, and how so much of a life can be invented and embellished. I’m also fascinated by how a particular understanding of a person turns out to be a lie, and how that realisation almost unhinges the project, but ultimately Chabon decides to continue. I am always excited when my mother tells me stuff about my family that seems like a novel, but then somehow I never quite remember it right, and the novelistic details of lives compound, crystallising themselves into something entirely new.
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