Blog Archives

Balancing the probabilities, Christopher Pugsley

Hit and Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the Meaning of Honour
Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson
Potton and Burton, $35.00,
ISBN 9780947503390

“What is it that we don’t understand? We’re going to lose this fucking war if we don’t stop killing civilians”: General Stanley McChrystal’s outburst at his morning staff briefing in the summer of 2009 reflected his concern about the steady trickle of Afghan civilian deaths from operations conducted by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). He wrote that the “instinctive way we reacted to alleged incidents made it worse”.  Investigations and apologies meant little if the incidents continued as they did. As a group of Afghan elders told one of his fact-finding teams: “Afghans hear with their eyes, not just with their ears.” In essence, it is not what you say, but what you do – which is the story of Nicky Hager’s and Jon Stephenson’s Hit and Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the Meaning of Honour.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review and War

Cartoonist with bite, Dinah Priestley

Murdoch: The Cartoons of Sharon Murdoch
Sharon Murdoch (with commentary by Melinda Johnston)
Potton and Burton, $40.00,
ISBN 9780947503239

Anne Tolley crouches watchfully inside a beneficiary’s uterus, high heels digging into the soft pink flesh, her two fists blocking the fallopian tubes. The cartoon is startling, funny and elegant. Labelled “Reproductive Politics”, it illustrates the Health Minister’s remark that she wanted to find ways to stop “at risk” beneficiaries having more children. I used to believe that most of us women do not have the bite to be successful editorial cartoonists. But I was wrong. The editorial cartoons of Sharon Murdoch have plenty of bite and anger, which she manages to combine with elegance and subtlety. In seven years, Murdoch has gone from being the cartoonist of her popular crossword cat Munro to being represented as editorial cartoonist in major New Zealand papers, notably the Press, Dominion Post, Waikato Times and Sunday Star Times.

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Posted in Media, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Memory and amnesia, Giovanni Tiso

To the Memory: New Zealand’s War Memorials Jock Phillips Potton and Burton, $60.00, ISBN 9780947503024 Think of it as a road guide to New Zealand of sorts, one that maps your route both spatially and chronologically: for almost every town

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and War

Forward to the 1950s, Trevor Agnew

The Adventures of Hutu and Kawa Avis Acres (text and illus) Puffin, $25.00, ISBN 9780143507055 First to the Top: Sir Edmund Hillary’s Everest Adventure David Hill (Phoebe Morris illus) Puffin, $25.00, ISBN 9780143506874 Changing Times: The Story of a New

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Posted in Children, Literature and Review

Rescuing an heroic figure, Jane Westaway

Petals & Bullets: Dorothy Morris, New Zealand Nurse in the Spanish Civil War
Mark Derby
Potton and Burton, $40.00,
ISBN 9781927213766

In the preface to Mark Derby’s new book, Spanish War historian Angela Jackson writes of the challenge in recounting the lives of so-called “do-gooders”. Such figures – often female – aren’t sexy. They tend to live beyond the public eye, the corridors of power and the celebrity-mad media. Thus, they leave behind precious little of the source material biographers and historians rely on. Derby notes a related difficulty – that of making a dedicated life “appear interesting” – even though his subject is Dorothy Morris, a Christchurch nurse who worked in Spain during the Civil War, caring for horribly injured civilians and soldiers, as well as starving and traumatised children and refugees.

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Posted in Biography, History, Non-fiction, Review and War

Get the picture? David Hill

The Heading Dog Who Split in Half: Legends and Tall Tales from New Zealand Michael Brown and Mat Tait Potton and Burton, $40.00, ISBN 9781927213575 One of my reservations about graphic novels has been that they limit readers’ imaginative options.

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Posted in Graphic novel, Literature and Review
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