Blog Archives

Darkening and deepening, Catherine Robertson

Through the Lonesome Dark
Paddy Richardson
Upstart Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781927262986

Paddy Richardson takes a risk with her latest novel. By setting it in Blackball, a mining town on the West Coast in the early 1900s, she raises expectations of another Denniston Rose, and for well over 100 pages, readers could be forgiven for believing that they are reading a similar tale of a spirited young woman in trying circumstances. 

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Biting wit, with an undertow of melancholy, Jim Mora

Drawn Out: A Seriously Funny Memoir
Tom Scott
Allen and Unwin, $45.00,
ISBN 9781877505911

 

We all store trivial moments that hang around in the hippocampus for some sort of reason. I remember the late Kenny Everett on Capitol Radio in London back-announcing the song “Suspicious Minds” once. “I could have been Elvis”, he mused, “if only I’d had the talent, the looks and the voice.” Many of us who observe politics professionally to any extent have this sort of feeling when we compare our contributions with Tom Scott’s.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

At a crossroads, Max Harris

Unquiet Time: Aotearoa/New Zealand in a Fast-changing World Colin James Fraser Books, $39.50, ISBN 9780994136015 Last year, Colin James published his final weekly column with the Otago Daily Times, after over 50 years of work as a journalist. In a

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Poem – Peter Olds

‘The Clear’: Prospect Park to Charles Brasch Here, I can own you. Here, on this seat they’ve placed in your honour, there’s nobody to move me on. There’s nobody to tell me my poems are good or bad. There’s only

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The dangers of absolutism, John Larkindale

Balancing Acts: Reflections of a New Zealand Diplomat
Gerald McGhie
Dunmore, $35.00
ISBN 978927212318

Friends and relations often suggest to diplomats following their retirement that they should write a book about their experiences. Not so, in my view; the world has little to gain from the reminiscences of run-of-the-mill former officials, no matter how personally interesting, quirky or even challenging their lives may have been. There are, of course, exceptions, especially in cases where the author was substantively involved in critical diplomatic events of the day. Into this category, I place memoirs such as Dean Acheson’s Present at the Creation, Anatoly Dobrynin’s In Confidence and, in a New Zealand context, Gerald Hensley’s Final Approaches.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Posthumous vindication, David V Williams

After the Treaty: The Settler State, Race Relations and Power in Colonial New Zealand
Brad Patterson, Richard S Hill and Kathryn Patterson (eds)
Steele Roberts, $40.00,
ISBN 9780947493158

 

There was a time in New Zealand when university historians took umbrage if an historian employed in a government department ventured into territory that some academics felt was, or should be, their sole preserve. The panning by academics in 1968 of The Shadow of the Land, written by Ian Wards of the war history branch in the Department of Internal Affairs, was a striking example. Reflections on this study of British policy and racial conflict in New Zealand from 1832 to 1852 are central to this commemorative volume of essays exploring themes related to Wards’s interests in political, social, legal and military affairs in colonial New Zealand. An impressive gallery of historians, drawn from all sectors of the history profession, have contributed to the volume some fascinating chapters on a range of topics.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

Colliding pasts, Lydia Wevers

Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds
Anne Salmond
Auckland University Press, $65.00,
ISBN 9781869408657

 

The cover blurb suggests Tears of Rangi is Anne Salmond’s “most ambitious book to date”, and in many respects this is the case, since in it Salmond tackles vast epistemological and ontological questions to do with the nature of reality and knowledge. Part of the sequence of books beginning with Two Worlds in 1991, Tears of Rangi is a hefty tome (509 pages), but, like her previous books, it is compellingly readable. Salmond has the gift of narrative, and it probably helps that she is also a superb orator. She has given a number of presentations on the material covered in this book and draws large and appreciative audiences.

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Posted in History, Māori, Non-fiction

Grudging nationalist, Mark Williams

Charles Brasch: Journals 1945-1957
Peter Simpson (ed)
Otago University Press, $60.00,
ISBN 9781927322284

I approached this book rather in the spirit of someone visiting a civic monument to a figure august and admired, but obscurely known. In the late 1980s, as one of the many editors of Landfall in that period, I spent time in the Caxton Press checking proofs, following a tradition of care established by Charles Brasch 40 years earlier. But the strong ghosts I recall in a building filled with reminders of eminence were those of Janet Frame, whose visits and material remnants still held occult power, and Robin Dudding, veiled in a scandalous story that I gathered had more than one way of telling. Brasch’s presence was fainter somehow, less detectable in the busy workings of the printing house that had hosted him and sacked his heir, Dudding.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

An account of trauma, Michael Hulse

Allen Curnow: Collected Poems
Elizabeth Caffin and Terry Sturm (eds)
Auckland University Press, $60.00,
ISBN 9781869408510

Allen Curnow’s poetry is a transcript of trauma. “Morning by morning incorruption / Puts on corruption”: this most fundamental of thoughts, borne in upon every one of us as the time of our lives moves from childhood to what we call understanding, and onward, is not Curnow’s alone. The experiences of mutability, transience, and destruction, are universal. “A child returned / Discerns in quicksand his own footprint / Brimming and fading, vanishing.” The evidence that whatever begins in joy, hope and openness is swept away in the indifferent whirlwind lies before us everywhere. Time with a gift of tears. 

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Poem – Allen Curnow

A Raised Voice Let it be Sunday and the alp-high summer gale gusting to fifty miles. Windmills groan in disbelief, the giant in the pulpit enjoys his own credible scale, stands twelve feet ‘clothed in fine linen’ visibly white from

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