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Poem — Marty Smith

I am all saliva and static before the big race. I secretly want to be the horse; the jaw   and the strange elemental eye. The sun along my long muscles. I will be good; I will be good.  

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Posted in Poem

Reverse engineering, John McCrystal

The Infinite Air
Fiona Kidman
ISBN 9781869797928

Of all the technological accomplishments in a century studded with them, the advances made in heavier-than-air aviation between 1903 and 1939 must have seemed to those alive at the time to be the most symbolic of the perfectibility of humanity. When the French inventor and pioneering aviator Louis Blériot managed the first aerial crossing of the English channel, it fired the European imagination. WWI provided an acceleration of aircraft technology, and sparked a golden age of aviation. Aero clubs sprang up all over England, and a plane and the ability to fly it became de rigueur for the well-to-do.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

What if? Susan Pearce

The Shingle Bar Sea Monster and Other Stories
Laura Solomon
Proverse Hong Kong
ISBN 9789888167357

Rising to the Surface
Latika Vasil
Steele Roberts
ISBN 9781927242124

Blood and Koka Kola
Christodoulos E G Moisa
One Eyed Press
ISBN 9781483911298

Each short story I love is distinguished by a different, glowing, coherent consciousness. To achieve that, a vital, even chaotic impulse towards life must propel the first writing. Yet the chaos can only be transmuted into that ardent consciousness by a disciplined awareness of language, cadence, characterisation, structure and so on. And the stories’ originating ideas must be pushed far enough to satisfy.

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Posted in Literature, Review and Short stories

Monsters beyond the swampbrink, Craig Cliff

Kerry Donovan Brown
Victoria University Press
ISBN 9780864739162

Maria Susanna Cummins’s sentimental novel The Lamplighter (1854) was a bestseller in its time. It tells the story of a mistreated orphan, Gertrude, who’s rescued by Trueman Flint, a lamplighter. Flint instills good virtues in his ward, and Gerty grows into a good Christian woman.

Kerry Donovan Brown’s Lamplighter (note the absent indefinite article), whether consciously or not, turns Cummins’s novel on its head. Candle, the novel’s 18-year-old protagonist, is apprenticed to his lamplighting grandfather, Ignis Gullstrand. Rather than lead his charge into morality, Ignis is foul-mouthed, violent and alcoholic. Candle is quiet, gentle. He labours to disentangle paddle crabs from his father’s net and return them to the water uninjured; Ignis simply tears a crab from the net. “‘Bait,’ says the Lamplighter, and tosses the remains into the ocean.”

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

Weird animals, Callum Robertson

Incomplete Works
Dylan Horrocks
Victoria University Press
ISBN 9780864739223

Incomplete Works is a collection of short comics created by Dylan Horrocks between 1986 and 2012. Much like the B-sides of records, the comics sit beside one another like rough or rare tracks, some experimental, some raw, some polished – all different, but with a consistent thematic undercurrent.

Horrocks’s comic form places a generally even emphasis on words and art. He is a poetic writer, and the text commands a decent amount of space on the page. Mainly black and white, his drawings are beautifully spare, appearing as if the marks are as quick to ink as the handwritten words, confirming the equal importance of both when reading the story.

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Posted in Graphic novel, Literature and Review

The effort at reasonableness, Miranda Johnson

Paikea: The Life of I L G Sutherland
Oliver Sutherland
University of Canterbury Press
ISBN 9781927145432

The critical theme of Oliver Sutherland’s biography of his father, Ivan Sutherland, is the rational pursuit of an understanding of others. The theme is developed in several ways: through a description of Sutherland senior’s own intellectual development in New Zealand and Britain; via an extensive examination of his engagement with and writing about Māori in the 1930s and 1940s; and in Oliver Sutherland’s own attempt to make sense of his father’s life, cut short by his suicide in 1952 when Oliver was eight years old.

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction and Review

Paradoxes of knowledge and knowing, Nicholas Wright

Dinah Hawken (drawings by John Edgar)
The Holloway Press
ISBN 9780986461880

Ruby Duby Du
Elizabeth Smither (Kathryn Madill illus)
The Cold Hub Press
ISBN 9780473268305

Gathering Evidence
Caoilinn Hughes
Victoria University Press
ISBN 9780864739261

On opening Dinah Hawken’s latest volume of poetry, one is struck by its materiality: for a volume of such spare poems, it is a heavy book, a beautiful thing. This sense of the material is evident also in the impressions made by the letterpress-printed words in the pulp of the cut pages. Nostalgia materialises, one might say, in the page’s imperfect absorption of the ink, suggestive of a saturated past all but lost except for its tracing in these spectral letter-figures that, ruin-like (or like the runes of John Edgar’s accompanying stone rubbings), evoke the fullness of the world and all its constituting otherness through their very imperfection.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Literary contradictions, Alistair Fox

Striding Both Worlds: Witi Ihimaera and New Zealand’s Literary Traditions
Melissa Kennedy
ISBN 9789042033573

Katherine Mansfield and the (Post)colonial
Janet Wilson, Gerri Kimber and Delia da Sousa Correa (eds)
Edinburgh University Press
ISBN 9780748669097

In Striding Both Worlds, Melissa Kennedy has written one of the most substantial and insightful books published in the field of New Zealand literature in recent years. Apart from the light it sheds on the works of Witi Ihimaera, its importance resides in the challenge it mounts to the conventional, accepted reading of Māori literature in New Zealand. Whereas most critics during the past 30 years have approached this literature from a “culture-centred position” derived from postcolonial theory, Kennedy reads from a “text-centred position”, and places Ihimaera’s work in the broader context of Western cultural references, rather than construing it simply in terms of the politics of Māori nationalism, as almost all previous commentators have done. Her study also benefits from being informed by a wider range of critical and theoretical perspectives, including those of European scholars, than is usually the case.

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Posted in Literature and Review

Outrageous fortune, Chris Bourke 

Gutter Black
Dave McArtney
ISBN 9781775540397

Hello Sailor were New Zealand’s most convincing rock stars. They acted like pirates, and managed to look menacing and foppish at the same time. It wasn’t a pose; it was a lifestyle. They lifted standards in performance, songwriting, and recording – and they behaved extremely badly. Emulating the music and hedonism of their heroes – The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed – they created their own genre of rock music in which Polynesian languor coexisted with the sinister possibilities of 1970s Ponsonby after hours.

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Posted in History, Memoir, Music, Non-fiction and Review
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