Blog Archives

Listening for the voice, Janet Hughes

Coming to it: Selected Poems
Sam Hunt
Potton and Burton, $30.00,
ISBN 9780947503802

Poeta: Selected and New Poems
Cilla McQueen
Otago University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781988531281

Watching for the Wingbeat: New and Selected Poems
Pat White
Cold Hub Press, $40.00,
ISBN 97804734444204

A “Selected Poems” doesn’t confer quite the accolade of a collected, with its connotations of canonisation. But the poet is more likely to have a hand in shaping it, and to be around to enjoy it; it is more likely to privilege reading pleasure; and it’s simply more likely to happen. Back when publishers were powerful arbiters and gatekeepers, a selected poems affirmed a career and a reputation. Now that there are more gates and fewer keepers, the fact of a selected probably carries less freight.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Fighting the good fight, Philip Simpson

Fight for the Forests
Paul Bensemann
Potton and Burton, $70.00,
ISBN 9780947503130

This book is a marvellous chronicle of the people, the campaigns, the sorrows and sacrifices and, ultimately, the achievement to protect New Zealand’s unique publicly owned native forests. Set within the context of a brilliant overview by one of the fighters, Craig Potton, Paul Bensemann takes us through each campaign, in astonishing detail.

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Posted in Natural History, Non-fiction, Science

Radiant living: a hero rediscovered, Julia Millen

Edmund Hillary: A Biography
Michael Gill
Potton and Burton, $60.00,
ISBN 9780947503383

 

1953: Edmund Hillary, Everest conqueror (with Tenzing Norgay), is knighted by newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth II. From the time he climbed his first peak in the Southern Alps, it had taken 13 years of steep uphill slog to become a world hero.

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction, Review

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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, Review
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