Blog Archives

The rise, fall and rise of the state house, Ian Lochhead

Beyond the State: New Zealand State Houses from Modest to Modern
Bill McKay and Andrea Stevens (Simon Devitt photographs)
Penguin Books, $75.00,
ISBN 9780143570653

In the catalogue of the exhibition, Homebuilding 1814-1954: the New Zealand tradition, held at the Auckland City Art Gallery in 1954, James Garrett deplored the “loss of individuality and difference for the sake of difference” that he saw reflected in the housing programme of the New Zealand Department of Housing Construction. According to Garrett, these houses “ACHIEVED A UNIFORM SUBURBAN STYLE BASED ON MINIMUM STANDARDS AND SOCIAL, NOT PERSONAL, QUALITIES. LACKING INDIVIDUAL OR REGIONAL VARIATIONS, THE OVERALL PATTERN IS MONOTONOUS”. Garrett’s insistent capitals stand alongside an elevation and plan of a standard state house, its foursquare geometry, high-set windows, weatherboard walls and tile roof all instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with New Zealand’s domestic architecture.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

The liberal leftie who learned maths, Matthew Hooton

Incredible Luck
Don Brash
Troika, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473269081

The tradition, when a New Zealand political book is published, is for our small but self-absorbed political class to rush to the nearest bookshop – often Bennetts at 1 Bowen Street, now sadly closed – to check the index, read any bits pertaining to themselves, and put it back on the shelf. Compared with, say, Craig Potton Publishing, the publisher of Don Brash’s autobiography has been more commercially astute: Incredible Luck has no index. To find out if you’re in it, you’ll have to buy it and read it all the way through.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review

The longings of the placid, Mary McCallum

Mary McCallum recalls the pleasures of The Wind in the Willows and traces its influence on her first children’s book

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.

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Posted in Imprints

The lonely soldier, Peter Ireland

Laurence Aberhart (photographs) and Jock Phillips (essay)
Victoria University Press with Dunedin Public Art Gallery, $60.00,
ISBN 9780864739339

What to make of all the hoopla surrounding the centenary of WWI? Is it just one thing we’re commemorating – say, honouring “the supreme sacrifice” – or is it a whole bunch of stuff to do with fostering “national identity” (that three-legged beast with its tail at the wrong end), or even to do with pursuing commercial opportunity? After all, the fallen fell not only to defend motherhood and democracy, but the freedom to engage in marketing, too.

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Posted in Non-fiction

The dangers of pre-existing narratives, Jane Stafford 

Where the Rekohu Bone Sings
Tina Makereti
Vintage, $38.00,
ISBN 9781775535188

Twentieth- and 21st-century New Zealand literature contains two utterly different narratives, each incorporating an almost diametrically opposed world view. On the one hand, there is the Pakeha narrative of radical bourgeois individualism which demonstrates the necessity of disassociating oneself from family and society, both seen as disabling and repressive. The past is rejected and the future self-fashioned. On the other hand, there is the indigenous narrative, where the past is configured as being one of collectivity and wholeness that has been lost. This past – or the values of this past – must be located and absorbed in order that the subject can themselves become whole. Frank Sargeson, Ronald Hugh Morrieson, Janet Frame, Fiona Kidman, Maurice Shadbolt and many other Pakeha writers inhabit the first narrative; the bone people, Once Were Warriors, Cousins and the Huia short story anthologies the second. New Zealand writing is split between leaving the repressive home and seeking the lost home, and the choice of which narrative to follow is predicated on the cultural identity of the writer.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Behind the footlights, Amanda Lafoy Brown

The Royal New Zealand Ballet at 60 Jennifer Shennan and Anne Rowse (eds) Victoria University Press, $60.00, ISBN 9780864738912 My parents first took me to see the New Zealand Ballet at the Opera House in Wellington in the late 1970s.

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Posted in Art, History, Non-fiction, Review

Dear familiars, Helen Curran

Creature Comforts: New Zealanders and their Pets: An Illustrated History Nancy Swarbrick Otago University Press, $55.00, ISBN 9781877578618 A New Zealand Book of Beasts: Animals in our Culture, History and Everyday Life Annie Potts, Philip Armstrong, Deidre Brown Auckland University

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Posted in History, Natural History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Dressing Wellington’s radicals, David Grant

Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism and Early New Zealand Anarchism Jared Davidson AK Press, $15.00, ISBN 9781849351324 Philip Josephs was a Latvian-born Jewish tailor who escaped religious persecution in his home country. He emigrated firstly to Glasgow – the industrial

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

Hormones and hedges David Hill

Into the River Ted Dawe Longacre, $20.00, ISBN 9781775536048 Dappled Annie and the Tigrish Mary McCallum (Annie Hayward illus) Gecko Press, $20.00, ISBN 9781877579912 Anyone present when Into the River won the Senior Fiction and Book of the Year categories

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review, Young adults

“Exporting knowledge, not nature” Patrick O’Meara

Get off the Grass: Kickstarting New Zealand’s Innovation Economy Shaun Hendy and Paul Callaghan Auckland University Press, $35.00, ISBN 9781869407629 New Zealand is well-known internationally for its digital visual effects expertise, underpinning the success of blockbuster films like Lord of

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review
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