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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

Looking for home, David Cohen

Barefoot Years
Martin Edmond
Bridget Williams Books, $15.00,
ISBN 9781927277676

On Coming Home
Paula Morris
Bridget Williams Books, $15.00,
ISBN 9780908321117

Somewhere in the course of his perceptive career, in what one assumes was a more or less idle moment, George Orwell turned his attention to the question of whether purchasing cigarettes or literature leaves a larger hole in the average reader’s pocket. To this cobweb-hung dilemma, the English essayist devoted all the remorseless attention with which Marx went about weighing the merits of capitalism and socialism; although there the comparison must end, for Orwell surely never strung a gilded sentence together that would cause a reader mental pain on account of its construction. His tentative conclusion: reading is indeed better for one’s financial health. Workers of the world, unlight!

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction and Review

For us there is only the trying, Paul Morris 

Tell You What: Great New Zealand Non-Fiction 2015
Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew (eds)
Auckland University Press, $30.00
ISBN 9781869408244

Greatest Hits: A Quarter Century of Journalistic Encounters and Notes from Lost Cities
David Cohen
Mākaro Press, $35.00
ISBN 9780994106544

In their introduction, editors Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew ask why “doesn’t New Zealand have its own equivalent of the Best American Essays or Best Australian Essays series?” Their selection of 29 “essays” is expressly designed to address this very real lacuna. As one who has long lamented the priority given to the New Zealand short story, the short poem, and the long novel over the essay, I had high expectations for this collection. What was it that I was anticipating? If not the wisdom of Montaigne, Hazlitt, Lamb, Orwell, James, Hunter S Thompson, Hughes, Baldwin, Epstein, Ozick, E B White or, more recently, Daum, Jamison, D’Ambrosio and Zadie Smith, then at least reflective first-person narratives about experience that deeply engage the reader, not as moral fable or advice, but as dialogue, a conversation that suggestively and subtly indicates some shared and significant experience and understanding. They should, of course, also be superbly written and entertaining.

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Posted in Essays, Media, Non-fiction and Review

No drive-by answers, David Cohen

Sorrows of a Century: Interpreting Suicide in New Zealand, 1900-2000
John C Weaver
Bridget Williams Books, $60.00,
ISBN 9781927277232

All of us seek happiness, Pascal declared centuries ago, even at the point of a warm gun. “This is without exception,” argued the author of the Pensées:

Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.

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Posted in Health, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Cracking up, David Cohen

Taming the Tiger: A Personal Encounter with Manic Depression Michael Morrissey Polygraphia, $39.00, ISBN 9781877332968   Sing No Sad Songs Sandra Arnold Canterbury University Press, $35.00, ISBN 9781927145067   Michael Morrissey’s account of his long encounter with mental affliction begins

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Posted in Autobiography, Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Boys will be … David Hill

Little Criminals: The Story of a New Zealand Boys’ Home David Cohen Random House, $39.99, ISBN 9781869790325   Our attitudes towards the welfare of our children seem to lurch between outrage and indifference. When a child is grossly abused or

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Posted in History, Non-fiction and Review

Differently wired, Harvey Molloy and Latika Vasil

A Perfect World: A Father’s Quest to Unriddle the Mysteries of Autism David Cohen Random House, $34.95, ISBN 9781869418151 As New Zealanders, we like to pride ourselves that we live in a caring egalitarian society with decent, though imperfect, health

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Posted in Health, Non-fiction and Review

Telling tales out of school, Harvey Molloy

Those Who Can Teach: A History of Secondary Education in New Zealand from the Union Perspective David Grant Steele Roberts, $39.95, ISBN 1877338214 Welcome to the Campus of Struggle: Dispatches from the International Student Academic Front 1999-2004 David Cohen Dunmore

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Posted in Education, History, Non-fiction and Review
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