The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 (November 2, 1936)
Among The Books — A Literary Page or Two
The literary event of the month has been the appearance in book form of the keenly awaited “The Hunted,” by John A. Lee, M.P. When the author's first book, “Children of the Poor,” was published anonymously a few years ago it created tremendous interest. Later, the identity of the writer was revealed, also the fact that he was busy on a sequel which now appears under the title of “The Hunted,” from the publishing house of Werner Laurie Ltd., London. It is one of the most vivid books ever written by a New Zealander. I must confess that when I read some of the preliminary publicity emphasising the fact that the stark candour of the book would do a tremendous amount of good, I was sceptical. After reading, however, I am convinced of the author's sincerity and his amazing fearlessness.
Albany Porcello, the boy who is committed to an institution and who spends his time scheming for just another escape from it, is a powerful and at the same time a pity inspiring creation. The Institution Manager is worthy of Charles Dickens. The awfulness of those repeated and apparently hopeless breaks for freedom is depicted with heart-stabbing realism.
Milly Jones, too, is an artistically etched little portrait. She values material stolen sweets more than the sweets of love Albany would bestow on her. I read this book at one sitting. I feel certain that mine will be one voice among many in the congratulations to be heaped on this gifted New Zealand writer. Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd., are the New Zealand agents.
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There is sincerity in the verses included in “Stray Thoughts,” a booklet of poems by Duncan Hardie, of Westport. Nothing here for future authologies, but that is no disgrace for the writer. After all, it is sincerity that counts, and because of this Duncan Hardie and others will find pleasure in his simple melodies.
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I have received a note from Angus and Robertson, Sydney, asking me to submit something for a collection of Australian plays they will be publishing shortly. However, as I am a New Zealander, and therefore debarred, I pass on the information to any Australian play writers resident in New Zealand. Commenting to me on the forthcoming volume, William Moore, the veteran Australian art critic and repertory enthusiast suggests that the time seems opportune for New Zealand to have its own book of plays. “Australia and the capitals have done a good deal for its drama,” he observes, “but in the country—nothing. In New Zealand the development of drama in the country has been remarkable. If a publisher could work in with the New Zealand branch of the Drama League something might happen.” Recently, Mr. Moore wrote an article on Drama in New Zealand for the “B.P. Magazine.”
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New Zealand short story writers will be interested in the fact that the Sydney “Bulletin” is offering £55 in cash prizes for the best short stories submitted to the paper before January 31st next. There is a first prize of £30, second £15 and third £5. A special prize of £5 is to be given to the best story of 1,000 words or less. This coupled with the fact that “The Bulletin” recently commenced a special New Zealand page, should provide a further outlet for the New Zealand free lance writer.
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Several attempts have been made in the past to run a children's magazine in New Zealand. They have failed mainly because their promoters have not realised the class of reading matter and illustrations appealing to the kiddies. The appearance of the first issue of “The Junior,” published in Dunedin, suggests a children's magazine that has come to stay. It contains all the necessary ingredients—mystery, adventure competitions, and last, but by no means least, coloured comics. It is the official journal of the popular Cococub League, which is run by Cadbury Fry Hudson Ltd. No advertising is included in the magazine which fact will be appreciated by its youthful readers. “The Junior,” is published monthly, the annual subscription being 2/6.
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As far as production values are concerned publications issued by the State are often uninspiring documents. It was therefore an unexpected pleasure to see that an artist had been at work in a booklet, “The Story of Printing,” recently published from the Turnbull Library and printed by the Government Printer. The publication appeared in conjunction with an exhibition of ancient and modern books held recently at the Turnbull Library. Hand set in Gramond type, on antique paper, and in a format that lends appearance to the pages, the whole set off with a green cover to accord with the late Alexander Turnbull's armorial colours, the booklet will satisfy the bibliophile. Congratulations to the editor, Mr. C. R. H. Taylor.
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That enterprising young New Zealand writer, Warwick Lawrence, has compiled an anthology of short stories by “young New Zealand authors.” The collection appeared in print last month in a neat little booklet from the publishing house of Thomas Avery & Sons Ltd., of New Plymouth. After reading the names of the writers represented one wonders whether the adjective “young” has been correctly applied, and of the work, as to what is really a short story. Several of the short stories are mere sketches, in cases, be it said, artistic ones. Those represented include Lawrence himself (and justly he may be described as youthful), “Robin Hyde,” Gloria Rawlinson, Eric Ramsden, Misses Eve Langley, Ngaio Marsh, Sheila Quinn, Phyllis Fitzgerald and others. The book includes a charming frontispiece drawn by Miss Hilda Wiseman.
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“More Maoriland Adventures,” by J. W. Stack (A. H. & A. W. Reed, Dunedin), should be assured of a warm welcome by virtue of the success attending the first volume, “Early Maoriland Adventures.” A portion of the latest book concerns the adventures page break of the author on his return to England. Anybody who may have fears that the adventures and attitude towards life of a youth who later on was to become a missionary may be on the tame side, will have such concern immediately swept aside on reading these opening chapters. Bless you! At the age of twelve, the future missionary was furling the main royal on a tiny barque as it sailed the stormy seas on its way to England. Also read how the author visited a London “Sporting Club” some ninety years ago! I was pleased to note the reference to Victorian intolerance. In later chapters we find the author back in New Zealand and the recital loses none of its interest on this account. The book, which has been carefully edited by Mr. A. H. Reed, has been nicely produced.
“Inheritance,” by Brian Penton (Angus and Robertson, Sydney) is a sequel to “Landtakers,” published about two years ago. It is a stronger, better written book than “Landtakers,” not that this is any reflection on the first book. It is just that Penton has since emerged as a powerful novelist. Although I admire the power of the book, it depressed me with the grim tragedy that stalks through its pages. It is not a cheerful book. If it is true to life, then God help those unfortunate folk in Australia who lived during that period. Were the men, and the women too, of that time little better than beasts? It is not a good book for young people to read. Forgetting all this, however, and looking at this book as a piece of literary architecture, Brian Penton may be placed as one of the greatest novelists ever produced by Australia.
Derek Cabell haunts every page of the story like an arch demon. We hate him just a little more than his illomened brood of children. Murder, violence, lust, rapine and degradation are the ingredients of their life history. Cabell piles up his illgotten millions, loading his shoulders with their evil weight. And he dies, as he lived, defying everybody, even his God.
“There's A Porpoise Close Behind Us,” by Noel Langley (Arthur Barker, London; Whitcombe & Tombs, Ltd., New Zealand agents), is an ultra modern novel of the London stage. It is only the cleverness and sheer audacity of the author that prevents the unpalatable nature of the plot from becoming positively nauseous. By way of excuse for opening up a sewer of sex abnormality, Mr. Langley produces several normal healthy folk holding their noses and gazing in disgust down at the sewer people of his creation. While there are green trees about and a blue sky above, however, the healthy ones remain healthy—thank goodness! I trust, however, that the author's story of the life and habits of the people of the London theatrical world is not by any chance founded on fact. I would like to see his admittedly brilliant pen dipped in more wholesome ink.
“Let's Go Home,” by Dr. Noble-Adams (H. Duckworth, Blenheim), is a breezy account of the author's journey to England for the late King's Jubilee and of his return via the Continent. There is no pretence at fine writing, in fact the author displays a very thorough knowledge of current slang. For this reason the book should have a wide appeal. The author is a watchful observer of the manners and modes of the various cities visited, has a lively sense of humour and a capacity for recording interesting detail. The book is nicely illustrated and well produced.
“The Principles of Treatment for Diabetic Patients,” by H. Bolydon Ewen (A. H. & A. W. Reed, Dunedin and Wellington), is utterly beyond me as a reviewer. I have great confidence, however, in the innate conscientiousness of the publishers.
“Shibli” Listens In.
“Robin Hyde” (Miss Iris Wilkinson) has left Auckland for Dunedin. She is to carry out there some literary research work. Her two latest books (a volume of poems and a phantasy) are to be published in London shortly.
Published in Oamaru, “The News Wave” recently made a first appearance. It is the product of several young men of the town. The editor is Mr. J. E. Meikle.