Greg McGee is an extraordinary chap, who quipped that his occupational ‘devolution’ (I would venture it’s rather an evolution) has seen him move from a career in rugby, to law, to writing. He is perhaps best known for his 1981 play The Foreskin’s Lament, which tackled rugby culture in New Zealand. But today’s conversation focused on The Antipodeans, a multi-generational novel about a New Zealand family and its members interactions with the people of Northern Italy. Gee offered that there’s a bit of quantum physics and Auckland real-estate content thrown in.
In conversation with David Larsen, McGee spoke about his reservations about rugby culture, especially around the time of the 1981 Springbok tour. He suggests that now there is more diversity among its players, and that medical assistance is such that players can get thrashed, quickly fixed, and put back on the field so that they can get thrashed again. He spoke about alpha-males in society, and made the quick assertion that, no, despite being a six-foot-something rugby-playing male, he wasn’t one of them.
They spoke about McGee’s writings under the pseudonym of Alix Bosco, about the benefits and difficulties of working under pseudonymity, with comical anecdotes about his coming-out-of-the-closet as a female author.
They spoke about McGee’s time in Italy, first when he was coaching rugby and later, as a recipient of the Katherine Mansfield grant, which saw him living in close-proximity Menton, France. The Antipodeans was born as a germ of an idea in the late 1970s, with a lengthy gestation period which saw the novel finally brought to light this year. McGee spoke about his realisation that there existed an Italian Resistance during the war, and the force that this had in the formation of his story.
David invited McGee to read from his novel. McGee suggests that it makes sense to commence at the novel’s beginning, and so he reads the first chapter. We are sent to Venice, where an elderly man and his newly-single daughter have arrived for a supposed reunion. Only, it seems that the father is transfixed with other ghosts from his past.
It is compelling storytelling, and, so, in the intermission I was set on buying another book, with fingers crossed that my Eftpos card would oblige.
Event reported by Elizabeth Morton
by Greg McGee
Published by Upstart Press