Journal » Trout 14 » Interview With J. C. Sturm: 5 [Roma Potiki]
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Interview with J. C. Sturm: 5

Roma Potiki

RP: So this was 1992, before Postscripts was published in 2000. So you were already still thinking about that linkage then?

JCS: Yes. And then after Postscripts I had another dry period. I developed several health problems which became almost a fulltime job. In and out of hospital and getting used to medications and all the rest of it. So in the end I didn't write anything. But it came to a point where I thought, if you're going to write that blinkin' book you'd better get cracking now chum, the rate you're going. So I said to my grand-daughter, “I want to finish it.” She said “Well, why don't you just write it.” I said, “I've forgotten how to use the computer.” She said, “Oh forget about the computer, I'll type it for you. Just give me the word and off we go.”

But in the meantime in between Dedications and Postscripts I'd written a story. After Postscripts I'd written another story, so now I've got three stories, three longish stories. I had one more to go and I knew exactly what it was going to be. Also I'd been writing poems. So all I had to do was one more story and a few more poems and then put them all together and I had my book.

RP: It's interesting, isn't it, that kind of gestation period, because sometimes things are going on in your mind for a long time. I know this happens with other people, and then suddenly you can see the clearing in the wood if you like, you know, it all comes together.

JCS: That's right. The format was there. I thought, right I've got four longish stories and I've got the poems to go with them, so that was the format of the book The Glass House. It's, what would you call it, it's organic.

RP: Well itŐs developed over a long time. I had no idea that it was that long, that it had gone through that gestation.

JCS: Now, can I just say a word about The Glass House before it slips my mind?

RP: Yes, sure.

JCS: The important thing about this book is that it's in four parts. Each part's got a story and complementary poems. So, the idea is to read it in those parts. Don't go through and read the short stories because you like reading short stories, or don't go through and read all the poems because you like reading poems, because that's not what it's all about. The short story and its poems should be read together.

RP: So the reader in actual fact has got to exercise some discipline within the framework you are setting them.

JCS: That's a weakness of the book of course.

RP: Well it's also a strength. I remember reading some of the last pages of these stories and then going to the poems, and it does have more impact than if the poems were by themselves, because there's a relationship there.

JCS: The other thing about it is that the title story, which is the one that was relegated to the bottom drawer all those years ago, gave me the theme, the overall theme of the book, which was one of tolerance, acceptance. You'll see that I use a quote from Auden – ‘We must love one another or die.’ Well, I mean we're going to die anyway physically, but I'm talking about spiritually. He was talking about spiritually I think. So that set the theme, the overall theme of the book. And all of the stories fit into that frame. Of tolerance, acceptance and loving one another, which of course you know all Christians say – Love your neighbour as yourself.

RP: Bingo, one of the characters in the first story would certainly have tested some people. And I think too in reading through the stories you're dealing with, it's very hard to be non-judgemental. And it's very hard not to have expectations or to feel other people's expectations of you and to behave accordingly. You're looking at all those kinds of mores and paradigms as well.

JCS: There's one other thing I'd like to say about the rather enigmatic cover illustration by my son. John Baxter has done all the cover illustrations of my books, my four books, including The House of the Talking Cat. And he does it very grumpily, but anyway, I chose this because it is from a painting – on the wall just behind me here. And he said, “Well, what cover illustration do you want?” rather grumpily and I said, “Well actually that's the one I want.” And he looked at it and the publisher looked at it and I thought well they don't get it.

It's a people book, and it's a people painting.


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