Title: The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Author: Joan Stevens

Publication details: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 1966

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Sylvia Johnston

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Chapter 3 (pp. 35-49)

Chapter 3 (pp. 35-49)

1. "Tutira is recalling and exploring experience, with a view to realising its meaning. By contrast, many New Zealand romances are merely picture-makers for what is behind their readers' daydreams, and make no exploration at all."

Would you agree with that judgment?

2. Is it still true today that, as A. R. D. Fairburn puts it in the poem quoted at the head of the chapter, the young man who is "enterprising and able" must "get out"? Which of our contemporary writers have made "the long migration"?

3. Would it be just to say that Nelle Scanlan's Pencarrow series is "exploiting", not "interpreting" New Zealand life?

4. In The Uses of Literacy, 1957, Richard Hoggart devotes some time to a discussion of popular fiction. Some of his comments are— "These publications must aim to hold their readers at a level of passive acceptance, at which they never really ask a question, but happily take what is provided . . . There must be no significant disturbing of assumptions . . . [This is] not the attitude to language of the creative writer, trying to mould words into a shape which will bear the peculiar quality of his experience, . . . but a facility with thousands of stock phrases which will set the figures moving on the highly conventionalised stage of their readers' imaginations."

How far is this verdict applicable to New Zealand light fiction? page 152 Lee, of course, had nineteenth-century social novels in mind, such books as Bleak House (Dickens) or Mary Barton (Mrs Gaskell). More recent writers who have written about teenage delinquency are more sophisticated in their technical approach. Nevertheless, useful comparisons may be made with Ian Cross's The God Boy, James Farrell's Studs Lonigan, Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy, Joyce Cary's Charley is My Darling, J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.