Scoop Review of Books

Pulse of being

Book Review
the everrumble
by Michelle Elvy (AdHoc Fiction, U.K., 2019)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

the-everrumble-front-coverI like this rather slim (113 pages) selection of episodic short prose pieces, which have been organized into a more integrated non-lineal novel. Indeed, I enjoyed it, as I appreciated its generally positive vibe and innovatory approach.

The book is well-crafted, original, thought-provoking. Clever, in fact.

What, then, is it ‘all about’? This is Zettie’s tale from her birth date in 1965 through to her ‘passing’ at the age of 105. Yet, Zettie’s tale is our own tale, as humans still all-too-often hell-bent on destroying our environment and therefore our fellow creatures – and thus – symbiotically and inevitably – ourselves.

Zettie makes a deliberate decision not to talk or to utter sounds from a very young age – seven. She turns to listening to the manifold noises which she can hear from well beyond the ‘normal’ human range, while at the same time turning to an array of over twenty books and making copious notes from them. These escapades are all interwoven into the two sections of this tome; more adhesively during the second. More, while her biographical potpourri is written in the third person, Zettie’s notes about her myriad significant books, are transcribed in the first person.

She is fascinated by language and words – and not merely the written tongues – of the global linguistic array she finds herself in as she kinetically travels across the world, residing in all manner of countries for spasmodic spasms of time. Countries such as Aotearoa New Zealand, where she encounters Rangi, the father of their two also gifted tamariki (children.)

Zettie, in this sense, is somewhat similar to the author, the globetrotting Michelle Elvy, whose own voyaging vessel, her boat named Momo, continues to transport her and her two daughters (a la Zettie) to and from this skinny country. Momo, of course, is also the title of a book by Michael Ende, which is incorporated in Zettie’s tale. The American cultural references traipsing the text also bear witness to the author’s own origins: there is considerable autobiographical ambience here.

Accordingly, Elvy’s own panoramic vista is Zettie’s. Elvy’s own deep desire to have humankind be far more conscious and careful about our environment – about our koha (or gift) of life per se – is manifested in Zettie’s travails and travels.

Time is not linear or even sequential here (which reminds me of John William Dunne’s notion of serial time) but syncopates itself throughout, whereby Zettie is younger in some chapters and then older in the next – just as space and distance also becomes disheveled when she suddenly magically crops up elsewhere far across the oceans.

Relatedly, there is a heavy patina throughout encapsulating Zettie’s dreams, often vividly visual. Indeed, there are interspersed amongst the brief chapters, seven almost pre-linguistic Dreamscapes.

The everrumble is the pulse of being itself; the sheer thrum of reality portrayed here as a mystical underpinning of everything alive, which Zettie channels as she covers herself in a blanket, so as to come even closer to this fundamental voice. Especially when she is literally laying on the floor, on the earth, immersed in the dust – where she hears all manner of nearby and distant sounds. Including her own screaming birth as a doppelganger echo of the pain of Shamu the orca, trapped into demise in Sea World, San Diego, USA.

The unifying coverall, then, is this Bergsonian lifeforce, which Indigenous peoples have had a similar soothsaying ability to tap into, but which today has become somewhat obliterated by our divorce from what makes us, because of our crass materialism, ignorance, corruption of all manner of forms (Uncle Roger is one such example of the latter portrayed in the volume, and he dies soon after his DOM transgressions.)

Whales and elephants are more godlike than humankind, precisely because they live – or try to – in harmony with the lifeforce, the existential everrumble. As she merges into physical death, Zettie’s epiphany is exactly this, “The mighty earth will live; the incessant and rowdy clamour of life itself will grow and grow and grow. Whether her own kind will grow with it she cannot know”.

Indeed, Elvy is Wordsworthian (ex-Tintern Abbey) in her depiction of the elemental spirit rolling through all things. Remember these words?

And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things.


Nei rā ko he mauri e rere haere ana ngā mea katoa.

There is a certain religiosity in this book. It is a bible of love.