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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 10 (January 2, 1939)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 45

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

The music of words, the ripple of neat phrase, the symphony of a nicely-balanced sentence, all these things to delight the literary mind and ear you will find in “Remembering Things,” a collection of essays by J. H. E. Schroder, of the Christchurch “Press,” and published recently by Dent's.

Very few books have come from New Zealanders that may be described as real literature. Mr. Schroder's book may be added to the small company which will be distinguished by its advent. Just as Australia is proud of its Walter Murdoch so we in New Zealand are proud of our Schroder. I will even run the risk of offending our most loyal New Zealand literary enthusiasts when I say that not all of the essays in this book are 100 per cent. For instance, the first essay on the Otira Tunnel left me with somewhat of the feelings of a critic at a show. The critic anticipates from the first turn that the next must be ever so much better. Even so, I must confess that it was only when I came to the third essay, “On The Decline and Fall of the Straw Hat,” that I commenced to sit back and really enjoy myself. “A man I know buys a straw hat every spring. Summer gradually toasts it to a rich brown, and in the late Autumn he puts it tenderly away. Its colour as it deepens, is to him as beautifully and as sadly symbolic of Summer's lapsing into age and death as the deepening gold, red and brown of the trees.” Ah, yes—there is a delicate measure of words here—a touch of Leonard Merrick in sentiment, of Norman Douglas in cultured regret. However, as I have a sentimental regard for straw hats I thought my feelings might have led me to over enthusiasm. It was when I came to the essay “On Not Carrying a Watch,” that I was really drawn into the Schroder literary net—a net that holds, although it is so delicately meshed. I am a watch carrying fiend, and in spite of the arguments of Mr. Schroder, so suavely and shrewdly advanced, I will remain one, because the balance, precision, timing and workmanship of this essay reminded me so forcibly of one of those perfect levers our
Ex-Libris Violet Wakelin The book-plate designed by W. A. Percy, for Mrs. Violet Wakelin, Hon. Secretary of the New Zealand Ex-Libris Society.

Ex-Libris Violet Wakelin
The book-plate designed by W. A. Percy, for Mrs. Violet Wakelin, Hon. Secretary of the New Zealand Ex-Libris Society.

grandfathers used to carry in the good old days. So I could go on dwelling on the thoughts of our elegant essayist but, in the words of one of the best essays in the collection, I must “Draw It Mild.” I must have some space left for other reviews and paragraphs. Even so I have given Mr. Schroder much more space than I usually devote to any one book. But he deserves it.

* * *

The New Zealand Department of Tourist and Publicity is to be congratulated on the artistic excellence of its advance brochure in connection with the Dominion's centennial. Of quarto size and printed in colour and sepia on heavy art paper the brochure tells in a most readable way the history and development of the Dominion and shows its proud position to-day. It is an all-New Zealand production with Mr. Arthur Messenger as designer and editor, the Government Printing Office as printer, and New Zealand artists and photographers as makers of the illustrations. The fine colour pictures are the work of Oriwa Haddon, a brilliant young Maori artist, Arthur Messenger, M. A. Poulton, and F. O. Bianchi.

* * *

S. Elliott Napier, the Australian writer, who visited these parts recently in search of health, is a friendly fellow though he is so frail of body that at times one fears he may fade away completely. I have the feeling that the only thing that keeps him attached to life is a sense of humour. His smile, when it appears, would do credit to a fourteen stone optimist with a rich credit in health and monetary savings. Elliott Napier is a most versatile writer. He has written stories, travel books, essays and verse. I did not know of the last-mentioned accomplishment until I was the recipient after his return to Australia of a volume of his poems, “Underneath the Bough,” published about a year ago in Sydney. It is a collection covering forty years of contributions to English and Australian publications. Because of its simplicity and sincerity the poems appealed to me greatly. While I remembered the smile that shone from him in New Zealand, I was surprised, however, to find a sombre, sometimes cynical note in a number of his poems. However, there are by way of a contrast many beautiful poems appreciative of friendship, of Nature and of books.

* * *

There are many fine poems in Douglas Stewart's latest collection, “The White Cry,” recently published by Dent's, but there is one that for sheer page 46 page 47 beauty outshines all the others. It is entitled “To Be Cut In Stone” (In Memory of J.L.S.) and is as follows:—

This lady carried a moon within her breast,
And the white dreaming holiness of waters
Sighed in towards her out of all men's hearts.
When she grew old her hands and hair were moonlight,
And like her undying sister of the sky
Through cloud and wind she shone the tenderer,
Silvering with beauty the dark tide of the world.
Therefore, when the moon rises, remember her.

* * *


“Collected Essays,” by Walter Murdoch (Angus & Robertson, Sydney), will be welcomed by hundreds of admirers of Australia's delightful essayist. For the last eight or nine years Professor Murdoch has been an assiduous writer of essays and they have been collected from time to time and published under titles familiar to many of us, “Speaking Personally,” “Saturday Mornings,” “Lucid Intervals,” etc. These volumes have had a splendid sale, so much so that Angus & Robertson conceived the ambitious idea of publishing an omnibus of them all. And for a literary holiday what more pleasant omnibus wherein to be a passenger. Some of the company is delightfully familiar—“The Bloke” (full of humour and engaging philosophy), “On Whiskers and Eternity” (incidentally a fine tribute to the genius of Jane Austen), and “On Reading In Bed” (which should really be called “On Reading Browne”). Then we met others who at first glance appear to be interesting strangers but whom, after a few words have been exchanged, are also old friends. Then there are some real strangers (because we may not have read and remembered all of Murdoch's 150 essays), and they are really excellent people to meet; all elegant, interesting folk—the people of the cultured mind of Professor Murdoch, Australia's notable man of letters. This is a substantial, splendidly produced volume of over 700 pages and it deserves, and I know it will receive, a grand reception.

* * *

“Titans of the Barrier Reef” by Norman W. Caldwell (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is a fine big volume of further adventures of a famous Australian shark fisherman. This writer first attracted wide attention with his “Fangs of the Sea.” His latest book is no desperate attempt to “bulk up” a new volume on the strength of the first success. It is quite interesting and in many ways as full of excitement as the first book. Mere mention of the Barrier Reef conjures up exciting pictures of mammoth fish, but with Norman Caldwell as guide we meet many of the top-liners. Also he shows himself not only a fine fisherman but a graphic writer. In the latter respect my only complaint is that his stories are almost too vivid. His account of a fight in the dark with a crocodile is almost exhausting in its realism. White sharks and black sharks, sharks that spit, giant gropers, huge eels and devil fish leer at you from every page. Yes—the book is as exciting as a super-detective thriller.

* * *

“The Little Round Garden,” by Gladys Lister (Angus & Robertson, Sydney), should set the eyes and the feet of many a child dancing with pleasure. This little round garden with its little round house has in it all manner of delightful people. Of course, there are fairies, and one of their number is particularly interesting because he is a disguised fairy. There are Merle and Blueboy, a number of quaint animals and also the Little Mother and the Big Daddy. They all take part in wonderful adventures, enough to inspire Pixie O'Harris, who I know will never grow up, to illustrate the story with charming drawings.

* * *

On The Back Of “Shibli'S” Tram Ticket.

New Century Press, Sydney, publishers of the one time popular “Aussie” magazine, have commenced publishing Australian books retailing at half a crown per copy. I believe that L. L. Woolacott, one time editor of “The Triad,” is in charge of the new enterprise.

* * *

The most substantial prizes ever offered for short stories are listed for the “Bulletin” competition, closing on January 31st. First prize £70.