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The Wind City, Summer Wigmore

September 6, 2015

Summer Wigmore’s The Wind City merits a mention! It’s an easy read and a well-told story. It kind of exemplifies ‘speculative fiction’ for me; from the revivification of New Zealand mythology, to its concern with the what-ifs of urban life, to its self-referential approach to the genre and its language. I particularly liked the way she took ownership of Maui as a character and reworked his mythology into her own. It’s well done.

Book Blurb

Cover_AW_The Wind City_01.indd

“Wellington. The wind city. New Zealand’s home of art and culture, but darker forces, forgotten forces, are starting to reappear. Aotearoa’s displaced iwi atua – the patupaiarehe, taniwha, and ponaturi of legend – have decided to make Wellington their home, and while some have come looking for love, others have arrived in search of blood.
A war is coming, and few can stand in their way. Saint (lovably fearless, temporarily destitute, currently unable to find a shirt) may be our only hope. Tony, suddenly unemployed and potentially a taniwha herself, has little choice but to accept the role her bloodline dictates. And Hinewai, who fell with the rain? If she can’t find her one true love, there’s a good chance that none will live to see the morning.
Wellington will never be the same again.” (book blurb)

Ref: Summer Wigmore (2013) The Wind City. Steam Press: Wellington

Some thoughts brought out by the text

Just a few comments for now…

On p.237, Noah observes: “I thought atua would be small and isolated in the city, easy to fight, but – the city’s growing. If there’s a Cuba Street spirit there’ll be one for every landmark and street this place has and there’ll be building spirits, hakuturi shaped like pigeons and rats… City atua, fae of concrete and cars and streetlights and – there’s no end to it….” So, What gives a city its life? Where does the spirit of a city come from? How do we engage with urban place in ways that are different to more traditional relationships with this land? Where and through which rituals do we maintain reverent relationships with the land in modern life?

NB also: “See, nothing is one thing only, cities most of all. They’re made of people, and people are made of contradictions, beautiful ugly contradictions clashing and blending and blurring. So cities are made of contradictions as well. They’re a mess of noise, laughing and talking and yelling and music and the subtler music made of the movements of cars. (And buses and bicycles and trains, and where people go, and when. There is rhythm to all these things.) And sometimes, rarely, most often in the early mornings, there are those small moments of perfect silence, when there is no one there but you. No one in the world. Cities are kind and they are cruel, they are perfectly filthy and gloriously drab; they force many, many people together, and so they are made of stories, and they are the things of which stories are made.” (pp.260-261)

What are we to make of the character Noah? (NB p.239; p.242) Wigmore’s appropriation of the concept of ‘Noa’ through this name (p.242) surprised me in a cool way – my first reference for this name is certainly the biblical Noah, but the homonym really works for this character. What role do the concepts of ‘sacredness’ or the ‘profane’, ‘tapu’, ‘noa’, etc play in this text? How do these concepts shape the story in terms of its ‘speculative’ thinking and in terms of the story’s development? (NB also, p.301)

How important is friendship to this text? What about enmity? 

How important is personal agency? (consider how Tony talks to Steffan after the aggression starts escalating: “”Do you still think you can just watch?” she said sharply. “Do you think that’ll cut it now? You met people, and now they’re dead, and you’re just going to watch.”” (p.277)) Does this story pivot on characters ‘taking a stance’ and ‘acting’? And what about the importance of gathering information pertinent to the decision you make (e.g. Saint’s experience – NB “and if he’d just looked, looked deeper, asked more questions or just stopped one fucking time to think about what he was doing instead of just…” p.278)?

Consider: “Breath was life was spirit, was the soul of you; Hinewai listened. saint’s breathing was ragged and harsh and gasping, and there was nothing in it but despair, and it was good.” (p.302) (consider also the importance of Wellington’s winds to the story as depicted on p.261). The title is “The Wind City” after all. What role do the winds of Wellington play in this story? How important is that to the storyworld created?

Consider what these interviews/articles have to say:

Some of the reviews make interesting points that provide for thought-provoking discussion; see, for example:

Consider, for example, these comments from reviews:

“this book is about two people who learn that the world is not what they think it is.” By Paul Lappen VINE VOICE on May 18, 2014

“The Wind City will be remembered for more than just its cast of outlandish otherworldly identities… [it is a] well-researched expose on the creatures of Maori folklore, a hitherto largely-unexplored subject in our history of modern-day storytelling.” – Waikato Times

“The prose is clearly born of the internet generation, from the youth that has grown up being allowed to revel in being geeks and making geek humor and finding support for being who you are. And in many ways, this book makes those very points.” By Stal Harrison on December 3, 2013

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