Yanks still here
I was only slightly miffed by your pejorative comment ‘Readers interested in the ‘invasion’ (of the Americans 1942-44) might like to search the remainder bins for Harry Bioletti’s The Yanks are Coming‘. You won’t find any copies in remainder bins. I have a continued demand for the book which I am unable to fulfill. I would not be the first author to be the last to know that his book had been remaindered. But that’s a long story.
Description versus prescription
Norman Bilbrough thinks my story Elaine is moral fundamentalism: ‘If a woman fucks around, she gets what she deserves. Elaine gets a terrible whipping, then her throat cut.’ Nothing in the narrative suggests this, the narrator suggests the opposite. But perhaps Bilbrough thinks merely describing events is the same as approving them.
Oh well, I’m in good company. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar obviously merited being hacked to death, Romeo and Juliet were properly rewarded for falling in love and the hero of Bilbrough’s ‘sixties story – which I have never read but whose plot here summarised for us – plainly deserved to be bashed to death with a bit of four by two, just for being gay.
His snuff movie was trying to deal with something that was under wraps then. His reaction shows mine deals with things still as feared now.
A plea for naughtiness
While it was a ‘privilege’ (sic) to have edited New Zealand Books, the feeling wasn’t mutual as far as I was concerned.
From your second issue onwards I have been a loyal subscriber and was pleased to contribute several items during the urbane editorship of John Thomson. However, my patience with your journal is wearing thing. It is dreary, worthy, earnest and is in danger of dying of dignity. Politically correct feminist academics are rearing their uncoiffeured heads with their tired old ‘discourse’ about ‘problematic gender roles’. Conversely, there is little or nothing on fashion, furnishings, food, wine, gardening, sport, art, film, music – the essentials of life. There are no lively letters (which make Metro so vital), no marginalia, no naughty poems, no competitions, and none of the attractive vignettes that adorned earlier issues. In fact the last time I had a really good laugh reading New Zealand Books was when confronted with the unreconstituted socialism of Phil Mann’s essay ‘The Poverty Trap’, two issues ago. Rumour has it even that was not intended.
You can do better. You can take on cultured curmudgeons (C K Stead), perceptive philistines (Alan Duff), quirky neo-conservatives (Agnes-Mary Brooke) or, if you’re desperate, even get me to review a few art books for you again such as Jennifer Querée’s impressive new production on Royal Doulton. While I sip from my bone-china tea-cup, give me a taste of high camp, irony or whimsy, go on. Otherwise there is imminent danger of your tetchy reader beating a Eurocentric retreat and reverting to the TLS, Spectator or – a fate worse than death – defecting to Stephen Stratford’s new journal.
In reference to your March issue, I feel obliged to point out that my article, Books against Totalitarianism, ended with a strange abruptness because the last paragraph I wrote was omitted without my being consulted, even though the total number of words I used was within my given allowance. For the record, that last paragraph should read as follows:
Because of inconsistencies, Jordan’s novel is best read not as a possible post-cataclysmic scenario, but as allegory or fairy-tale. It conveys essential truths about the human predicament, indicts violence and slavery, and offers the time-honoured appeal of a heroine succeeding incredibly against all odds, inspiring the allegiance and love of several men, including a soul-mate at the end – the ultimate wish-fulfulment of Romance.
I expect to see this letter printed in its entirety in your next issue.
Correction: Jerry Mushin teaches economics at Victoria University, not politics as stated in the March issue of New Zealand Books.