Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37, No 21. August 28, 1974
It is high time that New Zealanders dispelled the myth that local literature is sub-world standard. Robin Dudding's quarterly, apart from being well established in New Zealand's literary scene, is capable of holding its own on world standards.
One of the most interesting contributions is a story by Malcolm Eraser: 'The Legend of the Lost Mythology'. Since the First man of letters stepped on shore. New Zealand has consistantly complained of the lack of a mythological background. In this realistic story Fraser has suggested more of a possibility than perhaps he originally thought. It would be well in New Zealand's interest to have more written on this subject.
After reading the book I was overcome with desperation. Yes, the stories are excellently written, packed with novel and diverse thoughts, yet the total effect is morbid and desolate.
One such story that catches the imagination is Anne Spivey's 'The Panther's Dream'. The story takes a worn out theme of a woman who lost her lover, and when her relations develop finds that she will never be able to forget him, and treats it in an imaginative, lyrical style. The theme is expressed in a dialogue between a panther and a dwarf in a hostile and vicious manner. The effect is psychologically shaking.
As well as keeping New Zealand informed on what hat been accomplished the quarterly keeps current what major works are in progress. Autumn Islands contains two extracts from work in progress, CK. Stead's 'Voiture d'Occasion' and Frank Sargeson's 'Brixton'. 'Brixton' shows promise of a good publication, yet it is 'Voiture d'Occasion' that is more interesting. This story has a supernatural element. Stead plays with a mixture of dream and reality, confused more by the constant disruption of time sequence. Here's hoping that the book is as good as the extract.
Michael Henderson's contributions stick strictly to the term 'short story'. Anyone who has ever read a short story and been put to sleep because of its length need not fear the same fate reading 'The Last News of the Day' and 'The Parrots Nest'. These stories indicate Henderson's versatility. Last News deals with the clash between a world of imagination and the practical life leaving the readers not too sure whether it is them or the characters that are insane, or just merely lacking a deeper meaning for life. 'The Parrots Nest' is a good political satire, shades of Chile. It gives a sense of unconcern brought to a concluding climax. 'Opera is banned, but the executions are good, if you're there to sec them'.
Murray Edmond's 'Four Prose Poems' provide a welcome relief. The words flow lyrically and the images are powerful and emotive, yet one wonders just how much influence Janet Frame has over them.
A brief resume of the other contributors includes; Patricia Grace — 'Between Earth and Sky' which catches the moods and attitudes of a woman in child birth. Yvonne Du Fresne — 'Christmas', basically a moan about the lack of a husband by an old maid! 'Charity Chief by Owen Leeming, which seemed overly preoccupied with sex. Fiona Kidman — 'The Torch' reflecting an immigrants lost world. Howard Press — 'Man in a Wardrobe' dealing with adultery and the attitudes to it showing a general lack of caring. Helen Shaw — 'The Gypsies'. M.J. Morrissey 'Raking Up the Past' — beware 'short' short story readers, Ian Wedde — 'The Porch' dealing with marital relations. And Lynda Scarth — 'Conflict' and 'Annunciata' another 'short story' contributor.
The climax of the anthology comes with John Graham's 'The Sotto Voce Man'. The story deals with that famous invention of Thomas Crapper and the attempts of Otto Brown to amuse himself while disposing of the 'ordure of time'. The graphic itself is guaranteed to hold your amusement for at least a minute. If dissatisfied with the guarantee read the story. Woe betide the completion of Otto's crapper bassoon.
New Zealand has much to boast of in her literary heritage, and should take a lively interest in her contemporaries. It is quite easy to look forward to the next publication of Islands.