Blog Archives

Art about sadness, Dylan Horrocks

Out of the Woods: A Journey Through Depression and Anxiety
Brent Williams (Korkut Öztekin illus)
Educational Resources, $40.00,
ISBN 9780473390068

American cartoonist Keiler Roberts, whose comics have eloquently documented her own struggles with mental illness, recently wondered on Facebook about the usefulness of her art: “I think some of the best books about depression aren’t necessarily helpful during the process,” she wrote. “Is there any art… about depression or grief that has been helpful to you?”

Brent Williams’s and Korkut Öztekin’s graphic novel Out of the Woods is a valiant attempt to answer Roberts’s question in the affirmative. A deliberate mixture of personal memoir and self-help guide, its primary purpose is therapeutic.

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Peacetime at last, Helen Watson White

Astride a Fierce Wind
Huberta Hellendoorn
Submarine, $38.00,
ISBN 9780473395216

Writing in retirement in the small Dunedin apartment she shares with her husband Bart, Huberta Hellendoorn characteristically uses a domestic metaphor to describe her ever-changing experience:

The revolving dryer reminds me of my life, the moving and whirling of complicated situations, sometimes sudden, other times slow in reaching a climax. Tossed about by circumstances that could only be fully acknowledged by the passing of time and often hard work.

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Brave writing, Charlotte Simmonds

The Walking Stick Tree
Trish Harris
Escalator Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780994118646

A Small Blue Thing
Julie Hanify
Submarine, $35.00,
ISBN 9780994123770

The Case of the Missing Body
Jenny Powell
Otago University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9781877578311

What Does the Sea Sound Like?
Evie Mahoney
Mary Egan Publishing, $30.00,
ISBN 9780473367718

My friend Uther once called a play A Show About Superheroes, partly as a ploy to get non-theatre people into theatres, under the logic that there are people who will go to anything if it is about superheroes. Similarly, there are people who will read any book on certain topics.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Making friends with Mansfield, Ashlee Nelson

Mansfield and Me: A Graphic Memoir
Sarah Laing
Victoria University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781776560691

The graphic form is in some ways a more complex undertaking than straightforward prose, for a graphic text must concern itself not only with the words of the narrative, but the art. Even more than this, the words and the art in a good graphic work should add to the meaning of the text by the way the two work skilfully together. In Mansfield and Me: A Graphic Memoir, both the words and the art belong to Sarah Laing. Laing is a writer, a cartoonist, and a graphic designer by trade and she has applied her skills to each in a uniquely beautiful way. Nor is this the only synthesis accomplished by the book: Mansfield and Me is both a biography, of sorts, of Mansfield, and an autobiographical narrative.

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The scars remain; the story must be told,  Helena Wiśniewska Brow

Budapest Girl: An Immigrant Confronts the Past
Panni Palásti
Matai River Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473343712

“Who wants to talk about the past anymore? And who wants to hear?” It’s a challenge to the author from a former Budapest schoolmate, one that haunts this memoir’s final pages. For Panni Palásti, though, it’s no deterrent; her friend’s reaction shows only the new cultural disconnect between them. “Vali’s 1944,” she writes, “is different from mine.”

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Writing about writing, Anne Else

Talk of Treasure  Jane Carswell Submarine, $35.00, ISBN 9780994137913 How do you depict the process of writing? Very few of the many films about writers try to show their protagonist actually doing it. Doctor Zhivago demonstrates why: Omar Sharif sits

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Poetic truths, Helen Heath

In a Slant Light: A Poet’s Memoir Cilla McQueen Otago University Press, $35.00, ISBN 9781877578717 When I read Elizabeth Knox’s personal essays The Love School, in 2008, I finally realised that a writer’s past is whatever they say it is.

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Full fathom five, Kevin Ireland

My Father’s Island: A Memoir Adam Dudding Victoria University Press, $35.00 ISBN 9781776560820 When Edmund Gosse pioneered a new category of personal, interrogating biography, with Father and Son (1907), he framed painful questions and set down intimate dilemmas that won

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Carnival anarchists, Martin Edmond

Goneville: A Memoir Nick Bollinger Awa Press, $39.00, ISBN 9781927249543 This Explains Everything Richard von Sturmer Atuanui Press, $30.00, ISBN 9780994137609 The authors of these two books have a few things in common: they were both born in late 1950s

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Adding to the New Zealand story, Helene Wong

Red Dust Over Shanghai: A Shanghai–New Zealand Memoir 1937–1954 Tyl von Randow Eunoia Publishing, $38.00, ISBN 9780994104779 Shanghai has always held an allure for me. Stories about what Westerners got up to in the “Paris of the East” in the

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