Blog Archives

Downtown voices and sugar-rush diction, David Cohen

The Journal of Urgent Writing 2016 Nicola Legat (ed) Massey University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9780994130068 Tell You What 2017: Great New Zealand Nonfiction  Susanna Andrew and Jolisa Gracewood (eds) Auckland University Press, $30.00, ISBN 9781869408602 If I had to name

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction and Review

Christchurch circles and cliques, Helen Watson White

Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933-1953 Peter Simpson Auckland University Press, $70.00, ISBN 9781869408480 When Christchurch poet and printer Denis Glover travelled to Britain in 1941 to serve in the Royal Navy, he left behind one literary circle and

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Posted in Art, Non-fiction and Review

Chalk and cheese William Brandt

The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie: Murder, Politics and Revenge in Nineteenth-century New Zealand
David Hastings
Auckland University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781869408374

The Scene of the Crime: Twelve Extraordinary True Stories of Crime and Punishment
Steve Braunias
HarperCollins, $37.00,
ISBN 9781775540830

Tourism has certainly come a long way. When in 1878 Mary Dobie made the trip from England to New Zealand, travelling in the company of sister Bertha (has that name ever been fashionable?) and mother Ellen, it took her three months. Not surprisingly after such a big investment of time and effort, the women planned a stay of three years – time to attend the wedding of émigré brother Herbert and still fit in a tour of the North Island, taking in, among other places, the fabled Pink and White Terraces of Lake Rotomahana. In special travel outfits of their own design (“a stout dungaree petticoat and a loose blouse bodice of thin cotton stuff”), the intrepid trio even visited Fiji and Samoa. “No white woman had ever been there,” journalled Bertha, with some pride, of a caving expedition to the Yasawa Islands.

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

Air-brushed, Nicholas Reid

Helen Clark: Inside Stories
Claudia Pond Eyley and Dan Salmon (eds)
Auckland University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 978186940 8381

She led the parliamentary Labour Party for 15 years and served for nine years as New Zealand’s first elected woman prime minister. She is clearly a person of formidable intelligence, steely determination, and a strong sense of her social objectives. On the New Zealand scene, she was always a canny political operator who knew how to manoeuvre her way through challenges from both outside and inside her own party. (You don’t get re-elected three times as prime minister without having these skills.)

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction and Review

Hero worship, Gyles Beckford

A Few Hares to Chase: The Life and Economics of Bill Phillips
Alan Bollard
Auckland University Press, $40.00
ISBN 9781869408299

The sages have long counselled that you should never meet your heroes. Should that be extended to writing about them? Alan Bollard has indulged his hero worship in this hagiography of the largely unknown, outside of economic circles, Bill Phillips. “You don’t meet geniuses many times in your life,” Bollard said in a recent RNZ National interview.

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction and Review

Poetical philosophies, John Dennison

Song of the Ghost in the Machine  Roger Horrocks Victoria University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780864739858 Shaggy Magpie Songs Murray Edmond Auckland University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781869408411 Generation Kitchen Richard Reeve Otago University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781877578922 Roger Horrocks’s Song of

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

“The messy abundance”, Lydia Wevers

Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Māori, and the Question of the Body   Tony Ballantyne Auckland University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781869408268 Tony Ballantyne is famous throughout the world of imperial and colonial history for his invention of the very useful term

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Posted in History, Maori, Non-fiction and Review

For the “object-focused”, Charlotte Simmonds

The Glass Rooster
Janis Freegard
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869408336

The Year of Falling
Janis Freegard
Ma¯karo Press, $35.00
ISBN 9780994106575

There is more than one way
to be human
more than one way
to be abominable

A friend observes that a key difference between those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or on the autism spectrum, and the rest of the world, is object-focused attention and people-focused attention. Another friend laments that the characters she writes are criticised for being cold, and that she herself is criticised because her writing does not warm readers up. Or, at least, it does not warm people-focused people up.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Byzantine complexity, Geoffrey Palmer

Democracy in New Zealand
Raymond Miller
Auckland University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781869408350

Democracy in New Zealand is a competent work by an experienced and well-published Professor of Politics at the University of Auckland. Clearly designed as a student text for an introductory course in politics in New Zealand universities, it reflects its author’s research interests in electoral systems, government formation and execution, political parties, interest groups, political representation and leadership. Miller’s more specialised comparative work with Ian Marsh, Democratic Decline and Democratic Renewal, was published in 2012.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review

As if shadows could whisper, Emma Neale

Dear Neil Roberts
Airini Beautrais
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739735

How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes
Chris Tse
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869408183

Both collections under review here act as witness to politically charged historic events. One pivots on a suicide, one on a murder. Despite the way each book edges towards psychological release, the deaths of Joe Kum Yung and Neil Roberts unsettle still, as if shadows could whisper: “Listen: / there’s a hunger in the air. It’s reciting prophecies” (‘(Static, Spool)’, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes).

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review
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