Cal posted the other day about getting into the Hutt groove. It’s been playing on my mind, too, as I settle back into the neighbourhood of my yoof. I can feel old channels reopening, old patterns reigniting. Leafy streets and low garden walls and drawn curtains and the line of the hills. Older marrieds, high schoolers. Empty streets after dark. The feeling that everything is one step back from view.
Suburbs work out community differently, spacing everyone out, reducing the social importance of physical proximity. Freedom to grow each plot of land in a different way; people do. Lots of worlds unhindered.
We don’t stop at the skin. We’re networked, social, contextual. Our environment is part of who and what we are. Suburbs shape a particular imagination. Curious, respectful, measured, gothic. Vast tracts of surface calm, punctuated by moments of upheaval which quickly sink from view. Intrusions from unstable worlds. The suburbs encourage an imaginative structure where causality is concealed, even impenetrable. Where the observer cannot uncover the web of connections that would make sense of an event. I’m reading ‘The Big Sleep’ right now, and Chandler’s detective stories are chronicles of the big city. There, the fundamental principle is that of overlap, of constant surface tension, the precise opposite of the suburban reality.
The first novel I wrote, “in move”, was set in the world I knew best: the Hutt Valley, mid-90s, teenage boys. (Brian maintains it should be titled “Hutt Boys”.) It’s intensely autobiographical in the sense that it captures the emotional truth I felt growing up here. Looking back on it now, after over a decade away from here, I can see more clearly how it also captures the place. The logic of that novel is essentially suburban. The four central characters are all sealed in their own impenetrable, unstable worlds, and the story is about what happens when they are forced to cross boundaries and negotiate new alignments. The story wouldn’t work in a different environment.
It’s good to be back. I know how this works, I know how my creative energy plays out in this space, I know how the hills look in the morning. I’m excited to see what we can reach.