Letters – Issue 107


Each quarter or so a CD bearing the latest edition of New Zealand Books arrives in my letterbox having been sent by the Blind Foundation. These CDs carry excerpts from current magazine titles as requested by the recipient. NZB is always my first “go to” read. Veronica Hogan, manager of the Foundation’s library, tells me there are 669 blind people now reading NZB; isn’t that great!

I just love the mix of ideas and perspectives reflected in the pages of NZB. The thoughtful and considered writing makes such a change from the obsessional “group think” typical of much mainstream media.

It’s nice to know what local writers have been working on in recent times, and great to have researched background to notable authors and their works. Having read NZB, I’m more alert to what others are reading and what might come up on public radio.

Reading is more than entertainment for me. I’m not a great reader of escapist fiction, preferring books that describe how the world and we who live in it work. That said, NZB reviews are changing that.

It is said that 95 per cent of all books published are not accessible to non-print readers. Interpretation of International Copyright Law and cost of alternative production methods are behind this “book drought”. However, electronic publishing and the prospect of a more sensible approach to sharing audible books across international borders will slowly improve on this position.

Here again, this is where publications like NZB come into their own in helping one sort out the grains of wheat from the mountains of electronic chaff that is on release. I for one appreciate NZB’s curatorship. When books are hard to come by, I want quality and the ability to carefully choose titles.

Local public libraries are now holding quite large catalogues of audio-books. There has to be a way of making these catalogued holdings more readily accessible to non-print users so people can make their own selections from their local library. The drawback is that these public library collections of audio-books are usually on multiple discs and as such are more bulky to handle. This is where the RNZFB’s collection of about 9,500 titles comes into its own, as production methods allow 10 CDs to be compacted on to one disc.

For financial reasons the Blind Foundation currently does not offer their library service to print-disabled people, although the National Library of New Zealand has purchased some audio titles which are available to print-disabled people through their local public library.

Thank you to all concerned for NZB. We can say that the collaborative launch of NZB audio edition three years ago has been a success.

Don McKenzie


Remembering Les

It was a pleasure to read Michael Jackson’s tribute to Les Cleveland (NZB, Winter 2014). I know the old bugger wanted to slip away without any fuss or fanfare, but his achievements do need to be celebrated. I first met Les during a stint at the Stout Research (in its inaugural year) and did a spot of tutoring for him in his political science course at Victoria University of Wellington (where he gained lasting fame for his Bruce Springsteen impersonations). He was very supportive whilst I was writing my first, hesitant book (A Foreign Egg In Our Nest? American Popular Culture in New Zealand, 1988), for he agreed with me that to fully understand New Zealand’s place in the world, we had to engage with all aspects of culture – local and imported, popular and exalted.

Michael makes special note of Les’s collection of South Westland river stones. I have one of these at home – a small one which weighed just under Air New Zealand’s 7kg carry-on limit. I also recall visiting his Neil’s Beach hideaway when our children were small and how terrified they were of the long-drop toilet.

Rest easy, Les.

Geoff Lealand
University of Waikato

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