Paper Nautilus: A trilogy by Michael Jackson (Otago University Press, 2019), 272pp., $35
‘I create so I can leave some trace of my existence.’ So wrote master watercolourist Xu Min. I open this review with a quotation from one of the author’s exemplars, since Michael Jackson argues that we are indistinct in ourselves, and more or less created from interactions with our ‘significant others’.
For an author with an avowedly nebulous sense of self, Michael Jackson has produced an impressively concrete body of work. An internationally renowned anthropologist, he has published more than thirty volumes of poetry, ethnography, fiction and memoir. With The Paper Nautilus he has wavered and created a threefold hybrid. The nautilus—paper-thin egg-case of the pelagic octopus—might represent the fragile self or the book covers themselves, inviting the question of whether the life or the pages can safeguard all they are asked to contain. The book, as Jackson writes, ‘begins discursively with … loosely connected essays and gradually morphs into a memoir of a marriage and a friendship, only to be reinvented as a work of fiction’ (p.12). [Read more…]