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Telling our stories to ourselves, Chris Else

Jerome Kaino: My Story Jerome Kaino Penguin, $40.00, ISBN 9780143573562 Wildboy Brando Yelavich Penguin, $35.00, ISBN 9780143573159 The Good Doctor Lance O’Sullivan Penguin, $38.00, ISBN 9780143572510 How Bizarre Simon Grigg Awa Press, $38.00, ISBN 9781927249222 Lydia Bradey: Going Up is

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Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

The Richie McCaw of golf caddies, Spiro Zavos

Out of the Rough Steve Williams with Michael Donaldson Penguin, $40.00, ISBN 9780143573555   Here is Adam Scott, the languid Australian golfer, on the second playoff hole of the 2013 Masters. He has hit his second shot to the green.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

The thinking man’s cartoonist, Dylan Horrocks

Brockie: A Memoir in Words, Cartoons and Sketches
Bob Brockie
New Zealand Cartoon Archive/Fraser Books, $39.50
ISBN 9780958232074

David Lange called Brockie “the thinking man’s cartoonist”. Which is pretty nice of Lange, considering that Brockie had drawn him on various occasions being pissed on by a giant bulldog, with his head cut off, naked and (very frequently) in drag. Mind you, Lange was far from alone. Robert Muldoon, Jim Bolger, Colin Meads, Kim Dotcom and even Keith Holyoake have all, at various times, been stripped and humiliated by Brockie’s pen, which has been scratching away at public reputations for more than 50 years.

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Posted in Art, History, Memoir, Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review

Just like on tv, Annabel Cresswell

The Dwarf Who Moved and Other Remarkable Tales from a Life in the Law
Peter Williams
HarperCollins, $50.00,
ISBN 9781775540472

Criminal lawyers love war stories. War stories are great yarns about epic legal disputes, great victories and shocking defeats, where the battlefield is the courtroom.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review

Genesis of a Māori writer, Tina Makereti

Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood
Witi Ihimaera
Vintage, $40.00,
ISBN 9781869797263

It is sometimes useful, in reading a review, to have some sense of the reviewer’s positioning in relation to the material. After all, the New Zealand literary community is small, and it is not uncommon to read a review that says as much about the reviewer’s biases and assumptions as about the book in question.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Lucky to survive, Nicholas Butler

Greece Crete Stalag Dachau: A New Zealand Soldier’s Encounters with Hitler’s Army
Jack Elworthy
Awa Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781927249123

The Lost Pilot: A Memoir
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
Penguin, $40.00, ISBN 9780143568766

There is a void at the heart of both these WWII memoirs. In Greece Crete Stalag Dachau, it is the time Jack Elworthy spent in Stalag VIIIB, four of his five years at war but given just eight pages in the book, a time he’s tried to forget. In Holman’s book, it is the space left by his father, lost first to the Navy, then to the war, and later to drink, gambling, prison and, finally, cancer.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Chimes of conviction, David Hill

How Does it Hurt?
Stephanie de Montalk
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780864739698

What Lies Beneath: A Memoir
Elspeth Sandys
Otago University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781877578892

Give Us This Day: A Memoir of Family and Exile
Helena Wiśniewska Brow
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780864739681

Somebody once wrote ponderously that some of the best fiction s/he’d read came in the form of memoirs. Actually, I think it was me. And I’m reminded of the anecdote about Jonathan Raban and Paul Theroux, after they met up while travelling around the United Kingdom gathering material. When Raban’s travel journal Coasting subsequently appeared, Theroux commented that every page gleamed with authenticity, except for Raban’s account of the afternoon they’d spent together. Theroux didn’t recognise that at all.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Digging and delving, Tim Corballis and Ingrid Horrocks

The Grass Catcher: A Digression About Home
Ian Wedde
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780864739384

The protagonist of the present-day portion of Symmes Hole (1986), Ian Wedde’s canonical and underread novel about settler colonialism, is obsessed with history. He digs and delves in it, but his tools are not always archival in nature. Early in the novel he gulps down an unnamed psychoactive agent that fuels a long hallucinatory reverie of Pacific history. Why the drug? It has its comic uses, of course, but its chief interest is to give history a paradoxical sense of reality, as if the events of the past could be brought right up close and visible by chemical means. The drug does not give its taker any certain, magical knowledge of history. In fact, quite the reverse: it allows rumours and legends into the story as well, and troubles the veracity of the whole picture. But it imbues the past with the glow of urgency. As such, it is one solution to a literary problem that is common, but not limited, to historical fiction: how to make done deeds, matters of dry historical record, leap across the gap that separates them from the pressing concerns of our lives now. In his altered state, Wedde’s researcher need not go looking for the past ‒ the past comes to him. The danger (and the source of much humour) is that it makes history meaningful at the expense of making the historian a dissociative, drug-addled lunatic whom no-one else would go near.

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Posted in Essays, Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Outrageous fortune, Chris Bourke 

Gutter Black
Dave McArtney
HarperCollins
ISBN 9781775540397

Hello Sailor were New Zealand’s most convincing rock stars. They acted like pirates, and managed to look menacing and foppish at the same time. It wasn’t a pose; it was a lifestyle. They lifted standards in performance, songwriting, and recording – and they behaved extremely badly. Emulating the music and hedonism of their heroes – The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed – they created their own genre of rock music in which Polynesian languor coexisted with the sinister possibilities of 1970s Ponsonby after hours.

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Posted in History, Memoir, Music, Non-fiction and Review

The liberal leftie who learned maths, Matthew Hooton

Incredible Luck
Don Brash
Troika, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473269081

The tradition, when a New Zealand political book is published, is for our small but self-absorbed political class to rush to the nearest bookshop – often Bennetts at 1 Bowen Street, now sadly closed – to check the index, read any bits pertaining to themselves, and put it back on the shelf. Compared with, say, Craig Potton Publishing, the publisher of Don Brash’s autobiography has been more commercially astute: Incredible Luck has no index. To find out if you’re in it, you’ll have to buy it and read it all the way through.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review
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