The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 11 (February 1, 1938)
Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two
In my opinion, Alan Mulgan has written no finer verse than in “Aldebaran,” his latest book of poems, published by the Caxton Press, Christchurch. There are only four poems in this booklet, and although Aldebaran, “a first magnitude star” (as the author explains in his prefatory note) is given pride of place, in the small constellation the brighest star to ray mind is a shorter poem, “Success.” Yet this star shines over an obliterated star—a self-made business man and the mordantly tragic picture of his obsequies. And when it is all over—
The cars move oft with a rush, released from the traffic limit of death,
Each for itself; interiors blue with smoke but lighter with gossip;
With every turn of the wheels the dead is a fainter memory…
And what of the once pampered body left behind? Let the poet speak:
Under the wide clear sky, with a cleansing wind for an acolyte
They scatter the ashes and a spot of earth is richer.
Up from the calcium, the iron, the phosphate, there will spring, perchance, a tea-tree,
In its bridal simplicity lovelier than even its fellows.
This will be sweeter than any act of his living.
“Aldebaran,” the main poem, is a grand piece of work.
* * *
Two other recent booklets of verse have reached me. First, in point of bulk, is “A Miscellany of Verse,” by Edwin J. Tapp (published by A. H. and A. W. Reed). All simple well-worn themes, yet no doubt their plain music will appeal to many. The author is best when he sings his songs to Nature. The second booklet is “The Chaplet” by Patrice Morant. Here we find a finer sense of rhythm, a wider choice of words and greater depth of thought. Perhaps the best of the eighteen or so poems is “They Crowned Him King.”
* * *
Those discerning and capable publishing people, Messrs. A. H. and A. W. Reed, of Wellington and Dunedin, have been turning out quite a number of books over the last few months. Two fine travel books are probably the best of this output. “Out On the Road,” by Ralph Byers, a very fine and beautifully produced book, and “English Theme,” smaller hi size, yet of average format, by Margaret Johnston. I will refer to the latter book in this issue because it was published first, leaving the larger book for review next month. Miss Johnston's book should have a very wide public. It concerns a journey she made recently through England and Scotland. The authoress has what one might call a chatty style. It is full of “small talk” of the most interesting kind. Now and again she breaks off to admire the beauties of Nature and here her pen pictures are almost photographic. The several photographic illustrations are quite good, and the poetic embellishments of “A.W.” complete an excellent publication.
* * *
Denis Glover of Christchurch, is a clever young writer, but not clever enough yet to flash the rapier of satire. He has attempted this in his lampoon “The Arraignment of Paris.” He attacks one or two unnamed gentlemen in the New Zealand literary world, but after a few lines drops the rapier and seizes the bludgeon. He then becomes somewhat crude in his attack. This is a pity, for Denis Glover is meant for, and is capable of, much better things.
* * *
One of the several fields in which “Art in New Zealand” encourages art and literature in this country is its annual one-act play competition. In the latest number of the quarterly is announced the result of its last competition, also the winning play is printed. The successful entry comes from Helen Brookfield, Auckland, who has certainly. written a play of even merit. The judge of the competition mentions that a play by Robin Hyde would have shared the honours but for the fact that it failed to keep within the specified length. The literary side of the latest issue is well up to the high standard of the quarterly, while in the art section there are three fine colour pages and several pages in black and white.
* * *
“The Hedge Sparrow,” by C. R. Allen (A. H. & A. W. Reed, Wellington and Dunedin) is the second novel by the brilliant Dunedin writer. In craftsmanship the new novel is superior to the first; in interest it is not so compelling. At the same time there may be many who will aver that the second book is more interesting because of its political theme and its pictures of the spirit and manners of the period. The plot covers that time when politics were very much in the minds of all classes, the time of Richard Seddon. The thoughts and actions of the principal characters are aptly summed up in the two lines from “King Lear” printed on the title page:
The hedge-sparow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it had its head bit off by its young.
The location of the plot is once more in Dunedin, and who knows his Dunedin better than C. R. Allen? In construction, atmosphere and simplicity and economy of words the novel is much ahead of many overseas novels coming to this country. I sincerely hope that this book meets with even greater success than “A Poor Scholar,” which has sold so well that it is now available in a cheaper edition.
* * *
“Exit Miss Emily,” by Nina Murdoch (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is the third and final episode in the life of that delightful creation, of the authoress of “Seventh Heaven,” Miss Emily Sawkins. The many readers page 55 of the two earlier books will remember the kind hearted resourceful spinster and will welcome this third book. Without spoiling the story it might be stated in advance for the admirers of Miss Emily that the happiness she has given to many is rewarded by a great happiness in her own heart.
* * *
“Blinky Bill and Nutsy,” by Dorothy Wall (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) contains further adventures of that quaint creation “Blinky,” also of “Nutsy,” a little Koala girl, and “Splodge,” a kangaroo and “a gentleman of the bush.” The latest adventures arise through Blinky's escape from the Zoo with the people mentioned. There is heaps of fun and Interest in what follows. The book has been attractively produced and is illustrated charmingly by the authoress.
“The Golden Bird,” by Dorothy Tanner, B.A. (Harry H. Tombs, Wellington) is a fairy play for children. There is in it an atmosphere of Lewis Carroll, particularly the incident about the golden apples that had to be preserved for the Show because they were listed in the catalogue. A charming play, nicely told. There are full stage instructions. It is recommended by the Wellington Children's Players. The publishers are to be praised for the get-up of the booklet which is illustrated in colour and black and white.
“Out of the Shadows,” by “Bertriel” (Hand-craft Press, Wellington) is described as “A Phantasy in Two Panels.” It deals with the question of communication between the living and the dead. The author believes that the dead can bring comfort to the living. How, though, about the comfort the living may bring to the dead?
* * *
“Seventy Years In and Around Auckland,” by George C. Beale (A. H. & A. W. Reed) is yet another book of personal reminiscences by an old New Zealander. An ultra-patriotic Welling-tonian might say that the title is nothing to boast about, but the average intelligent reader will admit that Mr. Beale has compiled a readable book. His memories of the early days of Auckland province are most interesting. The author is in his eighty-second year. The book is illustrated and (collectors note) the first edition is limited to 500 copies.
“Shibli” Listens in.
Those present at the P.E.N. reception to Mr, Hugh Dent (of J. M. Dent, London) were impressed with his evident sincerity when he expressed his interest in and his desire to assist literary effort in this country.
Will Tustin, who wrote an interesting booklet on Norfolk Island following on his several years of residence there, has since returned to Wellington and is now busy on a book of reminiscences wrapped up with the early pioneering experiences of his people.
“The Song - Maker,” by Nora McAuliffe, was recently published in Sydney. It has a New Zealand interest for it is written by Miss Nora Kelly who is well-known here. Copies are available from Box 965, Wellington (price 4/-).
An elaborate programme extending over a week has been prepared for New Zealand Authors’ Week, due to take place in April next.
Important Engagement by ZB Stations.
An advance “trailer” showing the Weintraubs, a group of ultra modern instrumentalists was shown in Wellington last month. Those who saw and heard them agree that the company is one of the most important engagements, made by the National Commercial Broadcasting Service, for, in addition to their stage appearances they will be heard from the four commercial stations. The seven players are masters of forty-five instruments with which they juggle with cheerful abandon. They are certainly clever to a degree, and they can play.
The combination was formed some thirteen years ago in Berlin as a student band playing for their own amusement. From appearances with revues, they secured contract after contract, then came gramophone recordings, talking pictures, and broadcasting. Altogether they have travelled nearly 100,000 miles to play in four continents, 20 countries, 202 cities, 402 theatres, and have broadcast from 54 stations in thirteen countries.
The seven playing members include three Germans, one Englishman, one American, one Peruvian and one Pole, and all are students, including students of law, medicine and engineering.
The band features two entirely different types of entertainment. Their radio routines consist mainly of bright sketches plentifully interspersed with musical items. The Weintraubs who are now concluding a highly successful tour in Australia, are scheduled to arrive in New Zealand about February 1st.