Maori myths under a spell

by Listener Archive / 04 September, 2010

In the Library of Possible Influences, where books that share elements are shelved together, Tina Makereti's confident collection of 13 short stories would slide in next to Tom Cho's Look Who's Morphing, and a couple of shelves above you'd find Ted Hughes's Tales from Ovid. Cho writes the interior life of a version of Baby from Dirty Dancing; Makereti gives Napier's Pania of the Reef statue, who "must have been felt up by half the country", wry wisdom. Where Hughes titivates Ovid, Makereti revivifies Maori myths.

Metamorphosis is one of the collection's binding themes and tricks - these stories read like Maui has cast humorous spells on tales you've heard all your life. An effect of measured exaggeration is a wit that winks at you between words and generates as much page-turning fuel as the plots themselves.

The stories divide into refurbished myths, smuggled-in social commentary and mash-ups of life and lore. And although well-known characters and plots appear, it would be foolish to place bets on what happens next. Clues that decode a small mystery in one story can be found in another - read together, the stories multiply in meaning.

Makereti's alloyed style of writing disturbs default settings of time and space - as in the Maori worldview, the future is behind us and the past in front, yes, but what is that thing on the periphery and where did it come from? Mortals and humans with god-like gifts talk to each other up and down generations, raising political questions about Aotearoa New Zealand now.

In The God-child, we read that the world is "inhabited by a pulse of life fractured into splendid multiplicity", which passes "through everything like a wave". It is from this wave's atoms that Makereti fashions her clever yet effortless stories of second sight.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AOTEAROA, by Tina ­Makereti (Huia, $30).

Latest

Bill Ralston: We care for Grace Millane – we should care for the others too
100435 2018-12-15 00:00:00Z Crime

Bill Ralston: We care for Grace Millane – we shoul…

by Bill Ralston

The death of young tourist Grace Millane touches us all and is a call to action.

Read more
There are some striking similarities between Trump and Bill Clinton
100425 2018-12-15 00:00:00Z World

There are some striking similarities between Trump…

by Paul Thomas

Donald Trump may be a stark contrast to past Republican presidents but he bears comparison to a Democrat who survived impeachment.

Read more
Handmade gifts to treasure by New Zealand's talented craftspeople
100475 2018-12-15 00:00:00Z Style

Handmade gifts to treasure by New Zealand's talent…

by Kate Richards

These six makers share their love for the handmade.

Read more
Wellington's Lime e-scooter launch a sign of NZ's transport evolution
100488 2018-12-14 15:12:37Z Tech

Wellington's Lime e-scooter launch a sign of NZ's …

by Peter Griffin

Despite an initial flurry of ACC injury claims, transport sharing schemes look set to become part of the fabric of urban transport.

Read more
Win an Oscar Wilde prize pack, including books and double passes
100464 2018-12-14 10:08:08Z Win

Win an Oscar Wilde prize pack, including books and…

by The Listener

Enter and be in to win The Selfish Giant, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Happy Prince and Other Stories, and a double pass to The Happy Prince.

Read more
Trends in 2018: What Kiwis searched for this year
100457 2018-12-14 09:38:50Z Life in NZ

Trends in 2018: What Kiwis searched for this year

by RNZ

Here's what piqued our interest this year.

Read more
The curious connection between these new celebrity biographies
100448 2018-12-14 09:13:59Z Books

The curious connection between these new celebrity…

by Russell Baillie

Our reviewer wades into a flood of celebrity biographies and memoirs and finds they’re all connected in some way.

Read more
Hop to it: The best Kiwi beers for summer
99461 2018-12-14 00:00:00Z Dining

Hop to it: The best Kiwi beers for summer

by Michael Donaldson

Here's what to crack open on a hot day, from our very own Kiwi brewers.

Read more