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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 11 (February 1, 1937)

Among The Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 50

Among The Books
A Literary Page or Two

One of the smallest of New Zealand annual publications is one of the most important. It is “New Zealand Best Poems.” The 1936 issue edited by C. A. Marris is, because it is edited by Marris, something to read and re-read, something any true lover of New Zealand literature simply must have on his bookshelves. I truly believe that if in any one year the material were not up to the high standard he demands Mr. Marris simply would refuse to publish his annual. The year of 1936 was full of the right inspiration. Robin Hyde with success beckoning her on has three grand poems. Listen to four lines of “The Corn Child.”

I shall not bear bending willow Nor wild-rose wan as a star—My sons will be wheat-spears, valiant And setting forth for war.

Little Gloria Rawlinson has two poems in the book; the better is “Vires Vitae.” Kevin Maher's beautiful tribute to G.K.C. would be heard in the great chorus of prose and verse that sang forth on that great writer's demise. Dora Hagemeyer in her “Renascence” actually sings of spring in a manner sweetly new. Also there are verses we might be proud of from Arnold Wall, Eve Langley, D'Arcy Cress-well, Douglas Stewart and others. And I did revel in J. R. Hervey's “Mrs. Carmichael.” It was so delightfully different. Certainly the best Marris authology to date.

* * *

I have the greatest sympathy for the poor old prophet and what his country fails to do for him. Sad to say we have such frequent illustrations in New Zealand. A recent example. A book from a Wellington writer was dismissed in a ten line fill-up par by a local daily. In a leading Melbourne paper appeared a signed review of the same book. The review took up more than half a column of high praise and included a photo of the author who, by the way, has never been to Melbourne!

* * *

As an essayist Professor Walter Murdoch has been applauded by the critics of several countries. Certainly as far as this part of the world is concerned he has re-created what was deemed to be a lost art. Of his several books of essays possibly his latest, “Lucid Intervals” (Angus and Robertson, Sydney) will be most popular. In that charming, intimate style of his, he discourses on two dozen or more subjects, from the art of skipping to the art of leg-pulling. Perhaps one of the most delightful essays is his preface in which he gives his own definition of an essay, “a newspaper article, exhumed, reprinted in larger type on thicker paper, and placed, along with other articles between cloth covers.” Alas, I wish it were true! Could I but “exhume” one of my old newspaper articles and make the publishing magic suggested cause it to emerge of the Walter Murdoch standard I would be a happy man.

* * *

The number of books for children is legion, but, how few of them endure. In this country Edith Howes and Mona Tracy have had success with
“The Sea Hawk.” Caricature of New Zealand Writers (No. 3). O. N. Gillespie.

“The Sea Hawk.” Caricature of New Zealand Writers (No. 3). O. N. Gillespie.

their children's stories. In Australia, Norman Lindsay (of all people) has written a classic “The Magic Pudding.” In the same country Dorothy Wall has a direct idea as to the capturing of the child mind. She does this both in her stories and illustrations. Her latest success is “Stout Fellows” published in Sydney by A. & R. It concerns the adventures of Chum, Angelina, Wallaby, Um-Pig. and Flip.

Chum is a fellow, not very big, Angelina is a Wallaby guide, Um is an animal. Sh! he's a pig, Flip is a nuisance—read inside, And to read inside will delight any kiddies heart.

* * *

“Sorrows and Joys of a New Zealand Naturalist.”

Mr. Guthrie-Smith has said good-bye. in his latest book “Sorrows and Joys of a New Zealand Naturalist,” so taste-fully produced by A. H. & A. W. Reed, who have been so assiduous during 1936 in giving us the best in New Zealand literature. Mr. Guthrie-Smith has given us his classical “Tutira,” and also from his pen will endure his “Birds of the Water, Wood and Waste.” This latest study of Nature sustains all the fine thoughts we have of his work. He is no week-end observer of our flora and fauna—no hiker dabbling for an hour or so in the country's beauties. Here is a man who has closely studied our outdoor life and written of it in a polished style. Mr. Guthrie-Smith delight in the big high sounding association of words. Having given this delightful and important volume to us is he not modest to a degree in his introduction?

The Messrs. Reed have reason to be proud of their printing of this grand book. Pictures, letterpress and format do them credit.

* * *

“Suwarrow Gold” by James Cowan (Jonathan Cape, London) is a collection of South Sea stories by our well known New Zealand author. He has written more important books but nothing more romantic, nothing more interesting page 51 than the stories in this volume. The vital point about the book is that “these things really happened.” Cowan however, is not a casual recorder of real life stories. His tales are embellished with such a wealth of incident, names, dates and localities being quoted that this book is also a valuable historical record. Only his art as a writer could enable him to wrap up all the data he has gathered in such a string of engrossing stories. Pirates, slavers, treasure hunters and castaways pursue their adventurous paths through these romantic isles. The strangest story of all is that of the islands of Suwarrow, where treasure brings inevitable tragedy in its train. A book to read and to keep.

* * *

“England Calling” by William S. Plowman (Angus & Robertson, Sydney), is the story of a journey by car through England and Scotland—from Penzance to Caithness. “Towns and cities are much alike …. so we decided to keep away from them as much as possible and find delight in quaint villages and with simple people.” This is the very reason why this book is so interesting. In the by-paths of both countries the author has found much to interest himself and his readers. The book reveals a great love of England and all she stands for and is just another tribute from this part of the world. It is a beautifully produced volume and charmingly illustrated.

“Follow The Call” by F. S. Authony (A. H. & A. W. Reed, Dunedin and Wellington), is a welcome addition to our small library of New Zealand fiction. It is welcome because it is simple and sincere. There is no attempt here to play with big words to tell a story with “that correct literary atmosphere.” Merely a plain recital of the adventures and love story of a returned soldier who establishes himself in Taranaki as a dairy farmer. Because it is true to life, because it is sincere, it must be regarded as an important addition to New Zealand fiction. The author was born in Gisborne and after serving in the war, died in 1925.

* * *

“The Test Match Murder” by Denzil Batchelor (Angus & Robertson, Sydney), is one of the most original and involved murder mysteries I have read. “The third wicket had fallen and England had scored exactly eight pitiful runs,” are the words with which the story opens. As fourth player strides towards the wicket he drops dead—poisoned. Then follow the ingenious and exciting story of the search for the murderer. The interest of the yarn is relieved by delightful touches of dry humour. I can recommend this brilliantly written story.

* * *

“Children of the Dark People” by Frank Dalby Davison (Angus & Robertson, Sydney), is a story told with charming simplicity of two Aboriginal children and of the people and of the adventures they meet with in the Australian bush. Reality is linked with phantasy. I think it is a book that will live. With her artistic illustrations Pixie O'Harris follows the author like a devout worshipper of the story he tells. I wish we had a Davison and Pixie O'Harris (Mrs. Bruce Pratt) in this country to immortalise two Maori children in similar fashion.

* * *

In sending me the obituary notice of Mr. Andrew Fraser, a retired Oamaru bookseller who died a few months ago, Mr. Bernard Magee, a well known free lance writer of the same town, states: “Mr. Fraser is the bookseller who published ‘Wisps of Tussock,’ by David McKee Wright, some thirty-five years ago, when Mr. Wright was a young Congregational minister in Oamaru. You bought this book as recorded in your page, the copy being the property of the late Richard Penfold, a printer at the Oamaru ‘Mail’ and a friend of the poet. No mention was made of Mr. Fraser's association with David McKee Wright by any of the papers.”