Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle, Nostalgia Has Ruined My Life.


- A novella in fragments. 63 pages. The front cover is a photo of the unnamed narrator sleeping next to a potato. That sums it up. The personal story of a complete loser, full of ex boyfriends and so-called former friends, and a boring mother. She was bullied at high school. She has aches and pains, bad Tinder dates, unsatisfying sex, bad skin, no money, no ambition and irregular casual work which she's hopeless at anyway. It's not surprising she's unsatisfied with her rather miserable life and the grooves she's stuck in. She refers to her condition as 'Depersonalisation Disorder'. 

- In a way the book is also about dumb boyfriends. They are worse than useless, all of them, but never short of offering advice as to how she should get her act together.

- What lifts off the page is an exquisite existential meaninglessness. New Zealand author Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle quite brilliantly captures the emptiness of so many lives and the vacuity of so much of our contemporary social fabric. 

- Her writing is sublime. There are constant swirls and shifts in the telling. The focus often changes mid sentence, which is mesmerising. This is attention deficit disorder on full display, and deadpan humour brings it vividly to life. 

- It could be said that it's hardly a challenging venture to write a little novel like this. It could be dismissed as a slight, playful, comic take on a twenties-something lifestyle. But that would be overlooking the honesty and truth of it, the minute dissection of the everyday stuff we are all contending with. And the way it creeps up on you and stays with you, and demands you read it again, and again.

- Hugely enjoyable this. Hugely. 

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