Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 9. 9 May 1972
Landfall has always occupied a curiously ambivalent position in the eyes of aspiring young writers. The open response to each new issue is that it is the usual old thing, the usual long winded tired and outmoded writers, the usual bore. The secret aspiration is to be one of the lucky people listed in the ranks of the new contributors. The word goes round not to send writing to Landfall, as it solicits all it needs; but secretly all the gossips seal yet another packet and put it in the post.
This attitude is more pronounced than that produced by other magazines. Of course every writer always produces a perfect work, and it is only the inherent bad taste of editors that causes it to be rejected. The criticism of Landfall is more damning than that - the magazine is 'establishment'. If somebody is accepted for publication the doors have opened for him. He will be invited to the right sort of cocktail parties, meet the right sort of people. He will be invited to be a member of P.E.N. He will have no trouble finding a publisher. He will be able to sleep with other poets' wives without any comments being made. On the other hand he will be expected to churn out writing of a certain calibre and style. He will be expected to write erudite romanticism in letters to his friends (who are meant to save them for publication), and he will have to start writing a rambling literary autobiography.
To a great extent Landfall has brought this sort of reputation on itself. Much of the original writing and all the reviews and articles are generally solicited. With very few exceptions new contributors to Landfall have been previously widely published elsewhere. For all these people Landfall is little more than a confirmation that they have made a big enough name for themselves. But in other ways Landfall has had its reputation thrust upon it. From the first the magazine filled a vacuum. It was the only magazine in New Zealand that published substantial literary scholarship, that regularly gave probing reviews of New Zealand fiction, or that even published regularly. At the time it started it published works by young and vigorous writers. It could not help becoming a standard of acceptability.
It is a pity, but perhaps inevitable, that this standard has become jaded. The writers who started the magazine are now becoming old, and some of its supporters are airead) playing harps. But these are still the core. It is understandable that new blood (but after all no newer than they were when they started the magazine), people like Wedde, Hunt, Haley, Edmond, people who write in a different style and idiom, who think different thoughts, who are influenced by Olson and Berryman rather than Graves and Auden, are accepted sceptically and with misgivings, rather as a gaudy beach ball four feet round is accepted by a baby. Of poets who have written just as prolifically and well, but have not impressed the owls of academe there is no sign. Where is Pasley? Where is Olds? Where is Beyer? Where is Loney?
Notwithstanding the experimental nature of Landfall's acceptance of younger writers, any attempt in this direction is a good sign. What I feel is a more important criticism is that a great deal of the writing by the stalwarts is so bad. In Landfall 100 we have a curious miscellany. On one hand there is Sargeson's reminiscent egologue, The Drive, consisting of overloaded, selfconscious ramblings that last for much too long. On the other hand there is Wedde's clipped, subtle, breathless story-within-a-life, The Real Thing. On the one hand we have twenty eight pages of egotistic back slapping in the interview between Brasch and Milner. On the other J.E.P. Thomson slashes Downstage's policy of choosing plays to suit an elite but boorish audience, in an incisive and long-due article. In o one letter academic wit is given full rein when K.O. Arvidson regretfully turns down an offer to review Shadbolt's An Ear of the Dragon. In the following correspondence between Judith Binney and Frank Sargeson dictionary-and-dagger bitchiness becomes the call. When contributions are good they cannot be equalled anywhere; when they are bad they consist of back slapping, belly punching memories of the old stalwarts writing in the usual prolix measured style. This issue contains what is best and what is worst about Landfall. Despite what Brasch says in his interview it is "a magazine written by intellectuals for intellectuals". There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is that it is trying to appeal to a new and different person, one who is young, vital, widely read; but it is using the restricted themes, outlook, and literary styles of twenty years ago. The world has done a big jump; Landfall has not quite made it.
So how fitting that Landfall 100 an issue so rich and varied should have a tombstone for its celebratory cover. Landfall is on the rocks. With a stationary subscription list, increasing costs and increasing competition something had to be done. It is rumoured that the editor, Robin Dudding, has removed it from the padded confines of Caxton Press, and will try to revitalise it as a private concern. It is true that there is still a vacuum for a magazine of this calibre in New Zealand, and this might provide an answer. If not we must bow our heads to the passing of this barren headland and look across the sea for a new safe anchorage to shelter in.
Extracts from the 'Little White Book' to be released here next week. Published as a counter to the Little Red School Book it is the Jesus Freaks formula for the good life.
Chapter on "Freedom Vibrations"
p12 'When freedom vibrations hit you, watch out they dont lead to freedom for corrupt human nature.'
p15 'Many girls, as a result, are casting their pearls before swine.
"Strange New Gods"
p18 'Record sleeves reveal a great deal. Notice how some of their designs are increasingly concerned with demons The Devil is using subtle tactics today'
"Living together before marriage"
p30'...Sexual adventures outside marriage lead to destruction, degradation, disgust and disillusionment'
"For those who have already experimented with Sex"
p36 'But if you have already had sexual intercourse, don't think you're a write-off as far as God in concerned...
God still loves you... Is it hard for you to ask God to blot out these affairs? He will do it, if you ask him through Jesus Christ. If you dont understand this language, ask so some Christian friend to explain it.
p49 'You live in a sex-mad world, and we know that it makes it difficult for you. We only want to help you not to become a slave to the habit'.
p55" The danger for you is that practising homosexuals are very aggressive, not only in order to get equal rights but also in order to satisfy sexual desire by seducing people into this way of life who were not bom homosexuals.
. . . But the Bible calls it 'unnatural'
Gods words ... 'Be fruitful and increase' show that it is right to call homosexual activity 'unnatural'
Jesus Christ can deliver the homosexual. Instead of exercising his tendencies the homosexual must turn away from his sin!!