The accidental anthropologist: a memoir by Michael Jackson

By Michael Jackson

'... my lifelong preoccupation with renewal ... lies within the youth delusion with out which i couldn't have continued that one other existence awaited me in other places, or with one other, and as soon as reborn in that different global, i might locate achievement and happiness.' one of many key figures in Michael Jackson's unorthodox and striking memoir observes, "We don't personal our personal lives we aren't in sole ownership of the reality approximately ourselves"; trustworthy to this view, Jackson provides his awesome lifestyles in refined shadings, halftones, and haunting, melodious traces. From his New Zealand beginnings, whilst he linked to James ok. Baxter, Fleur Adcock, Bob Lowry and others, Jackson's quest has taken him throughout Paris within the footsteps of his literary hero, Blaise Cendrars, to the doss-houses of London, one of the distant Kuranko humans of Sierra Leone, and into the Australian wasteland. This award-winning poet, ethnographer and novelist likens his lifestyles path to that of a form shifter, making it obvious that our lives are as a number of because the bonds we shape and the social landscapes by which we circulate.

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Possibly he 37 saw travel as an escape. And I had yet to see anthropology, like the army, as a means of seeing the world. At the end of my third year at Auckland University, my thoughts turned to Wellington and the south . I 'd visited the city once when I was seventeen, and had never forgotten waking one morning in the all-night train from Taranaki as it wound its way down the narrow littoral of the Kapiti coast. Windows of wind-scoured sea and blue sky were suddenly shouldered aside by the Stygian narrows of a tunnel, before the train emerged at Korokoro in sudden light, and the harbour drew me into its outstretched arms.

Though I could not, as they did, see Christ in those that suffered, I instinctively proj ected my own sense of marginality onto outsiders and underlings . I also shared their mistaken assumption that the despised and rej ected are thereby virtuous, and the privileged vicious. In aligning oneself with the oppressed, I thought that one automatically stood on the side of truth. This kind of logic made me determined to change the world. To alleviate suffering, to do good works, to live among the poor.

Our need for heroes makes fools of us all; worse, it prevents us recog­ nising the flaws in those we extol. When I read Henry Miller's letters to Anals Nin, or Miriam Cendrars' account of her father's failings, I feel enormous relief. No friendship can carry the burden of idealisation. " But the truth is more banal, as would prove to be the case with my friendship with Harry. When one's expectations become too great, the possi­ bility of disappointment is more than the relationship can bear. 41 Then, one has no choice but to distance oneself from it in order to salvage the ideal, or - since I' amour se revele en se retirer - avail oneself of distance to renew the terms of engagement.

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