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Young and old in Margaret Mahy’s work

November 2, 2015

In a recently republished (?) essay, Elizabeth Knox describes various encounters she had with Margaret Mahy and the thoughts that spun out of them… some of her comments are the sort that provoke further writing: for example,

“…I think how good Margaret was at writing about these things – the things that young people just don’t see, with their sharp senses and vigour and appetite. She could write for the young – and gently and coaxingly against them too. Her books love their young heroes’ capacity, but almost all of those young heroes are, at some point in the story, innocently hardhearted towards their elders.” (Pp.210-211)

“She was widely and deeply read, and curious. But that only describes her habits of acquiring the world, not how her mind worked. Her mind was astonishing (a word she loved). People have remarked on her feeling for myth. But what she had a feeling for was significance. She saw possibilities for meaning, for story, in the way ideas fitted together, not mechanically, but as if this thought and that would suddenly seem subject to the same gravity, as if the way things fell together revealed the star they belonged to – the shining star, or the obscure one, whose only energy is gravity. This meaning-seeing and making was simultaneously playful and serious. It seems to me that her thinking and her work never sought to find a balance between fun and seriousness, fancy and portent. The opposing qualities just partnered up, and wobbled, and danced.” (P.211)

(Italics in original) Elizabeth Knox ‘Margaret Mahy, Hero’ pp.207-214 Eds Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew (2014) Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2015. Auckland University Press Auckland

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