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Sport 8: Autumn 1992


That night he crashed asleep while the others were still drinking and talking, then woke in the early hours of the morning. He was in the back room of his sister's house, with wide windows looking out on the garden that was overhung with pungas and cabbage trees. The silence was so complete he strained for something that would prove he hadn't lost his hearing. A floorboard creaked—that was all. These wooden houses shifted with the changes in temperature.

A light shower began to fall, whispering on the iron roof. In childhood rain on the roof had always brought sleep, but now he lay listening, soothed but wide awake, his body still on London time.

He turned on the bedside lamp and looked in his bag for Angela McIlroy's novel, and beside it his tape recorder. He put the machine close to his ear, switched it on, and put out the light.

'The framework of your novel's the chase, but in alternating chapters you go back into the lives of the two men—family history, childhood, schooling ... Did you feel you could do that equally-I mean with confidence . . .'

'I don't think I felt confident about any of it. I just jumped in and hoped I wouldn't sink.'

'Well, clearly you didn't sink. It's rather unusual, from a woman novelist. Not about ... Not the usual sub . . .'

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'They have mothers and sisters.'

'Yes, but the central characters . . .'

'You don't find them convincing?'

'Oh yes, I think so. Sure. As for the, ah—the Maori background ... Well, I guess—who knows? I think only a Maori could say.'

'I'm not sure ... I don't think I agree with that. I mean anyone, Maori or Pakeha, could say they felt it was right. Or they felt it was wrong. If you're talking about feeling, that is. Of course if facts are wrong, that's different. But no one. . .'

'No, I'm not suggesting that.'

There was a break. In the background could be heard the clatter of plates, the murmur of other conversations, a burst of loud laughter.

'Look, I don't know how to put this—I'm just feeling my way towards something. It's certainly not a criticism of your novel which I think is well written and well shaped. But the way it's done touches on something. . .'


'Delicate—yes. But I think I mean ... big. I'm not making myself clear, am I.'

'Keep going.'

'It's there in the title—a short history of New Zealand. That's quite a claim. Quite an indictment.'

'Oh an indictment. Is that what it is?' There was the sound of her laughter. 'I think I plead the fifth.'