Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 1 (April 1, 1936.)

Among the Books A Literary Page or Two

page 61

Among the Books A Literary Page or Two

A Literary Page or Two

Possibly the greatest event for New Zealand writers in the history of literary endeavour in this country will take place this month in New Zealand Authors’ Week. Over a period of two weeks people in New Zealand will be told through broadcast talks, platform lectures, newspaper articles and by exhibitions in the four centres, what New Zealand authors have done in prose and verse. The idea is to instil into the people an appreciation of the literary worth of the Dominion. “Buy New Zealand Books” will be the slogan. It is mostly through greater sales that the writer is encouraged to greater effort.

In Wellington (other centres no doubt will have a similar programme) there will be, over the course of a week, platform lectures, twice daily, on every aspect of New Zealand literature. So that the public may see as well as hear, an exhibition will be open day and night of New Zealand books and magazines, New Zealand paper making, book-plates and the like.

An enduring result of the week will be the publication of a comprehensive illustrated magazine descriptive in prose, verse and picture of the literary work of the Dominion. This will contain a bibliographic compendium of New Zealand books and authors, with photographs and special articles.

The central executive has been working for months on their ambitious programme and now it is for the public to show their practical appreciation.

In a characteristic letter bulging with chatty gossip Percy Crisp, formerly editor of the Auckland “Sun,” and now in London, tells me of the doings of New Zealanders in the Old Land. Ian Coster is now film critic for the London “Standard”; David Low (“as magnificent a craftsman as ever: better, if anything”) is making something like #10,000 a year; Anona Winn is doing great work for the broadcasting people, and has just sold her first film scenario (she was through New Zealand years ago in pantomime); Lance Fairfax (sometime of Napier) is in the new Cochran revue “Follow the Sun” (he is also in demand for broadcast and films); Marie Ney is “a star in her own right”; Shayle Gardner has just finished a film with Claude Hulbert and Gordon Harker; George Nicholls (formerly Christchurch “Sun”) is with the P.A.; Geoffrey Cox is on “The News Chronicle”; Betty Riddell is on one of the Sunday papers, and so on.

As for Percy he is still on the London “Standard,” and is having considerable success in spare time free lancing.

Bird lovers will be keenly interested in the Gould League Annual (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) which has been published to celebrate the twenty-fifth birthday of the League which had its origin in New South Wales. It is a beautifully produced little book containing several appropriate articles and some fine full-page plates in colour and black and white.

No free lance journalist should be without “The Writers and Artists Year Book” (A. & C. Black, London) the 1936 edition of which is to hand. It contains all that much sought for information—the addresses and requirements of all the leading journals of the English speaking world, literary agencies, copyright, the markets for artists, composers, photographers, play writers, poets, etc., literary prizes, lists of publishers, serial rights, syndicating, and
A bookplate designed by Mr. Llewellyn Williams, of Wellington.

A bookplate designed by Mr. Llewellyn Williams, of Wellington.

so on. Added to this are a number of helpful, instructive articles.

One of the most coveted of honours among our New Zealand writers of verse is to be included in C. A. Marris's annual selection of Best Poems. Although the annual anthology has been in existence only four years, its appearance is already regarded as a literary event. There are eighteen poets represented in the 1935 collection, and of these “Robin Hyde” outstands both in the number and artistry of the poems selected. Each verse glows with the brilliance of a precious stone, with its finely cut choice of phrase and the polish and sparkle of its music. Her “Irish Emigrant” appealed to me most of all. I revelled once more in the art of Arnold Cork in his “Tapestry” of which I had already written when it first appeared in “Art In New Zealand.” Rivalling “Robin Hyde” is Eve Langley's “The Widow”—there's rich, sad music here. But I love all these poems—the pensiveness of C. R. Allen, the verbal pulsations of Douglas Stewart, the philosophisings of Arnold Wall, the delicate traceries of Dora Hagemeyer. They are vital, these New Zealand poets. C. A. Marris has beckoned them to the heights, and it is a privilege to be with them and listen to their singing.

The Unicorn Press, Auckland, has made a splendid job of “Vulcan Lane and Other Verses,” by Warwick Lawrence. It is the most artistically printed booklet of verse yet produced in New Zealand. “Robin Hyde” has paid the young author the compliment of writing the introduction. Lawrence is therefore fortunate in his friends. He has ambition and energy. I believe that, although (as “Robin Hyde” observes) these verses are “small and simple,” the author may yet write something worthwhile.

Thanks to such keen enthusiasts as Victor Lloyd and others, the amateur theatre movement has made great strides in this country. Inevitably, play writing has developed and this also has page 62 been fostered by Mr. Lloyd, who has acted as judge for several competitions in connection with the New Zealand branch of the British Drama League. One entrant on whom he lavished much praise was Eric Bradwell who recently had the high compliment paid to him of having four of his one-act plays published in London, by George Allen and Unwin. In a brief introduction to the book, Elizabeth Blake states that “these plays deserve the attention of all amateur societies who are not content with the obvious or second rate.” Although I have seen none of the plays performed, I can visualise their success. Everything in them is so easy and natural. The dialogue is crisp and clever, and the interest skilfully maintained. The curtain falls—we are thinking furiously—there is a moment's silence and we applaud involuntarily— the art of Eric Bradwell. “Zero Hour” is the best play in the book. Well acted, the moment of the curtain fall here would be superb. I reviewed “There Is No Return” when it appeared originally, and must persist that it suffers from a complete overstrain of coincidence. The other two plays in the book are excellent.

Two most delightful kiddies books are to hand from Angus & Robertson (Sydney). “Sixpence to Spend,” by Idal Rentoul Outhwaite, takes the reader to animal-land through the mind of a lady writer of rare charm and fancy. The book contains five plates in colour and many fine drawings. “More Australians,” by Nelle Grant Cooper, is another animal book told in illustrations and quaint instructive rhymes.

Sam August is the poet of Invercargill. Few people I have met are more interested in New Zealand literary endeavour than this enthusiastic Southland writer. Recently he published a further booklet of his verse, “Song of the Children of Leda and Other Poems.” S. G. August is a conscientious craftsman and there are some appealing lines in his latest book. Out of some sixty peoms on a variety of subjects, from the linotype operator to Noah's Ark, I liked particularly his tributes to several writers—especially his feeling farewell to the great “A.E.”

Because of pressure on space, the December number of “Art in New Zealand” receives a belated review. It contains two beautiful colour plates, several full pages in black and white, and on the literary side, articles, poems and a play by leading New Zealand writers. Every art and literary enthusiast should be a subscriber to this outstanding quarterly. The high standard of its contents would do credit to any country.


“The Mad Doctor,” by F. J. Thwaites (Jackson & O'Sullivan Ltd., Sydney) is one of the most engrossing novels I have read from the pen of any Australian writer past and present. I am pleased to say this, for the last novel I reviewed from the same writer I had to dismiss with a few perfunctory lines. The medical tragedy on which the novel is based may appear to some as a trifle unsavoury, yet it is a terrible problem that might confront any doctor. As a result of this “crime” Dr. Raymond is sentenced to seven years’ goal. He emerges a bitter being without hope in God or man. He buries himself in the African jungle, devoting his life to the treatment of the natives. He discovers a cure for paralysis, the fame of which spreads to England. Dr. Raymond has been forgotten, and he is now known only as the mad Doctor because he fanatically refuses to cure anyone but natives. The terrible journey made by two parties to his jungle fastness and of the direful events that followed make greater the position of this outstanding novel.

“Spanish Maine,” by P. C. Wren (John Murray, London; Whitcombe & Tombs, New Zealand agents) reveals this popular author at his best. The villain of the piece El Senor Manoel Maine is one of the most repulsive scoundrels of modern fiction. He is a devil incarnate whose methods of livelihood run from dope trafficking to blackmail. His efforts to establish himself for life by extracting money from a reformed dancing girl of Algiers provide the motif of the story. Thrill piles on thrill to the amazing finale. One of the most exciting novels I have read for months.

“Carfax of the Khyber,” by Victor Bayley (Jarrold's, London; New Zealand agents, Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd.) is an exciting story of secret service on the North-West Frontier in India. The central figure is Major Carfax, the political agent in the Khyber and also an accomplished Greek scholar. The latter fact is responsible for his being hustled into some amazing adventures in which a crazy Greek millionaire and a Mahomedan schemer seek to place him as a reincarnated Alexander the Great as King of India. Obviously the author has an intimate knowledge of the underworld of India enabling him to give to his story vivid touches of local colour.

“Letters From Rome,” by H. M. Moran (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) represents an Australian's view of the Italo-Abyssinian question. The motif of the booklet is that those outside have failed to understand and know modern Italy (“whose people have not assimilated the modern technique of birth control”). A sympathetic and discerning series of letters.

ShibliListens In.

A few copies only of “The Australian Writers’ Annual” have reached New Zealand. It is a splendid production designed something on the lines of “The New Zealand Artists’ Annual.” Flora S. Eldershaw is editor, Syd. Nicholls art editor, and Will Lawson, business manager.

Percy Salmon, of Auckland, editor and publisher of “Ferrileaf,” has so far succeeded with his magazine that it is now permanently enlarged, allowing for a greatly improved lay-out of contents.

Will Lawson has had another novel, “When Cobb & Co. Was King,” accepted for publication by Angus & Robertson, Sydney.

Donald Cowie, who has achieved some success at home and abroad as a writer of articles and short stories, left New Zealand last month for England to pursue his literary activities. For a while he was on the Christchurch “Press,” since when he has contributed to leading journals in England. He has also been a contributor to this magazine.

The “Times” Literary Supplement of December 14th gave a very encouraging review of “Robin Hyde's” “The Conquerors and Other Poems,” recently published by Macmillans. The book was given pride of place in the poetry section.