Reviewer d’un certain age
Dear John McCrystal, I don’t know you, and I have no idea of your age. Hence I have two questions. Just so I know in the event I get asked to review one of your books in the future. Firstly, how old are you? I will need to be able to put you into the right category of men of the same “certain age”. Secondly, I would like to know which other male writers of the same certain age you would like to be paired with. There are quite a few of all certain ages. Many more than women, I think.
Oh, and by the way, according to my publisher, the single largest buyer of my novel was a man, who bought 15 copies at a book store in Auckland. I have no idea how old he might have been. Thank you for an otherwise brilliant review of my novel Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs!
Unfortunately, Jenny Nicholls misses the point in her review (NZB, March 2006) of Richard Wolfe’s Fronting Up: New Zealand Magazine Covers. Her rather lengthy first few paragraphs on magazine cover design and herself tell us that she has designed covers for Metro. She then mistakenly describes this book as an “illustrated history of New Zealand magazine cover design”. It’s not. And it’s not about designers either. It’s an illustrated history of New Zealand magazine covers. Covers that were chosen first and foremost for their relevance to our social history and that show some of the country’s interests and attitudes at the time of publication. This is made quite clear in the book’s Introduction. For example, the covers of Cue (“Barry Crump, Would you buy a new ute from him?”) Mana (“Tama Iti, The people who protest”), Women’s Choice (“Are you a good wife?” and “Successful stews”), Jetaway (“Celebrating Air New Zealand DC10s”), and Metro (“The big sleazy, how they sell sex in Auckland”) all arguably show, through photographs, illustrations, typography, listing of content, what was going on at the time.
The magazine cover designer’s role may not be well understood in this country, as Nicholls claims, but to correct that was not the purpose of this book. And the inclusion of an index of designers and an essay on William Chen, as she suggests, would be quite out of context. It is a shame that her restricted view has led to such petty, personal attacks on Richard Wolfe.