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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 6 (September 2, 1935)

Among the Books — (By “Shibli Bagarag.”) — A Literary Page or Two

page 54

Among the Books
(By “Shibli Bagarag.”)

A Literary Page or Two

Can it be that this country is at long last awakening to a realisation that New Zealand has produced books equal to, and often better, than the work of writers in other parts of the world? Certain it is that no two New Zealand books have been given a more enthusiastic press here than has greeted the publication of Ian Donnelly's “Joyous Pilgrimage” and John Guthrie's “The Little Country.” The former I reviewed last month. Now it is my pleasure to refer to Guthrie's outstanding novel which comes from Nelsons, London.

It was a great satisfaction to note the instantaneous interest aroused over the appearance of the book. There was a heavy cloak of mystery over the identity of the author. “John Guthrie” it was rumoured, was a nom de plume. Whose identity did it hide? Being regarded as a source of information on all matters relating to New Zealand literature, “Shibli” (pardon his blushes) was appealed to. I organised a literary search party without success. That arch sleuth of the press, “N.Z. Truth,” approached me for information. I shook my head and suggested that if they could track down Guthrie it was worth splash headings. It is hard to hide anything from “Truth,” small wonder therefore that “John Guthrie” stood revealed the following week under big headings as John Brodie, a New Zealand journalist, former Rugby star, etc.

The sales of “The Little Country,” because of the intrinsic worth of the book and the story behind the author, have mounted by leaps and bounds, and John Brodie must now find that in spite of his harrowing fight for physical health, life has its compensations.

“The Little Country” is reviewed at length on another page.

* * *

And now let me tell you of another New Zealand book on the stocks—“Confessions of a Journalist,” by Pat Lawlor. It will be published in about a month's time by Whitcombe and Tombs, Christchurch. This is the autobiography of a New Zealand journalist who has been associated with nearly every literary movement in the Dominion for twenty odd years past. The writer gives the inside story of many interesting, often sensational happenings connected with leading newspapers and magazines in Australia and New Zealand and supplies intimate pen portraits of over sixty writers of the antipodes. The book, which will be illustrated with interesting photographs and caricatures, has a pre-publication price of 5/- from all branches of Whitcombe and Tombs, Ltd.

* * *

I have been criticised in some quarters over my review of Nelle Scan-lan's latest novel “Ambition's Harvest.” One correspondent asks why did I praise the book when it was criticised adversely by the majority of New Zealand reviewers? My reply is that I consider it the best novel Miss Scanlan has written. I am pleased to note that I am in good company, for the Sydney “Bulletin” gave the book a most favourable notice. Finally, I might go back a few years when I, alone among New Zealand reviewers,
One of the latest of New Zealand book-plates, that of the Rev. David Calder, Wellington.

One of the latest of New Zealand book-plates, that of the Rev. David Calder, Wellington.

lauded the earlier books of Hector Bolitho. I saw in his work the genius that is generally acknowledged throughout New Zealand to-day.

* * *

Whoever compiled Newbold's latest book catalogue (just to hand from Dunedin) must be a keen collector. Such a mass of bibliographic detail has previously not been gathered in any catalogue published in this country. There are items to suit all tastes and pockets. The catalogue is posted free to applicants.

* * *

That high-class travel journal “Walk-about,” published in Australia, invariably contains one or more articles referring to New Zealand. These are, in interest and illustration, well up to the generally high standard of the publication. A recent issue included a most interesting article on “The Kauri Forest of Waipoua,” by A. H. Messenger.

* * *

Booklovers at home and abroad will be interested in Johannes Andersen's latest book, “The Lure of New Zealand Book Collecting,” which will be published shortly by Whitcombe and Tombs, Christchurch.

* * *

I met the other day an extremely modest little literary lady, Miss V. Foote, who is doing splendid work for New Zealand verse in the publication of her magazine, “The New Zealand Mercury.” I mention the fact because I understand that if Miss Foote secures a few more subscribers the financial success of her paper is assured. Her sole desire is to encourage New Zealand verse, and she has succeeded in a remarkable way. Another fifty subscribers is all I am appealing for. The annual subscription is 11/- (post free) and the address 35, Nairn Street, Wellington. The virtue in “The Mercury” is that, while maintaining a high standard of poetry and prose, it offers education and encouragement to our writers, and heavens knows it is wanted! Monthly cash prizes are an added inducement to contributors.

page 55

One of the oldest bookshops in the Dominion is that of Kealy's Ltd., in Shortland Street, Auckland. The second hand department is an Aladdin's Cave for the collector. The choicest of those books are periodically listed per catalogue. The latest (No. 8) is just to hand. There are some real bargains in the list which is sufficiently varied to interest many tastes. The catalogue is free on application.

* * *