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The Bone People
by Keri Hulme

To:                ALL                   Date:    11/12
From:   WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Time:    10:18 AM

THE BONE PEOPLE by Keri Hulme                               
Hulme plays language like a musical instrument. Sometimes   
she uses violins, sometimes trumpets, sometimes timpani. She
can be lyrical, harsh, strident or full of lush harmonies. I
find the story secondary to the language, but the story is  
rivetting as well. What to make of Simon or Clare? What     
creates the violence around him? What and who is he?  Does  
Hulme use him as a metaphor for some foreign catalyst come  
to the homeland to foment turmoil? Or is he just a poor     
abused little boy? What do you think of Kerewin? I find her 
one of the more fascinating characters in literature. We    
never really find out why she is a self-imposed castout of  
her family. I don't think it matters. And what about Joe? Do
you understand him? Hate him? Is he the necessary Judas to  
Clare's Christ? What do you think of the transformations in 
the end? Are they believable?                               
I urge all of you to read this ambitious book. I want to    
know if you think it is a wonderful failure or a shining    
achievement.  I'm especially interested in hearing from the 
men in CR. This is not a feminine book, believe me. I want  
to hear the male viewpoint here. That's a challenge.        

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/12
From:   XJKD19F    JOY HUOTT             Time:    12:57 PM

    Great post!                                             
    I knew you'd be starting this thread about now!         
    Gotta go get ready to meet my former neighbors and good 
friends. (Their daughter bought our house downstate in      
1991!) I'll be back and I'll be *lurking*. Haven't finished 
the book because I've been alternately reading THE SHINING  
SHINING PATH as well...and listening to BOT's. I think I've 
spread myself out too thin. But it's fun.                   
Joy in NY                                                   

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/12
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     1:23 PM

Sherry, I really enjoyed your well-thought-out post.  (So   
that's what happens when you write off line and really think
about what you're going to say!)                            
This book goes right up there with WHITE PEOPLE as tied for 
the best book of the year on my list.   EVERYONE-READ THIS  
That said, I will say that Hulme's experimental use of      
language was as important to me as the plot.  Somehow she   
managed to play around with POV and voice and yet never     
confuse me as to what was going on.  Only her occasionally  
klutzy use of adverbs bothered me.                          
Now, I'm going to go off line and see if I can write        
something a bit more coherent.                              

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    11/12
From:   DCTW04A    MARTY PRIOLA          Time:     4:07 PM

What do you mean by "Hulme's experimental use of language?" 
That's become a sort of favorite topic of mine since        
McCarthy, and so I'm wondering how it's similar or how it's 
different from McCarthy's work.  I think that might be a    
useful comparison.                                          

To:     DCTW04A    MARTY PRIOLA          Date:    11/12
From:   WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Time:     4:54 PM

Well, Marty, the only answer I know to give you is read it. 
I just opened the book, and here on p.13 is this passage:   
"And here I am, balanced on the saltstained rim, watching   
minute navyblue fringes, gill-fingers of tubeworms, fan the 
water...put the shadow of a finger near them, and they flick
outasight.  Eyes in your lungs...neat. The three-fin blenny 
swirls by...tena koe, fish.  A small bunch of scarlet and   
gold anemones furl and unfurl their arms, graceful petals,  
slow and lethal...tickle tickle, and they turn into         
uninteresting lumps of brownish jelly...haven't made        
sean-anemone soup for a while, whaddaboutit? Not today, the bottom, in a bank of brown bulbous weed, 
a hermit crab is rustling a shell. Poking at it, sure it's  
empty? Ditheringly unsure...but now, nervously hunched over 
his soft slug of belly, he extricates himself from his old  
hutch and speeds deftly into the least, that's     
where you *thought* you were going, e mate?...howeee, there 
really is no place like home, even when it's grown a couple 
of sizes too small..."                                     
That's just one small example. And not even a particularly  
exceptional one, but I just let the book drop open.         
 Marty, you really should read this.   Sherry               

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/12
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     5:53 PM

Just wanted to let you know that I am about half way through
with THE BONE PEOPLE. I should be done this weekend. I      
always like to postpone reading everyone's notes until I am 
finished--saving the best for last.                         
Good book. Thanks for suggesting it.                        

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/12
From:   BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Time:     6:26 PM

Sherry - Early on in the book I put aside judgement of the  
characters and just went with the story, and what a         
wonderful, horrible, story it was!  What memorable          
characters.  I'm anxious to read what everyone has to say   
about this one!                                             
B. Hill                                                     

To:     BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Date:    11/12
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     7:23 PM

I think one of the strengths of this book is that it was    
impossible to  stand in judgment of any of the characters.  
I even felt sympathy for Joe, poor guy.  All the characters 
were rife with good traits and rife with faults.  Complex.  
Like real people are.                                       

To:     BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Date:    11/12
From:   PDSG17A    MAUREEN DAVIN         Time:     7:38 PM

Sherry, Ruth, All,                                          
I'm in the home stretch of the BONE PEOPLE.  What a book,   
what language.  It demands your attention as it grabs you   
and takes you along for a ride through the story.           
Sometimes it feels as if I'm on an ammusement ride with     
quick stops and changes in direction.  But for me the       
changes have never been disruptive to the story or difficult
to follow.  The changing POV fill out and add depth and     
As for the characters and the story, I need to finish the   
book before I can judge their actions in their              
entirety--that's not to say I haven't been horrified or     
frustrated by much of what's gone on.                       
I'm looking forward to this discussion.                     
Maureen -- back to the book!                                

To:     PDSG17A    MAUREEN DAVIN         Date:    11/12
From:   KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Time:     9:56 PM

Sherry, I agree with Ruth on this one. My favorite book of  
the year. The language captivated me; the stuff that reads  
best out loud, like swishing wine on your palate to see     
which flavors come through...I could not pass judgement on  
the characters despite the violence; I tried to get angry   
but simply could not...sad, mostly, the lives they lived.   
It's been a few weeks since I read this, so I need to skim  
parts this weekend to refresh the mind. Can't wait for the many places to go with this!                

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/13
From:   XJKD19F    JOY HUOTT             Time:    10:29 AM

Sherry and all,                                             
    What is impressing me as I read Keri Hulme's writing is 
her perceptiveness and sensibility as well as her ability   
to pass them on to the reader. I love her technique of      
telling you what the character is thinking to himself while 
he is talking out loud or listening to the other person.    
We really get inside the characters' heads and develop      
empathy for their problems.                                 
Joy in NY                                                   

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/13
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:     9:30 PM

I am nearing page 200 so I will wait to read all of your    
posts until I have finished.  I do think it is a wonderful  
book and have recommended it to two serious readers at      
school.  Jane who is looking forward to the discussion      

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    11/13
From:   UPDQ58A    PEGGY RAMSEY          Time:    10:08 PM

What struck me most about this book was my *need* to read   
it -- I felt somehow that my being there would keep Simon   
Wish I knew how Hume did it.                                

To:     UPDQ58A    PEGGY RAMSEY          Date:    11/14
From:   WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Time:     4:02 PM

Besides the language, what strikes me is the emotional      
complexity of the story and the individual characters. Joy, 
you're right when you say that Hulme gives us a running     
inner monologue juxtaposed to the action and dialogue and   
that this makes the characters come alive.  And Anne I liked
the way you compared savoring the language to savoring wine.
We keep coming back to wine, don't we. Kerewin sure     
likes hers. The unlikely trinity completes itself, just as  
in Kerewin's triple portrait. Somehow, in ways that I am    
completely unsure of, there are undercurrents of cultural   
completion that the three represent. Joe is the educated    
Maori, the man with a family who has suffered great loss in 
his life. What might this loss represent in cultural terms? 
Kerewin is mostly European, one-eighth Maori who feels all  
Maori. She has become estranged from her home (land?) and   
has entombed herself within a prison of her own making. And 
the link is Simon--a child who does not seem a child. A     
creature without a voice, who attracts violence to himself  
like a whipping post. He is non-Maori, with a non-history   
come washed upon the shore like a merman who lost his tail. 
He has lived through some unknown, unknowable horror which  
has created his voicelessness and his sadness and his       
willfullness. He is like a little magic creature. He can see
emotions (auras), and builds little structures that catch   
music from the wind (that only he can hear).  The first time
I read this book, I kept forgetting that Simon was a child. 
He seems like an other-wordly being to me--a personification
of impulse and magic and non-restraint that creates in Joe a
need for control and mastery. The only trouble is that Joe  
is unable to control or master this creature/boy/imp. The   
rage that Simon brings out in Joe seems like more than just 
the rage against a child who will not obey. There is some   
metaphor that I can't get at here. Help me out.             

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/15
From:   KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Time:    11:19 AM

Sherry, I need to ponder the point about Joe's rage. I keep 
getting tied up with the thought that Simon triggered Joe's 
rage because after all the violence came the loving, which  
was sadly worth the pain to this little guy. He knew that   
primal anger would segue into comfort, guilt-ridden though  
it was.                                                     
Your idea of cultural undercurrents is intriguing. I know   
nothing about these cultures but am fascinated to learn     

To:     KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Date:    11/15
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     1:27 PM

Anne, I can't help thinking that Simon's tolerating, or     
perhaps even invoking, Joe's rage because afterwards came   
the loving, sounds chillingly like the so-called "battered  
wife syndrome".     

To:     KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Date:    11/15
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     1:32 PM

I keep thinking that there are two areas of this book which 
I think I want to find fault with.  (Notice all those       
qualifying "I thinks").  First, altho I love the writing and
the language, there were places where Hulme could have used 
a better editor.  Whoever let such decidedly klutzy and     
amateurish phrases as "..she said, grinning madly," get by  
the Adverb Police?                                          
And second, do you think that perhaps there were a few too  
many threads in this tapestry?  So many ideas, so many      
themes, that some got short shrift or perhaps were abandoned
in midstream.
I loved this book.  I'll never forget it, that's for sure,  
but I think it's a flawed masterpiece.                   

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    11/15
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:    10:26 PM

Ruth and all,                                               
I have been thinking about the fact that the author's name  
is so similar to that of her main character. Why did she do 
that?  Did she pick the name Holme because it reminds the   
reader of Sherlock Holmes - a man who had all of the answers
but who had a terrible problem with drugs? Kere seems to    
have all of the answers and she seems to drink too much     
alcohol.  Jane in Colorado where the snow is melting        

To:     FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Date:    11/15
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:    10:43 PM

Yes, Jane, I noticed that similarity too, although I hadn't 
thought of the reason you did.  I guess I went for the      
simpler explanation that maybe there was something          
autobiographical about this novel, if not in the actual     
events, perhaps something of emotional authenticity. Your   
idea is an interesting one, tho.                            

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    11/16
From:   KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Time:     4:32 PM

And why the title THE BONE PEOPLE? I can't recall if that   
came out in the story. Is it a reference to the Maori       
tribe?I could speculate on other things but am not too      
Yes, Ruth, Simon's attitude is chillingly that of the       
battered spouse. I'm not as certain of battered children,   
but surely they all have this pathological need for the love
that follows the abuse?                                     
Anne, with more questions than answers on this one...       

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/16
From:   SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Time:     8:20 PM

 No, Sherry, it is emphatically not a chick book. (I stole  
a phrase from Kerewin there. When Lynn [not our Lynn, but   
the Lynn in the book] asks Kerewin if she and Joe are going 
to get married, Kerewin's response is, "Emphatically not.") 
Had this book dwindled down to some sickly sweet ending     
with Joe and Kerewin finding redemption with each other in  
matrimony and living happily ever after with a miraculously 
better adjusted Simon in tow, I would have never forgiven   
you. That may be what happens. If so, Ms. Hulme veiled it   
in enough obscurity and ambiguity to satisfy me. In fact I  
interpret the ending to mean that the characters have       
simply made some necessary accommodations-Joe forswearing   
his violent methods of child discipline (perhaps) and       
Kerewin reconciling with her family (perhaps). This is a    
very interesting Epilogue. Very poetic, as is the whole     
book of course                                              
 Joe and Simon certainly are well-drawn, interesting        
characters, particularly Joe. Actually, I had less trouble  
withholding judgment with regard to Joe than I did Simon.   
This Simon was a profoundly disturbed little creature!      
Vicious and conniving on the exterior. However, we are      
helped to understand early on that theirs "is a bloody kind 
of love that has violence as a silent partner." When Jesus  
enjoined us, "Judge not that ye be not judged. For with the 
judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure  
you give will be the measure you get," is not the corollary 
to that "to understand all is to forgive all?" If there is  
a point to the story of Joe and Simon, I think that is it.  
 The character of Kerewin is what truly sets this book      
apart, Sherry. I agree with that in spades. Kerewin is an   
original creation. There is some artifice here on the       
author's part. Kerewin could not be Kerewin without her     
money. In order for her to have money, Ms. Hulme struck     
upon the idea that she had won a lottery. I thought that    
was a little weak, but we can overlook it. She is utterly   
asexual and always has been. Certainly, she is not a        
lesbian as the episode where Polly plays footsy with her at 
the card table amply demonstrates. She refers to herself as 
"neuter" in that "Mirrortalk" chapter. ". . . couldn't give 
a damn." She makes clear that there is no reason for this,  
traumatic or otherwise. She's just different, and with the  
loss of the only thing that really means anything to her,   
her art, profoundly alienated, too. Along with this, she is 
capable of great violence herself, emotional and physical.  
A hard woman. She acknowledges a death wish but is not      
suicidal. Simply can't figure out why she is living. I      
don't need to regurgitate all the interesting facets of     
this woman. Just pondering out loud, so to speak.           
 Anyway to create this very original character and then to  
drop Joe and Simon into her life results in a fascinating   
study, doesn't it? She really doesn't need this, nor does   
she want it at all. She displays a valiant effort to        
withhold herself from this mess. To some extent she         
succeeds. We are definitely led to believe that both Joe    
and she undergo some transformation though. Joe has this    
little sabbatical with the elder after his arm is broken.   
Kerewin has a near death experience. The nature of these    
transformations are left deliciously ambiguous though,      
aren't they? It was not, "they all lived happily ever       
after" at all. Rather, it was something like "they all      
lived-a little better."                                    
From The Bunker @  11/16/97 7:12PM CT                       

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/16
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     8:56 PM

I finished THE BONE PEOPLE last night. I can see why all the
involved word play really appealed to you, Sherry and Ruth, 
because you both write poetry. I have to be honest here and 
say that I sometimes found it irritating. The frequent      
changes in point of view and the vagueness of some of the   
writing also left me confused at times about what exactly   
was happening. I had to go back and read that final beating 
scene several times, for example. Also it took me about 100 
pages before I realized that there was a glossary of Maori  
phrases used in the text. I hope Hulme has a lot of Maori   
readers, because otherwise she was just  communicating with 
So, you can see that I did not find this an easy book, but I
did find it a very compelling one. These characters are     
burned in my memory.  Kerewin, Joe, and Simon are all       
terrible misfits with serious character flaws, but somehow  
Hulme succeeds in making them all sympathetic--even Joe,    
which is especially remarkable. When I was wrapped up in    
reading the book, I was on his side and almost willing to   
excuse his behavior. Now that I have finished it and have   
achieved some distance, I am horrified by it. It is one     
thing to hit a child, but to beat him so badly so often that
his body is covered with scars is something else. Perhaps   
only the constant drinking can explain it. Kerewin is one of
the more unusual female characters I have encountered. She  
is one tough, intimidating broad. It strikes me as brave to 
make such a heavy drinking, asexual woman  your heroine.    
Jane, I also noticed the very close similarity between the  
author's name and her heroine. I assumed it was because she 
identified with her so closely. All this made me very       
curious to find out more about Keri Hulme. A trip to the    
library may be in order.  And then there is little Simon, a 
real heartbreaker if there ever was one although you can    
also see why he sometimes drove his foster parents wild.    
I am interested in what you all thought of the ending. Hume 
seemed to resort to magic to heal both Joe and Kerewin. For 
the most part, I found the resolution of the story          
satisfying, although looking at these three from a coldly   
rational viewpoint I find it hard to believe that the family
they created could have real permanence. Or am I being too  
Ruth, you mentioned the unresolved threads. Do you think    
Hulme cheated a little? One of the reasons she kept me so   
involved was that I really expected all of these little     
mysteries to be resolved. Why for example does Kerewin have 
a scar across her throat, as though someone had cut her     
there? Why did she quarrel with her family? Why did Hulme   
mention that Joe had had a homosexual experience and then   
just drop it? Why did Simon have a terror  of having his    
hair cut  or being buried? Did I miss the answers?          
Anne, you asked about the significance of the title, which  
also intrigued me. There is a footnote to page 395 which    
translates one of the Maori phrases used on that page. It   
says it means "O the bones of the people (where 'bones'     
stands for ancestors or relations). or O the people of the  
bones (i.e. the beginning people, the people who make       
another people). This phrase is used in a paragraph where   
Simon recognizes that Joe and Kerewin are his real family,  
even though there is no biological relationship. So I       
thought that maybe Bone People meant family. Anybody else   
have any ideas?                                             

To:     SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Date:    11/16
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     8:58 PM

Just read your note when I signed on. "They all lived--a    
little better." Excellent. Yes, I think that is the true    
meaning of the ending.                                      

To:     KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Date:    11/16
From:   VMMN97A    FELIX MILLER          Time:     9:26 PM

Ann, Ruth, Sherry, Joy etal,                                
I finished this book this evening, reading all but the      
first hundred pages in one go today. Wow, what a ride!      
Several of you have commented on the use of language, and   
that is really what is outstanding about this book. To      
partly answer Marty's question, I thought many times in     
this book about McCarthy's descriptions of the landscape    
and nature-Hulme does much the same thing, with almost as   
great skill.                                                
The story captured my attention, too, but there were        
troubling gaps and ellisions which distracted me.  I didn't 
want potted bios of each character as he or she appeared,   
and the gradual emergence of Simon's history was important  
to the development of the book, but I kept wondering about  
the source of Kerewin's alientation from her family and the 
source of Joe's rage, as did several of you.  The pattern   
of Simon inviting abuse to gain the reconciling love that   
followed was, as Ruth and Ann commented, an exact parallel  
of everything I have read about family abuse in general.    
And the wrapping up of all the loose ends in a happy ending 
rang false to me, given the way the story had built up to   
the time of Kerewin's mysterious recovery (cancer           
remission?) after the enigmatic dark person rescued her.  I 
like a happy ending as well as the next person, but I       
didn't think the foundations were well laid for that kind   
of a resolution.  Perhaps I have been too much exposed to   
ambiguity and irresolution in fiction.                      
Having said that, I still think this book is a fine, fine   
novel, and will probably re-read it at some point. Just the 
flow of language is worth the price of admission, and the   
characters deeply involved me also, even with the gaps and  
the imposed happy ending.                                   
Carpingly, in a positive way, on the mountain, Felix Miller  11/16/97       
9:19PM ET                                                   

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/16
From:   SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Time:     9:53 PM

     Great question, Anne, about those "unresolved          
threads." Was the author cheating, or is this part of the   
art of the thing? An open question. I think one could argue 
either side. Certainly, one can't read this book without    
the uneasy feeling one has missed many things. Actually, I  
am sure I did miss some things. On the other hand I am      
equally sure that most of my questions along the lines of   
the examples you have cited were never answered.            
    Where we do part company is with regard to "little      
Simon," as I suppose you may have gathered from my first    
post. We are led to believe that he is the child of a       
ne'er-do-well drug runner. Somewhere in the middle of the   
book--I can't find it--an official or someone in a bar      
tells Kerewin about a young Irishman with a drug problem    
who cut a wide swath through the area. Then Kerewin's hired 
diver raises the boat and a stash of heroin is on board.    
Simon is terrified of needles and hospitals and displays    
all kinds of troubling symptoms of apparently traumatic     
early years. He was also injured, probably mentally as well 
as physically, as a result of the boat wreck and near       
drowning. Little Simon is profoundly damaged goods.         
Irretrievably damaged, I think, judging by his conduct. I   
need not list examples of his destructive and manipulative  
conduct. He is provided with a home by a loving man, who by 
reason of his own background and personality is perfectly   
incapable of handling this mess of a child. Not only can I  
"see why he sometimes drove his foster parents wild," I     
myself woundn't want to come within a hundred miles of this 
kid. Simon truly has in a very real sense ruined Joe's      
life. I'm perfectly willing to brook some disagreement on   
this, but I find Joe every bit as deserving of sympathy, if 
not more so, than Simon--without defending in any way the   
revolting violence against a child that is portrayed about  
as explicitly as one can stand. We can get into some pretty 
hairy discussions of "fault" and the "responsibility" of an 
adult as opposed to that of a child, which may or may not   
be beside the point. However, there is no doubt in my mind  
that the sympathetic portrayal of Joe (for me) truly is     
part of the art of this book.                               
From The Bunker @  11/16/97 8:50PM CT                       

To:     SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Date:    11/16
From:   BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Time:    11:22 PM

Kerewin, Joe and Simon are three distinct and unalike       
characters but put together they make a whole.  Isn't that  
what Kerewin was thinking when she was creating the         
sculpture or painting of the three of them?So the ending    
where they all lived a little better was because they were  
more whole. Is that what the quote "Keri Hulme's novel about
a nonsexual, holistic approach to human relationships" is   
referring to?  This isn't a book you can tie up neatly but  
I'm trying 
B. Hill                                                     

To:     BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Date:    11/17
From:   SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Time:     1:29 AM

     You're certainly onto something there, B. Kind of a    
whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts deal, I think is    
what you are saying. I really hadn't looked at it that way. 
Perhaps it was because I never featured a holistic approach 
as involving quite that much alcohol consumption by adult   
and child alike. But I don't mean to be flippant. What you  
say is certainly what is going on here, I think. I like     
that. Actually, I would go further and say that each of the 
three parts by themselves are defective--"dysfunctional"    
maybe is the right term--but together they work. Not        
perfectly, but they work.                                   
From The Bunker @  11/17/97 12:22AM CT                      

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/17
From:   SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Time:     2:06 PM

     Sherry, in retrospect I fear that my jocular reply in  
last night's chat to your question as to whether I had read 
_The Bone People_ may not have looked so jocular in print.  
Let me assure you, as you may have surmised from this       
thread, that I have thoroughly enjoyed the book and am glad 
you pressured me to read it. I am also quite glad that you  
did not go into a great deal of detail as to what it is     
about when you were selling me on it. I would certainly not 
have read it in that case.                                  
From The Bunker @  11/17/97 12:57PM CT                      

To:     SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Date:    11/17
From:   WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Time:     5:16 PM

No misunderstanding here. But a question. If I had described
it more thoroughly beforehand, what part of that description
would have put you off the book? I never say the book is    
about child abuse. Those combinations of words alone give a 
connotation that does not do the book justice--rather like  
saying ANNA KARININA is about a woman having an affair. I   
knew you would like Kerewin.                                

To:     SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Date:    11/17
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     8:09 PM

Ah yes, you have reminded me what a thoroughly impossible   
child Simon was. Good point. If Simon had beaten Joe so     
often that his body was covered with scars, Joe would have  
had *all* my sympathy. As it  was, as long as I was wrapped 
up in the book, I couldn't help liking Joe. This to me is a 
sign of Hulme's true artistry. There are no easy judgements 
or answers in this book. But when I step away from the story
a little, Joe's behavior simply appals me. Must be the      
mother in me. As long as I don't actually have to deal with 
the child, I can forgive him anything.                  

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/17
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     8:11 PM

But Steve, do you *like*  Kerewin, or do you only admire her
as a literary character. Just curious. And how about you    
My guess was that she would appeal to women a lot more than 

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/17
From:   SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Time:    11:00 PM

     What I was alluding to in those remarks, Sherry, is    
just the phrase "child abuse." All I was saying is that had 
you used that phrase in describing this book to me, there   
is no way I would have read it. Absolutely no way! The      
newspapers are full of this right now. Let me give you a    
timely example. Front page. _The New York Times_.           
Saturday, November 15, 1997. Bottom center. "In a Girl's    
Fatal Slide, Failures to Act Add Up." I got five paragraphs 
into that story, and I couldn't go on. Usually, I see a     
headline like that, and I avoid even the first sentence     
like the plague. Just can't do it in the journalistic       
context. Dogs me for days after I have read about it.       
     That's all I was saying.                               
From The Bunker @  11/17/97 9:18PM CT                       

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/17
From:   SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Time:    11:00 PM

     As usual, Ann, you have zapped us with a couple of     
heavy duty notes. This is my reply to yours of 8:09 PM ET.  
     Certainly, I come to this book with a different        
viewpoint than you. However, I would never denigrate the    
maternal instinct. Where would any of us be without it? A   
lady must never even hint at an apology for the mother in   
her. Yet, our different initial reactions to this story     
must have something to do with the essential difference     
between the paternal and the maternal. I don't know what    
that essential difference is, but it might be profitable to 
think about that in the context of this book. I will.       
From The Bunker @  11/17/97 9:30PM CT                       

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/17
From:   SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Time:    11:00 PM

     This in reply to yours of 8:11 PM ET, Ann. Do I *like* 
Kerewin? Of course I do! But that may be because the author 
has given me the benefit of her innermost thoughts. I know  
that she is no dumby. In fact the waters run quite deep.    
She is nonplussed by this mess and the lack of real meaning 
in this mess that we are all caught up in. She's artsy.     
She loves music. She has moral quandries. She has a whisky  
now and then--mostly now. Most importantly of all, she has  
a talent for keeping her nose out of other people's         
business. Come on, Ann! How could I not like Kerewin?       
     Now if the question is whether I would like Kerewin    
upon running across her in O'Maggie's Pub on a particular   
Friday night, then I would have to answer, "Probably."      
Depends on whether it's the right place at the right time   
or the wrong place at the wrong time, to paraphrase Dr.     
     I am intrigued by your guess that she would appeal to  
women more than men. Seems contrary to your usual           
rationality to me, and I am curious as to why you would     
hazard that guess. Are you feeling okay, Ann?               
From The Bunker @  11/17/97 9:55PM CT                       

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/17
From:   SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Time:    11:26 PM

     Quick postscript, Ann.  You say, "or do you only       
admire her as a literary character?" Why the "only?"        
Kerewin is a very real person for me. I really can feature  
her as flesh and blood. That is the only really important   
question about a literary character, don't you think?       
Is he or she real?                                          
     Perhaps Felix can shed light on this subject. All I    
can tell you is that Lady Brett Ashley of _The Sun Also     
Rises_ is not only very luminescently real, but a woman     
that I would very, very much like to meet. I                
just know I would like her, and she would like me.          
From The Bunker @  11/17/97 10:24PM CT                      

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/18
From:   MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Time:     8:26 AM

Ann & All: I'm still only partway through THE BONE PEOPLE,  
but it's definitely interrupting my life. It took me several
pages to get into the quirky rhythm of the thing--and like  
you, I'm still not 100% sure who's doing or thinking what at
some junctures--but once I did, it's a pretty smooth ride.  
  I'm dazzled by what a brilliant stroke, technically, Hulme
pulled off by intercutting omniscient viewpoint (with all   
its advantages in storytelling and authorial commentary)    
with those great interjections from people's thoughts. It's 
almost as if she's having her cake and eating it too.       
  I'm sure she's not the first writer to have done this, but
offhand I can't recall another example that worked so well. 
  I really like the character of Kerewin too, for all the   
reasons Uncle Steve mentions. And I like her even more so   
for the fact that in real life I would probably never become
this well acquainted with a woman who's erected so much     
emotional insulation around herself. (And believe me, I've  
tried a couple of times.)   
  Dale, who's not insulation-free himself, in Ala.        

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/18
From:   MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Time:    12:25 PM

Sherry & All: Speaking of the sad dance of violence that    
Simon and Joe are caught up in, I think there's another     
phenomenon at work besides the "fighting so as to make up   
afterwards" and get that small, bleak stimulus of "love" as 
a reward--though that one's certainly active here, too.     
  Another characteristic often found in children of         
dysfunctional families is a desperate longing for even a    
shred of *predictability*. Since their life is totally at   
the whim of their parents' moods, they'll do anything to    
take the edge off that bottomless fear: even if it means    
provoking a beating or other punishment. In other words, a  
guaranteed beating is preferable to the total randomness.   
  A pretty sick concept, true, but it's a part of human     
nature. I've read psychologists who talk about the bizarre  
"bonding" that happens between prisoner-and-guard,          
kidnapper-and-victim, etc. The person who's powerless will  
go to any lengths to have some effect on their tormentor,   
even if it requires total submission, flattery, loss of     
dignity and self-esteem, etc.                               
  I see a variety of this, too, when people in desperate    
straits turn to a very narrow, judgmental, even violent     
religion when the only alternative they perceive is to      
believe all is random and nothing they do really matters.   
  Another type of fallout from dysfunction is known as      
"hyper-vigilance," in which people keep their danger        
antennae turned up so high, even in "safe" situations, that 
they can never really just go on autopilot and live life    
spontaneously. Likewise, they see threat in situations where
there isn't any, just because something about the sensory   
environment is similar to an earlier experience of pain and 
loss, of which there's no shortage to choose from.          
  So far in BONE PEOPLE I see this hyper-vigilance in       
Kerewin more than Simon, and maybe in Joe too.              
  Friends have often told me that I "can take a hint, even  
when there's not one." Guilty as charged, though I've worked
on it a lot over the years with some success.               
  Dale, who grew up dysfunctionally before the word was   

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/18
From:   MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Time:    12:34 PM

Sherry & All: A quick postscript to my last reply; I just   
recalled an anecdote in that same vein...                   
  A couple decided to visit an out-of-town church for Sunday
morning worship, and took their young son along.            
  He misbehaved royally during the service, despite their   
cool-headed attempts to calm him down, until finally they   
had to leave with him before church was over.               
  As they were getting in the car, the father told him, "The
minute we get home, you're getting a spanking!"
  Home was an hour away, and they were barely five minutes  
down the road before the boy erupted into tears: "Do it     
now!" he shouted. "Please, do it now!"                     
  When we know there's some unavoidable pain in our future, 
it's one of the quirks of human nature to want to "get it   
over with." I think that's the flawed logic at work in kids 
or spouses who not only stay in a bad relationship but      
sometimes purposely provoke violence.                       
  Dale in Ala.                                            

To:     MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Date:    11/18
From:   KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Time:     5:08 PM

Dale, I think you're on target with the notion of           
*predictability* in abusive relationaships. Perhaps such    
predictability is what drew Simon to Kerewin...he found     
comfort in the consistency of her manner, of her acceptance 
of him, that she would pick up the pieces for him/of him.   
Having a known quantity for abused folks, is often          
preferrable to that unknown. That's why it's so hard to     
break away.                                                 

To:     KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Date:    11/18
From:   MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Time:     5:45 PM

Anne: Enjoyed your note. Yes, I think that the consistency  
of Kerewin's life loomed large (even though subconsciously) 
in Simon's reasons for "adopting" (appropriating? annexing? 
invading?) her, particularly in contrast to what he was     
accustomed to, both with Joe and with fate in general.      
  On a related subject...though we're not told much about   
the reasons for K's separation from her family, I think we  
can infer a good bit from her personality and approach to   
life: i.e., her sometimes rabid consistency and             
self-sufficiency. As Shakespeare would say, "The lady doth  
protest too much, methinks," but it's illuminating to       
imagine the upbringing she may be protesting *against*.     
  God bless the "free spirits" among us, who go with the    
wind, are always ready for an adventure, etc., but I think  
such fortunate people often undervalue the grit,            
determination, and emotional fortitude it takes for somebody
like Kerewin to achieve a predictable, somewhat normal,     
life--insulation and all--considering what she had to       
  Whenever I hear a positive thinker wondering aloud why    
everyone can't just loosen up and "go with the flow," it's  
clear to me that he/she has spent his/her life within a     
very, very privileged flow.                                 
  Okay, end of soapbox...for now.    Dale in Ala.        

To:     MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Date:    11/18
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:    10:41 PM

Very insightful notes, Dale. I was particularly interested  
in what you had to say about hyper-vigilance and the        
(excessive ?) need for order which can result from          
dysfunctional families.                                     

To:     SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Date:    11/18
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:    10:42 PM

Thank you for your concern, but I am feeling just fine. Of  
course, I put the enlightened  Constant Reader males on an  
entirely different plane than your ordinary run of the mill 
guy, but I don't think I am too far off the mark to suggest 
that many males would not like a self-described "neuter"    
female who can drink anyone (possibly excepting Joe) under  
the table, smokes cigars, and can beat a male opponent to a 
pulp while barely lifting her little finger. Women, on the  
other hand, may get some vicarious satisfaction  in reading 
about such a female powerhouse. I know I did.               

To:     FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Date:    11/18
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:    10:44 PM

For Jane and others who wondered about the similarity       
between Keri Hulme and Kerewin Holmes, I found a 1987       
interview with Hulme in CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS that was very  
interesting. Here is an excerpt:                            
Interviewer: "You've said The Bone People was about yourself
'cunningly disguised as a Kerewin Holmes.' Did you have any 
qualms along the way about revealing so much of yourself?"  
Hulme: "How much have I revealed? Kerewin was my touchstone
character, and I gave her attributes of myself. I didn't    
give her ALL the attributes of myself. Besides, that book   
was for New Zealanders, and I thought (hoped hugely ) for   
about six hundred, seven hundred, migod maybe a thousand New
Zealand readers. If I had any inkling that The Bone People  
was eventually to be published overseas in the way it has   
been, Kerewin would've been, umm, rather more herself,      
rather less me.  Too bloody late, eh?"  
Just a few of the things that the author and her heroine    
share in common: They are both one-eighth Maori, they are   
both serious artists, they both live as recluses (Hulme in a
village of 14 in an isolated part of New Zealand), both     
describe themselves as neuters, and both are serious        
fisherman (fisher people?)                                  
More from the interview later. Her "voice" sounds just like 
her character.                                              

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/19
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     0:40 AM

Very interesting Ann.  I know we ought to take a book on its
face value and deal with it as such.  But I have a curiosity
bump the size of the World Trade Center, and that similarity
of names was so tantalizing.  So my guess is confirmed, Keri
and Kerewin are kissin' cousins.                            
I was taken with the descriptions of nature in this book.   
The whole book is steeped in them.  Poetic, revealing a deep
love and affinity to nature.                                

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    11/19
From:   NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Time:     2:27 AM

I am about half-way through this book.  I had thought I had 
read it a long time ago, but I think it was only that I had 
been aware of it.  I like the book very much - I wasn't     
bothered by the ambiguities - it seems she is writing a     
fable, and as in any fable, certain things must just be     
accepted at face value.  She has put some very real people  
in the midst of a fabulous set-up.  Kerewin has untold      
wealth.  She lives in a medeival tower (with modern         
plumbing!), has a treasure chest full of jewels, toadstools 
in the walls - a room full of any book you could want       
(pretty nifty!).  At the start, she even tips us that       
Kerewin's favorite escapist reading is C.S. Lewis, etc.     
I wonder if there are any Irish mythical creatures with     
characteristics like Simon's?  The violence does get a bit  
hard to take - especially as, very early on, despite Joe's  
telling himself that he is not solely to blame, he also     
admits to himself that the beatings have as much to do with 
his own mood as with anything Simon does or doesn't do.  I  
think that realizing this, it would have been difficult for 
anyone to continue such savage, drawn-out violence.  I think
Kerewin is depicted as asexual to allow the relationship    
between her and Joe to develop without sex "getting in the  
way."  How else could Hulme depict this type of relationship
between a man and a woman, otherwise not involved, and      
allow the non-sexual aspects to take center stage?  If not, 
it would be a nice love story - not the same story at all.  
But I'm only half through - if things do develop later on,  
then I still say she did this to let the three way          
relationship develop, without the Joe/Kerewin axis stealing 
the limelight.                                              

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/19
From:   VMMN97A    FELIX MILLER          Time:     7:04 AM

I liked Kerewin very much, and if I met a woman who         
corresponded to Hulme's creation, I would probably like her 
as well.  I admire independent people of any gender, and    
Kerewin's sense of humour and acute self-knowlege would     
appeal to me in a real person as well.                      
I note that Steve has cited Brett Ashley as another         
literary creation he would find fascinating as a real       
person. I admire Brett as a fictional character, but I      
would shun her like a particularly vile plauge if she       
metamorphsed into a living human being.  Self-indulgent,    
manipulating, always making messes and casting about for    
sympathy for herself.  She gets the Hemingway kiss-off in   
practically the last line of the book, when she for the     
umpteenth time asks Jake Barnes if life wouldn't have been  
wonderful if they could have sex (she doesn't phrase it     
that way, but that's what she means), and Jake cuttingly    
and sarcastically remarks, "Isn't it pretty to think so."  
I will parenthetically say that Hemingway never created a   
convincing, fully rounded "good" female character.  Which   
is one his several defects as a writer.  But let him create 
a really "bad" woman, and watch him go to work.             
Regards from the mountain,                                  
Felix Miller                                                

To:     VMMN97A    FELIX MILLER          Date:    11/19
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     5:56 PM

When I read this interview with Hulme, my immediate reaction
was that she is a rather intimidating woman, but that I     
would really like to be her friend -- if she would have me. 
She definitely has a sense of humor and that shines through 
the interview.                                              
I'll post more quotes from the interview later. Right now I 
need to concentrate on finishing BLESS ME ULTIMA for my     
local book club. Kind of left it to the last minute--       

From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     8:55 AM

Excerpt from CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS  interview with Keri      
CA: THE BONE PEOPLE and some of the short stories in Te     
Kaihau/The Windeater seem to be very much about families. Do
you think of the family as a conscious concern in your      
HULME: My family is *the* THE most important thing in my    
I better define family, what that word means for me, before 
I go any further. "Family" is the group of people I was born
into, my whanau. Mother, father, siblings, parents' parents,
parents' siblings, in-laws, relations, everybody on your    
bloodline, and quite a few others besides. Those who 'marry'
in (many sexual relationships, while long-lasting, are      
informal); those who are adopted in (the whangai are a big  
part of my family group, to the latest generation); those   
who, through long and trusted support and partaking of the  
family group, come to have the status of relations.         
I can meet someone and think, What a shit, and then learn   
that they are whanauka and immediately--well, not           
necessarily revise my opinion of them, but add to it, Well, 
they're a *family* shit. It truly makes a difference to me  
to know that you are Kai Tahu, of my hapu KatiRakiamoa or   
KaiRuahikihiki--or that you're a Hulme, from Lancashire. Or 
a Matches or Rendall from Mainland, Orkney.                 
                                                    distresses me to see the many many people in New     
Zealand who are bereft of their families--who have either   
never had them, or who have lost their family groups. I     
think that is bereavement, that is loss, that is a primary  
--'We carry our ghosts on our shoulders: we are never alone'
(You can't ever be alone: the air you breathe is full of    
other people, other beings--and all their  breathing--and   
you yourself are a knit and weaving of a thousand           
generations.) I write about what I love--or what I perceive 
New Zealanders need to take a closer look at. Or just to    
entertain us, talking about what we already think we know.  
(That's a course that is always good for suprises, laughs,  
and tears)."            

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/21
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     8:57 AM

Hulme won The Prize for Maori Literature for BONE PEOPLE in 
1984. The novel is sprinkled with Maori phrases and myth.   
Hulme is only one-eighth Maori (one great-grandparent) and I
was interested in why she identified with that part of      
herself so closely. The CA interview doesn't really answer  
that question, but it does provide some interesting         
information about the Maori influence.                      
Hulme's picture shows a plain, middle-aged white woman, with
curled hair (like her heroine's, although not at all unruly)
--no obvious trace of Polynesian blood.                     
She was born in that magic CR year, 1947. The Maori         
great-grandparent was on her mother's side.  She says of her
Maori relations in the CA interview:                        
"While I started collecting Maori words (made a dictionary  
of them for the rest of the benighted outside world!) at    
seven, while I loved my mother's relations for the          
acceptance and tolerance and love I found there, I didn't   
realize we were any way Maori while I was a child."      
The only Maori she heard as a child was pidgin Maori. She   
heard colloquial Maori when she left home to pick tobacco in
1965. She learned "classical" Maori (the kind used in       
traditional stories) through painstaking study. I just find 
it very intriguing that a person whose ancestry is 7/8      
European would identify so closely with the 1/8 that is not.
Any ideas? Also, how did the rest of you react to the use of
Maori in this book?                                         

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/22
From:   PDSG17A    MAUREEN DAVIN         Time:    11:26 AM

Thanks for all your good information.                       
As to why Keri identified more with the Maori part is that  
the culture, language, beliefs, & traditions of the Maori   
are more interesting than those of the Western Europe.  The 
other reason is that many times way deep down inside people 
feel a deep kinship with past generations regardless of how 
small the tie might be.                                     
As for the the Maori words in the book, I enjoyed them.     
I like how they sounded, in my head. (I don't know if MY    
pronounciation was right.) Many of the phrases were quite   
lyrical.  BUT I eventually stopped looking up their meanings
because many time the words I wanted to know weren't in the 
glossary and constant flipping back broke up the flow of my 
Maureen - on another rainy Saturday morning                 

To:     PDSG17A    MAUREEN DAVIN         Date:    11/22
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:    12:32 PM

I'm not sure that the Maori customs and beliefs are more    
interesting that the long, long complicated and rich history
and culture of Western Europe.  More exotic, yes, IF you are
born and raised in the Western European tradition, but not  
inherently more interesting.                                
And I did the same thing with this book that I did with     
CLOCKWORK ORANGE.  I didn't discover the glossary until 3/4 
of the way through the book.  It didn't seem to matter. Just
like CW, Hulme had managed NOT to put information important 
to our understanding so it was only in Maori.               

To:     PDSG17A    MAUREEN DAVIN         Date:    11/22
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     2:01 PM

I think you have a point. My ancestry is pretty much of a   
hodgepodge, but as a kid I identified with the Croatian side
of the family because it seemed more interesting (or exotic,
as Ruth would prefer). Of course, that was before the Croats
got such a bad rep. Nowadays, I am inclined to emphasize the
British half. Another factor was that the Croatian      
relatives seemed a lot saner.                               
Hulme says she wrote her book for New Zealanders and the    
Maori culture is certainly part of their national heritage. 
Her book seems emphasize the positive aspects of mixing     
Maori and white culture. In fact, I wonder if there are many
Maoris left who are not racially mixed.                     
I have heard New Zealand is a gorgeous country. I'd like to 
go there sometime. Of course, I'd like to go almost         
everywhere sometime.                                        

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/22
From:   NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Time:     3:10 PM

I don't think Maori culture is more "interesting" than      
European, or any other culture (every culture is            
interesting).  And since she grew up in New Zealand, Ruth,  
Maori culture certainly wasn't exotic - in fact, it was     
European culture that was the import.  In fact, that may be 
one of the reasons Keri "identified" with Maori culture -   
because that was the culture that developed in the place    
that she as a person developed.  Also, she may have been    
motivated by the same thing that motivates many Americans   
who are 1/8 or less black and could pass for white, yet do  
not - why be a coward and deny what you are?                

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    11/22
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     5:29 PM

I didn't mean that Maori culture was exotic in the literal  
sense of the word, Theresa.  I meant Maori culture might be 
fascinating to someone raised in the world of Western       
European culture largely because it was different.  I gather
that Keri Hulme, being only 1/8 Maori, was raised in the    
dominant culture of New Zealand, which like it or not,      
import or not, is more heavily Western European in outlook  
than Maori.  Yes, Maori is the culture that developed in New
Zealand, but it hasn't been the culture that's been dominant
there in the last couple hundred years or so.               
Besides being fascinated by Maori because it was different, 
emphasizing her Maori ancestry might be way for Keri Hulme  
to assert her individuality.  Also, if she is as besmitten  
with the wonders of the natural world as Kerewin, and I     
assume she is in order to write so beautifully of them, she 
might feel that being the native culture, Maori is closer to
the land.                                                   

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    11/23
From:   PDSG17A    MAUREEN DAVIN         Time:     3:18 PM

Thank you Ruth, you said exactly what I meant!              
"Interesting" or "Exotic" are relative terms.  What I find  
more interesting or exoctic may spark little or no interest 
with another person.  Western European influence on history 
and culture, I experience everyday.  Now Maorism --besides  
hearing the name I only know what I read in the book -- not 
much. But is certainly seems interesting, a little exotic,  
primative, spriritual, with a focus on nature.              

To:     PDSG17A    MAUREEN DAVIN         Date:    11/23
From:   WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Time:     4:11 PM

In the plant world "exotic" means a plant that has been     
transplanted from its native habitat to another place       
altogether. It doesn't mean just unusual. So, technically,  
Theresa is correct, the European culture is exotic to New   
Zealand. I don't know if any of you remember or not, but    
Kerewin used the word "exotic" to talk about trees on the   
beach, in particular Monterey pines. Holmes (Hume) may feel 
more connected to the Maori part of her because that part   
seemed more at home and natural in the habitat (I think Ruth
said something like that). Her European self may have seemed
misplanted, like the Monterey pines.                        

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/23
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:    11:18 PM

I just finished THE BONE PEOPLE today and allowed myself to 
read through all of your notes tonight.  I know many of us  
have made reference to this, but, once again, it was        
delicious finishing the book, knowing that I had all of     
this great discussion ahead of me to read.                  
  It seems inaccurate to say that I "liked" this book.  As  
some others of you have said, it was an experience that I'm 
glad I didn't miss, but a disturbing, very                  
thought-provoking one.  I am absolutely amazed that in this 
time of politically correct reactions to child abuse that   
Hulme set her story full in the middle of it...and with no  
trace of political correctness.  I'm also surprised that I  
haven't read more reaction from the watchdog organizations  
in that area.  Like Ann, I recoiled from the actual scenes  
of violence and the aftermath.  However, the motivations    
for it and the interplay between Joe and Simon preceeding   
it were an art form.  I've worked with abused kids in my    
classroom and it does become the only method of interaction 
that they know.  I've watched them try to provoke a parent  
in front of me and have also watched the helpless reaction  
of the parent trying to find another way to react.  The     
abuser is just as sad a person as the one who is abused,    
but sifting through all that is so complex that those who   
deal with it tend to go for the simplistic approach.  Bad   
protective service workers here are very hard for me to     
stomach.  Really, this book seems to be to be about so much 
more, but the interaction between Joe and Simon purely on   
this level is so intricately done that it's hard for me to  
move on without commenting on it.                           
  After that though, I keep coming back to Sherry's         
original note that started the thread.  It never occurred   
to me that Simon might be a metaphor for "a foreign catalyst
come to the homeland to foment turmoil".  It seems to me    
that all of these characters could be metaphors for         
something, but I'm not sure what.  Simon particularly       
though seems like he could be a metaphor for the pure       
European influence on the Maori people.  If I remember      
correctly, there is a huge incidence of alcoholism,         
violence and poverty among the Maori, much like other       
native peoples who lose their cultures and are influenced   
by the foreign diseases, customs etc. of a conquering       
people. Though Joe certainly doesn't sound like he was      
having a perfect life before Simon came on the scene, he    
did have a wife he loved and a baby.  He loses both of them 
after Simon comes and then goes down this path of violence  
and drinking, though I didn't catch whether or not the      
drinking was a big part of his life prior to the death of   
his wife and baby.                                          
  I'm still not sure what I thought about Kerewin.  My      
instinct is to like her, but some of her characteristics    
seem a bit self-conscious rather than the natural flow of   
someone who doesn't even think about being different, but   
just is.  Or maybe of someone who is different, but enjoys  
the process of adding to those qualities because that has   
become her role.  Am not really sure where I'm going here,  
sort of thinking out loud.                                  
  Great recommendation for the list, Sherry.  I'm off to do 
a bit more thinking and will be back with more.      Barb   

To:     NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Date:    11/24
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     0:32 AM

Enjoyed your comments as usual. Many years ago, with no     
training whatsover, I was a caseworker for the welfare      
department. Some of my friends were in protective servics   
and I remember them talking about terrible abuse cases where
the kid just wanted to go back home to the parents. So      
Simon's desire to go back to Joe rang very true to me.      
My friends had social work backgrounds and really cared     
about kids, but these jobs pay next to nothing and burnout  
is very high, so it doesn't surprise me that you have had   
bad experiences with some of the local protective service   
workers. Sad but true that society doesn't put much value   
on this kind of work, so it is difficult to attract good    
On my library trip to find out more about the author, I also
read excerpts from reviews of THE BONE PEOPLE in            
Contemporary Literay Criticism. Several of the critics were 
disturbed by Hulme's sympathetic portrayal of the abuser.   
For example, D.J. Enright, in THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, 
February, 27, 1986 wrote:                                   
"But there seems to be a general tacit agreement that you   
can smash a child up just as long as you love it in some    
strange, powerful way. With its debased memories of         
WUTHERING HEIGHTS this belongs, at best, to the darker side 
of novelette writing. I would say it is positively immoral; 
I don't recall such acquiesence displayed by Dickens or any 
other portrayer of times supposedly less tender."     
Pretty strong words. Comments?                              

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/24
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     0:43 AM

Hulme is very much a New Zealand writer who wants to        
contribute to a national literature. I think that she wants 
to emphasize the blending of European and Maori cultures,   
as opposed to presenting the Europeans as corrupting        
According to an article in the 1985 Contemporary Literary   
Criticism, Hulme "describes her story as a 'deliberate      
attempt to manufacture New Zealand myth,' to blend real and 
invented Maroi legends with European literary style,        
harmonizing both of her country's cultural influences."     
This book was very popular in New Zealand.      Ann         

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/24
From:   NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Time:     1:05 AM

Now that I have finished, I'm not sure what I think of this 
book.  I did not like the ending - can't bear that type of  
artificial addition of "supernatural" elements - it did not 
appear to me to be the way the book was going - was         
surprised she took this way out for both Joe and Kerewin -  
K's cancer transformed into some kind of cranky old lady    
"blocking" her natural healthy functions - and now she's    
gone, so K can reconcile with her family.  Too pat for me.  
And the big, happy party at the end was a bit too smarmy.   
Sounded like fun, but not very realistic.  And didn't that  
Luce character rape Simon early in the book - that was my   
impression.  And I wasn't happy with the way Simon was      
characterized in the end, either.  (darn these writers, why 
don't they write things the way I want them to....)  But I  
cannot think of an alternative - don't know how I would have
ended this book.  It was great up until the last sections.  

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    11/24
From:   MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Time:     1:49 PM

Ann: I'm always taken aback when a supposedly intelligent   
person like Enright--and a fiction reviewer, yet--claims a  
book is "positively immoral" because its characters do bad  
things which don't result in (a) a sermon from the author,  
or (b) a *deus ex machina* thrashing for all the guilty     
before the story is over. Get real, Mr. Enright.            
  The characters are *not* the author, the characters aren't
necessarily *like* the author, and the characters often are 
not even *liked by* the author. As such, those kinds of     
blanket condemnations such as Enright's are misdirected from
the get-go.                                                 
  And on a more practical note...who of us, Enright         
included, is sufficiently holier-than-thou that he/she has  
never once avoided getting involved in other people's       
(particularly other families') affairs? The reasons are     
many, ranging from the cliche "Don't want to get involved"  
to the more complicated "Afraid it would just make things   
worse," which I think was in the back of Kerewin's mind.    
  Joe's certainly no Robert Young, but what were the        
alternatives for raising Simon in that remote place? Joe's  
relatives? I don't think so.                                
  Let he who has never "looked the other way," even once,   
cast the first stone. One of bitterest lessons we learn, as 
adults, is that some problems just don't have solutions.    
  The lesser of two evils or the lesser of 50 evils is still
a very unpleasant choice, but such is reality.              
  Dale in Ala.                                            

To:     MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Date:    11/24
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     2:18 PM

Dale, I agree with you completely.  And I think the tour de 
force of this book was to compel us to see a child abuser as
a human being. It doesn't excuse the abuse, but we come away
from reading this with a deeper understanding of how        
complicated this situation can be, even a deeper            
understanding of how complicated LIFE can be.               
That said, I don't think if someone asked what this book was
about, that I'd answer "child abuse".  Frankly, I don't know
what I'd answer.  There are so many threads and they're so  
Ruth, who just had several quail walk past her office window

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    11/26
From:   BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Time:     9:56 PM

I'm writing off the top of my head again as usual but I     
didn't think this book was about child abuse either.  I kind
of settled for the one critic's view that this was about    
holistic relationships. Where three people who are defective
alone are whole together.  And in holistic medicine don't we
kind of heal ourselves?  Joe and Kerewin each went off alone
and came back "better" than they were and even Simon who was
kept away (and therefore alone) came back knowing he still  
needed to be with Joe and Kerewin.  In one of the interviews
with Keri that someone quoted she told how important family,
friends and people are to her life.  We need each other, and
Ithink that's what the novel was about.  Told in a very     
moving story.                                               
B. Hill                                                     

To:     BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Date:    11/27
From:   XJKD19F    JOY HUOTT             Time:     8:37 AM

     A very good point. We need each other...whether we like
it or not.                                            
Joy in NY, speaking of family and friends and people in     
general...and hearing Barbra Streisand singing the song in  
the background...people who need people...are the luckiest  
people in the world...Happy Thanksgiving...                 

To:     BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Date:    11/27
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:     7:15 PM

You make a very good point, Barbara.  And, it certainly was 
an emphasized theme throughout the book.  I agree that it's 
not a book about child abuse, but I couldn't get over how   
well Hulme orchestrated the interactions that related to    
  She also did an interesting job of presenting the Maori   
culture and how they all needed each other as well.  This   
process of a people losing and regaining themselves is a    
very difficult one to communicate.  I thought at times that 
she had taken on too much with it, but there were glimmers  
of some gem-like moments here.  Plus, she seemed to be      
making a real effort to include some of the good of the     
influence of the European as well.                          
  One of my favorite quotes from the book was from Mirama   
speaking at the party at the end when she said,             
  "When they want to listen, they'll listen.  We can't wake 
them up just to tell them our stories.  They're busy making 
their own.  And, in the meantime, my love, we've got each   
   As the mother of two teen-agers, I felt like I should    
have this cross-stitched on a sampler for my wall....       

To:     MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Date:    11/27
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:     7:15 PM

  Thank you for making those points about Enright's review  
of THE BONE PEOPLE.  I wanted to write a note about it,     
didn't have time, then logged on to find that you've done   
it much better than I could.  When I commented that I was   
surprised I hadn't read such remarks about it, I was hoping 
that reviewers were intelligent enough to see the           
point...of course, I was wrong.                  Barb       

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    11/28
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:    11:23 PM

Sherry and all,                                             
I finally finished this marvelous book yesterday.  Someone  
mentioned that he/she thought that the ending was too pat,  
too happy.  I didn't feel that at all.  I felt that all     
three characters had been through fire just like the        
sculpture that Kerewin made before her departure.  They all 
came out weakened, particularly Simon who is now not only   
mute because of his past experiences, he is also nearly     
deaf.  He can't hear his beloved music unless he puts his   
ear right on Kerewin's guitar.  K. mentions that she had    
lost much of her strength, and Joe has lost Simon and his   
job.  At the end, he says that there have been negative     
comments from his family and Lynn has tried to beat him up  
as well.  They all three seem handicapped, and they are all 
recovering and in need of eachother to make a whole (as     
someone already said).  I just spent an hour reading all of 
your comments so I am not sure who said what.  Jane who     
thoroughly enjoyed this novel                               

To:     FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Date:    11/29
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:    11:18 AM

  I'm glad you pointed out the extent that they all were    
damaged by their experiences.  It does feel like there is   
this great gathering of people at the end who absorb each   
other despite everything that has happened to them.  And,   
from Ann's interviews, that does seem to be one of the      
messages that Hulme most wanted to convey.                  
  In mulling this book around in my brain this week, I      
still come back to Hulme using each of these characters as  
metaphor...but more as symbols for the blending of cultures 
in New Zealand.  It has happened with both benefits and     
damages to all.  I don't think it's as simple as            
European Simon being a devil-child who wreaked havoc on     
these poor innocent Maoris.  It seems more a situation in   
which they all hurt and helped each other and then all came 
together to survive in the end.  It does seem significant   
to me that Simon was the most damaged of all.  Sorry to be  
stuck on this, but it does keep knocking around in my head. 
  And, I keep wondering how this book fits into Gardner's   
construct on moral fiction.  Did Hulme plan what she        
ultimately produced ahead of time more in a first-class     
propaganda format?  Or did the characters and story         
evolve...more along the lines of ANNA KARENINA?             
  Again, Sherry, this is not a book that I read and forgot, 
as you can see.                          Barb   

To:     NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Date:    11/29
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:     9:45 PM

I never thought of Simon as being the European devil child. 
He was too sweet and too giving most of the time.  I did    
note in the bar that Kerewin said horrible things to the    
outsider Aussie, but I thought that it was the drink talking
for the most part.                                          
Kerewin's tower fascinates me.  When I started this book, I 
immediately thought that Kerewin had built the dream home   
for Tom and Jane Niemeier.  It was isolated and quiet, and  
it had a view of the sea.  Sometimes at night, when I can't 
sleep, I visualize that I have a home on the sea.           
K.'s home fit this fantasy perfectly.  I am not sure why she
tore it down.  Was it to show that she realized that she no 
longer wanted to be isolated?  Jane who has enjoyed thinking
about this novel.                                           

To:     BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Date:    11/29
From:   MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Time:    10:28 PM

Barbara: I love your observation about the three broken     
people making up a whole one. Not a perfect or happy one,   
for sure, but at least more whole. What a great story.      
  BONE PEOPLE is taking me a lot longer than I anticipated, 
because I keep going slower and slower to savor the sounds  
and details of the writing. It's making me homesick for a   
cabin on the beach, too.                      
  Dale in Ala., where it's rainy and bleak but almost as  
warm as summer                                              

To:     FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Date:    11/30
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:    10:22 AM

  I think that the tower was a message to the world from    
Kerewin to "Leave me alone!"...sort of a symbol of oneness. 
I liked it too, but it sounded a bit sterile and            
meant to sustain a hermit-like existence.  I thought she    
tore it down when she left because she wasn't sure that she 
was coming back and, if she did, it wouldn't be as the      
person who left.  Also, the tower was part of her           
relationship with Simon and Joe which she might destroy as  
well.  The house that she built when she came back sounded  
like a community I have that right or am I       
confusing it with the religious center?  In any case, her   
building had to do with bringing together a family whether  
they were blood related or not.                             
  And, on a slightly lighter note, did you love her         
attitude toward cultivating the dandelions?  I live in a    
large sub-division area where lots of people try to         
cultivate wildflowers.  I've often observed                 
that dandelions are the hardiest wildflower of all and we   
should hold on to some of them, but no one out here finds   
that worth considering.  The only people with an            
appreciation for dandelions are small children.  I get a    
multitude of dandelion bouquets every Spring at work.       

To:     NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Date:    11/30
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:     9:41 PM

Yes, I think you are right about her new house.  At the end 
though, I wasn't sure where she was when she was building.  
I like your observations about the dandelions.  I always    
liked them when I was a kid, just as your little people do. 
Jane who is ready for winter break (three more weeks)       

To:     FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Date:    11/30
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:    11:09 PM

You were curious about the process of writing this book and 
whether it changed from Hulme's initial idea. I found these 
comments in the Contemporary Authors interview that I       
xeroxed. These characters first came to Hulme when she was  
18. She wrote a short story about them, but the characters  
wouldn't go away. Hulme:                                    
"The first short story stopped in a drawer for a couple of  
years. I played with some characters in paintings, in words.
The story bent and climbed and went into weird areas. (For  
instance, at one time Simon Peter was a cave-dweller; at    
another, he only appeared in other characters' dreams--you  
never knew whether he was real or imanginary--and in one    
story, scrapped very quickly, he died midway through the    
book. Similar transmogrifications happened to everyone in   
what eventually became THE BONE PEOPLE.) There were at least
seven re-writings of the settled manuscript."   
Interestingly, she has written a novella which follows the  
three main characters three years after the ending of the   
novel just because she was curious about what happened to   
them. At this point she has no plans to publish it, and the 
interview didn't divulge anything about the story.          
I always find it fascinating how characters take on a life  
of their own for any author who is worth his/her salt.      

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    12/04
From:   DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Time:     9:11 PM

Ann and all, I just finished THE BONE PEOPLE tonight and    
have enjoyed reading your notes. Very compelling novel, with
memorable characters. As far as the language goes, was      
anyone reminded of Arundhati Roy's novel? (I read part of   
it.) She and Keri Hulme do similar things with some of their
word constructions. I did find that after a while, I was    
skipping chunks of text and looking for the story line.     
Perhaps that's because I was so horrified at Simon's last   
beating. That's probably the image that will stick with me, 
and it's so awful. After that, I think I pulled back from   
the book somewhat, although I did keep reading away to see  
what happened. I wasn't so crazy about the magic stuff.  
   I do think that it is a remarkable achievement to make   
Joe as sympathetic as he is, but, that said, I can seen     
where the reviewer got the idea that the love he shows is   
supposed to obliterate the beatings. I wouldn't say that the
book is immoral, however.                                   
     A good many of their (Kerewin's and Joe's) problems    
seemed to stem from their alcoholism.                       
    I'll have to mull the novel over for some time to come. 
But the central image remains for me that seven-year-old    
child with his head bashed in.                              

To:     DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Date:    12/05
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:     6:20 PM

  I know, Susan, it is hard to get around.  Maybe that's    
why I started seeing Simon as a metaphor because I was      
really hoping that Hulme wasn't writing his character as a  
real child.                                                 
  And, at the same time that I was reading THE BONE PEOPLE, 
I was listening to JOE by Larry Brown followed by ANGELA'S  
ASHES on tape.  The amount of alcohol consumed in all 3     
books is staggering (no pun intended).  I started to feel a 
bit jaded by it all.  Plus, the seriousness of all 3        
subjects (though McCourt certainly alleviates it with his   
humor) sent me running for a Linda Barnes detective story   
for my next bot.                                     Barb   

To:     NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Date:    12/05
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:    11:52 PM

Well, I almost feel guilty for saying this, but I presume   
Hulme doesn't have children, since she is not married and   
describes herself as totally uninterested in sex, and I     
think that helps explain how she can present such a         
forgiving picture of Joe. That last beating which caused    
Simon, already a mute, to lose most of his hearing, really  
horrifies me. I don't know how you could live with that     
without lots of alcohol to deaden the guilt, which in turn  
could very well lead to a repetition. And yes, alcoholism   
seems to pervade both Joe's  and Kerewin's lives, although  
neither really deals with it. I had the impression Hulme    
doesn't see it as a problem.  Did you have that impression? 
Ann, enjoying a glass of wine with her P*.              
P. S. For those who need some smiles to alternate with these
darker themes, I would like to second Sherry's              
recommendation of Richard Russo's STRAIGHT MAN --- very     

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    12/06
From:   UPDQ58A    PEGGY RAMSEY          Time:     0:22 AM

It's good to see I'm not alone in being disturbed by        
Simon's state at the end of the novel.  I knew Hulme would  
somehow work her "family" back together, but kept hoping it 
wouldn't happen.  And despite the warm fuzzy ending, I saw  
nothing that convinced me Joe wouldn't raise his hand       
against Simon.                                              

To:     UPDQ58A    PEGGY RAMSEY          Date:    12/06
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     1:37 AM

I agree, Peggy.  That's one reason why I found the cosy     
ending unsatisfactory.  I also wondered about Hulmes        
attitude toward the alcohol.  Maybe she just presented it   
nonjudgmentally so that we could just see for ourselves     
without any preaching.                                      
One thing that also surprised me, although it has nothing to
do with literary concerns.  Did you notice that Joe only got
3 months in prison for beating Simon within an inch of his  
life?  Laws in NZ sure must be different than they are here.
Ruth in CA, where it's fixin' to rain                       

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    12/06
From:   DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Time:    10:30 AM

Ruth and the rest of y'all, the more I think about it, the  
more I believe that Keri Hulme lost me on that final        
beating. It was just too horrible for me; the ending doesn't
seem possible with that sort of incident preceding it. I    
wasn't open to the magic, either, after that. I still think 
it's a really fascinating book, but do have my reservations 
about that last 100 pages or so.                            
  Now, a question. Why did Simon's father tell the "last    
cannibal" that his wife and son died in a car wreck? Did I  
miss something here?                                        
Susan in bright and sunny CT                                

To:     DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Date:    12/06
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:    11:36 AM

I didn't get that whole business about Simon's ancestry.  I 
guess it was just too oblique for me.  All those references 
to some Irish lord, then the guy who looks like he's the    
father says his wife and child died in a car wreck, then    
that last snippet if info about a drug-runner.  I realize   
the guy could have been lying, but was he?  Or was this     
another of those wanderings up a blind alley?               
But what bothered me most about this was the question as to 
why such a big deal was made of the mystery of Simon's      
origins, if it was never really going to be solved          
satisfactorily.  I realize that in life there is stuff that 
we never do figure out.  But a novel is not life.  It may   
pretend to be, but it's not.  An author needs a reason for  
something to be in a novel, and I never figured out the     
reason for the mystery about Simon.                         

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    12/06
From:   NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Time:     3:20 PM

Here is what I thought - the Irish lord/junkie was Simon's  
father.  But, if you read his thoughts at the preface       
closely, I think the drug runner was some other guy his     
mother hooked up with.  And they ALL hurt him.  See the     
first page (when Simon is still on the boat): "The voice.  
The nightmare voice.  The vivid haunting terrible voice.    
that seemed to murmur endearments all the while the hands   
skilfully and cruelly hurt him. . . .  It is happenning     
again, and like the time before, there is nothing he can do 
to stop it.  It will take away the new people, it will break
him, it will start all over again.  He cannot change it.    
And worst of all, he knows in an inchoate way that the      
greatest terror is yet to come."  
Perhaps the Irish lord lost contact and just claimed a car  
wreck.  Or maybe Simon's mother did die in a wreck, and new 
people had him.  That would explain his fear of losing even 
people who did not care for him properly (like Joe) -       
perhaps the next would be even worse.                       
As for the alcohol, Keri Hulme in an interview claimed her  
own main interests were writing, walking on the beach and   
drinking whiskey.                                           

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    12/06
From:   BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Time:    10:28 PM

You know whenI finished the book I wondered how Joe could   
wake up sober in the morning and see Simon and still live   
with himself.  It made me want to know more about the Maori.
So in digging around in Homework Helper I found a review of 
the movie Once Were Warriors.  It's about the Maoris and so 
I got the video.  Drunkeness and violence were not uncommon 
with these people because of the loss of ethnic pride, and  
the welfare dependency. There was a lot of despair.  I think
it must have been a way of life for the Maoris at the time  
of the novel.  This doesn't excuse anything but maybe       
explains it a little.                                       
  Barb Hill                                                 

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    12/06
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:    11:14 PM

But Theresa, Simon could have had parents or guardians or   
whatever in his past who hurt him without there being such a
mystery about who they were.  That's what puzzle me.  Why   
the mystery?  For quite a way into the book I was convinced 
that this mystery was at the heart of the book.  This was   
what would be unraveled and it's unraveling would reveal    
something that would make all the pieces fall into place.   
Then it never was satisfactorily unravelled and what was    
revealed, maybe, was really only that Simon had been hurt.  
Not necessary to have a mystery for that.                   
So why did the author include this?  Ruth                   

To:     BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Date:    12/07
From:   NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Time:     1:19 AM

Drunkenness and violence are part of the human condition,    
seems to me.  You find it wherever you go.  I don't think we
can blame Joe's violence on the fact that he is Maori -     
Marama and her family were not violent to Simon - although  
they probably didn't deal with Joe's violence as            
forthrightly as they could have (like who among us hasn't   
turned the other way when we probably should have           
intervened), they definitely did not approve of the         
beatings.  I liked Once Were Warriors a lot - in part,      
because it very much was not an "ethnographic" type of film 
- it showed the family as people who were Maori, to me,     
rather than showing them as exemplars of what it was to be  
"Maori."  The main female actress was excellent - I wonder  
if she has appeared in any other films.                     
Ruth - I thought the mystery of Simon was an integral part  
of the book - don't know why, but it would have been a very 
different tale if we had known more about his origin.  It   
didn't particularly bother me that we didn't have every last
detail cleared up - I thought we were given enough          
information as it was to get an idea of his background.     

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    12/07
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     1:24 AM

I can live with the mystery, Theresa.  I was just wondering 
what the author's purpose was.  What was the reason for     
making it a mystery.                                        

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    12/07
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:    11:04 AM

This book went through seven revisions and Hulme resisted   
any attempt to have it seriously edited. Maybe something got
lost along the way, or maybe she just didn't know how to tie
it all up.                                                  

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    12/07
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:    12:59 PM

That's interesting Ann.  And entirely possible.  And the bit
about Hulme rejecting any serious editing makes me pat      
myself on the shoulder.  I think one of the first comments I
made about this book was that it was wonderful, I loved it, 
I was fascinated by it and that it should have had a better 
editor.  Along with Hulmes magical, poetic use of language  
there are some really clumsy boo-boos.                      

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    12/07
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:     9:34 PM

Ruth and all,                                               
Maybe the point of the mystery is that there are many       
mysteries in life that are not cleared up, ever.  Perhaps,  
Hulme wanted to keep that mystery there for that reason.  I 
kept thinking that Kerewin was going to keep working on this
mystery after the book was over.  Life goes on.  Jane in    
chilly Colorado                                             

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    12/08
From:   BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Time:     0:50 AM

Theresa, I really liked the movie Once Were Warriors also.  
The female actress was Rena Owen, she was very good wasn't  
she!  I have to disagree that the movie wasn't ethnographic.
The movie was reviewed as concerning "the squalid and       
hopeless existence of modern urban Maori people -           
indigenous, disenfranchised and disallusioned."  The movie  
director who is half Maori was quoted as saying "I thought  
Maori wouldn't go see it.  But they did.  In unprecedented  
numbers. Old, young, middle-aged.  It was an extraordinary  
response.  They knew it was the truth, and more than that   
they were proud of it, in a way.  It isn't pretty, but it   
was accurate."       Barb Hill                             

To:     BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Date:    12/08
From:   NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Time:     1:05 AM

Barb - I didn't mean that the movie didn't acurately depict 
Maori people - it certainly seemed to (I've never been to   
New Zealand, so I'm no real judge).  What I meant was that  
when I was watching the film, I didn't feel that I was      
watching a movie about "the Maori," but rather a film about 
people who were Maori.  I don't know how else to put this,  
but to me there is a very big difference.                   

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    12/09
From:   MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Time:    11:46 AM

All: I finally finished THE BONE PEOPLE, and it really hit  
me hard. One of the most unusual books I've read in a long  
  I had no trouble with the various magics at the end. True,
it did give the last portion a somewhat different tone than 
the rest, but I figure these people had dealt with so much  
sh*t on their own that they were due a little divine        
  I found it interesting, though, that throughout the novel 
it's Simon (with his eerie little wind-sculptures on the    
beach) and Kerewin (building her sun-eater) who seem the    
most aware of a spiritual side to their natures, while it's 
ol' solid, practical Joe who in the end arguably gets the   
most spiritual intervention of all.                         
  Reminds me of an old Buddhist saying which I shamelessly  
invented for my novel, something to the effect of "He who   
flees a god often hears its voice more clearly than he who  
pursues." Seems to be the case in real life, at least.      
  The story of Simon's final beating was indeed terrible and
heart-wrenching, and for a while I couldn't understand why I
still felt so much sympathy for Joe, despite the inexcusable
and irreparable damage he had caused.                       
  The best I can figure, there comes a point in a person's  
life when he/she has undergone so much emotional pain       
(whether inflicted by other people, or by accident or       
illness--as with Joe's legs) that it comes to seem sort of  
the raw material of life, and "doing unto others" doesn't   
feel quite like cruelly inciting and inflicting something,  
so much as just impersonally distributing what's already in 
the world and in themselves, if that makes sense.           
  Which certainly doesn't excuse the act or eliminate the   
guilt, but at least it makes "thinkable" instead of         
"unthinkable" the kind of damage we see around us every day 
by people who are not habitual criminals but are, in other  
areas of their life than the abuse, thoughtful and loveable.
Undergoing so much trauma, especially so early in life,     
seems to deaden a part of the conscience where pain is      
concerned. (Example: though it's not widely known, O.J.     
Simpson was badly beaten by his mother and also suffered    
rickets, caused by malnutrition, when he was in elementary  
school; he wore leg braces for years and was taunted        
afterward about his bow-legs.)                              
  Anyhow, much food for thought in BONE PEOPLE, and         
characters who won't be leaving my thoughts anytime soon. My
thanks to whoever recommended it. (Sherry, maybe?)          
  Dale in Ala.                                            

To:     MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Date:    12/10
From:   WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Time:     1:42 PM

Yes, I was the one who nominated BP. Your comments were     
thought-provoking for me. I had forgotten that Joe had been 
bedridden so long, and I attributed all his pain to the     
death of his wife and infant son. The idea of redistributing
pain that has been heaped upon you is a powerful idea. I    
think it is akin to the concept behind "sins of the father  
being visited upon the child."                              
I tend to see Simon metaphorically, too, Barbara. But I'm   
not quite sure what the metaphor is about. I suppose that   
most beatings that grown people inflict on kids are a       
metaphor for                                                
something, but it doesn't excuse it. I see Simon as an      
embodiment of the losses Joe has suffered. Simon's          
willfulness points out the lack of control that Joe has over
his life. Simon's lack of speech windows Joe's inability to 
fathom and express the pain he feels over those losses. The 
last beating is Joe bottoming out, like a drunk having a    
lost weekend that eventually leads to his coming to his     
senses and joining AA.                                      
I really liked Kerewin's tower, too. It was like something  
out of a fairy tale. Towers can be powerful symbols. They   
can be a reaching for truth, an aid to vision (as in a      
lighthouse), a sign on the landscape. They also look like   
the number 1. But they isolate, like Rapunzel or all the    
other beautiful storybook maidens who were imprisoned for   
"their own good". When Kerewin tore down her tower, it was  
at first an act of burning bridges, of further isolation.   
After her transformation took place, she used the bottom    
part of the tower, the heart of it, to be the center of her 
nautilus shell house. This house was made to hug the land   
and embrace her family and her extended family. I have a    
hard time envisioning the actual details of how such a house
as this would look. But I had no trouble at all seeing the  
tower in my mind.  It looked like something out of LORD OF  
THE RINGS.                                                  
The thing I wondered about was what happened between Kerewin
and her family. Why did she have a scar on her neck? Was    
this a suicide attempt? A murder attempt? All was eventually
forgiven and we were not told of the core of the problem. I 
think it was an interesting omission, as if it were such a  
private thing that she didn't want to write about it.       
Sherry in snowy Milwaukee                                   

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    12/11
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:     9:20 PM

Dale and Sherry,                                            
Thank you for your thoughtful posts.  I am certainly glad   
that I read this book.  Jane in snowy Colorado              

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    12/14
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:     2:55 PM

The conversation on this book continues to be thought       
provoking.  Dale, I think yo            
beating was Joe's "bottoming out".  I probably particularly 
like your observations on this dynamic because I have       
always been so convinced that most people who deliver       
physical abuse are abused people themselves.  Our sympathy  
goes to the currently innocent receiver of the abuse and    
they, of course, should receive it as well as our help.     
However, the abuser is almost always a grown-up version or  
a stronger version of the person for whom we have such      
empathy now.  Am I communicating at all?                    
  Thanks for reminding me of what Kerewin did with her      
tower in the end, Sherry.  I'm wondering what kind of a     
home Hulme lives in and if she is a builder herself.        
  Also, regarding Simon's beginnings that were never fully  
defined in the book, I do think that Hulme left those       
shadowy on purpose.  She managed to give Simon a range of   
weaknesses in European society, a link to a decaying        
aristocracy as well as drug and sexual abuse.  I'm not sure 
that the shadow of his past would have seemed so evil if    
defined.  And, it serves as a reminder that with all the    
bemoaning of Maori society, the European one has much to    
lament as well.                                             
    Sherry, I assumed that the scar on Kerewin's neck was   
the result of a suicide attempt.  However, I can't remember 
if there were further clues to that or if that was just my  

To:     NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Date:    12/14
From:   MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Time:     5:22 PM

Barb: Good to hear from you. I think the public has just    
recently realized how frequently the physical and emotional 
abuse of children is handed down through generations. As you
say, not an "excuse" for it but certainly a call for more   
empathy, understanding, and treatment options than are      
currently offered.                                          
  Just as important, I think, is the idea that "abuse" isn't
necessarily, or even usually, an act inflicted directly by  
the parents. Even in the "best" families, children who      
suffer trauma from accidents, serious illness, and deaths of
a parent or other close relative (particularly in           
childhood), are often left with emotional scars just as     
damaging and irreparable as kids who are beaten and bullied 
by a real person instead of "just" life and fate.           
  It was only in the past year or two, working on several   
editing projects with a really articulate psychiatrist here 
in town, that I've come to see that aspect of emotional     
  Dale in Ala., who at times of holiday stress daydreams  
himself for a moment into Kerewin's castle with a roaring   
fire and a book                                             

To:     MXDD10A    DALE SHORT            Date:    12/14
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:     9:05 PM

I, too, fantasize about living in Kerewin's tower.  Maybe,  
this is because we all live in homes where we are surrounded
by other people.  In our case, the people are much noisier  
than we are.  In the winter, it isn't so bad, but in the    
summer, we would prefer to be elsewhere.  I know that to    
some people, the tower represented Kerewin's isolation, but 
to me it sounded great.  Tom N.'s fantasy is to live in a   
lighthouse, in a warm climate.  Kerewin was a most          
interesting character who seemed to be fighting against her 
feelings for Simon.  Jane in warm (58 degrees) Colorado     



Winner of the Pegasus Prize for Literature, 1985
Winner of the Booker Prize, 1985
Book Cover
Included in 500 Great Books by Women

Sometimes it feels as if I'm on an ammusement ride with quick stops and changes in direction. But for me the changes have never been disruptive to the story or difficult to follow. The changing POV fill out and add depth and understanding.
Maureen Davin can see that I did not find this an easy book, but I did find it a very compelling one. These characters are burned in my memory. Kerewin, Joe, and Simon are all terrible misfits with serious character flaws, but somehow Hulme succeeds in making them all sympathetic--even Joe, which is especially remarkable.
Ann Davey
Very compelling novel, with memorable characters.
S. Thomsen

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