The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 5 (August 1, 1935)
Among The Books — A Literary Page or Two
A Wonderful dream that came true and that materialised in a book—surely a young journalist could wish for nothing grander!
Because he is a dreamer and a poet—that rare bird, a happy philosophic poet—Ian Donnelly may sit in peace and draw a glorious dividend from the Bank of Memory, and, I trust, a more material golden dividend from the Bank of Book Royalties. His “The Joyous Pilgrimage,” just published by Dents, tells of his recent trip to England, what he saw there, the famous people he met, what he thought there, and finally, in a practical summing up (the most brilliantly written portion of the book) why he left, in spite of his love of London, to return to New Zealand. Howard Marshall observes in his introduction that he felt sad over young Donnelly's hopes of having his diary published—where so many had failed before him; but, “Mr. Donnelly has the makings of a great detective in him.” This is where the author succeeded. His disguise was his “solidity.” He “sleuthed” for something new from famous persons and places, as a master Sherlock Holmes of the pen. He has presented such a case, so finely constructed, that simply must interest the Lower and Higher Courts of Readerdom, and the verdict must be that Detective Donnelly has made a sensational literary coup.
For the reader it is indeed a joyous pilgrimage. The deft literary touch of the author deals swiftly and surely with each contact and impression. We see Steve Donoghue at the Derby and a minute later listen to the “attractively modulated” voice of Philip Guedalla; in a moment we are having thundered at us the “burning messages” of Marble Arch orators, then to stand on the next page in spirit alongside the grave of William Blake (and Donnelly knows his Blake); we meet Gracie Fields, G. K. Chesterton, De Valera and Walter de la Mare, and then spend a wonderful hour at Lords witnessing a Test Match. From time to time, with Pepysian relish, the author describes how he did eat and drink at such and such a tavern.
Concluding this brief review of a book so vastly interesting. I cannot help emphasising an answering note I feel in Mr. Marshall's introduction, and that is “if this book is appreciated as much overseas as it will be at home, Mr. Donnelly's pilgrimage will not only have been joyous, but valuable to the cause of Empire.”
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The Auckland “Observer” is always interesting because it gives us news. Its news is made up of 75 per cent, of personalities. This, I think, is the main reason for its perpetual interest. Also, I like its literary criticisms—they are often bold and are invariably sound. Finally, let me heartily applaud its recent two colmun tribute to C. R. Allen, of Dunedin. Mr. Allen's work in prose and verse has had its first belated New Zealand recognition.
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Recently I received a visit from an aspiring short story writer who wished to know the main ingredients of a successful short story. I told him plot, atmosphere, character delineation, action, compelling dialogue—that the beginning and end of the story must be arresting. I smiled to myself therefore the other day when I happened upon the following “short story” submitted to an American page 56 literary journal (you will note it contains the successful ingredients!):—“Once there was a merderer with yeller eyes. And his wife said to him: ‘If you merder me you will be hanged.’ And he was hanged on Tuesday next.”
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“Ambition's Harvest,” Nelle Scanlan's sixth novel is here. It is her best book to date. I felt that Miss Scanlan was tiring herself with her super industry, for it is something of an achievement to have written six long novels in five years, and to sandwich in between thousands of miles of travelling. However, it seems that this remarkable woman thrives on her intense activity—proved by her latest book. Her characters grow more interesting—they live. Her genius as a journalist is building up her promise as a writer. This is from the technical viewpoint, for, right from the start, Miss Scanlan succeeded in the way all publishers like most of all—she captured the general reading public. I understand that few novels have sold in this country as have Miss Scanlan's. Publishers' receipts are going to be a record with “Ambition's Harvest.” The story itself is engrossing. Mary Merridge, the restless and temperamental heroine, develops as the story proceeds into a lovable, vital character. The linking of her life from childhood with the interesting Harley Ross provides the love theme of the book. The portrait of Mary's father in the earlier pages is one of the strongest character portrayals Miss Scanlan has given us. The story moves from New Zealand to America, on to England and the Continent. The author's journalistic intuitions never permit her to let the interest flag. She has never written an uninteresting line for the press, and she has the same thoughtful regard for her novel-reading public. This is the secret of Miss Scanlan's success. Her pictures of club and middle class social life in America as revealed in her heroine's adventures there, are interesting and intimate. Jarrold's (London) are, once more, her publishers.
“The Forefront of the Battle,” by Andrew Loring (Angus & Robertson, Sydney), which originally ran through the “Australian Woman's Mirror” as a serial, appears now in book form. This is fortunate, for otherwise an engrossing novel would have been lost to the big majority of men readers. It is a book for a train journey, which is a compliment to the author, for we all know that a novel must have an unflagging interest to hold attention in the train. Politics, adventure, intrigue and love are the main ingredients of a story that is crowded with incident. The sort of novel a bookseller can recommend to every reader, which again is another big compliment to the author. Price, 4/6.
The activities of the Dunedin publishing house of A. H. & A. W. Reed have given another most valuable addition to the shelves of our New Zealand historical library in the recently published “Early Maoriland Adventures of J. W. Stack.” Mr. A. H. Reed, who edits this most interesting collection of manuscripts, discovered their existence only recently. With admirable thoroughness he has built up his book with a wealth of added detail supplied by such prominent New Zealand writers as Messrs. Johannes Andersen, Alan Mulgan, J. T. Paul and others. The late Canon Stack was born in a Maori pa in 1835, and died in 1919. He gives a vivid picture of the early days in New Zealand. He covered the remote portions of the North Island, sometimes by hazardous journeys overland, sometimes by sea in schooner or whale-boat. In the ‘fifties he went to Sydney and London, returning by way of Port Chalmers. There is such a mass of vital incident in the Stack manuscripts that it will have to be followed by succeeding volumes. The first book (and any collector who boasts of the New Zealand section of his library cannot afford to be without it) sells at 7/6.
Whitcombe & Tombs have produced a revised and enlarged edition of that most interesting historical narrative, “The Story of the Pacific.” It is a triumph of condensation to compress such an interesting history into a book of 150 pages, yet it is done here, from 1513 to 1935, clearly, intelligently and with detail adequate for the purposes of such a handbook. The work is illustrated and sells at the modest price of 2/6.
“Shibli” Listens In.
I learn on good authority that the New Zealand sales of Nelle Scanlan's “Pencarrow Triology” total 20,000—a New Zealand book sale record that will take some beating.
A well known New Zealand writer has been engaged by “The Australian
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Woman's Mirror” to feature in a series of articles, leading women in art and letters, sport, etc., in New Zealand. The first of the series deals with Robin Hyde.
In addition to giving a series of wireless talks for the Broadcasting Corporation in Australia, Margaret Macpherson will deliver a series of platform lectures.
A fair percentage of the journalists thrown out of work through the recent closure of the “Sun” and “Times,” in Christchurch, have already been placed by other papers.
Efforts are being made to have a New Zealand Authors' Week on the lines of the highly successful effort made recently in Australia and of which Will Lawson was the organiser.page 57