The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 1 (April 1, 1937)
Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two
Already Douglas Stewart may be acclaimed as one of New Zealand's finest poets. I do not think he has reached his thirties, yet his name is listed in Australia as a singer well worthy of notice. Now he has collected the best of his verse. Chastely printed and bound by Messrs. Whitcombe and Tombs, it is published under the title of “Green Lions.” The prodigality of gifts showered by Nature on this land has found a beautiful echo in the heart of this poet, and he has sung of our land as few have done before him. “Stewart's silvery tenor,” as one Australian critic has it. Let me quote one verse only from “Prelude and Gold in Taranaki”:—
We did not know in those clear stone-cool dewtimes
When the last light in swathes of pale-green silk
Softly enfolded all this lovely land, And the grey cows with spicy scent of milk
Drawled from the stream at the brown boy's command,
That we were one with all the delicate birds,
And cautious hares, and slow milk-heavy herds.
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Do you remember “Mac” the secondhand bookseller who hung out his sign in several streets in Wellington over a decade ago — D. W. MacClure, the tall, the lean book fossiker? I met him in Auckland recently, still selling old books, and seemingly taller and leaner than ever. He told me how he found a pound note the other day in an old book he had marked for sale at one shilling. It was a very old bank note issued by the Bank of Glasgow in 1876. The trouble is that “Mac” cannot cash the ancient piece of paper, for the issuing bank closed its doors in 1890, being taken over by the London and Counties Bank. However, “Mac” hopes to sell the pound note eventually as a collector's item.
I have received from the recently formed Australian Limited Editions Society a copy of their finely printed prospectus. The Hon. John Lane Mullins is president of the new organisation, leading artists and writers form the council, and Mr. Benjamin N. Fryer is secretary. The first book listed for publication is “A narrative of the Voyage to Botany Bay,” which was first published in 1879 and ran to three editions. Adrian Feint, who has designed many fine bookplates, and Perce Green (a former New Zealander) will be responsible for the illustrations and the format.
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Here are a few interesting facts about the All Nations prize winning novel, “The Street of the Fishing Cat,” reviewed elsewhere in this issue. The book won the first £4,000 prize, being selected from over 7,000 entries. It has been published in eleven languages in fifteen countries. The total first printing was a quarter of a million copies. Why, a struggling writer could hardly hope to even dream of such a public.
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Once every year or so a fellow with a reckless, careless smile on his face looks into my office and sells me just another booklet of verse he has written. His name is Shirley S. Morrison, and he has sold his way through New Zealand with his poems, and where the inspiration for verse, or a printer's support, is lacking he will sell anything from patent collapsible chairs to blackboard wipers. His verse is dashed off in carefree, singing style, but now and then you may happen on a line that lingers. This happy wanderer has now produced another booklet “Rendezvous and Other Verses.” He was a soldier in the Great War. Listen to one verse:
Though I am old my heart is young, The guns that smashed my world for me
Have brought me deeper songs unsung, Awaken greater liberty.
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“The Street of the Fishing Cat,” by Jolanda Foldes (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is the winning novel of the All-Nations Prize Competition. The story is so different. There is pure art in the telling. It is so simple, and yet so powerful. Just the story of a Hungarian family, Mr. and Mrs. Barabas and their three children whom the aftermath of war has driven to settle in Paris in The Street of The Fishing Cat. Here they meet other refugees—a Russian banker fleeing from the success of Communism, a Spanish anarchist, an exiled Greek and other driftwood swirled away by the whirlpool of war from the countries of their birth. It is a brave story written with no ulterior motive of creed or politics. We feel that the author has a story in her heart, and we hear her heart throb as she tells it.
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“Forty Fathoms Deep,” by Ion L. Idriess (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is one of the most interesting books page 52 page 53 ever published across the Tasman. Idriess has taken as his theme the pearling industry of Broome, and what a book he has written! The romance, the tragedy, the adventure of the search on the sea floor for pearls, shell and baroque is woven into an absorbing story. And above this sea floor rare and wonderful characters tread the decks of the pearling luggers or the picturesque streets and houses of Broome. We meet whales and sharks beneath the water, and above we meet the motley and often unscrupulous population engaged in this romantic industry. We are dazzled with the sight of wonderful pearls which excite the murderous cupidity of unscrupulous folk engaged in the industry. Yes—a great and enthralling story.
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“Australia Through The Windscreen,” by William Hatfield (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) tells the story of the reliability test of a small English car on a tour through Australia. Hatfield, whom I remember gratefully for his fine novel “Sheepmates,” his “Desert Saga” and “River Crossing.” again displays in his latest book his keen sense of observation, his analytical brain and his great capacity for interesting the average reader. A writer of this calibre naturally does more than merely describe the changing scene from his windscreen. There is always a tale to tell and critical comments to make of national and individual interest. Hatfield is great company in his gallant little English car.
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“The Yellow Robed Wago,” by Marion Roberts (Eldon Press, London; Whitcombe & Tombs, Ltd., New Zealand agents), is a tale of mystery, love and international intrigue, with the scene in Burmah. There is a sinister suggestion that the operations of a mysterious White Abbot are not being devoted solely to the furtherance of Buddism, but rather to stirring up disaffection among the Burmese people. The small secret expedition sent to probe the mystery meet with hair-raising adventures. A good thriller.
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“Wilderness Orphan,” by Dorothy Cottrell (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is one of the most artistic and interesting stories of its kind yet produced in Australia. It tells the story of Chut, the Kangaroo, from the moment he crawls from the pouch of his dead mother to his final days of freedom in the great Australian outbacks. His contact with the kindness and then the cruelty of human nature is related with all the art of a Jack London. A book you will love to read—and keep.
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The first Century Book of Humour was such a great success that a second volume was inevitable. This was recently published by Hutchinson's (London). It is illustrated by “Fougasse,” contains fifty-two stories by forty-eight authors and comprises over a thousand pages. Most of the great humorists are represented—A. A. Milne, H. G. Wells, W. W. Jacobs, P. G. Wodehouse, Walter de la Mare, Somerset Maugham, Stacy Aumonier, Anthony Armstrong and many others. It is certainly a great collection. Worked out on a mathematical basis there must be a half a dozen laughs to the page which gives the reader 6,000 laughs for a few shillings, and you know the old story of what a King offered to anyone who would provide him with only one smile.
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“What of Australia's Future,” by Joseph Hamlet (A. & R., Sydney), sets me wondering, as a publishers' representative and also as a reviewer, how an Australian publisher can publish as a proposition (and A. & R. know their business) a cloth board book of over 200 pages retailing at 3/6. The author has written his book “As a close student of his country's affairs, an ardent patriot and a destructive critic but with constructive proposals.” The study of this book may alarm our friends over the Tasman and is not without interest (and shall we say alarm?) for we New Zealanders.
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“Shibli” Listens In.
The P.E.N. has under consideration an ambitious scheme for the encouragement of literary effort in New Zealand.
New Zealand Best Poems for 1936 (edited by C. A. Marris) was acclaimed by the critics as the finest selection to date. The Sydney “Bulletin” gave it a half column or more of unstinted praise.
The Canterbury Public Library Journal is practically the only literary magazine we have in the Dominion. Quite an interesting publication.
Hector Bolitho has discovered that the country house he purchased recently on Saffron Walden was known as Boytons in the sixteenth century and has decided to restore the old name.page 54