In a book like Redeeming Brother Murrihy, with its abundance of literary, cultural, theological and historical allusions, quotations would seem to be a natural fit. I used quotations in place of chapter titles in my first drafts and these were a deep source of inspiration to me in terms of themes, connections and use of language.
However, I abandoned the idea of using them once I discovered potential complications with copyright. Using brief quotations is a murky business that can be clarified by obtaining permission from copyright holders. Fair enough. But I found that process daunting and time-consuming and so, adapted the quotations into chapter titles.
While I am pleased with the chapter titles, I still feel the need to share the quotations with readers who may be interested. In doing so, and by adding some commentary on them, I hope some readers may appreciate some more of the themes and allusions in the book.
So, I am presenting these as blog posts (hoping I don’t upset any copyright holders in this forum) in a four-part series. I would appreciate any feedback, especially if you have any corrections or comments to offer.
Antony Millen, October 2013
Prologue: The River’s Mouth
Before the chapters, we have a prologue. No quotations, but the title is a play on the phrase, “river mouth”. The river is speaking.
Chapter 1: A Good Kin Man
Man turns his back on his family, well he just ain’t no good
Bruce Springsteen, “Highway Patrolman”
This song is about two brothers – one a Vietnam war vet returned, messed up and in trouble with the law (he kills a man in a bar fight); the other a farmer-turned police officer who is always bailing his brother, “Frankie”, out of trouble. At the end of the song, as he pursues Frankie after the incident, he decides to let him escape into Canada. It’s a song about brothers, family, and human nature. “A Good Kin Man” captures human nature and family – and is a play on the title of a famous New Zealand book by Barry Crump, “A Good Keen Man”. Also, Springsteen is a North American singer (I tried to find a Canadian quote but loved this one).
Chapter 2: Passenger
I am the passenger, And I ride and I ride and I ride
Iggy Pop, “The Passenger”
In this chapter, Conrad is the passenger but he also meets the enigmatic character, “The Traveler” who has an eternal quality like that in the Iggy Pop song. Iggy Pop is British – as are Cook and Drake, the explorers quoted by the traveler. Cook explored both sides of Canada, New Zealand and the Polynesian islands Conrad flies over.
Chapter 3: Welcome
There’s a woman with her hands trembling, haere mai
And she sings with a mountain’s memory, haere mai
Dave Dobyn, “Welcome Home”
Dave Dobyn is a famous New Zealand singer/songwriter. In Maori culture, the protocol is for women to welcome manuhiri (visitors) onto the marae (home turf) by singing (karanga) and with trembling, waving hands. For the book, this also ties into themes of women as mother – the river has a female voice and says “Haere mai” (welcome) to Conrad when he lands in New Zealand as part of her narrative. Although this is not home for Conrad, home is a theme in the book. Also – in Maori culture, when you are welcomed onto the marae, you change from being manuhiri into tangata whenua (people of the land) and so, in a sense, you become part of that land and it becomes your home too. There is also a connection between this and the scene at the end where Conrad and the locksmith are taken onto the old marae in Jerusalem. In a way, the nuns welcome him into the area but Cobbler and Rawiri also perform versions of some of the rituals.
Chapter 4: Te Rohe Pōtae
THIS IS A COUNTRY
BEYOND THE MEANS OF TIME TO A STRANGER
TO KNOW IT YOU ARE BORN
FROM A TABLE TOP MOUNTAIN
TO THE JOINING OF THE RIVERS
LIES THE HEART OF THIS LAND THAT
GIVES US OUR SOUL
Plaque on Te Rohe Pōtae, the “Hat on the Rock”
Taumarunui, New Zealand
Te Rohe Potae means “the area of the hat” but is also commonly identified as “The King Country” which is the name given to the area including Taumarunui. Maori did not always have a king but started a Kingitanga movement in the 1800s in which the position was created (the movement still exists today). King Tawhiao was the second Maori king, based in the Taumarunui area and a highly influential man. It is his face that Conrad sees on the welcome sign. The hat on the rock described in the book has this plaque on it. Legend says that Tawhiao threw his hat on a map and claimed the land beneath it. The table top mountain is Mount Hikurangi which is not mentioned in the book, but the two rivers are. There is also a connection between land and soul.
Chapter 5: Christ Behind Me, Christ Before Me
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
“St. Patrick’s Breastplate”
This links to St Patrick’s, the school Francis worked at. It also links to the theme of “being in two places at once” or being one and many at the same time (think Conrad’s observations of the river at Upokongaro, multiple characters have multiple names, Frankie appears to be in two places at once, the Trinity, the rainbow, the list goes on . . .)