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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 7 (October 1, 1936)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 55

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

Important developments of interest to the literary and art world have taken place of late. We have a new Director of Broadcasting, a literary medium as powerful as the most impressive newspaper combine in this country. He is a man of culture and of obvious understanding as to the wants of the listening public of New Zealand. Coupled with the earlier appointment of a highly qualified writer and journalist in charge of talks, the radio fans of this country may feel satisfied that they will be well looked after. Then we have the advent of a New Zealand novel, serialised, with great beating of the drums of publicity, in “New Zealand Truth”; the finalisation of a big #50 Radio Play competition; the ever-growing enterprise of such monthlies as this magazine and “The Mirror” in the encouragement of literary enterprise; the acceptance by big London publishing houses of more novels, biographies, etc., than ever before in our history, and finally the great success earlier in the year of New Zealand Authors' Week.

Indeed we may claim that the New Zealand literary renaissance is taking place in 1936.

* * *

It is rather late in the day to give a review of John Guthrie's second novel, “So They Began.” All I will do is to tell those who have not read this book that it proves conclusively, in atmosphere, plot, construction and brisk dialogue, that Guthrie, or John Brodie to give him his real name, has justified the glowing promise held out in his first book. In short, this country has produced another worthwhile novelist. It is almost uncanny to note the marvellous development in this young writer. If I were in the proud position of being one of the leading reviewers for, say, the London “Times,” I would declare unhesitatingly, as I do now, that in his first, and now in his second book, John Brodie has displayed the art and the ability to place him on a high plane among modern day novelists. Sad to say, I don't think he will remain an essentially New Zealand novelist, for he has already become immersed in England. However, with other plots and other atmosphere he will interest and arouse the enthusiasm of a wider audience.

* * *

To compress into forty thousand words a remarkably complete history of New Zealand is in itself an achievement. In his short history of this country, recently published by Allen & Unwin (London), Dr. J. C. Beaglehole, with literary polish, colour, and a keen, penetrating analysis of people and problems, tells us the history of our own country, and brightens his story with a touch of humour, at times cynical and at times good-humoured. With vivid, arresting sentences, the author sums up the leading figures of our island history, even to those of the present day. If I have a word of criticism it is that the author, in the full glory of his command of our mother tongue, is at times forgetful of the great task of epitomisation facing him and is wont to indulge in needless displays of verbal acrobats.

James S. Houston An unusual book-plate designed by Mr. James S. Houston.

James S. Houston
An unusual book-plate designed by Mr. James S. Houston.

Writers and speakers who are fearful of the manifold difficulties of our language will be grateful to Professor Arnold Wall for his valuable little manual, “The Mother Tongue In New Zealand.” Professor Wall is no harsh pedant. His judgments on numerous words will ease the minds of many who are constantly troubled as to whether they are speaking or writing correctly. The great majority of the words on which he gives judgment are those most frequently in use and therefore most frequently abused. The publishers (A. H. & A. W. Reed) have produced the book in compact pocket size.

* * *

Of the many historical works written by Mr. T. Lindsay Buick, C.M.G., none has aroused more interest than his “The Treaty of Waitangi.” Until four years ago, the first edition of this book could be purchased occasionally at auction sales or perhaps a rare copy might be found in a second-hand book shop. Small wonder was it that the second edition, published in 1932, sold out very quickly. Within a year of publication it was selling at a premium. Now Thomas Avery & Sons (New Plymouth) have shown enterprise, and also, no little thought for the general reading public of New Zealand, by issuing a third edition at the moderate price of 15/-. The new edition is in a more compact form and at the same time contains a valuable appendix telling the story of the great gift of the Waitangi Estate to the people of the Dominion by Viscount and Viscountess Bledisloe.

* * *

The other day I came across this delightfully humorous paragraph from a very old number of the Sydney “Bulletin”: —

“Reka”: I was up at Waikaretemarama last week, and called at the local newspaper office for a copy of its latest issue. The proprietor, who wore blue dungarees and a green flannel shirt, handed me the sheet, and said confidentially: “See here, the girl lost the box of s's the other day, and we've had to use o's instead. It looks

(Continued on page 60.)

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