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Connecting kindred tribes, David Eggleton

Black Marks on the White Page
Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti (eds)
Penguin Random House, $40.00,
ISBN 9780143770299

Billed as a guidebook to the contemporary literature of Oceania, Black Marks on the White Page is not quite that; it’s too eclectic, too much of a hotchpotch for a start, sweeping erratically back and forth across the Pacific to locate, we are told, “the best new and uncollected fiction” generated out of the rolling identity revolution of Pasifika peoples in the 21st century. You could make a very long list of “the best” that is not included. What this anthology is is a sampling: it contains 29 examples of “story-telling” by 25 writers, complemented or contextualised by images of nine artworks by nine artists.

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Posted in Art, Literature, Māori, Non-fiction, Pacific, Short stories

Watching a craftsman, Briar Lawry

Strait Men and Other Tales Murray Edmond Steele Roberts, $30.00, ISBN 9781927242988 Strait Men and Other Tales by Murray Edmond is a tricky beast. Its slim spine belies the size and style of the stories within – there’s nothing that

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Posted in Literature, Review, Short stories

Not what they seem, but more so, Lloyd Jones

The Stories of Bill Manhire Bill Manhire Victoria University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9780864739254 Bill Manhire turns 70 this year, as does another eminent poet of his generation, Ian Wedde. Brian Turner is 72. Vincent O’Sullivan is fast approaching 80. C

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Posted in Literature, Review, Short stories

“We talked and we argued to keep ourselves alive”, Tina Makereti

For Someone I Love – A Collection of Writing Arapera Blank Anton Blank Ltd, $40.00, ISBN 9780473299187 For Someone I Love is aptly titled, for the immediate impression is of the immense devotion Arapera and Pius Blank had to each

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review, Short stories

So wide, can’t get around it, John Newton

James K Baxter: Complete Prose
John Weir (ed)
Victoria University Press, $200.00,
ISBN 9781776560370

James K Baxter’s Collected Poems which appeared in 1979 remains the most monumental object in New Zealand verse. But it contains a mere 700 poems; the total corpus is said to approach 3000. There’s a fat hardback edition containing some but not all of Baxter’s plays (he wrote about 30). It’s anyone’s guess how much shelf-space the letters will eventually occupy – but a single correspondence, the letters to Noel Ginn, already runs to 570 pages in Paul Millar’s edition of 2001. All this from a writer who died at 46. Laurence Baigent describes locking himself in the bathroom to try to get away from Baxter’s barrage of talk: “But even then, like the baying of the hound of heaven, Baxter’s voice pursued him through the door panels,” writes John Weir in his introduction. Others have recounted the same manic deluge. And Baxter seems to have written as compulsively as he talked.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Non-fiction, Review, Short stories

Ineludible envanishings Jane Stafford

Blanche Baughan: Selected Writings
Damian Love (ed)
Erewhon Press, $30,00
ISBN 9780473309435

It is hard work establishing and maintaining a local canon when authors vanish and books slide in and out of print. Moreover, by definition, a canon stretches over time and thus contains work that might be now unfashionable, based on a literary culture which seems odd and wordy and compromised. This is what has happened to the works of the late-19th-century writers of Māoriland. Once celebrated, quoted, excerpted for school readers, and referenced in public debate, they now languish in rare book collections or appear fitfully in digital archives. It is thus to be celebrated that newcomer Erewhon Press has issued this selection from one of Māoriland’s most interesting writers, Blanche Baughan, and done so in such an attractive, well-designed format.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Poetry, Review, Short stories

Short and not very sweet, Ashlee Nelson

Julie Hill
Giant Sparrow, $25.00,
ISBN 9780473284060

Michael Botur
Create Space, US$6.66,
ISBN 9781491226650

Julie Hill’s ShameJoy is very much a mixed bag in terms of quality, with some stories incoherent messes and others poignant and perceptive. The less pleasant aspects are found most pronouncedly in the earliest stories. These want to be funny, but also to seem as though they don’t care if you think them funny or not. They’re like the kid in class making annoying and disgusting jokes because occasionally they get a rise out of someone or hit the right note and get the laugh.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review, Short stories

Short stories as selfless, Christine Johnston

The Red Queen
Gemma Bowker-Wright
Victoria University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780864739209

Empty Bones and Other Stories
Breton Dukes
Victoria University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780864739186

The Red Queen and Empty Bones, two short story collections by new writers, while having much in common, offer individual visions of the contemporary world. The Red Queen is Gemma Bowker-Wright’s first book, and the latter publication is Breton Dukes’s second. (Bird North appeared in 2011 to some acclaim.) These authors certainly aren’t novices.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review, Short stories

What if? Susan Pearce

The Shingle Bar Sea Monster and Other Stories
Laura Solomon
Proverse Hong Kong
ISBN 9789888167357

Rising to the Surface
Latika Vasil
Steele Roberts
ISBN 9781927242124

Blood and Koka Kola
Christodoulos E G Moisa
One Eyed Press
ISBN 9781483911298

Each short story I love is distinguished by a different, glowing, coherent consciousness. To achieve that, a vital, even chaotic impulse towards life must propel the first writing. Yet the chaos can only be transmuted into that ardent consciousness by a disciplined awareness of language, cadence, characterisation, structure and so on. And the stories’ originating ideas must be pushed far enough to satisfy.

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Posted in Literature, Review, Short stories

What are ya, mate? Hugh Roberts

Pacific Highways (GriffithREVIEW 43)
Julianne Schultz and Lloyd Jones (eds)
Griffith University, $35.00,
ISBN 9781922182241

Is New Zealand peculiarly burdened with the curse of national introspection? Even to pose the question is to succumb to that curse; or perhaps to reduce it to its hall-of-mirrors core: “the defining characteristic of the New Zealander is to be endlessly preoccupied with discovering the defining characteristic of the New Zealander.” Can we ever stop worrying about “who we are now” and just start being it? Well, not yet, if the latest edition of the GriffithREVIEW is anything to go by.

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Posted in Essays, Fiction, Literature, Non-fiction, Poetry, Review, Short stories, Sociology
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