About The Book

The Brain of Katherine Mansfield was born when Bill Manhire was on sabbatical in London in 1987. Here's the way he explained it to Iain Sharp in 1991:

At some point I must have decided that I would try to come at New Zealand in a variety of different ways. I'd have my science fiction story, my total realism story, a crazed surreal piece, a phony literary interview, and so on. [...]

I must have arrived in London just before Christmas in 1986. My brother works for a publishing firm in London, and he gave me a big cardboard box full of science fiction, including some choose-your-own adventure books. For some reason, I went to New Zealand House -- I suppose all New Zealanders go there when they're in London -- and it was in the middle of some kind of promotional exercise where there were lots of brochures about New Zealand, which were all very sunny and colourful and presented a stupid fantasy-land in stupid tourist language. I think I was feeling rather homesick at the time but the only evidence of home I could find was this nonsense. I was also feeling middle-aged. I remember going to the British Museum on December 27th, which was my fortieth birthday, to look at the latest bog person that had just been discovered -- the one they were calling Pete Marsh. I thought he was better preserved than I was. So I was feeling rather aged and homesick when I started to write The Brain of Katherine Mansfield, which is a half-nostalgic, half-satirical story about people romping about in the bottom half of the South Island, which I've always regarded as my home territory, since it's where I had my childhood adventures.

From In the Same Room: Conversations with New Zealand Writers, edited by Elizabeth Alley and Mark Williams (Auckland University Press, 1992).

The web version of The Brain of Katherine Mansfield was scanned and transcribed from the 1988 Auckland University Press edition. That edition, which featured illustrations on every page and a delicious cover by Gregory O'Brien, is now out of print but worth fossicking for on the second-hand market. You can also find the text of the story, without the pictures, in Bill Manhire's South Pacific (Manchester UK: Carcanet Press, 1994), published in New Zealand as Songs of Myself.