Blog Archives

Boys’ own journey, Chris Szekely

The Top Secret Undercover Notes of Buttons McGinty
Rhys Darby
Scholastic, $18.00,
ISBN 9781775434979

Between
Adele Broadbent
One Tree House, $20.00,
ISBN 9780995106420

Slice of Heaven
Des O’Leary
Mākaro Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780995109247

I reckon I had the best summer break in ages: lots of sunny days, lots of sleep-ins, and a trio of junior-fiction books to read for pure pleasure. At the beach, on the couch, under a shady tree, it felt like the school holidays for a grown-up.

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review

Believing not belonging, Mike Grimshaw

New World, New God: Rethinking Christianity for a Secular Age
Ian Harris
Mākaro Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780994137869

In 1967, Lloyd Geering, Principal of Knox Theological Hall and Old Testament lecturer, was tried for heresy by the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand – and liberal, mainstream Christianity was never the same. Geering’s heresy was, in the language of the church, actually two different charges of doctrinal error, from two opponents (who did not agree on much). Geering was at this time, as he has told me, actually just “an old-fashioned liberal”, but one with a broad interest across many issues of science, religion, humanism and biblical studies.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Religion, Review

Patchwork, Lisa Warrington

These Two Hands: A Memoir Renée Mākaro Press, $38.00, ISBN 9780994137845 These Two Hands is the memoir of a woman’s life which is simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary. Born in Napier in 1929, Renée has lived through tumultuous times, both in

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Jewels and binoculars, Murray Bramwell

Blood Ties: New and Selected Poems 1963–2016
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
Canterbury University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781927145883

Dylan Junkie
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
Mākaro Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780994137807

It is a harsh fact that we live in a world where there is far more published poetry than people willing or able to read it. Over the past 50 years, poetry has ceased to be a common currency. It is less often a core component of literary studies in either high-school or university curricula. For most people, poetry has become esoteric and increasingly formidable. Few nowadays have ever read more than a handful of poems, let alone committed lines to memory. There are many reasons for this. A significant one is that since the 1960s some of the best poetry has gone to live in Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song”; the canon is now plugged into the body electric. Of course, lyrics still matter for people, but only when encased in melody and beats.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

People and places, Louise O’Brien

A Surfeit of Sunsets
Dulcie Castree
Mākaro Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780994123787

The Earth Cries Out
Bonnie Etherington
Vintage, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143770657

In the late Dulcie Castree’s novel, Shirley abandons her sophisticated life in Wellington in favour of the small seaside town, and its eccentric society, of Taiwhenua on the Kāpiti Coast. Nursing a broken heart and feeling pretty sorry for herself, she finds herself besieged by A Surfeit of Sunsets, relentlessly predictable in their daily beauty.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Wonderful New Zealand everydayness, Caitlin Walker

The Year of Falling Janis Freegard Mākaro Press, $35.00 ISBN 9780994106575 Selina’s life seems perfect. She’s got the job of her dreams, she and her boyfriend have been together for a record 18 months, and she’s got her health under

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Posted in Literature, Review, Young adults

“Pure, straight sound”, Elizabeth Kerr  

Peter Godfrey: Father of New Zealand Choral Music Elizabeth Salmon Mākaro Press, $40.00, ISBN 9780994106582 On the book’s cover a young boy stands a little uncertainly before the camera. He’s wearing the Eton suit of a King’s College chorister, complete

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Posted in Music, Non-fiction, Review

Unearthing skeletons, John McCrystal

Daughters of Messene
Maggie Rainey-Smith
Makaro Press, $35.00, ISBN 9780994117267

Something Else
David Parkyn (Sally Griffin illus)
Piedog Press, $38.00, ISBN 9780473321505

“There are only two or three human stories,” as Willa Cather once said, “and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” It is as true in literature as it is in life, which is why, for all the apparently endless ingenuity of storytellers, most narratives end up fitting a mere handful of genres.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

For us there is only the trying, Paul Morris 

Tell You What: Great New Zealand Non-Fiction 2015
Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew (eds)
Auckland University Press, $30.00
ISBN 9781869408244

Greatest Hits: A Quarter Century of Journalistic Encounters and Notes from Lost Cities
David Cohen
Mākaro Press, $35.00
ISBN 9780994106544

In their introduction, editors Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew ask why “doesn’t New Zealand have its own equivalent of the Best American Essays or Best Australian Essays series?” Their selection of 29 “essays” is expressly designed to address this very real lacuna. As one who has long lamented the priority given to the New Zealand short story, the short poem, and the long novel over the essay, I had high expectations for this collection. What was it that I was anticipating? If not the wisdom of Montaigne, Hazlitt, Lamb, Orwell, James, Hunter S Thompson, Hughes, Baldwin, Epstein, Ozick, E B White or, more recently, Daum, Jamison, D’Ambrosio and Zadie Smith, then at least reflective first-person narratives about experience that deeply engage the reader, not as moral fable or advice, but as dialogue, a conversation that suggestively and subtly indicates some shared and significant experience and understanding. They should, of course, also be superbly written and entertaining.

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Posted in Essays, Media, Non-fiction, Review

The sliding door in the dark, Airini Beautrais

The Lonely Nude
Emily Dobson
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739292

Cinema
Helen Rickerby
Mākaro Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780473276485

Waha/Mouth
Hinemoana Baker
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739704

I have often wondered how far poetry can stray into the mundane, before losing its status as poetry. Although the days of poetry being synonymous with higher thoughts are long gone, risks still exist. How domestic may I be? How profane? How bodily? Emily Dobson productively explores this knife-edge in her new collection, The Lonely Nude. Dobson was Glenn Schaeffer fellow at the University of Iowa in 2005, and many of these poems were written during that time. Afterwards, we are told, they “spent several years in Emily’s wardrobe”. Here the crucial incubation must have occurred, and a polished collection has emerged.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review
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