New Zealand Listener

Everything explained

Blam Blam Blam lyricist Richard von Sturmer’s family memoir unfolds like brief flares of memory.


‘ Ayear after his death, I’m walking with my father across an expanse of sagebrush and into a small canyon on the Zuni reservatio­n in New Mexico.” In this finely tuned account of his father, grandfathe­r and, through a coda of prose and poetry, himself, Richard von Sturmer, writer, performer, film-maker and lyricist – his is the name behind Blam Blam Blam’s There is No Depression in New Zealand – configures a startlingl­y poignant and lyrical collage of family history.

A Sebald-like hybrid of family memoir and travelogue – he takes us to a Zen centre in New York, a barren rock hole in the Kimberleys, a jammed gondola in Queenstown, the Devonport Orphans’ Club – This Explains Everything is a portfolio of family snapshots, short flares of memory.

With observatio­ns exact, unemotive and brief – most chapters are one or two pages long – the book is neverthele­ss expansive, encompassi­ng family life, death, childhood, whisky, writing, Zen Buddhism and the small surprises of the natural landscape.

The result is a tender tribute to family members no longer living, pieced together from dreams, old movie reels, remembered conversati­ons and isolated facts, including his father’s (and his own) achondropl­asia, his grandfathe­r’s failed prospectin­g bid, his uncle’s red Olivetti typewriter, the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillie­s and the goldfish the family would never buy because “it would soon die from overfeedin­g due to my father’s unrestrain­ed generosity”. An endearing explanatio­n of ... what exactly I don’t know.

With observatio­ns exact, unemotive and brief, the book is neverthele­ss expansive.

 ??  ?? Richard von Sturmer: poignant snapshots.
Richard von Sturmer: poignant snapshots.
 ??  ?? THIS EXPLAINS EVERYTHING, by Richard von Sturmer (Atuanui Press, $30)
THIS EXPLAINS EVERYTHING, by Richard von Sturmer (Atuanui Press, $30)

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