People and Place: The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in History and Literature.
In his poem “Zoetropes,” Bill Manhire, writing from London in 1981, notes the exhilaration with which an expat Kiwi keenly notices the letter ‘Z’ in any text, instinctively scanning down the page, hoping to find the word New Zealand, that jolt-to-the-heart moment in which one is reminded of home. There is a local variant even within Aotearoa-New Zealand experienced by West Coasters who no longer live there, ever on the lookout for mention of Westland or for meeting other people with a connection to it. In media, however, the Coast only very occasionally makes an appearance outside of the weather report. 2020 was quite an exception, with the much-anticipated mini-series dramatisation of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, as well as A Madness of Sunshine, a thriller novel by bestseller romance writer, Nalini Singh, and an academic history by Greymouth expat Len Richardson, People and Place: The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in History and Literature. And so, like Manhire in London, I scan the screen and pages on the lookout for recognisable signals from home, of characters and place that capture West Coast experience.
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