Blog Archives

Balancing pathos, Janet Wilson

This Mortal Boy: A Novel
Fiona Kidman
Penguin Random House, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143771807

In This Mortal Boy (with its subtle, sad echo of Brendan Behan’s novel, Borstal Boy), Fiona Kidman gives a semi-fictional reconstruction of the highly publicised case of the “jukebox” murder that took place in Auckland in May 1955. Committed by a young Northern Irish immigrant, Albert (Paddy) Black, against Alan Jacques, another immigrant who had earlier beaten up Black, the murder went to trial, and Black received a verdict of guilty which, at that time, meant the death penalty. An appeal and the petition raised by his mother in Belfast of 12,000 signatures, failed, and Black was hanged on 5th December 1955. The death penalty had been reinstated in New Zealand by the National government in 1950, following a particularly brutal murder. Black’s was the penultimate case of execution before the Labour government commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment in 1957, and it was finally abolished in 1961 with 10 National members of parliament crossing the floor.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Literary contradictions, Alistair Fox

Striding Both Worlds: Witi Ihimaera and New Zealand’s Literary Traditions
Melissa Kennedy
Rodopi
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, Review

Life in the bush, by the bay, Dougal McNeill

Speaking Frankly: The Frank Sargeson Memorial Lectures 2003-2010 Sarah Shieff (ed) Cape Catley, $31.99, ISBN 9781877340277   Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays Gerri Kimber and Janet Wilson (eds) Palgrave Macmillan, $162.00, ISBN 9780230277731   It was a

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Posted in Essays, Lecture, Literature, Non-fiction, Review

Writing frankly, Hugh Roberts

Frank Sargeson’s Stories Janet Wilson (ed) Cape Catley, $47.99, ISBN 9781877340284   The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography tells us that “Frank Sargeson’s major achievement was to introduce the rhythms and idiom of everyday New Zealand speech to literature”, and

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Posted in Literature, Review, Short stories

There and now, Janet Wilson

Floating Worlds: Essays on Contemporary New Zealand Fiction  Anna Jackson and Jane Stafford (eds) Victoria University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9780864736017 The increased tempo of public debate in the last decade over issues such as public policy and the arts, canon

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Posted in Essays, Literature, Non-fiction, Review

Placing Davin, Lydia Wevers

The Gorse Blooms Pale: Dan Davin’s Southland Stories Janet Wilson (ed) Otago University Press, $49.95,  ISBN 9781877372421 Dan Davin published his last short story, “Gardens of Exile”, in the New Zealand Listener in 1989. In it, the four boys of

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review, Short stories

Peeling away from the margins Janet Wilson

Red Leaves Diana Bridge Auckland University Press, $22.95, ISBN 1869403460 Fire-penny Cilla McQueen University of Otago Press, $29.95, ISBN 1877372066 Resistance Meg Campbell Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, $16.95, ISBN 1869420578 This bouquet of verse demonstrates the flourishing talent of

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

The art of the odd, Janet Wilson

Swallowing Diamonds Marilyn Duckworth Vintage, $26.95, ISBN 1869415485 In Marilyn Duckworth, New Zealand has its finest writer of the absurd. Although others have written about states of unreality or non-reality – most particularly Janet Frame, younger novelists like Elizabeth Knox,

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To sing the last word, Janet Wilson

Oh There You Are Tui! New and Selected Poems Dinah Hawken Victoria University Press, $29.95, ISBN  0864734107 From the outset of her poetic career, one of the most promising debuts in recent New Zealand writing with It has No Sound

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Desperate Dan, W H Oliver

Intimate Stranger: reminiscences of Dan Davin ed Janet Wilson Steele Roberts, $29.95, ISBN 1877228249 Before I start on the book, I will allow myself a grumble about the cover. This shows in the foreground a highlighted profile of Dan, characteristically

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction, Review
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