An Absurd Ambition by Eric H. McCormick

By Eric H. McCormick

Eric McCormick was once, from approximately 1940 till his loss of life in 1995, considered one of New Zealand's such a lot unique writers and students. He pioneered the appreciation and learn of the painter Francis Hodgkins, and he wrote numerous biographies. The autobiographical fragments gathered right here were edited to make a coherent quantity, tracing his origins in Taihape, to varsity and collage in Wellington, to schoolteaching in Nelson, to Cambridge and during his wartime reviews and function as editor of Centennial guides. It comprises his clever observations of social behaviour, recorded with a dry wit.

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At other times we derived our decorative art more economically from the illustrated magazines. Here I hasten to correct a possible misapprehension. We had long ceased to paper our houses with the illustrated pages of the Auckland Weekly News, though traces of this pioneer custom were still to be found in the privies and occasionally in the kitchens of our rural neighbours. We had passed beyond that unsophisticated stage and now used the supplements issued with various journals, hanging them, suitably framed, on a background of floral or oatmeal wallpaper.

It was a very mixed collection, most of them my father’s, some originally brought from Christchurch. His books of verse — among them a complete Longfellow, a paper-covered copy of Barrack-Room Ballads, Arthur H. Adams’s Maoriland (another present from Auntie Emma) — meant little to me. A one-volume Shakespeare yielded even less, though I was fascinated by the name Cleopatra (which I mispronounced Clepatora) and recollect my pleasure in finding Lambs’ Tales (partly, no doubt, because of the title).

1989–94 At work on essays he called ‘autobiographical fragments’, latterly with the assistance of Dennis McEldowney. 1993 Sister, Myra, dies 24 June. Publication of Writing a New Country: A Collection of Essays Presented to E. H. McCormick in His 88th Year, ed. James Ross, Linda Gill and Stuart McRae. 1995 Dies 23 March, Auckland. ONE THE EMPORIUM I I never wanted to be an engine-driver or an explorer or an All Black. I had no desire to be a bootmaker like my father or a carpenter like most of my uncles or a farmer like some of my cousins.

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