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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 8 (November 1, 1934)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 39

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

I will break away from the usual order of things this month and deal with reviews of current books in the first place. The important subject of the month is Alan Mulgan's first novel, “Spur of Morning.” With all the weight of a judge delivering an important reserved decision I make bold to state that this is one of the most notable novels written by a New Zealander of New Zealand. It might have been a great novel. The literary standard is high, the interest well sustained (I found the story tugging me to return to it whenever I was interrupted in its reading), the character portrayal is strong, the love interest offered with a refreshing mid-Victorian modesty. And the book is sincere. So the necessary ingredients are there, but somehow the mixing is uneven. What lovable characters Mark and Philip are. The women, too, are so refreshingly “unmodern.” The Rugby pictures are thrilling. Our national sport is, with politics, the big motif of the novel.

* * *

One of the most beautiful passages from Galsworthy's great “Forsyte Saga” has been issued in book form by Angus and Robertson, Sydney, under the title of “Indian Summer of a Forsyte.” The pathetically peaceful passing of old Jolyon concludes this perfect fragment from the big work. The production of the book is well up to English standard.

* * *

In title and format, “Gowns by Roberta,” one of A. and R's. latest books, suggests a modern fashion handbook. Actually it is a smart modern novel which moves in the world of fashions. A delightful afternoon's reading, from the pen of Alice Duer Miller.

* * *

Another recent offering from the same Sydney publishing house is “River Crossing,” by William Hatfield, author of “Sheepmates.” It is a full size novel of the great back country of Australia. The two leading characters, the tragically pretty Elice and the devotedly jealous Fen, fight their way through the almost insurmountable difficulties of their early married life in the great outback of the Common-wealth. There is not a dull moment in this thrilling yarn. William Hatfield more than lives up to the big reputation he built up with his earlier novel, “Sheepmates.”

* * *

This country will be grateful to Miss N. E. Coad, M.A., for her interesting and conscientious historical work, “New Zealand from Tasman to Massey,” just published by Harry H. Tombs Ltd., of Wellington. Miss Coad has written other books of the informative type, but nothing so ambitious as this. It is an achievement in condensation to have covered the crowded years, beginning with the arrival of Tasman and concluding with the end of the Great War, in a book of 300 pages.

* * *

Because I announced in a recent issue that a well known New Zealand journalist was busy on a book on the enthralling subject of Beer, I was very interested to lay my hands on “A Book About Beer,” just published by Jona-than
One of Miss Hilda Wiseman's recent book-plate designs.

One of Miss Hilda Wiseman's recent book-plate designs.

Cape. I am very disappointed in this book. The subject matter is so inspiring that one naturally looks for an inspiring work. The author is evidently given to drinking flat beer. An annoying inconsistency is in the fact that although the author rails against the snobbery among the world's drinkers that fails to give the King of Drinks its rightful place, he himself remains anonymous in his written enthusings.

* * *

New Zealand writers to whom “Spilt Ink” has given a great service for the last few years, will welcome its appearance in its new linotype dress. Congratulations to its energetic young editor, Noel Hoggard.

* * *

As announced on this page some months ago, “The Story of Australian Art,” by William Moore, is to be published shortly. Probably it will be off the press by the time these notes appear in print. I believe that this is the most ambitious work ever published in Australia. It will consist of two volumes of 700 pages, and will contain 250 illustrations. The author is well known in New Zealand, and is the husband of one of our finest poets, Miss Dora Wilcox.

* * *

With its latest issue, “Art in New Zealand” enters its seventh year of existence. It continues to merit the enthusiastic support of every art and literary enthusiast in this country. Being more of a literary than an art student, I must confess that the letterpress of the quarterly always holds out more interest to me. I doubt if any literary journal in this country has published a more interesting poem than Dr. Beaglehole's “Meditation on Historic Change.” It would provide a fine subject for discussion among our several literary societies. On the art side of this issue there are two fine colour reproductions and a number in black and white. The first award in the book-plate competition is given a full page reproduction. The drawing might make a good jam-tin label, but surely not a book-plate.

* * *

The Thirteen Points to be observed in writing a book are given by Tracy

page 40

D. Mygatt in “Julia Newberry's Sketch Book,” published in New York. Here they are for what they are worth:—

When Writing a Book—Observe These Thirteen Points.

Change the scene to avoid monotony.

Don't explain too much.

Decide the period of time the story is to occupy before beginning.

Try to make the very best of your own style, and don't imitate any person whatsoever.

Never describe a person in detail; mention a few salient features and leave the rest to the imagination.

Don't have people always in a good humour, it is unnatural.

Never write about the weather, the seasons of the year, or bore people with dissertations on a spring morning, etc.

Never write anything in disparagement of woman, even if true.

Avoid all slang and Americanisms and bring in as many nationalities as possible.

Make no sweeping assertions!

Try, above all, to individualise your characters, to make them speak and act like men, and not like women.

Let your novel tell its own story, and don't put too much You into it.

Draw all the side characters carefully.

* * *

Shibli Listens In.

“Smith's Weekly” now has a New Zealand representative, Mr. A. North. He is both correspondent and business representative, with headquarters in Auckland. This is the first time for several years that “Smith's” has been represented in New Zealand. Messrs. Will and Eric Lawson occupied this position in the first place.

Rumours of a New Zealand sporting weekly sponsored by a leading New Zealand weekly.

Jonathan Cape, the head of the London publishing house, is due in New Zealand early next year.

Alan Mulgan's “Home” (his first novel “Spur of Morning” is reviewed in this issue) has been given a new form in Longman's Swan Library of reprints. The first edition of this work should be valuable in time.

Hector Bolitho has written his autobiography. It will be published shortly by Cobden-Sanderson. New Zealand literary reviewers of a few years ago will be feeling anxious.

Am watching with interest the literary peregrinations in London of Ian Donnelly. Ostensibly he left here for a holiday. I think he is too clever for London to lose him.

A Notable New Zealand Work.

As we go to press I have received a copy of the book of the year as far as New Zealand publishing enterprise goes. This is “Marsden's Lieutenants,” edited by John Rawson Elder, M.A., Professor of History in the Otago University. The work, which is a sequel to “The Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden” published two years ago and is based on original M.S. material in the Hocken Library, is a most important contribution to the historical literature of this country. This is no dry historical narrative, but contains elements of strong human interest. For the first time is revealed the remarkable story of the trials and adventures of the three missionary agents placed by Marsden in the Bay of Islands on his first visit to New Zealand. There is a foreword by the Hon. Downie Stewart. The illustrations are interesting and well reproduced.

This book is an all New Zealand production and, after the author, who has done his work in a scholarly and brilliant fashion, my congratulations go out to the printers and publishers Coulls, Somerville and Wilkie Ltd. and A. H. Reed, both of Dunedin. The work which has been published by the Otago University Council retails at 25/-.

* * *

Although he did not mention the titles, the two magazines referred to by the Rev. Clyde Carr in the House of Representatives recently when discussing the American back date menace were the New Zealand Edition of “Aussie” and the “New Zealand Artists' Annual,” a contributing factor in the suspension of which was the low grade magazine fiction dumped so promiscuously in this country.

* * *

The two outstanding publications dealing with art and literature in the Commonwealth are “Art in Australia” and “Manuscripts.” Because it is a much younger publication, “Manuscripts” is not so well known on this side. It is run on lines slightly different from the older quarterly, more modern possibly in conception. The literary matter is of a very high standard and covers every phase of artistic and literary endeavour. Each issue contains a book-plate feature. The latest number gives pride of place to a reproduction of an etching by the New Zealand artist, Mr. F. H. Coventry. Hector Bolitho is also represented in light poetry. “Manuscripts” is published in Geelong.