Treasures from the basement
Rare finds from the underground: highlighting some of the gems stored in the Central City Library's basement.
The basement’s shelves hold thousands of time-honoured titles and quirky old volumes of enduring value to researchers, students, lovers of old books and all incurably curious readers.
The autobiography of my father by Martin Edmond
The autobiography of my father is New Zealand writer Martin Edmond's first book of prose. Published in 1992, it marked the emergence of a personal style that would come to define the author's now deservedly celebrated body of work. My interest in the book was piqued when I attended a 'creative non-fiction' workshop headed by Edmond at the 2012 Readers and Writers Festival. He candidly told the attendees he had found his own artistic voice when asked to speak at his father's funeral. Finding himself unable to write a speech, he just got up and spoke when the time came. He contends that the voice in which he found himself speaking is the voice in which he began to write successfully, after two decades frustrated and dissatisfied with his attempts to write lyric poetry.
Unsurprisingly, Edmond's first book of 'creative non-fiction' prose (a genre term Edmond himself is not fond of) was an artful reflection on his father's often troubled life. A vivid opening chapter begins with Edmond tramping with a friend through the Blue Mountains of New South Wales and ends with him lying awake in a tent thinking about his father. The rest of the book recalls - with the same modest and noble honesty I sensed from Edmond at the festival - childhood family memories, his parents' increasingly strained marriage, the ups and downs of his father's career as a teacher and much more. A significant portion of the book is given over to transcribing a recorded interview Edmond conducted with his father towards the end of his life. It's the kind of bold inclusion that risks accusations of self-indulgence and perhaps has no right to work as well as it does. It is surely testament to Edmond's style, which gracefully succeeds in being so deeply personal without ever becoming self-important, that the inclusion of the interview only served to make the book an even more more moving testament to one man's life as refracted through the newly born narrative voice of his son.
-- Simon, Readers Services, Central City Library