Blog Archives

A travelling life, Tony Mackle

Don’t Forget To Feed The Cat: The Travel Letters And Sketches Of Stewart Bell Maclennan
Mary Bell Thornton (ed)
The Cuba Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781988595009

This delightful and beautifully produced book is a worthwhile read on several levels. It is a warm, human account of family life, an interesting travel book, and provides an informed abbreviated account of some of the salient features of major international museums and their collections.

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Posted in Letters, Non-fiction, Review

Radical carrot, upside down parrot, Gregory O’Brien

Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys
Catherine Hammond and Mary Kisler (eds)
Auckland University Press, $75.00,
ISBN 9781869408930

Finding Frances Hodgkins
Mary Kisler
Massey University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9780995102972

You reach a certain age and your favourite artists and writers start invading your dreams. In one such reverie, I am strolling through Auckland Art Gallery’s “Frances Hodgkins; European Journeys” exhibition with the poet Peter Bland. An expatriate Englishman living here – a reverse-image of Hodgkins, you could say – Peter is a similarly divided or productively bifurcated person. In my dream, he hovers upside down in the antipodean gallery, like a diver frozen just before breaking the surface of the water, or a figure in a Chagall painting. He is relaxed and looks quizzically around, as if this is a perfectly natural way to be.

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Posted in Art, Biography, Non-fiction, Review

Imperial identities, Tim Cook

For King And Other Countries: The New Zealanders Who Fought In Other Services In The First World War
Glyn Harper
Massey University Press, $60.00,
ISBN 9780995102996

New Zealand, like Australia, Canada, India, Newfoundland and South Africa, contributed enormous numbers of citizen soldiers to serve in response to the British Empire’s call to fight the Great War. Some 124,211 served in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), drawn from a population of around one million. Forty-two per cent of the men eligible to enlist did so. And yet, anecdotal evidence suggests that even more New Zealanders served, possibly as many as 3,000, in other dominion or imperial forces. As this cleverly titled book indicates, this is the story of those other New Zealanders – now calculated at 12,000 – who served the King, but in other national armed forces. This significant re-evaluation of New Zealanders at war is quite remarkable, and this new figure has been drawn from research into census, newspaper, archival and genealogical sources.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, War

“New Zealand’s leading public historian”, Tom Brooking

Making History: A New Zealand Story
Jock Phillips
Auckland University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781869408992

Jock Phillips has written an engaging memoir of his challenge to his father’s Anglophile and Eurocentric view of history, and transition from an academic to a public historian. This crisply written account is of particular interest to someone whose career has overlapped with Phillips’s, but should appeal to anyone concerned about how New Zealand history can be made available to a wide audience in stimulating ways. Whoever reads about this journey will also quickly learn that New Zealand history is anything but dull.

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Posted in History, Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

In the hybrid zones, Airini Beautrais

How To Live
Helen Rickerby
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869409050

Ransack
essa may ranapiri
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776562374

Conventional Weapons
Tracey Slaughter
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776562206

In a literary sense, genre is problematic. While it’s convenient to categorise texts for the purposes of libraries, book awards and so on, drawing a line between poetry and fiction, fiction and non-fiction, or poetry and essay is evidently reductive and arguably somewhat pointless. Given that poetry and fiction stem from root words meaning “to make” and “to form”, historical distinctions have been primarily formal, linked to the emergence of these modes at different points in the history of writing. After 60-odd years of poetry being dominated by free verse, in which formal divisions are based on visual more than aural units, and given the perennial ubiquity of prose poetry (something of a dubious term itself), these distinctions appear narrower and less relevant.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

“Unlicked selves”, Hugh Roberts

Collected Poems
Fleur Adcock
Victoria University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781776562091

“Fleur Adcock is a New Zealand poet, editor and translator who resides in Britain” – so says, blandly, the inside back flap of the dust-jacket of Victoria University Press’s imposing new Collected Poems. There’s a long, complicated history – one whose sometimes painful struggles are at times suppressed in and at others directly addressed by Adcock’s poetry – lying behind that apparently matter-of-fact description.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

“The play’s the thing”, Sarah Ross

Ngaio Marsh’s Hamlet: The 1943 Production Script
Polly Hoskins (ed)
Canterbury University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9781988503134

In August 1943, as New Zealand troops in Europe began the Italian campaign, the Canterbury University College Drama Society (CUCDS) performed Hamlet to sell-out audiences at the Canterbury College Little Theatre. Hamlet had not been seen in New Zealand “for a generation”, and it was a roaring success: students were straddling the beams in the rafters, and CUCDS was reproached by the City Council for overfilling the space. The acclaimed season was produced and directed by Ngaio Marsh, the celebrated crime novelist who went on to direct several Shakespearean plays. Marsh embraced the war-time context for the production, featuring modern, military dress. Owing to its success, Hamlet returned for a second season at the Little Theatre, November–December 1943, after university exams were over for the year; and after CUCDS mounted a season of Othello in 1944, both productions toured nationally.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Plays, Review

Back to the future, Harvey Molloy

Where We Land
Tim Jones
The Cuba Press, $22.00,
ISBN 9781988595023

Īnangahua Gold
Kathleen Gallagher
KingFisher Publishing $30.00
ISBN 978047345945I

Small presses continue to publish some of our most exciting new fiction. Both Where We Land and Īnangahua Gold take us away from present-day New Zealand. In doing so, they ask us to consider where we have come from and where we are going.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

“Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Amy Brown

Winter Of Fire (25th Anniversary Edition)
Sherryl Jordan
Scholastic, $19.00,
ISBN 9781775435983

I was ten when Winter Of Fire was first released, three years after Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. It was a little later that I read Sherryl Jordan’s novel: maybe in 1997, when Jenny Shipley became prime minister, or 1999, when Helen Clark was elected. The unforgettable protagonist, Elsha of the Quelled, would have been another model of female leadership in a patriarchal world. I wonder if 14-year-old Jacinda Ardern read Winter of Fire the year it came out? It might have been inspiring.

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Posted in Imprints, Review

Timeless and timely, Hannah Marshall

Winter Of Fire (25th Anniversary Edition)
Sherryl Jordan
Scholastic, $19.00,
ISBN 9781775435983

A dismal world where the sun has disappeared is the backdrop for Sherryl Jordan’s hard-hitting and powerful novel Winter Of Fire. Back in print 25 years after its initial publication, Winter Of Fire blends a strong, rebellious protagonist with the difficult themes of slavery, sexism and pollution, to create a powerhouse of a novel with ideas that still stand strong today.

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Posted in Imprints, Review, Young adults
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