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The thrills of genre-literacy, David Larsen

The New Animals
Pip Adam
Victoria University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9781776561162

Pip Adam’s second novel is bewildering. I say this as praise, though also as fair warning.

On page one we meet Carla, who has stopped on her way somewhere to buy a cup of tea. She is not enjoying the experience:

The whole of St Kevin’s Arcade was awful now … it was clean and the café down the end of the arcade served ricotta doughnuts to men in suits and she couldn’t stand it. She’d lived in Auckland for 43 years and it still wasn’t finished. Nothing stayed in place.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

The grimness of contemporary realism, John McCrystal

Five Strings
Apirana Taylor
Anahera Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473389482

Iceland
Dominic Hoey
Steele Roberts, $35.00,
ISBN 978094749343I

It’s that time of the three-yearly cycle again. A billboard has gone up near my house promoting the political party that has, for the last couple of terms, been promising us a brighter future. It claims this party is “Delivering for New Zealanders” – which is true, so long as you don’t read it as a claim that it is delivering for all New Zealanders. And, as for the brighter future, well, there is a significant number of people in New Zealand for whom the future can only be brighter, given how bleak their present is.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

Issue 119 Spring 2017

Volume 27 | Number 3 | Issue 119 | Spring 2017 Editorial Letters David Larsen: Pip Adam, The New Animals Anne Kennedy: Damien Wilkins, Lifting John McCrystal: Apirana Taylor, Five Strings; Dominic Hoey, Iceland Louise O’Brien: Dulcie Castree, A Surfeit

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Posted in Contents and Subscribers only

The play’s the thing, Mark Houlahan

Best Playwriting Book Ever
Roger Hall
Playmarket, $22.00,
ISBN 9780908607600

Shift
Alison Quigan, Vivienne Plumb and Lynda Chanwai-Earle
Playmarket, $35.00,
ISBN 9780908607617

Bats Plays
Ken Duncum and Rebecca Rodden
Playmarket, $30.00,
ISBN 9781776560899

To review Best Playwriting Book Ever, I broke the first rule of playwright club. In his prologue, Roger Hall advises: “To get the best out of this book, write a play (or as much as you can of one) before you read it.” I have never written a play, though I have been watching and performing plays on various stages for almost as long as people have been flocking to Hall’s plays, since his break-out hit, Glide Time (1976). He has now written 50 plays, alongside film scripts and TV series, so he has certainly earned the right to stake his claim in the title of this book. Ticket sales from Hall’s plays have helped fund so many of our theatres, and Hall himself has managed the still rare local feat of making a living as a playwright. He has told that story entertainingly in his autobiography, Bums on Seats (1998).

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Posted in Literature, Plays and Review

Courage, candour and bloody-mindedness, Frances Edmond

Playscripts
Victor Rodger: Black Faggot and Other Plays
Victoria University Press, $35.00
ISBN 9781776561032

“Life will always leave fiction for dead”: Victor Rodger, in the New Zealand Herald, summing up his life experience, thus far. Rodger’s upbringing is certainly uncommon – the stuff of fiction perhaps. The illegitimate son of a palagi teenage mother and an absent Samoan father, he grew up in “white” Christchurch in a Scottish born-again Christian family. His background is relevant in that he draws on it in many of his plays. His first, Sons, is a semi-autobiographical story of a young afakasi (half-caste) man in search of his origins and identity. In the same interview in the New Zealand Herald, Rodger says: “I can’t remember if I thanked him [his father] for my career because I’ve turned our fucked up relationship into an industry.” In contrast, Rodgers describes his mother as “all about love” and, indeed, in these plays the mother figures – Mama Letti in Black Faggot, Tahlz in Club Paradiso – are nurturing and forgiving, while the descriptions of dead Olivia in At the Wake are in similar vein.

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Posted in Literature, Plays and Review

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 and Review

Local colour

As you can see, Issue 119 of New Zealand Books Pukapuka Aotearoa comes to you in an exciting, new version, slightly smaller in size, but with eight more pages, and in colour throughout. We hope you like the results as much as we do.

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Posted in Editorial

Brave writing, Charlotte Simmonds

The Walking Stick Tree
Trish Harris
Escalator Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780994118646

A Small Blue Thing
Julie Hanify
Submarine, $35.00,
ISBN 9780994123770

The Case of the Missing Body
Jenny Powell
Otago University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9781877578311

What Does the Sea Sound Like?
Evie Mahoney
Mary Egan Publishing, $30.00,
ISBN 9780473367718

My friend Uther once called a play A Show About Superheroes, partly as a ploy to get non-theatre people into theatres, under the logic that there are people who will go to anything if it is about superheroes. Similarly, there are people who will read any book on certain topics.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Obituary – Barbara Murison

Dancing between order and chaos Novelist and children’s writer Barbara Else remembers Barbara Murison (b Wellington Nov 26, 1931, d Waikanae, May 7, 2017) Barbara Murison, librarian and life-long advocate of children’s reading, exemplified Margaret Mahy’s definition of the librarian

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Posted in Obituaries

Obituary – John McIntyre

Literacy and literature Julia Marshall, publisher at Gecko Press, raises a cheer for the cheerleader for children’s books, John McIntyre. John McIntyre of The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie was a champion and friend of many. His wife and partner in

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Posted in Obituaries
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