Dick Seddon’s Great Dive and Other Stories
Written by: Ian Wedde
Te Herenga Waka University Press
Reviewed by: Margaret Austin
The stories that compose this volume were written 50 years ago. Does writer Ian Wedde tell us this by way of apology or explanation? That maybe depends on what the reader makes of the characters and situations he depicts.
The ones in his lengthy, eponymously titled first story may be difficult to sympathise with, and their hazy, drug-induced states are reflected by the writer’s style.
And that may be why I infinitely preferred the nine far shorter tales that follow. They present everyday situations requiring immediacy of action; sentences are shorter and therefore have greater impact; consequences are easier to grasp.
In Clover features an endangered baby in a porch swing. The reactions of husband and wife, and the contrast between those reactions – he sternly practical but infuriatingly inattentive; she dreamy and philosophical – provide the interest, and a concluding wry observation on marriage will evoke sighs of recognition. “I love you,” she said, “God knows why, you’re such an idiot.”
Paradise – though I’m unsure why so titled given its content – gives us an old-fashioned postman dealing with rough weather, blurred envelope addresses, and troublesome corgis. There’s an intriguing reference to Oates of the Antarctic: “Gone out, and been some time, but not been missed.” A comment on the soon-to-disappear job of the postman?
Then our man needs a leak. He’s in his favourite spot for one when he is rudely interrupted. “The last lady hadn’t been Chinese, and she hadn’t come to the gate” captures the tone of this tale, and that, plus the postman’s imagined future as a poet, are enough to draw our sympathetic laughter.
The Gringos takes the cake for nostalgic indulgence. The Gringos are a rock and roll band of the 1950s – albeit fictional. Their outfits are preserved in tissue and polythene. But hey – Chuck Berry is coming to town! The Gringos are dazedly ecstatic. Their witnessing of old-style rock and roll is both moving and funny. Of course, you had to be there.
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