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Issue 109 | Autumn 2015

Volume 25 | Number 1 |  Issue 109 | Autumn 2015 Letters Colin Peacock: Nicky Hager, Dirty Politics: How Attack Politics is Poisoning New Zealand’s Political Environment; Michael Field, The Catch: How Fishing Companies Reinvented Slavery and Plunder the Oceans

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Letters – Issue 109

Mud on the tracks

I want to say a few things about some connotations in the review of my third novel, Glam Rock Boyfriends (NZB Spring 2014). Nick Bollinger, your reviewer, is an expert re rock music, so I was delighted to find the music details were fine, as he did not mention any issues. Descriptions in the book also conjured up rewarding, tangible images, he said. Yes, I did want readers to enjoy recalling the recent past. Crisp poplins on a summer’s day in the 1950s, for instance, and satins and velvets sumptuous in the 1970s.

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Lifting the lid, Colin Peacock

Dirty Politics: How Attack Politics is Poisoning New Zealand’s Political Environment
Nicky Hager
Craig Potton Publishing, $35.00,
ISBN 9781927213360

The Catch: How Fishing Companies Reinvented Slavery and Plunder the Oceans
Michael Field
Awa Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781927249024

“Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.” That zinger, attributed to Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck, is still a go-to piece of wisdom today for those pointing out that plenty of nastiness goes on behind the scenes, which most people either ignore, or remain blissfully ignorant of. Some journalists today say the same applies to the unsavoury side of getting a good story. For instance, when Mediawatch asked an Australian reporter about the families of Pike River victims being pressed for exclusive and personal interviews, she fell back on that same saw. Some reporters even call their own workplaces “sausage factories”, pumping out cheap, filling content for public consumption day after day, rather than prime cuts.

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Posted in Economics, Media, Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review

Poem – Siobhan Harvey

Cloudboy Sees the Sky Break

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From near and far, Pip Adam

The Shark Party
Janet Colson
Escalator Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780473295141

Run Thomas Run
Kate Carty
Escalator Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780473295240

The Silver Gaucho
Jackie Ballantyne
The Doby Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473275259

In a lot of ways, these books represent work from distinctive places. All three are produced by publishers with interesting back stories. The copyright pages of The Shark Party and Run Thomas Run state that “This book was taken from manuscript to bookshelf by students of the Whitireia NZ publishing programme”. Escalator Press is an exciting development in the already successful and highly praised course which offers students hands-on experience in all aspects of publishing. There’s an article on the Whitireia website by Jd Nodder, a student on the project team for The Shark Party, which reflects on the process, offering a unique insight into the act of publishing. The Silver Gaucho is published by The Doby Press which is also the name of the publishing house where the protagonist of the book works. This creates all sorts of interesting echoes for the reader and plays with that wobbly line between narrator and author, “real” and real world. The acknowledgments include a thank you to Geoff Walker who “encouraged me to join the publishing revolution”.

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Necromancy and piety, John O’Leary

A Blighted Fame: George S Evans 1802-1868, A Life
Helen Riddiford
Victoria University Press, $60.00,
ISBN 9780864738967

For Gallant Service Rendered: The Life & Times of Samuel Austin
Barbara Mabbett
Steele Roberts, $35.00,
ISBN 9781877577710

Biography is a strange genre, despite our familiarity with it. There’s something uncanny about it, in that it’s a kind of necromancy – a raising of the dead, so to speak. It can also be an act of piety, a way of honouring those who have passed on – an assertion, in the face of oblivion, that an individual’s life had meaning and significance. Piety of this kind lies behind the two books reviewed here, which describe the lives of two colonial New Zealanders who have slipped into the historical twilight.

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Exploring the biographers, Tom Brooking

Frank Worsley: Shackleton’s Fearless Captain
John Thomson
Craig Potton, $50.00
ISBN 9781927213124

Dumont d’Urville: Explorer and Polymath
Edward Duyker
Otago University Press, $70.00
ISBN 9781877578700

Here we have two very different approaches to writing about the history of European exploration: one concentrating on heroism and adventure and the other adopting a more nuanced and academic approach. Both books succeed as excellent examples of almost completely different genres and will appeal to a broad readership, especially to anyone interested in the history of exploration of the Pacific and Antarctica. Both come highly recommended as ideal autumn reading.

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Posted in Biography, History, Non-fiction, Review

eSensual readings, Murray Bramwell

Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page
Siobhan Harvey, James Norcliffe and Harry Ricketts (eds)
Godwit, $45.00, ISBN 9781775534594

So what makes poems essential? In their introduction to this most appealing collection, the three editors mull over the problem of their own title. Actually it is not their title, but a reprise of an earlier Godwit collection also called Essential New Zealand Poems.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

The sliding door in the dark, Airini Beautrais

The Lonely Nude
Emily Dobson
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739292

Helen Rickerby
Mākaro Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780473276485

Hinemoana Baker
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739704

I have often wondered how far poetry can stray into the mundane, before losing its status as poetry. Although the days of poetry being synonymous with higher thoughts are long gone, risks still exist. How domestic may I be? How profane? How bodily? Emily Dobson productively explores this knife-edge in her new collection, The Lonely Nude. Dobson was Glenn Schaeffer fellow at the University of Iowa in 2005, and many of these poems were written during that time. Afterwards, we are told, they “spent several years in Emily’s wardrobe”. Here the crucial incubation must have occurred, and a polished collection has emerged.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review
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