The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965
Recognisable. Some light fiction offers us a picture of contemporary life for its own sake, using amused recognition rather than mystery or drama for its supporting structure. Such are the two novels of R. L. Bacon, In the Sticks, 1963, and Along the Road, 1964, based on the actual tribulations of a solecharge teacher in a remote district. In spite of a tendency to caricature, Bacon is observant, and on the whole unsentimental.
Michael Davis began with a series of farcical sketches, Mutton on the Menu, 1962 (what a Mary Scott title!), but in The Watersiders, 1964, produced a more realistic novel set in the unfamiliar world of the "seagulls" of the Napier wharves, where he worked two years for copy. The authenticity of the book carries it over weaknesses in technique. J. Edward Brown has a real subject, too, in Luck of the Islands, 1963; he tells of a Rarotongan family who come to Auckland. He misses his opportunity however, and presents his Polynesians only in a series of comedy cliches. Barry Crump has continued his headlong hardcase Kiwi career with Hang on a Minute Mate, 1961, One of Us, 1962, Scrapwaggon, 1965, and others. Gordon Dryland's An Absence of Angels, 1965, is a comedy of contemporary life in which the hero, a culture-conscious librarian, is attracted to Angela, model, scriptwriter and ex-wife of a poet. It is a witty exposure of pseudo-artistic circles.
One unpretentious story reminds us of the "preaching" novels of the 1890s. It is His Own Enemy, 1965, by "S.S.", which deserves individual mention here for the sincerity of its purpose and the fidelity of its detail. It tells of the rehabilitation of an alcoholic.