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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 2 (May 1, 1935)

Among the Books

page 54

Among the Books

A Literary Page or Two

My readers will, if they are fortunate enough to be in a position to purchase the volume, readily understand my superlative enthusings over “Maori Music,” by Johannes C. Andersen, recently printed for the Polynesian Society by Thomas Avery and Sons, New Plymouth. From every aspect—literary style, historical value and artistic format, this is one of the most notable books ever published in New Zealand.

How fortunate this Dominion is in its historians! But, alas, how inadequately are they rewarded! The book under notice must have taken years in its compilation and no doubt many months of careful thought and artistic discernment in its production. The result is a volume of inestimable historical value and of permanent joy to the collector. The cover, the jacket, the end papers and the many faultlessly reproduced plates will be a “joy forever” to the connoisseur.

The author is modest in his preface. His book, he claims, “can be considered no more than an introduction to the study of Maori music.” With similar modesty Shakespeare might have described “Hamlet” as a curtain-raiser. It is impossible to do more than merely hint at the vast storehouse of knowledge gathered together by Mr. Andersen. The history dates from observations during Cook's first and second voyages, covers Tonga, Niue, Hawaii, etc., and New Zealand. Mr. Andersen is the appealing historian—he has made his book attractively interesting.

His selection of illustrations has brought together an imposing gallery of pictures. Such a book must necessarily be expensive, but the price, £2 2/-, will not daunt the true New Zealand bibliophile. I propose to refer to other aspects of the book in later issues.

* * *

Before I leave this work I must refer to one of the discoveries made by the author. Truth will out and the blight cast on the romantic story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai is, if disturbing, not without its element of humour. Mr. Andersen has proved conclusively that Tutanekai could not play on the Koauau (flute) and that the music heard by Hinemoa was played by Tiki. Tutanekai gave his sister to his friend as a reward for his services.

* * *

University journals are always interesting. These oftentimes brilliant young students, love to dip their pens in the purple ink of satire, the red ink of Communism or the green ink of agin-everythingism. It is interesting to note therefore that students of Victoria College recently decided to publish a weekly newspaper, “Smad.” The first issue gives promise of brighter things to come. As long as there is the necessary editorial restraint—that is, reasonable restraint—there is no reason why “Smad” should not grow and prosper.

* * *

The latest (March) number of “Art in New Zealand” contains the result of another of the literary competitions of that quarterly—the short story. The judge, Mr. C. A. Marris, reviews the entries in a manner most helpful to the entrants. He has no hesitation in placing “Robin Hyde” an easy first. His selection confirms me in my opinion that “Robin Hyde” is one of the most brilliant short story writers this country has ever produced. A Wellington entrant, Cicely F. Ellis, is given second place, and Miss Una Craig, of Auckland, third place. Keeping to the literary side I must confess a particular admiration for the review section of the magazine. With one or two exceptions reviewing in New Zealand consists of a transcription of the blurb on the jackets of the books concerned. “Art in New Zealand” does the job as it should be done. Last issue we had Eileen Duggan as reviewer, this March issue “Prester John” takes his turn with almost equal success. On the pictorial side the March issue has two excellent colour blocks and several in black and white.

* * *

Hector Bolitho's “Older People” is due here shortly. Mr. Bolitho refused to allow his book to be described as “reminiscences.” In writing to his publishers, he said, “I do not wish my book to be accepted as a shower of gossip about great names. I think that all young people draw confidence and help from some person who is older than themselves. I have been fortunate in being allowed many friendships and kindnesses from older
A Dickensian Bookplate from the library of the late Charles Wilson.

A Dickensian Bookplate from the library of the late Charles Wilson.

page 55 people.” His sketches and experiences give us pictures of Mussolini, King Feisal and the Amir Abdullah, Lord Davidson, Bernard Shaw, D. H. Lawrence, Maurice Baring, Lloyd George, the Marchese Marconi, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Sir Austen Chamberlain, Dean Inge, and Canon Dalton, who was tutor to H.M. the King.

* * *

Some interesting purchases have been made recently by Newbolds, the big second-hand book dealers of Dunedin, from the library of the late Mr. W. H. Trimble, who presented the unique Whitman Collection to the local Public Library. The books bought include the following:—Galsworthy.—“A Commentary” (first issue) with long autographed letter. George Meredith.—“The Egoist,” with three page signed letter. The illustrated (colour) edition of “The Pavilion on the Links” with R. L. Stevenson's signature. The Galsworthy letter is dated 1909, and lays out in brief his whole philosophy and attitude to the writer's craft.

* * *


“The Griffith Case,” by John Bentley (Eldon Press, London), is one of the most intricate detective stories I have read. The series of events prior and subsequent to the murder of Marcus Griffith, a wealthy money-lender, are of a vastly complicated character. A solution if imminent, the suspect has made his confession, when an additional murder, that of the dead moneylender's butler is perpetrated. The whole structure of built-up evidence falls to pieces. The all discerning mind of a super-Sherlock Holmes, in the person of Sir Richard Herriwell, a noted antiquarian, carries through to an amazing denouement. Price, 7/-.

In these days of chain stores and mass production when everyone is looking for a lot for a little money, the Century Omnibus books being produced by Hutchinson and Co., London, come as a veritable god-send. These huge volumes of over 1,000 pages each retail at 6/-. They cover a range to suit all tastes, and, best of all are of a high literary standard at the same time appealing to the average reader. As they contain no rubbish, they are a sound permanent literary investment. This month I will deal with two of the series.

“A Century of Humour” is edited by P. G. Wodehouse. With one of our greatest living humorists as the selector, the feast of fun is difficult to improve upon. The humorous short story has always been a speciality of mine—candidly I am rather conceited in my knowledge and sense of judgment. Therefore I went through this book critically and if it is any consolation to Mr. Wodehouse I can find no fault in his selection. All the great humorists of the past century are there—E. V. Lucas, W. W. Jacobs, Barry Pain, H. G. Wells, A. P. Herbert, G. K. Chesterton, Wyndham Lewis—all the happy brothers of laughter. It is a glorious feast of fun.

Now it is an excellent idea to place alongside this book on your reading table another Century omnibus, the “Book of Strange Stories.” While you are still shaking with mirth because of a story in the other volume read one of these weird “Strange Stories” and you achieve one of those wonderful contrasts that, after all, make life so interesting. Strange stories are neither humorous nor creepy—they are just strange. They provoke serious reflection on the weird results of authors' imaginations. Famous authors represented in this collection include George Meredith, Thomas Burke, Oscar Wilde, Somerset Maugham, Sheila Kaye-Smith, Algernon Blackwood and De Maupessant. The stories have been selected by “The Evening Standard.” (My copies from Whitcombe and Tombs.)

“Earth's Quality,” by Winifred Birkett (Angus and Robertson, Sydney), is published with glowing appreciations from such well-known critics as Mary Gilmore and Elliott Napier. The latter describes the novel as “undoubtedly one of the best and most effectively written Australian novels that has yet appeared.” It remains for this humble scribe to agree with the judgments of these high authorities. This book will appeal particularly to New Zealand readers. As Mary Gilmore observes, the outstanding thing about the novel is the knowledge the authoress shows “of the land and the things of the land.” The story is engrossing, and the character sketches are artistically done.

* * *

Shibli” Listens In.

Mr. F. W. Doidge, the well-known New Zealand pressman, has resigned from the Beaverbrook organisation in London and is returning to the Dominion shortly.

“Music in New Zealand,” that admirable monthly journal published by Harry H. Tombs, Wellington, has now been in existence four years.

The latest casualty in the periodical field in New Zealand is “The Radio News,” the first issue of which appeared about a year ago.

Included in the imposing list of world-famous writers who appear in the “Evening Standard's” “Book of Strange Stories” (reviewed in this issue) is Hector Bolitho.

Cabled advice has been received in Sydney that “Landtakers,” by Brian Penton, has been selected by the London “Daily Mail” as the book of the month.

Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd. will publish shortly from the pen of Johannes C. Anderson a volume on book collecting in New Zealand.

“Frivolity,” a monthly humorous magazine run in Sydney on the lines of “Aussie” ceased publication a few weeks ago.

A further indication of the rapid development in the book publishing world in Australia is the recent establishment in Sydney of a Literary Agency.