Miscellany: Short reviews, Dale Williams

Godwits Return,
Margaret Clark (ed),
Bridget Williams Books, $29.95

New Zealanders are a restless lot – the more job training we get, the more likely we are to pack up and swim in bigger ponds overseas. Sometimes we come back. Clark has sought out those with arts connections, where the flight is especially vital, and asked them to write about the experience of being away and returning to work in New Zealand.

Sunny Amey, Sharon Crosbie, Chistoper Doig, John Drawbridge, Rodney Macann, Dame Malvina Major, Robin Morrison, Richard Mulgan, Sir Paul Reeves, Patricia Rianne and John M Thomson write of their perspectives on their homeland with varying degrees of insight, candour, ambivalence, swank, or appreciation. Some mistake the point and trudge dutifully through their life histories, but a few focus profitably on drawing meaning from the contrast of cultures. It’s possible to wish the selection had included some younger practitioners, and some whose OE had lain outside England and Europe, but this will do quite nicely for starters. The godwits’ universal applause for their rediscovery of our egalitarianism, however, is beginning to have a hollow ring.

The sense of apartness and distance is now diminished for young New Zealanders. The ones I know still want to see the world, but they do not have the same sense of claustrophobia and urgency as my generation did. I can walk down Karangahape Road and eat Vietnamese, Lebanese, Mexican or whatever cuisine takes my fancy. We have joined the global village.

– Robin Morrison



Your Successful Small Business: a New Zealand guide to starting out and staying in business
Juliet Ashton,
Viking Pacific, $19.95

New local books on this perennially popular subject pop up like spring bulbs. Successive governments’ penchants for changing the ground rules are one reason – the advice you pay for should be up-to-date – but the constant appearance of fresh batches of the just-redundant or the just hopeful are another. This relatively small (96pp) paperback has quite extensive sections on the money management side of staying in business – taxes, insurances, loans – which is probably where most of us need most help. It is perhaps rather light on how to promote and publicise your business, but has good lists of additional reading and help agencies which should go some way to filling any gaps.

The three most common legal structures for small businesses are sole trader, partnership, and limited liability company. The vast majority of companies in New Zealand are limited liability companies.



Godzone Skies: Astronomy for New Zealanders
Vicki Hyde,
Canterbury University Press, $24.95

The southern skies contain rather more objects of prime astronomical interest than the northern (the Magellanic Clouds, galactic centre, etc.), and observing conditions are decidedly better. There is plenty of room for a popular work on this under-published subject, and science writer Hyde, astronomy columnist for the NZ Herald, achieves a style that is quite at home in an introductory text. Although the text tries to cover a lot of ground in rather a hurry, the copious photographs are wide-ranging and seductive and perform a sterling job of stimulating readers’ interest. She has wisely chosen to omit the topic of space exploration, but makes excellent use of material on Maori astronomical knowledge and on New Zealand observatories, and includes a guide to practical observing for the beginner.

For best naked-eye viewing, one needs to let the eye adapt to the dark. This allows the build-up of the hormone rhodopsin, which stimulates the sensitive rod nerves that operate in low light. Most people are familiar with the rapid improvement in night vision that comes with taking even just a few minutes to adapt to the dark. The improvement can, however, continue to develop for up to 30 minutes.



Tivaevae: Portraits of Cook Islands Quilting
Lynnsay Rongokea,
Daphne Brasell Associates, $39.95

The use of the sewing machine may well turn out to be the missionaries’ most enduring legacy in the islands of the Pacific. For those familiar with the bold designs of Hawaiian patchwork quilts, their Cook Island cousins will need little introduction; their designs are a little less stylised and more naturalistic, their colour palette perhaps more adventurous and occasionally jarring to Western eyes. Rongokea gives a brief discussion of the quilts’ place in the traditions and social structure of island life, but devotes most of the text to allowing 18 craftswomen from five islands tell of their own introduction to and approach towards the making of the quilts. No instructional techniques are included. The book is a luscious eyeful – and full-page colour photos by John Daley make beige a blasphemy.

My Aunty Lafala drew her design on a woven mat. She’d use the mat like graph paper.


Dale Williams is a Wellington writer and editor.



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Posted in Art, Natural History, Non-fiction, Pacific, Review, Sociology
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