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Issue 123 | Spring 2018

Volume 28 | Number 3 | Issue 123 | Spring 2018   Letter C K Stead: “Unusual Obsequies” (poem) Janet Wilson: Fiona Kidman, This Mortal Boy: A Novel Annabel Gooder: Grace Bridges, Lee Murray and Aaron Compton (eds), Te Kōrero

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Time-hopping, Adrian Kinnaird

Helen and the Go-go Ninjas
Ant Sang and Michael Bennett
Penguin Random House, $30.00,
ISBN 9780143771241

A creative collaboration between a writer and artist is common in the world of comics and graphic novels. Celebrated collaborators like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Goscinny and Uderzo, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, and many more have frequently combined their talents to create memorable graphic stories.

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Posted in Graphic novel, Literature, Review

Dancing with facts

Broadcaster and documentary maker Justin Gregory reflects on James McNeish’s “portrait” of John Mulgan.

In 1994, James McNeish wrote, narrated and produced a feature-length radio programme on a man he described as perhaps the “darkest” of New Zealand’s “dark horses”: writer, publisher and soldier John Mulgan. McNeish called the programme A Man with Two Countries, adding the subtitle A Portrait of John Mulgan (1911-1945). The programme was broadcast on Radio New Zealand’s National Radio in April that year.

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“A kind of undressing”, Elspeth Sandys

Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pākehā History
Peter Wells
Massey University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780994143

Peter Wells is a wonderful writer, and this is almost a wonderful book.

Writing a family memoir (or, as the author calls this particular memoir, Uncovering a Pākehā History) is a risky business at the best of times, because no matter how extraordinary your family is – and Wells makes no claims for his to be other than what they are, unsung heroes of “ordinary” life – what will make or break the book is the quality of the mind interrogating those lives. Fortunately, what we have in Dear Oliver is a mind both well-informed – one of the many hats the author wears is that of historian – about the world he is imagining, sensitive to the inner lives of its citizens, and skilled at finding words that lift his tale out of the study into the bright light of lived experience.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Wrestling with the past, Gwynaeth McIntyre

Athens to Aotearoa: Greece and Rome in New Zealand Literature and Society
Diana Burton, Simon Perris and Jeff Tatum (eds)
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781776561766

Athens to Aotearoa’s cover image, Herakles Wrestles the Taniwha, epitomises the very essence of this edited volume. As the editors state in their preface, they sought papers “exhibiting a sharp awareness of the pretensions, the impositions and the frictions that are all part of the reality of New Zealand’s confrontation with ancient Greece and Rome.” It is an analysis of this confrontation and the ways in which each paper wrestles with the relationship between Aotearoa New Zealand and its classical heritage that unites the volume.

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Posted in Literature, Review

Brewing a legacy, Michael Donaldson

Guinness Down Under: The Famous Brew and the Family Come to Australia and New Zealand
Rod Smith
Eyeglass Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9780473408428

Guinness – like the citizens of its country – has travelled to all parts of the world. 

It is truly a global beer: brewed in 50 countries, sold in 150, and 10 million glasses of the famous stout are consumed every day, the brewery claims.

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A study of politically enforced self-restraint, Janet McLean

In Search of Consensus: New Zealand’s Electoral Act 1956 and its Constitutional Legacy
Elizabeth McLeay
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781776561841

As I write, the sitting president of the United States of America is reported to be seriously contemplating the use of his powers of pardon to pardon himself. Such proposed conduct illustrates just how much all constitutions, written or unwritten, require large measures of self-restraint on the part of officials and politicians in order to work properly. Constitutional lawyers, political scientists and pundits tend to focus on these and other incidents in which politicians test the limits of their powers. In her new book, In Search of Consensus: New Zealand’s Electoral Act 1956 and its Constitutional Legacy, Elizabeth McLeay does something which is much more original. She makes a study of the voluntary and wholly politically enforced self-restraint by New Zealand politicians in the Electoral Act 1956 and its successor legislation.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review

Headland: Literary frontiers

Liesl Nunns, co-founding editor of the digital literary journal Headland, describes the opportunities of digital publication.

On a March morning in 2014, stirred up by Professor Dame Anne Salmond’s speech at the International Women’s Day breakfast at Parliament, Laura McNeur and I began a conversation that, four years later, has resulted in 12 (fantastic) issues of Headland ( and counting. Whether it was imposter syndrome, a reaction to tall poppy syndrome, some other kind of syndrome, or perhaps just a healthy amount of humility and good manners, I remember feeling that we needed to wait till we woke up as Bill Manhire or Fergus Barrowman before we could have the chutzpah to call ourselves the founding editors of a literary journal.

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Placing the monarchy, Stephen Levine

This Realm of New Zealand: The Sovereign, the Governor-General, the Crown
Alison Quentin-Baxter and Janet McLean
Auckland University Press, $65.00,
ISBN 9781869408756

To say that this book adds considerably to the literature about the monarchy in New Zealand would be an understatement. For those interested in the position of the Queen (and her successors) with respect to New Zealand, as well as in possible alternatives, this is an indispensable work. Produced by two distinguished scholars – Janet McLean is a professor of law at the University of Auckland; Dame Alison Quentin-Baxter has had a long career, contributing her expertise to constitutional developments in New Zealand as well as overseas – the book introduces a wealth of information not only about the role of the monarch but also about her/his representative (from 1841 the Governor; since 1917 the Governor-General), a position of significance in its own right. 

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review

Lead kindly light, Paul Morris

Sunday Best: How the Church Shaped New Zealand and New Zealand Shaped the Church
Peter Lineham
Massey University Press, $55.00,
ISBN 9780994140777

Saints and Stirrers: Christianity, Conflict and Peacemaking in New Zealand, 1814-1945
Geoffrey Troughton (ed)
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781776561643

A leading scholar recently referring to the burgeoning interest in Yiddish language and literature waggishly commented that there is nothing like terminal decline to spark renewed interest at the universities. As we await the results of the 2018 New Zealand census, it looks likely that the total of all those who identify with the different Christian churches will be re-confirmed as a certain and diminishing minority, and that the numbers of those who report “no religion” will have risen yet again, especially among the young. How different from a few decades ago, when more than eight out of 10 declared themselves Christian, and only a tiny percentage did not identify with religion at all. How did this transition occur? What happened? What has been lost? The story of the radical decline of “Christianity” in this country and the contemporary meanings of these Christian legacies have yet to be fully told or understood.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Religion, Review
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