Blog Archives

Leading by the nose, Elizabeth Crayford

Laurence Fearnley
Penguin, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143773283

If technology and price allowed, Scented would have made a fantastic “scratch and sniff” novel. As it is, the pitfalls of first-person narration make this a challenging read, and I finished the book still not knowing how well the central character knew herself. But I also wasn’t convinced that this was the author’s intention. By the end of the first section, I was pretty sure I was onto it: Fearnley had created a narrator at the high-functioning end of the Asperger’s spectrum. She can hold down a well-paying academic job in a New Zealand university, but her struggles with intimacy and relationships are compensated for by a single and all-consuming passion for perfume.

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Young, gifted, female and brown, Elizabeth Crayford

Fale Aitu|Spirit House
Tusiata Avia
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776560646

Tail of the Taniwha
Courtney Sina Meredith
Beatnik Publishing, $30.00,
ISBN 9780992264895

Lucky Punch
Simone Kaho
Anahera Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780473367510

Before Tusiata Avia’s Fale Aitu|Spirit House was published, she made a point of telling her mother what she’d written, to which her mother replied, “It all needs to come out.” Avia tells us this in an endnote, but it could stand as epigraph to all three books. Reading Avia’s work alongside Courtney Sina Meredith’s Tail of the Taniwha and Simone Kaho’s Lucky Punch is to be immersed, sometimes uncomfortably, in contemporary Pasifika culture from a female perspective. Each writer’s voice is distinctive, yet similar themes crop up again and again. Anyone who’s read Albert Wendt’s Leaves of the Banyan Tree, or Sia Figiel’s more recent Where We Once Belonged, both set in Samoa, will not be surprised by the level of violence in these new works. However, the “all” that Avia’s mother implies is alive and kicking in New Zealand in the 21st century.

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Posted in Literature, Plays, Poetry, Review

State-of-the-education-nation, Elizabeth Crayford

The Rhetoric and the Reality: New Zealand Schools and Schooling in the 21st Century David Hood Fraser Books, $39.50, ISBN 9780992247638 David Hood has written a thorough, detailed and impassioned plea for major changes to our education system. He calls

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Posted in Education, Non-fiction, Review

Personal freight, Elizabeth Crayford

Wild Like Me
Elizabeth Nannestad
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864738813

One Human in Height
Rachel O’Neill
Hue and Cry Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780473257569

Other Animals
Therese Lloyd
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864738820

Dark Sparring
Selina Tusitala Marsh
Auckland University Press, $28.00,
ISBN 9781869407865

Wild Like Me is Elizabeth Nannestad’s third book, published after a 17-year hiatus. If He’s a Good Dog He’ll Swim appeared in 1996, and Jump was joint winner of the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 1986. Born in Auckland in 1956, Nannestad, according to the cover notes, “worked as a forensic psychiatrist, then became a homeschooling mother. Now redundant.” This book charts the territory of the empty nest, an intensely felt rite of passage that alternates between grief and a new-won freedom. Thus, in “That Creepy Old Woman Over There”, the protagonist longs for the touch of “a warm hand”, but more than anything else she longs for “my one child near”. Meticulously observed flowers, insects, birds and domestic animals become metaphors for transience, loss and the departed child; the absent butterflies in the first poem, whose beauty went unremarked, leave “only the flinty sunlight / it’s colder, the lavender is plainer: they’re gone.” In “A Woman Walking”, migratory birds “wind-ruffled, feeding, edge away and cry weep weep.” Hand in hand with mourning these absences is the sometimes terrified glance into the future, as in the aptly titled “One Good Reason to Keep a Cat”, which imagines “some smelly old woman / living alone in a small cheap flat.”

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Out of this world, Elizabeth Crayford

Snow White’s Coffin Kate Camp Victoria University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780864738882 The Odour of Sanctity Amy Brown Victoria University Press, $35.00, ISBN 9780864738905 Snow White’s Coffin was written when Kate Camp held the Creative New Zealand Berlin Residency from September

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Memories, Möbius strips and Morse code, Elizabeth Crayford

Common Land Lynn Davidson Victoria University Press, $28.00, ISBN 9780864737601 The Darling North Anne Kennedy Auckland University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781869405939 Birds of Clay Aleksandra Lane Victoria University Press, $30.00, ISBN 9780864737588 “Common Land is possibly the most successful mix

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A hard-won magic, Elizabeth Crayford

Markings Cilla McQueen Otago University Press, $24.95, ISBN 1877133922   Not long after Cilla McQueen moved to her new address on Liffey St, Bluff, she booked a place on a tour of the Tiwai aluminium smelter, the chimney of which

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Domestic and dystopian, Elizabeth Crayford

The House Within Fiona Kidman Vintage $29.95 ISBN 1 86941 316 4 Studmuffin Marilyn Duckworth Vintage $29.95 ISBN 1 86941 329 6 In the week this review was written (mid-December 1997), Wellingtonians were invited to hear Lois Daish and Fiona

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Obscurity v the life principle, Kim Worthington

Envoy Alan Loney and Mark Wills Puriri Press, $28.00, ISBN 0 908943 13 x On Virgin Skin Gay Linden Sandpiper Press, $19.95, ISBN 0 473 04187 1 Before the Divorce We Go to Disneyland Diane Brown Tandem Press, $24.95, ISBN 0 908884

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