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Issue 106 | Winter 2014

Volume 24 | Number 2 |  Issue 106 | Winter 2014   Letters Jane Westaway: Rebecca Macfie, Tragedy at Pike River Mine: How and Why 29 Men Died Linda Burgess: Tania Atkinson (Viv Walker illus), Over the Hill to Greytown; Gavin Bishop, Bruiser and

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Scots collective and singular, Kirstine Moffat

Unpacking the Kists: The Scots in New Zealand
Brad Patterson, Tom Brooking and Jim McAloon
Otago University Press, $70.00,
ISBN 9780773541900

I have always enjoyed the inventiveness of collective nouns, favourites being an exaltation of larks and a worship of writers. If these are extended to national groupings, what springs to mind in relation to the Scots? In spite of my Scottish birth, I have to confess that my initial musings were decidedly stereotypical: a frugality of Scots; a dourness of Scots; a tartan of Scots; a presbytery of Scots. I am not alone. In the 1486 Book of St Albans, there is a reference to “a disworship of Scots”, while Google offers “a filth of Scots”. It is precisely these limited kinds of national stereotypes that Brad Patterson, Tom Brooking and Jim McAloon seek to challenge and complicate in their thoughtful, authoritative Unpacking the Kists: The Scots in New Zealand. Throughout, the authors argue that the history of Scots in New Zealand is one of complexity and diversity.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Rhyming pleasures, Linda Burgess

Over the Hill to Greytown
Tania Atkinson (Viv Walker illus)
Wai Art Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9780473252526

Bruiser and the Big Snow
Gavin Bishop
Random House, $21.00,
ISBN 9781775534860

Toucan Can
Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis
Gecko Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9781877467547

The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so Sophie, who was having tea with her mummy in the kitchen, spied Tom Thumb, who was in the cupboard. Can’t go under it, can’t go over it, and Alfie got in first and the door shut behind him. I’ll eat you up, I love you so. Your father was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor. And into the water they fell. Frances will only eat bread and jam. Captain Najork came with his hired sportsmen. The cat from Brazil caught a very bad chill. “EEEEEOWWWFFTZ” said Scarface Claw. The little yellow digger will sort it.

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review

Phrases that catch the breath, Mark Houlahan

Michele Leggott
Auckland University Press, $28.00,
ISBN 9781869408084

In 2007, Leggott was New Zealand’s inaugural poet laureate; in England, there is a long tradition of poets laureate being crowned at the point in their careers where the muse has long since abandoned them. Not so Leggott. If the point of such an award is not just to honour a writer, but for them to show leadership simply by going about and being a poet, writing back to the world, then Leggott is still the real deal. This is evident throughout Heartland.

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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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Moral force, John Campbell

The Mighty Totara: The Life and Times of Norman Kirk
David Grant
Random House, $50.00,
ISBN 9781775535799

I was 10 when Norman Kirk died. It was the first death I had ever registered. When the news came through, my parents became so silent (our house was never silent) that I remember it 40 years on: the radio and an absence. My memory also contains a physical location. It is the staircase between the living-room and our bedrooms. I am sitting on it, looking down, and my parents are below me at the big table. It is a photo in my head. An external sense, as if someone else was there to describe it, of me waiting for them to make sense of it all, as parents always do. But they can’t. I tell that story now because Norman Kirk’s death often seems to occasion the sharp remembrance of a closer loss, even in people who never met him. Mine is an almost story book recollection that I carry with me.

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Posted in Biography, History, Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review

Letters – Issue 106

A necessary corrective Reading Dougal McNeill’s review of Brasch’s Journals 1938-1945 has surprised me by its reminder that so much of value is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. I feel the essential Brasch has been missed. The

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Writing on the high wire, Sue McCauley

The Score
Adrienne Jansen
Escalator Press, $28.00,
ISBN 978047325328

The Virgin & the Whale
Carl Nixon
Vintage, $38.00,
ISBN 9781775533757

I’m Working on a Building
Pip Adam
Victoria University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780864738981

When more than one book is featured in a review, does the order in which those books are first read have an impact on the reviewer’s perceptions? I’m hoping it doesn’t. But I can’t quite rid myself of the feeling that, had I read them in reverse order, I might have felt better served.

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What are ya, mate? Hugh Roberts

Pacific Highways (GriffithREVIEW 43)
Julianne Schultz and Lloyd Jones (eds)
Griffith University, $35.00,
ISBN 9781922182241

Is New Zealand peculiarly burdened with the curse of national introspection? Even to pose the question is to succumb to that curse; or perhaps to reduce it to its hall-of-mirrors core: “the defining characteristic of the New Zealander is to be endlessly preoccupied with discovering the defining characteristic of the New Zealander.” Can we ever stop worrying about “who we are now” and just start being it? Well, not yet, if the latest edition of the GriffithREVIEW is anything to go by.

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Posted in Essays, Fiction, Literature, Non-fiction, Poetry, Review, Short stories, Sociology

The stories told by spaces, Zachary Athfield

New Zealand’s Lost Heritage: The Stories Behind our Forgotten Landmarks
Richard Wolfe
New Holland, $50.00,
ISBN 9781869663872

New Zealand’s Lost Heritage: The Stories Behind our Forgotten Landmarks discusses 20 formerly intact New Zealand buildings, dating from the early 1800s to the early 1900s. From the outset and throughout, this book is a lament and a commentary on what a shame it is that these buildings are not now preserved and still with us. The introduction is philosophical to some degree and points out that buildings must, at times, perish, and also that developments may, in their turn, be thought worthy by future generations. But the pervasive tone is that these buildings are lost and that we should mourn and regret their passing, even be punished for permitting their demolition.

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