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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 4 (July 1, 1935.)

Among the Books

page 57

Among the Books

A Literary Page or Two

One of the most likeable men I have met in Australian journalism is John Barr. When he first gripped my hand and looked at me with those keen kind eyes of his I knew I had found a friend. I was then barely in my twenties and John Barr was assistant editor of the “Bulletin.” He could not have found me very interesting, yet he did what young fellows love most of all. He treated me as though I were of his own age and mental calibre. And at that time, remember, John Barr was in his prime. He was one of the big men of the “Bulletin.” He was the perfect craftsman of that great art—the art of the paragraphist.

In later years I was fortunate in being associated with John Barr on “Aussie” magazine. As sub-editor of the paper he handled my copy from New Zealand. I learned much from the master touch he would give, by adding to, altering or deleting a word here or there in what I wrote. Most important were his lessons in the art of condensation, for John Barr could not tolerate copy that was padded. This came hard on him in later years when he had to rely for his existence on free lancing. While another writer could pad a paragraph into a short article. John Barr adhered to his old habit of bovrilisation, and therefore did not draw lineage commensurate with his work, which proves once more the anomaly of paying for matter at so much per line. Only too often is a twelve line condensed classic, worth, in the eyes of an editor only a few shillings, whereas he will willingly pay a guinea for a column of padded piffle.

John Barr was thrown on the free lance field because “Aussie” was not able to pay its way. In a desperate effort to keep this magazine going the proprietors decided on drastic retrenchment and Barr was one of the first to suffer. The paper contained his famous page, “Men and Other Sins,” which later was to provide material for Barr's first book.

I think John Barr's relationship to this book is unique in the world of authordom. He did not know it was being produced until it was practically on the market. He told me that he got the shock of his life one day when a friend of his congratulated him upon its forthcoming appearance. I do not know the inside mystery, but it must have had a happy ending, for when “Men and Other Sins” appeared it contained Barr's dedication which was to his wife.

John Barr still battles on in that arduous fight for existence—the fight of the free lancer. He glimpsed the future many years ago in his poem. “The Men Who Battle Through.”

They stamp along the pavements of the Cities of the Wrong

Where the weak are Juggernauted by the System of the Strong,

Book-plate of a well-known Australian ex libris enthusiast.

Book-plate of a well-known Australian ex libris enthusiast.

And I doff my hat before them all, those sloggers good and true—

The rough men, the tough men, the Men Who Battle Through.

* * *

I always look forward with the keenest of interest to the annual “Sketcher” of the Otago University. For years Dunedin has been particularly strong in cartoonists and caricaturists. Viewing the work in the latest Varsity production I feel that the dour town still holds the black and white laurels of the Dominion. A tower of strength, is the versatile artist Russell Clark. His work in this 1935 production emphasises his genius—and I do not use the word loosely. Whether in caricature, cartoon, or joke blocks, Russell Clark outstands. Gordon McIntyre, too, is well represented. His work is always sound. The artist responsible for the Continental subtlety of the picture on page 47 may be “meet,” but not just. There are other items in the issue on the risque side.

* * *

I am not surprised to learn that a rapturous reception has been given to The Friendly Road's publication “Hello Everybody,” because it is giving in instalments “The Life Story of Uncle Scrim.” Although you have to go to Auckland to touch the vortex (and it is something of a vortex) of “Scrim's” popularity, this outstanding Radio man is well known throughout New Zealand. Many a politician must envy the publicity aroused by his unique personality. “Scrim's” biography is being written with engaging candour by Harry Bell, who is one of the greatest enthusiasts of 1 Z.B., Auckland. “Scrim's” biography will occupy four instalments.

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I found the other day a quaint thought beautifully expressed in an essay by that exquisite stylist Richard le Gallienne. He is writing in justification of limited editions and inquires: “What would you not pay for a ticket to see the moon rise, if Nature had not improvidently made it a free entertainment? … Yes from scarped cliff and quarried stone, Nature cries, ‘Limit the Edition! Distribute—the type!'—though in her capacity as the great publisher, she has been all too prodigal in her issues and ruinously guilty of innumerable remainders.”

* * *

In Australia and New Zealand Will Lawson has made a big reputation as a poet and a short story writer. Now he has made his debut as a novelist in his South Sea story “The Laughing Buccaneer,” just published by Angus and Robertson, Sydney. From the average reader's point of view this is a novel that should very quickly have a lengthy waiting list at the libraries. The story simply grips you with its wealth of exciting happenings. If you have the time you simply won&t leave it until you finish the last page. From the critic's point of view the book is an interesting study. In the first place Will Lawson has actually created a new novel of the South Seas—an achievement in itself. Obviously the book was written in a tremendous hurry and yet it is not slovenly done. Had Will Lawson held the book, repolished it and extended it, it would have been one of the finest South Sea romances ever written.

At any rate the publishers might have “bulked” it into a full size 6/- nett. The reading public are the gainers for they get the best 4/6 worth turned out in Australia for many a long day. With good marketing the book should have almost record sales. The introduction of Bully Hayes into this romance of the Island of Women is effectively carried out. His romantic personality is well suited to the whirlwind excitement of the story.

After the lean years we have been through it is very heartening to learn that more books were published in Australia last year than the whole of the output of the preceding decade. Small wonder that a literary agency is now operating there. This organisation (Napier, Gardiner and Co., 79 Pitt Street, Sydney) has been formed to deal with the work of established and amateur writers. For the former, valuable contact is made with publishing houses in Australia and London and for the amateur helpful advice and criticism are given. A pamphlet giving details as to terms, etc., is free on application.

* * *


“The Spirit of London,” by Paul Cohen-Portheim, is one of the most interesting of the year's prolific book output of Angus and Robertson Ltd. of Sydney. Countless books have been written about the great city but in this volume a new and most interesting atmosphere is revealed. As the author states in his introduction he has taken for granted the famous sights and curiosities of London. Where they are mentioned it is not for descriptive but for explanatory purposes—it is a critical and not a descriptive guide. The uncanny insight displayed regarding unknown London is a revelation. This is going to be one of the most popular travel books of the year. Enhancing the brilliant letterpress are 140 photographs taken from all angles of London life. The book sells at 8s. 6d.

“The Iron Duke,” by Philip Lindsay (Angus and Robertson, Sydney), will be welcomed by all who have seen the great film in which George Arliss took the leading part. To those who have not seen the much-discussed talkie it should provide one of the most interesting of historical romances. A great yarn for the fireside these winter nights. The book is illustrated with seventeen full page plates taken from the film. On sale at all book-sellers, price 2s. 9d.

* * *

Whether it is the possibility of another war being thrust on us or merely a psychological cycle among the reading public I do not know, but it is very evident that there is a big demand just now for books and pictures dealing with the Great War. Messrs. Angus and Robertson, the well-known Sydney publishers, have produced quite a number of war books of late, all of them interesting and generally regarded as important additions to the library of authentic books on the war. Two noteworthy books in this connection have just been publised by the same firm.

“Comrades of the Great Adventure,” by H. R. Williams, gives us a series of wonderful sidelights on the War. Here we see our friend the Digger as the great conversationalist—training and the serious fighting business are in the background. Human nature stands revealed in the light of the camp fire in billet and in trench. Something different from the usual war book, and vastly entertaining in spite of its sombre patches. The author well lives up to the big reputation he established with his “The Gallant Company.” The other book takes us under the sea and reveals in a gripping manner the part the submarine played in the War. “Watchdogs of the Deep” is the title, and the author is, T. M. Jones, ex-leading torpedo-man of H.M. submarine J2. Here we see the detective of the deep searching, ever searching, for his quarry. An extremely dangerous game, simply bristling with thrills. I can imagine no theatre of the Great War that could produce a more exciting drama. A brief foreword is supplied to the book by Rear-Admiral W. T. Randle Ford, Commander of the Australian Navy. Both books sell at 6/- each.

* * *

Shibli Listens In.

I have had a peep at the proofs of Ian Donnelly's “The Joyous Pilgrimage” due any day now from Dent's, London. Brilliant stuff. I predict a record sale in New Zealand.

Dr. A. J. Harrop, who visited New Zealand last year, has just had published by Allen and Unwin an illustrated guide entitled “Touring New Zealand.”

“The Irish Tribune,” the first issue of which recently came from Auckland, is developing into a most interesting paper. Pleasing to note that it is strictly non-sectarian.

Due to be published in Sydney in August is a magazine to be called “South”—all-fiction with two serials.

Hector Bolitho has bought a country house in Saffron Walden. Essex.

This country must have the distinction of giving to the world the first all embracing book published on the subject of beer. The MS was sent to London last month.

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