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Peacetime at last, Helen Watson White

Astride a Fierce Wind
Huberta Hellendoorn
Submarine, $38.00,
ISBN 9780473395216

Writing in retirement in the small Dunedin apartment she shares with her husband Bart, Huberta Hellendoorn characteristically uses a domestic metaphor to describe her ever-changing experience:

The revolving dryer reminds me of my life, the moving and whirling of complicated situations, sometimes sudden, other times slow in reaching a climax. Tossed about by circumstances that could only be fully acknowledged by the passing of time and often hard work.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Lies, damned lies, and fiction, Mark Broatch

False River
Paula Morris
Penguin, $35.00
ISBN 9780143771630

A couple of years ago I asked English essayist and novelist Geoff Dyer if he thought a man he and his wife picked up while driving through a desert in the United States of America was a serious criminal. In the story, White Sands, a sign warned drivers not to stop for hitchhikers because of prisons nearby. They did, instantly regretted it, and had to drive off at a gas station to get rid of him. Dyer wasn’t willing to confirm that they really did pick up a hitchhiker. “Is it fiction, is it a story? If so, at what point does it become fiction? If it is fiction, why isn’t it behaving like we expect stories to behave?”

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Knowing one another, Maggie Trapp

The Beat of the Pendulum: A Found Novel
Catherine Chidgey
Victoria University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781776561704


Kirsten McDougall
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776561001

Gabriel’s Bay
Catherine Robertson
Black Swan, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143771456

Imaginative writing takes the hurly-burly of life and boils it down to something at once contained and capacious, and stories – whether real or imagined – allow us to see and feel lives other than our own. In their new novels, Catherine Chidgey, Kirsten McDougall, and Catherine Robertson present compelling, intimate accounts of New Zealanders. These works are about ostensibly everyday lives. Yet these ordinary characters reveal the extraordinary that we all live within. These stories, each in its own way, speak to our need for story. 

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Letters – Issue 121

Concerning points We thank New Zealand Books Pukapuka Aotearoa and Airini Beautrais for the largely positive review of Manifesto Aotearoa 101 Political Poems (NZB Summer 2017), but its final points are concerning. Airini Beautrais refers to “cringe-worthy instances of cultural

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Posted in Letters

Imagined pasts, alternative futures, Craig Cliff

The Necessary Angel
C K Stead
Allen and Unwin, $37.00,
ISBN 9781760631529

Salt Picnic
Patrick Evans
Victoria University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9781776561698

Our Future is in the Air
Tim Corballis
Victoria University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9781776561179

When a white male editor commissions another white male to review three novels, all written by white males, in late 2017, after the fall of Harvey Weinstein and the rise of #MeToo, the white male reviewer must be forgiven for thinking about absent voices, privilege and power dynamics while reading the assigned books. Stale, male and pale – that’s what cynics might say. Male and pale are hard to dispute when it comes to Stead, Evans and Corballis, but stale? That’s the crux, isn’t it? Are these books vital enough to warrant the bandwidth we might devote to them? What do they have to say that hasn’t been said before?

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review
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