An Absurd Ambition by Eric H. McCormick

By Eric H. McCormick

Eric McCormick was once, from approximately 1940 until eventually his dying in 1995, one in all New Zealand's such a lot distinct writers and students. He pioneered the appreciation and research of the painter Francis Hodgkins, and he wrote a number of biographies. The autobiographical fragments amassed the following were edited to make a coherent quantity, tracing his origins in Taihape, to college and college in Wellington, to schoolteaching in Nelson, to Cambridge and during his wartime studies and function as editor of Centennial guides. It comprises his sensible observations of social behaviour, recorded with a dry wit.

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The subjects of those early compositions elude me; they were, I suppose, the old staples — My Best Friend, Autumn, The Holidays, etc. Only one stands out distinctly — the Germans. It was set by a visiting inspector and when elaborating it I drew on a series of articles I had lately read in, I think, the London Magazine. The thesis was, briefly, that the Germans were nice people who had been led astray by the wicked Kaiser. I knew my essay was good and the inspector took it away with a few others.

During his early twenties he drafted the beginnings of several novels, all set in Taihape (called ‘Ruahine’) but apparently to be less autobiographical than stories of neighbours and more distant acquaintances. These beginnings were strongly influenced by writers he had moved on to: one can recognize Katherine Mansfield’s Taihape and D. H. Lawrence’s Taihape. But none proceeded very far. Eric did, however, complete many short stories, also mostly set in Taihape. There is no evidence that he sought publication for these, but they were at least as good as most of those published in, say, Phoenix or Tomorrow.

She used to claim proudly that her parents arrived at Lyttelton ‘five years after the First Four Ships’. Before that their history is a mixture of myth and legend. My maternal grandfather is said to have been a Scot, the descendant of an earl. But for all his exalted origins he made his living as a builder. His wife was probably, though not certainly, an Englishwoman and in some unexplained fashion they appear to have met and married in Cape Town. Finding the heat excessive, legend asserts, they moved on to Australia.

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