Every­thing ex­plained

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

New Zealand Listener - - BOOKS & CUL­TURE - By SALLY BLUN­DELL

‘ 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)

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