An Absurd Ambition by Eric H. McCormick

By Eric H. McCormick

Eric McCormick was once, from approximately 1940 until eventually his dying in 1995, one in all New Zealand's so much exceptional writers and students. He pioneered the appreciation and research of the painter Francis Hodgkins, and he wrote numerous biographies. The autobiographical fragments accumulated the following were edited to make a coherent quantity, tracing his origins in Taihape, to college and collage in Wellington, to schoolteaching in Nelson, to Cambridge and during his wartime reports and function as editor of Centennial courses. It comprises his smart observations of social behaviour, recorded with a dry wit.

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But I am glad The Inland Eye still exists in libraries and the collections of discerning readers, and hope that it may some day be reprinted as a coherent essay, stylistically the most lively of all his works. The component parts of this book were written over many years for a variety of audiences, so that the style and tone of voice inevitably differ, and I have not attempted to harmonize them completely. On one point Eric was adamant from the beginning of our collaboration: his homosexuality, which he regarded as an integral part of his personality, must not be concealed.

From the same look-out the fire brigade station appeared to the left of the Gretna and then a block of shops stretched towards the Bank of Australasia, across the road from the post office. Also visible from the balcony was most of Huia Street, running from the post office past an open space called the Triangle and behind the Emporium. Here were all the town’s churches, except for the Salvation Army Barracks at the bottom of Tui Street, and they hardly counted. Nearest us was the Presbyterian church, which my father belonged to; almost opposite it the Wesleyan; farther down the Catholic; and last of all St Margaret’s, where I was christened.

I never wanted to be an engine-driver or an explorer or an All Black. I had no desire to be a bootmaker like my lather or a carpenter like most of my uncles or a farmer like some of my cousins. But even in my school-days I longed to be a writer and in the barren years that followed I went on cherishing the absurd ambition. Eric McCormick was, from about 1940 till his death in 1995, one of New Zealand’s most distinguished writers and scholars. He wrote several important biographies, his Letters and Art in New Zealand was a landmark work and he pioneered the appreciation and the study of the painter Frances Hodgkins.

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