A walk down memory lane – NZ Collection Recent Picks

This month the New Zealand Collection takes a walk down memory lane with two writers reflecting on the New Zealand of their childhoods. We also get a look into the lives of conservation stalwart Alan Mark and filmmaker Geoff Murphy. Design and art feature in books on vintage paua jewellery and the Wellington based WOW phenomenon. An historical whodunit set in Taranaki at a time of uneasy race relations in the 1880’s and a blog written by a dying father for his unborn daughter bring this New Zealand Collection recent arrivals almost to an end but in light of the upcoming weekend of Rugby world cup finals the last two picks are both All Black focused.

Syndetics book coverTaking my mother to the opera / Diane Brown.
“Many readers will recognise the New Zealand so vividly portrayed here, as Brown marshals deeply personal events and childhood memories in a delightfully astute, understated personal memoir.” (Abridged back cover)

Syndetics book coverThe dreaming land / Martin Edmond.
“In the evocative prose that makes him one of our finest writers, Martin Edmond recalls his experiences of growing up in rural New Zealand in the 1950s and 60s. The son of schoolteachers, Edmond’s early life was shaped by his father’s developing career and the moves it dictated: from Ohakune, to Greytown, to Huntly, to Heretaunga. The Dreaming Land shows us the making of a thinker and a writer. Edmond documents the people, locations, and events that made a lasting impression on him, and maps the development of his mental landscape, a landscape marked by curiosity, empathy and the capacity for acute observation.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA life on film / Geoff Murphy.
“‘I’m taking this bloody car to Invercargill!’ It was the line that had cinema audiences cheering. Goodbye Pork Pie became an instant classic, and announced the arrival of a major new talent in director Geoff Murphy. With his next two films, Utu and The Quiet Earth, he cemented his reputation as a pioneer of New Zealand cinema. He’d come a long way from his days as a struggling school teacher, and then a member of a madcap band of merry pranksters known as Blerta, founded by his great friend and collaborator Bruno Lawrence. But it was the same sense of adventure – with a healthy dose of Kiwi ingenuity – that defined every stage of his career. In this candid and funny memoir, Geoff Murphy looks back on a life in (and on) film – from do-it-yourself shoots in the 1960s to epic work on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStanding my ground : a voice for nature conservation / Alan F. Mark
“For more than five decades, Alan Mark has been a voice for conservation in New Zealand. From his call in the 1960s for the establishment of tussock-grassland reserves in the South Island high country to his involvement in the 2011–13 campaign to save the Denniston Plateau from mining, he has been a passionate and effective advocate for the preservation of areas of ecological importance. In Standing My Ground, Alan describes the challenges and achievements, the frustrations and successes that have made up his remarkable life, now in its ninth decade. As well as providing an important record of New Zealand’s conservation battles and documenting the life of an outstanding New Zealander, Standing My Ground is an inspiring reminder of the power of individuals to make a difference.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverVintage paua shell jewellery : art souvenir, tourist kitsch, Kiwi icon / Elly van de Wijdeven.
“All vintage jewellery is collectible and none more so than that made from paua shell. No longer regarded as the tourist kitsch of yesteryear, the book explores this fascinating history and shares the many stories of how and why it came to be produced and by whom, and also who bought it and for what reason, whether as a souvenir of New Zealand or to commemorate a special place or event. The accompanying narrative traces its roots from the Classic pre-European Maori period, through the years of its main production in New Zealand from the 1920s to the 1980s, before the market was flooded by cheap, mass-produced imports, to its present status as Kiwi icon.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWorld of WearableArt : 30 designers tell their stories / text by Naomi Arnold.
“First book from the World of WearableArt with a serious text that focuses on the designers and their stories. Unprecedented interest in WOW, now in its 27th year, with an annual audience of over 45,000 attending the Awards Show in Wellington. Very appealing as an inspirational book for artists, designers, students and craftspeople.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe many deaths of Mary Dobie : murder, politics and revenge in nineteenth-century New Zealand / David Hastings.
“‘Shocking outrage’, the Evening Post in Wellington when they learned in November 1880 that a young woman called Mary Dobie had been found lying under a flax bush near Ōpunake on the Taranaki coast with her throat cut so deep her head was almost severed. In the midst of tensions between Māori and Pākehā, the murder ignited questions: Pākehā feared it was an act of political terrorism in response to the state’s determination to take the land of the tribes in the region. Māori thought it would be the cue for the state to use force against them, especially the pacifist settlement at Parihaka. Was it rape or robbery, was the killer Māori or Pākehā? In this book, David Hastings takes us back to that lonely road on the Taranaki coast in nineteenth-century New Zealand.” (Adapted from Publisher information)

Syndetics book coverMessage to my girl : a dying father’s powerful legacy of hope / Dr Jared Noel with David W. Williams.
“Doctor Jared Noel knew he was dying for almost six years, from the age of 25. But when it looked as though he would not live to see the birth of his child, he began a Givealittle crowd-funding campaign to raise money for a course of chemo treatment that would keep him alive long enough to meet his unborn child. This remarkable campaign, covered by nationwide media, raised an incredible $170,000 in two days. Jared not only lived to see Elise born but also enjoyed her first nine months. Jared’s blog, initially written to alleviate boredom during rounds of chemotherapy, attracted hundreds of thousands of readers. This is Jared’s story, but it is also a profound meditation on life and death, and everything in between.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLegends in black : New Zealand rugby greats on why we win / Tom Johnson with Andy Martin, Geoff Watson and Margot Butcher.
“In the world of rugby, the All Blacks have an unsurpassed legacy of success. We are the best of the best. Legends in Black comprises frank, no-holds-barred interviews with New Zealand rugby greats, each sharing their thoughts on every aspect of what it means to be an All Black: first selection, the haka, international and provincial rugby, professionalism, team culture, camaraderie, technical advances, coaching and leadership. A one-of-a-kind account of New Zealand rugby, Legends in Black draws on unprecedented access to some of the biggest names in the game – revealing the secrets to why we win.” (Abridged Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBlack obsession : the All Blacks’ quest for World Cup success / Gregor Paul.
“This thought-provoking book is a search for answers to the vexing phenomenon of why the world’s undisputed greatest rugby team can’t win the World Cup. It is an in-depth investigation that explores how societal change, combined with the arrival of professionalism, has impacted on the ability of the All Blacks to perform on the biggest stage. The end result is a compelling and authoritative read that gives the most detailed and comprehensive answer to a question everyone has asked but no one has ever satisfactorily answered.” (Abridged Syndetics summary)

NZ Collection Recent Picks

Roses are red, violets are blue, here’s some New Zealand poetry and some other topics too! A mixture of poetry, caravans, horses, New Zealand Women, exploration, jewellery and murder cover some of the variety of topics of the recent arrivals in the New Zealand Collection this month.

Syndetics book coverBeing here : selected poems / Vincent O’Sullivan.
“BEING HERE is the first book to survey the entire span of Vincent O’Sullivan’s poetry, from Bearings (1973) to new poems first published in this volume. On display is the full range of the wit, intellectual agility and arresting beauty of one of New Zealand literature’s finest poets. Hardback, Cover painting by Karl Maughan Vincent O’Sullivan is one of New Zealand’s leading writers, author of the biography of John Mulgan, Long Journey to the Border, the novels Let the River Stand and Believers to the Bright Coast, and many plays and collections of short stories and poems. He is joint editor of the five-volume Letters of Katherine Mansfield and has edited a number of major anthologies. He lives in Dunedin.” (Abridged Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJerusalem sonnets, love, Wellington Zoo / David Beach.
“In his fourth collection David Beach tackles a subject inescapable for any New Zealander writing sonnets; a subject inescapable for any writer of sonnets at all; and a subject which is just inescapable.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhistling in the dark / John O’Connor.
“Whistling in the Dark comprises two approximately equal sections: (1) poems and (2) prose poems; both sections were written between 1994 and 2012. The poems cover a range of topics and themes and include ‘Mother and Child’, the winning poem of the Poetry Society’s International Poetry Competition, 2006. All poems have been previously published in magazines, journals and anthologies. The prose poems are, more accurately, a combination of prose poems and hybrid forms of the prose poem. As such they represent a departure from the standard prose poem as found in NZ and international journals and magazines. Again, there is a range of topics and themes and most of the pieces have been previously published in magazines, journals and anthologies. Whistling in the Dark is the 11th book of poems by John O’Connor.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDear Neil Roberts / Airini Beautrais.
“It is November 18, 1982. Neil Ian Roberts is 22 years old. He walks up to the Police Computer Centre in Whanganui, at 12.35am. Who was Neil Roberts? This is the search for the story of a quiet young man, an anarchist, a figure who moves differently, or vanishes altogether, in different versions of history. How are such people remembered; how are they forgotten? As much a work of documentary as poetry, this extraordinary book considers the uncomfortable event of Neil Roberts’s death, its significance in the context of 1980s New Zealand, and how this action has reverberated through others’ lives, including the poet’s own.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA great indoors for the great outdoors : the story of Liteweight caravans / Don Jessen.
“In 1946, a practical-minded New Zealander became interested in caravans as a way of holidaying and decided to build one for his family in his garage. From this humble beginning a story of Kiwi ingenuity emerged, with Liteweight Caravans growing to become an iconic New Zealand brand, which for over four decades led the country, and sometimes the world, in technical design and innovation. Liteweight produced more caravans than any other caravan manufacturer in New Zealand and, today, more than 25 years after the factory closed, the majority of its caravans are still in use. This is a story as much about people as it is of caravans, and the person at the heart of the story is Tek Jessen, Liteweight¿s founder.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBridled passion : a tribute to our Kiwi equestrians / Margot Butcher.
“New Zealand equestrians riding high have become a regular source of pride for Kiwis. Bridled Passion is a beautiful compendium dedicated to celebrating the 30-year success story of New Zealand’s best equestrian sportspeople and their fine-tuned steeds. From 1960 Olympics pioneer Andrew White through to the magic medal-winning moments of Sir Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson, Sally Clark, Blyth Tait, Tinks Pottinger, Vaughn Jefferis and their contemporaries, this book celebrates New Zealand’s high-performance equestrian story; the riders and horses through whose exploits we have discovered the thrill of a fast, clean cross-country and the agony of a clipped rail!” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNiue 1774-1974 : 200 years of contact and change / Margaret Pointer.
“Tiny Niue lies alone in the south Pacific, a single island with formidable cliffs rising from the deep ocean. Far from the main shipping routes and with a daunting reputation, “Savage Island” did not naturally invite visitors. Yet Niue has a surprisingly rich history of contact, from the brief landings by James Cook in 1774 through to the 19th-century visits by whalers, traders, and missionaries, and into the 20th century when New Zealand extended its territory to include the Cook Islands and Niue. Using a wide range of archival material from Niue, New Zealand, Australia, and Britain, Margaret Pointer places Niue center stage in an entertaining and thoroughly readable account of this island nation through to 1974, when Niue became self-governing.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKobi Bosshard : goldsmith / Damian Skinner.
“A survey of the work and ideas of a leading New Zealand jeweller who has been critical to the development of studio craft in Aotearoa. Born in Switzerland, Kobi Bosshard came to New Zealand in 1961. His expertise as a traditionally trained goldsmith is centre stage in this beautifully illustrated book, which is published as part of Objectspace’s Masters of Craft series. Written by art historian Damian Skinner, it provides a perceptive and informative discussion of Bosshard’s life and work, describing over five decades of contemporary jewellery that explores the possibilities of the craftsperson’s role in creating sophisticated and unique objects for people to wear and own.” (Inside front cover)

Syndetics book coverDumont d’Urville : explorer & polymath / Edward Duyker.
“Explorer Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont d’Urville (1790-1842) is sometimes called France’s Captain Cook. Born less than a year after the beginning of the French Revolution, he lived through turbulent times. He was an erudite polymath: a maritime explorer fascinated by botany, entomology, ethnography and the diverse languages of the world.” (Dust jacket)

Syndetics book coverAll those yesterdays / Elspeth Biss. “This is a story many New Zealand women – particularly those who grew up in the country – will identify with. Elspeth Biss was brought up on Hawke’s Bay farms in the 1940’s; attended boarding school in the 1950’s; trained as a nurse, married and had her children in the 1960’s. As she writes: The 1960’s may well have been ‘The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius’, as the popular song had it, with the Beatles, Mary Quant and the mini-skirt, but for me and most of my friends it was a decade of child raising, washing nappies, Plunket and kindergartens.” (Abridged Back Cover)

Syndetics book coverMurder that wasn’t : the case of George Gwaze / Felicity Goodyear-Smith.
“This book tells the story of the case of Zimbabwean-born New Zealand resident George Gwaze, twice charged and twice acquitted of the rape and murder of his 10-year-old adopted niece, Charlene Makaza. When Charlene was found unconscious one morning, gasping for breath, with a high fever and lying in a pool of diarrhea, her family rushed her to the Christchurch 24-hour clinic. She was treated for overwhelming sepsis and transferred to the hospital, but sadly her life could not be saved. What unfolds next is a surreal set of events so improbable that they seem fictitious. Murder That Wasn’t meticulously explores the facts surrounding this case based on scientific, medical, and court records and individual interviews to tell this family’s extraordinary story.” (Syndetics summary)