Blog Archives

Back on the rock, Janet Hughes

The Ski Flier
Maria MacMillan
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776561131

Vanishing Points
Michele Leggott
Auckland University Press, $28.00,
ISBN 9781869408749

Tightrope
Selina Tusitala Marsh
Auckland University Press, $28.00,
ISBN 9781869408725

Poetry seems to have reclaimed what someone called “the big speech” – eloquence, public speech, heightened language. Poets are reaching to expand their audiences and expressive range. It’s as if the bard has climbed back on the rock, tiring of contemplation and private conversation. These three poets are highly distinctive voices, using varieties of big speech to deserved acclaim in very different ways.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Creatively wicked, Roger Robinson

Quarrels with Himself: Essays on James K Baxter as Prose Writer
Peter Whiteford and Geoffrey Miles (eds)
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781776561711

As a landmark of New Zealand literary scholarship, James K. Baxter: Complete Prose, edited by John Weir, published in four volumes in 2015, is alpine in scale. Reviewing it in the Summer 2015 issue of New Zealand Books, John Newton aptly called it a “massive terminal moraine”, also describing Baxter’s profusion of words as a “manic deluge”. Such geomorphically inclined imagery continues in this new collection of essays about Baxter’s prose, where Weir’s edition is called “tectonic”, “a substantial blockade”, making “visible … the full range and depth”, “monumental” (at least five times), and “heroic”.

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Posted in Literature, Non-fiction, Review

Revenge, arguments and silliness, Bernard Carpinter

Marlborough Man
Alan Carter
Fremantle Press, $38.00,
ISBN 978125164534

Presumed Guilty
Mark McGinn
Merlot Publishing, $33.00,
ISBN 9781513618609

The Empty Coffin
Gary Moore
Mary Egan Publishing, $30.00,
ISBN 9780473388959

Fans of New Zealand crime fiction can add one more name to the rather compact list of excellent local writers. The name is Alan Carter, and he’s actually an import, but his Marlborough Man is authentic Kiwi through and through. Originally from Sunderland in northeast England, Carter, emigrated to Perth in 1991, later began splitting his time between Perth and the Marlborough Sounds, and now lives in Havelock at the base of the Sounds.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Runs in the memory, Harry Ricketts

Dawn of the Golden Weather: When Kiwi Cricketers Conquered the World
John Mehaffey
Steele Roberts, $35.00,
ISBN 9780947493653

Cricket addicts, like most sports addicts, tend to look back to a golden age. This often coincides with their own first intense love affair with the game, the larger-than-life heroes of youth and memory forever towering above the moderns, however brilliant. John Mehaffey’s title, with its half-glance to Bruce Mason’s nostalgia-drenched play, acknowledges that pull, though in fact the “golden weather” nostalgically recreated here is that of the 1980s and the dayspring of New Zealand’s rise to serious ranking as a cricketing nation.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, Sport

Back in the day, Gavin McLean

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too
Jane Millton (Deborah Hinde illus)
Allen and Unwin, $20.00, ISBN 978877505928

Allis the Little Tractor
Sophie Siers (Helen Kerridge illus)
Millwood-Heritage Productions, $20.00, ISBN 9780473329594

The Viaduct Postcard
Susan Price (Judith Trevelyan illus)
Millwood-Heritage Productions, $20.00, ISBN 9780473369224

Sky High: Jean Batten’s Incredible Flying Adventures
David Hill (Phoebe Morris illus)
Penguin Random House, $25.00, ISBN 9780143770367

Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story
Gavin Bishop
Puffin, $40.00, ISBN 978043770350

Children’s books do not feature strongly in my childhood memories. Avis Acres was selling New Zealand-themed ones, but I mostly recall British books, full of their steam trains and villages. There were also books you brushed with water to bring up their pallid colours. But the real revolution came with the widespread adoption of Asian printing, making the highly colourful “picture flat” (and these all are) affordable to a wider audience. Think lots of colour, big pictures and big formats.

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review

The costs of war, Jock Phillips

Gallipoli to the Somme: Recollections of a New Zealand Infantryman
Alexander Aitken (Alex Calder ed)
Auckland University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781869408817

Odyssey of the Unknown Anzac
David Hastings
Auckland University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781869408824

As we come towards the end of the four-year centenary of the Great War, the question looms: what have we learnt over these years about what was arguably the greatest trauma affecting the largest number of people that this country has ever seen?

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Posted in History, Review, War

Historical revisionism, Kirstie Ross

Phoney Wars: New Zealand Society in the Second World War
Stevan Eldred-Grigg with Hugh Eldred-Grigg
Otago University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9780947522230

The first Anzac Day during WWII shows us some of the multifarious, sometimes conflicting views of the war and by extension, the dominion’s commitment to it.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

Poem – Tom Weston

An art historian explains 
how time began What seemed to be her effortless best. Speaking was her art, the silk purse she grafted from the sow’s ear of discontent, what she found congenial. It’s all about me, she knew, artist

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Posted in Poem

Poem – Nicola Slee

Return There is an ocean I am always returning to travelling halfway round the world to come home to its long bay I walk along the edges of surf searching for greenstone and pāua shell feel the grit under my

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Posted in Poem

Fighting a good fight, Tatjana Schaefer

Flight Path
David Hill
Puffin, $20.00,
ISBN 9780143770527

The Traitor and the Thief
Gareth Ward
Walker Books, $20.00,
ISBN 9781925381504

Helper and Helper
Joy Cowley (Gavin Bishop illus)
Gecko Press, $23.00,
ISBN 9781776571055

In this, the last year of the WWI centenary, it should not seem unusual to be reviewing three books that all have war or conflict as their central themes. The questions of what defines an enemy and how they are to be dealt with are addressed and (thankfully) not always answered, at least not in a didactic sort of way. Interesting in the present selection is the variety of approaches, not only to the topic of war and strife, but also to questions of friendship and belonging in the face of conflict.

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review
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