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.
THIS EXPLAINS EVERYTHING, by Richard von Sturmer (Atuanui Press, $30)