Monday, 22 September 2014

3 brief questions: Ian Wedde

Ian Wedde's memoir, The Grass Catcher: A Digression About Home, is one of our new titles this month. For the past year Ian has been in Germany on the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer's Residency, but will return to home in Auckland at the end of September. He answered these short questions about his latest publication.

What prompted you to write memoir?
I never wanted to write ‘memoir’ and still am uneasy about the term. I wanted to write about home, what we mean by that, and how memory works around the conditions that we call ‘home'. Inevitably if you write about ‘home’ you’ll be remembering personal experiences, so what you write will be ‘memoir’ by default. But what I’ve written is very sketchy in terms of conventional memoir - I had no intention of going into the details of my personal or professional life, or of following any kind of comprehensive chronology.

What was the process of remembering like for you?
Remembering was fascinating. I used a kind of seance approach, in which specific objects or events ‘spoke to me’. The results tend not to follow a linear narrative chronology because the memory triggers were unpredictable and sometimes unreliable. I just went where they took me. My brother Dave has a great memory for detail, so our conversations were a lot of fun, with his exactness complementing but sometimes correcting my excursions.

Were there events that you skipped over for fear of giving too much of yourself away?
At one level the writing was very revealing for me in that I rediscovered experiences that I hadn’t thought about or even been aware of for a very long time. But I had (and have) no intention of writing an intimate account of my life – its relationships, work, contextual histories etc – so only ‘gave away’ as much of myself as I was prompted to by the method I’d adopted: following the grass catcher, if you like. I didn’t exclude anything that process revealed to me.

The writing which is to say the thinking – in this book keeps criss-crossing and doubling back: digressing. That’s how I think memory works. It’s not orderly in a conventional sense. But the kind of ordering memory does seems very rich to me, and it works across a rich territory in which factual, sensory, synaesthetic, fetishistic, dreamlike and documentary kinds of knowledge and experience get mashed up. I was at home in this kind of place.

The Grass Catcher, hardback, $40, available now.

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