Shortlisted for the 2021 General Nonfiction Award
A father rollerblading to church in his ministerial robes, a university student in a leotard sprinting through fog, a trespass notice from Pak’nSave, a beautiful unborn goat in a jar . . .
In scenarios ranging from the mundane to the surreal, Madison Hamill looks back at her younger selves with a sharp eye. Was she good or evil? Ignorant or enlightened? What parts of herself did she give up in order to forge ahead in school, church, work, and relationships, with a self that made sense to others?
With wit and intelligence, these shape-shifting essays probe the ways in which a person’s inner and outer worlds intersect and submit to one another. It is a brilliantly discomfiting, vivid and funny collection in which peace is found in the weirdest moments.
‘I never felt that I was looking at fine writing – only at astonishing writing.’ —Elizabeth Knox
'Madison Hamill writes with rare precision and bravery. Also she’s hilarious.' —Catherine Woulfe, The Spinoff
'This compulsively readable collection charts the inner life of someone who often feels at odds with those around her. Madison Hamill traces her sense of difference in fresh, razor-sharp prose, via encounters ranging from a bullying primary school teacher, whom she quietly bests, to the clients at an under-funded drug clinic in Cape Town, for whom she can do nothing. It is as memorable for her unblinking view of herself as it is for her compassionate awareness of others’ struggles.' —Judges' comments, 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
‘Specimen satisfyingly demonstrates the delights of the essay. Hamill is a stand-out voice in an era where whirlwind romances are actually one-night stands, where everyone seems on the autism spectrum, asexuality always a possibility, fried chicken ubiquitous, and where surrealist juxtapositions appear mysteriously in the midst of ordinary life. . . . Hamill's great, no question.’ —David Herkt, Sunday Star-Times
MADISON HAMILL is based in Wellington. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her work has appeared in The Spinoff, Sweet Mammalian, Turbine Kapohau and Pantograph Punch.
Cover: Hannah Salmon