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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 9 (December 2, 1935)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 68

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

Of all the books I know that have been written on or about the subject of Christmas, Max Beerbohm's “A Christmas Garland” stands supreme. Published some years ago the book is very little known, yet must stand for a long time as one of the cutest series of prose parodies written this century. The cleverest parody is Max's idea as to how G.K.C. would have written on Christmas. Here is the brightest passage in this parodoxical flight:—

' This brings me to the second fallacy. I refer to the belief that Christmas comes but once a year. Perhaps it does, according to the calendar—a quaint and interesting compilation, but of little or no practical use to anybody. It is not the calendar but the Spirit of Man that regulates the recurrence of feasts and fasts. Spiritually, Christmas Day recurs exactly seven times a week. When we have frankly acknowledged this and acted on it, we shall begin to realise the Day's mystical and terrific beauty' . And what is right as regards Christmas is right as regards all other socalled anniversaries. The time shall come when we shall dance round the Maypole every morning before breakfast—a meal at which hot cross buns will be a standing dish—and shall make April Fools of each other every day before noon' . The profound significance of All Fool's day—the glorious lesson that we are all fools—is too apt at present to be lost. Nor is justice done to the sublime symbolism of Shrove Tuesday—the day on which all sins are shriven. Every day pancakes shall be eaten before or after the plum pudding. They shall be eaten slowly and sacramentally. They shall be fried over fires tended and kept for ever bright by Vestals. They shall be tossed to the skies.

You should get hold of this book. It contains some of the most delicious specimens of humour that I know of.

* * *

Undoubtedly the most easily selected and acceptable gift at Christmas time is a book, and for children it is, possibly, the most suitable present of all, provided the giver does not inflict on the youthful recipient “The Pilgrims Progress,” “Pepy's Diary,” or “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” Such a possibility as the titles mentioned is not remote. I have heard of a genuine case of a kindly disposed, but obviously illiterate aunt who presented her young nephew with two beautiful volumes of Casanova! Which leads me to two beautiful children's books just produced by Angus & Robertson, Sydney—both ideal Christmas gifts. The first, “Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie,” is written and illustrated by Pixie O'Harris who will be favourably remembered by “Aussie” Magazine readers. This is a delightful phantasy of adventure under and over the sea. It contains four plates in colour and many line drawings. Pixie O'Harris's book will captivate both young and old readers. Then we have another delightful book “Brownie, The Story of a Naughty Little Rabbit,” written and illustrated by Dorothy Wall. The dedication is a charming one: “To little boys with dirty hands and little girls with clean frocks.” And, I can see hundreds of boyish hands, in various stages of dirtiness, pawing this irresistible book which will also repose gracefully on hundreds of clean frocked laps. Both books are reasonably priced and are on sale at leading booksellers.

* * *

Many would-be writers ask me a question to which there is a most obvious answer: “What class of story, article or paragraph am I to write for Australian or New Zealand papers to have them accepted?” The best answer is, as I have stated, the most obvious. If one has any facility with the pen then the various papers who do accept outside contributions should be studied carefully and intelligently for interest, style and length. Mould the contribution on these lines and if it is “the goods” there is every chance of acceptance. As the successful tradesman studies the wants of his customer so the successful free lancer studies, to the last word, the wants of an editor.

* * *

One of the most interesting departments in connection with the many activities developing in regard to New Zealand Authors’ Week is the work of the editorial committee which is now busy in preparing material for the elaborate magazine which is to be published in March next. This magazine will contain a list of every worth-while book by New Zealand writers. This list will contain hundreds of entries, indeed the difficulty is to confine it to reasonable limits. This can be done only by restricting the record to the legitimate New Zealand work of recognised standing. The magazine will also contain photographs and short biographical sketches of leading New Zealand writers and sundry appropriate articles. It will be the most informative work of its kind ever published in the Dominion.

The bookplate of Lt.-Col. E. B. Millton, Rangiora.

The bookplate of Lt.-Col. E. B. Millton, Rangiora.