Blog Archives

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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and Review

At the whim of larger, terrifying forces, Angelina Sbroma

The Deadly Sky
David Hill
Puffin, $20.00, ISBN 9780143308157

The Red Suitcase
Jill Harris
Mākaro Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780994106902

Spark
Rachael Craw
Walker, $22.00, ISBN 9781922179623

David Hill’s The Deadly Sky is set in 1974, when the nuclear proliferation of the Cold War was at the forefront of political debate, and France was, quite literally, dropping bombs in the South Pacific. Modern global terror has a different focus (the Big Red Button seems old-fashioned from today’s perspective), but the ethical quandaries at the heart of the arms race – whether militarisation works to promote security or to endanger it; whether national and global security is worth its economic, ecological and individual cost – remain pertinent.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review and Young adults
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