February 9, 2012

Frank Sargeson on Parker-Hulme

This blog has had an on-off interest in (obsession with?) the Parker-Hulme murder and its coverage/depiction for a few years now (see here, here, here, here and here). Living in Christchurch helps -- or doesn't, depending on your point of view. Anyway, for entirely non-blog reasons, I've been reading Letters of Frank Sargeson (selected and edited by Sarah Shieff, Random House), which is out next week, and the murder appears in there too.

Frank writes to John Reece Cole, on June 24, 1954 (two days after the murder):
What a lovely murder in Chch! Just shows how far astray we writers are when Life insists on copying the Greek playwrights -- instead of the creations we provide for it. But it isn't clear whether the brick was in the stocking or employed separately. Surely Baxter can rise to something as distinguished as 'Lizzie Borden took an axe ...'
To Charles Brasch, on October 16, 1954.
Point about Hulme-Parker is the universal nerve is touched. Getting rid of a parent -- what everybody has thought of -- the foundation of every religion -- Freud, the anthropologists. Only real point of interest in the case is just why the strongest taboo of all broke down in two intelligent schoolgirls. Nearest parallel I know of is Lizzie Borden, and she accounted for both:
Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks,
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty one!
Amazing that about 40 blows should operate in Christchurch just as in New England ...