Muse: OPEN HOUSE: Margaret Mahy, The Storyteller in The Meadow
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I remember one of my primary school teachers in the mid '70s reading one of her books to us, then saying she'd been through school herself with Mahy. Even then she was the one to read if you were a kid.
Thank you Craig, much appreciated.
MM's ongoing generosity. Kindness, idealism, and towering common sense.
Another really awesome thing about reading the tributes here and elsewhere? The reminder that reading is -- or should be -- a life-long conversation not a string of passively-received monologues.
When I was a teenager, we lived in Japan. Margaret Mahy came over to Japan on some arts council thingie or another - I'm not sure of the details. But she stayed at our house, which was pretty choice. As part of the trip, she did a visit to my school (one of the English-language schools in Tokyo) to do a series of readings. So in the morning I took her along on my train ride to school. On the train, we sat discussing Japanese culture from the perspective of outsiders. "Now," she said matter-of-factly, pointing to an ad for a men's magazine, "that magazine there is all in Japanese, except that it's got the word 'SEX' in English in big letters. Is that common?" Bit of a shock for a 13-year old boy.
I always liked reading "Bubble Trouble" aloud to my daughter when she was little.
I vaguely recall my mother getting ready for a literary dress up party, and her saying Owen Marshall should come as "the man whose mother was a pirate" (which just really shows the reach of the book).
I told this story on twitter so it bears telling again, I guess. I didn't know Margaret Mahy personally. I didn't know she wrote YA fiction. I only knew her childrens' books - had read them time after time to the kids I teach. So, about 9 years ago, the AKA asked if any of their teachers would volunteer at the Childrens' Book Fair which is held in Auckland every year, and I said I would. I turn up, and am assigned the task of being Mahy's minder for the day. I was a bit surprised but also thrilled. I was given a schedule and told in no uncertain terms to keep her to it. I thought it looked relatively easy, but I was very very wrong. It was in the Aotea Centre, and I was to escort her from readings to book signings. So far, so easy. I remember she wanted to go and see the high school kids doing a sort of quiz thing, so we did that. There was a couple of book signings, where she made it very clear that she wasn't leaving until every book had been signed. By this time it was lunchtime, so I asked if I couldn't get her something to eat. No, no. She was staying put till the job was done. On we go to the next book signing area, where there was a queue a mile long just for her. I started to get anxious because we were running over time, she hadn't had anything to eat, and there were things she had to do after lunch. I kept an eye on the time, and when I thought it was enough, said to the next father in line. "I'm sorry, that will have to be it." He wasn't having it, no-one else was having it, and Margaret _certainly_ wasn't having it. "This is the only place I have to be at this time" she said to me. I felt like the fun police, I can tell you. Eventually, I got her something to eat, and then she spend the afternoon doing readings and what have you. I have never forgotten that day. She must have thought, that day, that I was an awful stick in the mud. Why I just didn't relax and enjoy her company I will never know. A wasted opportunity in many ways, but in others so valuable.
My Gabriel and Ruby cried at the breakfast table this morning, while I warmed my tears over the toaster. It was tough explaining to a 4 year old boy ("She ...died?! Forever?!") that there won't be any more Margaret Mahy books written; there was some solace in the fact that there will be more Great Piratical Rumbustifications to go and see. And Ruby, god bless her, expressed desperation to become Ruby Mahy, and make Gabriel happy again. But till then, it's going to be hellishly tough at storytime for this 5-year-old Daddy.
Bart Janssen, in reply to
You see, she used to have the book turned to the kids so she couldn’t see the pages and yet she still knew all the words!!!
Hilary Stace, in reply to
I love this photo. What an appropriate tribute to MM.
Margaret impressed me so much...she wasnt just warm & kindly, she was acutely intelligent, had an extraordinary way with words & Story - and worked extremely hard.
Jackie's reminisence shows that: when she came to South Westland, my neighbour & self picked her up from Whataroa, which school she'd just visited. She had on a green wig with...wildlife...in it (I especially remember the spider!) She'd talked with & read to the kids, and we were taking her to Franz, where she'd entrance the
pupils there next morning. And then head south to Fox, and right through to Jacob's River...and then back to Governors Bay by public transport the day after that...
She was awesome.
Her work is awesome, and will last generations yet-
Last August I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Margaret Mahy for my radio show - the focus of the iv was on her book turned TV series 'Kaitangata Twitch' , she loved chatting and had a great humour. She also spoke about her process of writing, favourite illustrators and more...
You can listen to the (edited) interview here: http://soundcloud.com/charlotte-ryan-nz/margaret-mahy-interview-with
I too was saddened when I heard the news of her passing this morning. I loved her books while growing up - especially 'The Tricksters' and 'JAM: A True Story'.
When I was a house husband I - and my kids - loved "Jam".
Mrs. Castle is going to work as an atomic scientist, so Mr. Castle will stay home with the three little Castles. He is an exemplary househusband, cleaning, cooking, gardening and meeting the family at the door with a kiss at the end of the day. One day, this paragon runs out of work; while pondering what to do next, he notices ripe plums falling from the tree behind the house and decides to make jam. As the plums keep falling, he fills vases, glasses and even the teapot. Soon jam becomes a staple in the Castle diet; the surplus is used to stop roof leaks and glue down loose bathroom tiles. The family is growing noticeably rounder and is beginning to have nightmares about jam. At last it is gone. As the family celebrates with a game of cricket, they hear a soft thud on the roof. The plums are ripe again.
(Thanks Amazon for the pith)
And Mr Castle always read the paper so as to be well informed!
And the thriller bit: It is signed by MM when she stayed with my M in L. Wonderful!
I don't have much to contribute, I didn't know her personally. But I can't really believe Margaret Mahy can be dead. Her books helped shape my mind. How can she be dead when all her many books are pulsating with such vibrant and irrepressible life?
Islander, in reply to
How can she be dead when all her many books are pulsating with such vibrant and irrepressible life?
Lilith - the great comfort-
Islander, in reply to
Except, of course, nothing more to come (and yeah, I/U do know about the 2 forthcomings-)
I stumbled across "The Tricksters" at high school in the '80s, and fell in love with it. The protagonist was a nerdy 17 y.o girl, at Christmas time, in the summer, at the beach. It was one of the first books that really spoke to me with a NZ voice.
Similarly with "The Changeover", they attended a high school like mine, and talked about sitting school cert.
These two, plus "Catalogue of the Universe" are still my Mahy favourites. They characters seem so real, they have family issues, and yet have a supernatural twist. I starting reading them again last night, and I'm noticing the simple, yet brilliant, descriptive prose that sets the setting so vividly.
I suppose its about time to get my teenagers reading them.
It's odd, I can't remember any of Margaret Mahy's stories in particular, and I'm sure she did visit every primary school I attended, but my life has been so nomadic I'm just as sure her visits coincided with me having already moved somewhere else, but I do remember the sheer joy of reading her books. Her passing has left a pretty big hole in the world.
But I'm with Lilith. Good writers achieve a certain immortality in their works.
Craig and PAS, what a lovely (and well-crafted and storyish!) tribute!
I can't do justice to this thread, or to Marg- the words are not there- but feel very humbled to have known her over the last 30 years- first as a 'mother-out-law" (she enjoyed calling herself this) and then in-law (where she has quite ruined an entire genre of jokes simply by being her kind and generous self.)
I do remember the first time we met.
I woke up in her house, in her daughter's bed, to a clink as she set down cups of tea for us. It was an act of kindness and acceptance that I've tried- not always successfully!- to bring to my own daughters' boyfriends.
The last few days have been hard. But what has shone like the sun is peoples' kindness. Marg had a sort of intelligent kindness- not soft or sentimental, but very deep, and perceptive- and now I keep seeing that in other people, and it's very moving. Arohanui!
Tamsin6, in reply to
A few weeks ago, I read 'The man whose mother was a pirate' to my two girls - I kept finding myself moved nearly to tears, as Danielle describes above. I don't fancy my chances of reading it without a full-on weep now.
I remember her reading to us when I was at Intermediate - with the multicoloured wig of course. I have a distinct impression that it was full of birds too - but I can't now remember if there were actual birds, or if that was just something she told us, that was so vividly described that it seemed like it ought to be true.
Jackie Clark, in reply to
Many many condolences to you Rob, and to Margaret's family.
Rob Stowell, in reply to
Thanks Jackie :)
It's a little weird that was my '1000th' post at PAS. Was feeling a bit teary, but we are bearing up pretty well.
Deborah, in reply to
I didn't realise that you and Margaret Mahy were family, Rob. I'm (a) jealous and (b) so very sorry that she is no longer with you. She has been a national treasure, and also from what you say, very much treasured in your family.
Lilith __, in reply to
Rob, I'm so sorry for your loss. These must be hard days indeed for you and the rest of her family.
Russell Brown, in reply to
And to you and all the family, Rob. I'm pleased and proud that everyone here can play our part in remembering.
Bart Janssen, in reply to
My condolences to both you and your beloved Rob.
I am continually astonished at the wide reach of this community.
And I love the way that a group that can spend time arguing vociferously about, well anything, can so quickly become so serious and genuinely caring.
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