Aranui Library has a great community vibe. On Wednesday I arrived there to find the doors open to the late afternoon sunshine and the sound of reggae floating out to the street. The library was full to capacity with students, Mums and babies, locals wandering in off the street and a smattering of people from the other side of town who’d come to join in.
An eight piece band called Imprint was performing in one corner. It was hard to believe they were Aranui High School students, I’d have picked them as professionals if one of them had not been in uniform. Someone whispered to me that they’d been jamming there all afternoon and that everyone was having a great time. The kids were doing a bit of dancing, the audience was moving to the music, clapping and calling out appreciation when something particularly impressed them. Imprint play a mix of soul, reggae, r+b, and the occasional re-worked hymn, all with Pasifika flavour, some in Pacific tongues.
The students were followed by Merchants of Flow, an impressive professional reggae band who had generously agreed to perform for library patrons at minimal cost. They play upbeat high energy classic New Zealand roots. Beautiful harmonies and love pour off the stage. Google them to see what I mean. They’re playing at The Bedford this evening (Fri 24 May).
By this time it was five o’clock, the sun was going down and people were starting to slip away to give their children their tea. I left with music ringing in my head, dancing a bit on the way back to the car. Nice.
Wayne Macauley was one of my festival discoveries at the 2013 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. I read Blueprints for a Barbed-Wire Canoe in preparation for attending his session (now that’s conscientious festival-going). It reminded me of Colm Tóibín and for me there can be no higher praise. They don’t share subject matter or style, but they both manage to be spellbinding without being showy.
Blueprints is Macauley’s first novel. In it the suburban dream of owning your own home goes very wrong very quickly. Macauley’s description of the physical decay of a model housing estate resonated very strongly with me, in my second year of living in the east of Christchurch.
It’s on Year 12 reading lists in Australia, which is great if you want the kids to read an exemplary prose stylist, but could be a fail if you want them to aspire to home ownership in the suburbs.
Year 12 is when Macauley’s own life changed; a ‘drop-dead gorgeous’ teacher got the class to read Joyce, Hamlet, Voss and The Waste Land. Now his work may be changing the lives of the kids who read him.
In his sessions at Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, it became evident that Macauley is a deep thinker, looking at things most of us take for granted and taking our ideas about them just a little bit further.
In Blueprints for a Barbed-Wire Canoe it’s the suburban dream. In The Cook it’s the service industry and the jobs that have replaced manufacturing. Is this good? In Caravan Story it’s the desirability of the arts in society. How many writers and artists do we need?
It’s a big ask for a reader to question things more deeply than they would in an ordinary narrative. But in the hands of a writer as skilled as Macauley it’s a very rewarding undertaking. The man has written an entire book without using one comma.