Blog Archives

Whose history? Simon Hay

The Expatriate Myth: New Zealand Writers and the Colonial World 
Helen Bones
Otago University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781988531175

The Expatriates 
Martin Edmond
Bridget Williams Books, $50.00,
ISBN 9781988533179

Helen Bones aims to dismantle the “myth” that New Zealand writers, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, had to leave New Zealand to pursue careers as writers. She argues that this myth is wrong in at least two directions: first, that many New Zealand writers stayed and wrote and published, in New Zealand – that New Zealand was at this time not the cultural wasteland that it was made out to be by the generation of scholars she calls the “cultural nationalists”; and, second, that writers who did leave had neither an easier nor a harder time of it than those who stayed. Her book is a quantitative study, insofar as it can be: not interested in the “content” of books, but in “comprehensive data collection”, “literary empirical techniques”, and “a dataset of publications”. Her goal is to “quantify the significance of literary expatriatism”.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Carnival anarchists, Martin Edmond

Goneville: A Memoir Nick Bollinger Awa Press, $39.00, ISBN 9781927249543 This Explains Everything Richard von Sturmer Atuanui Press, $30.00, ISBN 9780994137609 The authors of these two books have a few things in common: they were both born in late 1950s

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

The archaeologist of memory, Ingrid Horrocks

The Dreaming Land Martin Edmond Bridget Williams Books, $40.00, ISBN 9780908321490 The Dreaming Land is Martin Edmond’s first full-length work of autobiography, but he’s been working in the territory of life writing and memoir for a long time. He is

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Mingling the sacred and the profane, Martin Edmond

The Penguin Book of New Zealand War Writing
Harry Ricketts and Gavin McLean (eds)
Penguin Books, $65.00, ISBN 9780143573098

Oddly enough – or perhaps not – when this book arrived at my door I remembered one of the more arcane customs recorded in Te Rangi Hiroa’s The Coming of the Māori: “Warriors before setting out on a military campaign,” he writes, “each in turn bit (ngau) the cross beam (paepae) of the latrine.” These were cliff-side toilets in hill forts and the cross beam was what you held onto while you shat into the void below. There was a strong tapu upon it, to prevent the theft of faecal matter for the purposes of sorcery; and the ceremony of the biting of the bar was attended by a tohunga chanting karakia considered protective of Te Hokowhitu a Tu as they went off to make war.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, War

Looking for home, David Cohen

Barefoot Years
Martin Edmond
Bridget Williams Books, $15.00,
ISBN 9781927277676

On Coming Home
Paula Morris
Bridget Williams Books, $15.00,
ISBN 9780908321117

Somewhere in the course of his perceptive career, in what one assumes was a more or less idle moment, George Orwell turned his attention to the question of whether purchasing cigarettes or literature leaves a larger hole in the average reader’s pocket. To this cobweb-hung dilemma, the English essayist devoted all the remorseless attention with which Marx went about weighing the merits of capitalism and socialism; although there the comparison must end, for Orwell surely never strung a gilded sentence together that would cause a reader mental pain on account of its construction. His tentative conclusion: reading is indeed better for one’s financial health. Workers of the world, unlight!

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction, Review

Constant fizz and playful grace, Mark Houlahan

Constant fizz and playful grace

Mark Houlahan

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Dreaming and aching, Ashleigh Young

The Place of Stones Martin Edmond The Holloway Press, $275.00, ISBN 9780986461866 Jumping Ship and Other Essays  Glenn Colquhoun Steele Roberts, $25.00, ISBN 9781877577765 When Martin Edmond picks up a piece of schist from Alaska – in which are embedded

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Self-portrait with encounters, Martin Edmond

Touchstones: A Memoir James McNeish Vintage, $30.00, ISBN 9781869799328 The first book I was ever asked to review, way back in the early 1970s, was James McNeish’s Mackenzie – a work as idiosyncratic, obdurate and strange as the man it

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

What we call the past, Martin Edmond

The Hungry Heart: Journeys with William Colenso Peter Wells Vintage, $49.99, ISBN 9781869794743   Give Your Thoughts Life: William Colenso’s Letters to the Editor  Ian St George (ed) Otago University Press, $60.00, ISBN 9781877578144   The Greek word historia, from

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Posted in Biography, History, Letters

Fruit bats to faith, Stella Ramage

Dark Night: Walking with McCahon Martin Edmond Auckland University Press, $37.99, ISBN 9781869404833   A meander through Sydney in the possible footsteps of artist Colin McCahon, who once spent 28 amnesiac hours lost in the unfamiliar city, seems a flimsy

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review
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