The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 7 (October 1, 1934)
Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two
There is a much abused Latin expression, cacoethes scribendi—an itch for writing. When discreetly controlled and directed, this itch for writing might be encouraged; but an uncontrolled literary itch is apt to become a serious and very distressing malady. Unfortunately there is a severe literary itch epidemic in New Zealand just now. It is finding expression in distressing rash-like “literary journals” that are springing up all over the land. Many of these publications are badly typed cyclostyled sheets carrying the literary efforts of young and old aspiring writers. While I can sympathise with the keen ambitions of these enthusiasts to force their way, at all costs, “into print,” the trouble is that in some cases the sponsor or sponsors of the cyclostyled sheets are ill-fitted to judge whether such efforts should ever reach an even very limited public. Many such sheets have come my way lately and I can only feel sorry for those concerned that they have not kept to the legitimate well-established sources of publication. I am referring to no “literary organ” in particular (there is one at least, that apart from a few occasional paragraph absurdities, is doing excellent work) and do not wish to decry their well meant enthusiasm. I would suggest, though, that such a virulent epidemic of cacoethes scribendi should be grappled with intelligently by responsible members of the several literary organisations in existence, and directed into one sensible and well controlled fever ward. With liberal application of the antiseptic blue pencil, the patients should emerge completely cured.
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There is a fine collaboration of New Zealand talent in a new serial which commenced publication in the “Australian Woman's Mirror” recently. Entitled “Magic Notes,” and set in New Zealand, the novel is the work of two New Zealand collaborators, Ena Eden and John Patrick. The illustrations are by G. K. Townshend, formerly of Auckland.
Kealy's Ltd., the well known Auckland booksellers, recently published Catalogue No. 7 of their secondhand department. There are books here to suit all tastes, collectors' requirements being well catered for. Modern first editions are well represented. In the New Zealand section are a number of interesting and valuable items. The whole catalogue is well annotated and the prices are reasonable. The catalogue is sent free on request to book-lovers.
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That keen literary and musical enthusiast, James J. Stroud, who lives down Gore way, has written the music of a successful song number “A Blue Lagoon, A Silver Moon and You.” The song has been published by the Australian Publishing Service.
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In course of preparation is a limited signed edition of the poems of R. A. K. Mason, the Auckland poet. The book, which is to be artistically produced, is to sell at half a guinea a copy.
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The “Spilt Ink Anthology of Verse” has reached me. Some of it is verse and some of it is worse. I must confess though that I read each issue of ‘Spilt Ink” itself with interest. It is a bright little publication, full of news, but might be improved with an occasional use of that antiseptic blue pencil to which I have referred.
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“The New Zealand Mercury,” the August number of which has just reached me, is doing useful work in encouraging the development of local verse. The latest number did not appeal to me as much as the previous one. R. B. Castle and Eileen Service deservedly won the prizes for the best poems of the issue. Peter Middleton pays a well meant though uninspiring tribute to Mary Webb; Douglas Stewart, that clever young Hawera poet, plays on well worn keys, but sufficiently interestingly to be heard; C. R. Allen confesses to weaving “wistful platitudes” but weaves them well; and several other poets contribute to the month's programme.
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I have had a letter from Stuart Peterson, formerly cartoonist of the “Free Lance.” He tells me that he has more work than he can cope with, and is making more than twice the money he made in this country. Most of his drawing is being done for the Australian “Woman's Weekly.” Australia was always a happy hunting ground for the New Zealand black and white artist, though of late the reduced number of dailies and monthlies has made the field harder. Peterson's work, however, is of such a standard that he quickly found editors over there keen to avail themselves of his services.
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Ettie A. Hornibrook (Ettie Rout) is a determined and courageous woman who has done much for physical and mental well being. At all times she has written with disarming candour and real sincerity. Her latest work (sixth page 36 edition enlarged and revised), with its rather snappy title, “Stand Up and Slim Down” (Restoration Exercises for Women) is a series of general instructional exercises for the preservation of health and restoration of the female body. It contains a valuable appendix on Food Selection, dealing with the proper diet in constipation, obesity, etc. The work has a foreword by Sir Arthur Keith and is published by Heinmann at 6/-.
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“Lamb In His Bosom,” by Caroline Miller (Angus and Robertson, Sydney), was selected by the Pulitzer Prize Committee as the best novel published during the year by an American author. While I must confess that I have no great regard for American fiction I will say that Mrs. Miller's novel is an outstanding piece of work. She suffers though, from a prevailing complaint of modern novelists who appear to weigh up, smell and feel the human carcase as though they were in a butcher's shop with many varieties of humanity hung up for inspection. This description is rather harsh, but I hold that it is positively indecent the manner in which our writers “weigh up” the human form in this way. Mrs. Miller does her work with such a powerful and original realism though that the offence is not so serious. This story of a pioneer family in Georgia before the civil war, of their great love and devotion to themselves and their family, their fight with rugged Nature and more rugged passions, is a strangely thrilling one.
“Vulnerable,” by Dale Collins (The Macquarie Head Press, Sydney), has been published in an attractive Australian edition at 4/6. Dale Collins is one of Australia's greatest novelists. He always tells a fine story, and tells it well. He has that rare quality of holding his reader with the unbroken interest of his keen story-telling power.
With wonderful craftsmanship he plays a human drama with cards. He is like a master fortune-teller dealing his fateful pieces of pasteboard to the various players and finally like a conjurer he pieces together the vast intricate pattern and deals the winning hand that brings happiness to two only in that big table. A great story.
“Happy Dispatches,” by A. B. Paterson (Angus and Robertson, Sydney), contains a series of recollections of famous people met during the crowded life of the author of “The Man From Snowy River.” We all know “Banjo's” faci'ity as a bush balladist and now we have him as a writer of reminiscences. He knows how to pitch a tale, does “Banjo,” and so you will turn over the pages of this book with eager interest to hear new stories of such famous people as Rudyard Kipling, Winston Churchill, Phil May, Marie Lloyd, and many other notabilities. Because he was a war correspondent in the Boer campaign and also played his part in the Great War, the author was very close to several military notabilities.
“The Peacock Feather,” by Leslie Moore (Angus and Robertson, Sydney) is a clean, delightful love story. Aptly described as “a neglected classic,” it was published in book form overseas some years ago, and is now available to New Zealand and Australian readers in a neat and cheap 4/6 edition. And— the author does not go prying into butchers' shops.
“Green Grey Homestead,” by Steele Rudd, has been published in a cheap, attractive paper-back edition by the Macquarie Head Press, Sydney. The well known Australian author has remained faithful to his old literary patch, and his style seems to have improved with the years. It is another rare story of country life in Australia with a glimpse into the hearts and minds of many interesting people.
“The Manchurian Arena,” by F. M. Cutlack (Angus and Robertson, Sydney), is an Australian view of the Far Eastern conflict. The author was recently special correspondent of the A.P.A. in the Far East, and has written other military books of note. It is a most interesting document on a subject of world wide, particularly Australian and New Zealand interest.
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“Shibli” Listens in.
Stan East, the well known journalist, formerly of New Zealand, is back in Australia after his triumphal tour following on the winning of his £20,000 art union.