Scoop Review of Books

Archive for September, 2012

Atomic Madness

Mad on Radium: New Zealand in the Atomic Age
by Rebecca Priestley. Auckland University Press, 2012, 284 pp. $45

Reviewed by Simon Nathan
New Zealanders are proud of their nuclear-free stance and our green, “100% pure” image. So it comes as a surprise for many people to realise that only a generation ago there was widespread enthusiasm for New Zealand to be part of the nuclear club. In 1966 I was delighted to get my first job as a young geologist with the DSIR, looking for uranium on the West Coast. Within my working life, attitudes have changed so much that prospecting and mining uranium are now banned in this country.

The publisher’s blurb rather misleadingly labels this book an alternative history of nuclear New Zealand. Not so – to date this is the only comprehensive account of New Zealand’s nuclear story, documenting the way public attitudes have changed over the years. It is a work of considerable scholarship, based on a PhD study, but is easily accessible. As a popular columnist, Rebecca Priestley has the gift of making complex issues understandable, and the story she tells is fascinating.

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Dance of the Rams’ Penises

Touchstones: Memories of People and Place
by James McNeish. Vintage, $30.

Reviewed by Richard Thomson

In his memoir Touchstones James McNeish starts by picaresquely evading autobiography, while deploying his considerable storytelling abilities in the service of steely control over how much of himself he will reveal.

’Godstrewth, Jamie,’ his father bursts out, in an immediate and marvellous manoeuvre of distraction. It turns out Dad’s been staring at a ram’s penis ‘of the most enormous proportions’.

So, having established a comparative subtext of paternal disappointment, our hero sets out for Europe at the end of the 1950s aboard a Norwegian freighter. A series of adventures follows, which allow McNeish to create character sketches of the people he met and who helped to make ‘me what I am, as a writer’. He is I think correct to assume that they are all – despite or because of their narrative function as yet more rams’ penises – vastly more intriguing than the callow youth from Remuera.

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Book release : September 2012 – North to the Apricots

Press Release – Writes Hill Press

The escape stories of Sergeant Bruce Crowley dcm New Zealand prisoner of war in Greece and Germany 1941-1943 as told to Julia Millen Writes Hill Press for Bocoman Ltd, Wellington, 2012 • ISBN 978-0-473-21416-6 Click for big version. Read more »

A Bible of New Zealand Sound-Makers

Erewhon Calling – Experimental Sound in New Zealand
Edited by Bruce Russell. In association with Richard Francis and the (CMR and Audio Foundation, 2012)

Reviewed by Sarah Jane Parton
In Erewhon Calling – Experimental Sound in New Zealand, editor Bruce Russell repeatedly states that the aim for this book was not to create a comprehensive survey of sound art and experimental music in New Zealand. I can’t help but wonder if he is being intentionally self-deprecating, as a reflection the national cultural tendency that he so accurately identifies: “we regard boasting about (or even referring to) one’s own achievements as the height of ill-breeding.” Is he scared of offending those he has neglected to mention? Is he fending off anticipated criticism? I can’t quite figure it out because, as far as I can tell, this is the most comprehensive survey anyone could hope to achieve. This is the Bible of sound art and experimental music in New Zealand. Read more »

Upcoming Book on Valerie Adams – Valerie, with Phil Gifford

Press Release – Hachette NZ Ltd

Valerie with Phil Gifford The story of one of New Zealand’s greatest sporting champions and much-loved Olympian Read more »

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