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Archive for November, 2012

Life After Death

Life After Death: The Shocking True Story of an Innocent Man on Death Row by Damien Echols (Text Publishing, $40)
Reviewed by Kelly Bold

It’s hard not to bristle with impotent ire at the injustices meted out to Damien Echols. As the so-called ringleader of the “West Memphis Three”, he withered in an Arkansas Death Row cell for 18 years for the supposedly satanic killings of three eight-year-old boys: a crime he did not commit, of which there was not a scrap of evidence linking him or his two co-accused to, and for which he was blatantly set up by corrupt police.

What happened next almost reads like a soap-opera storyline, but it was real life – Damien’s real life. A determined woman named Lorri Davis became his pen pal, then tireless freedom crusader, then wife. She gave up her New York life to move near to him for visits of just three hours a week – all the while working relentlessly to clear his name, pulling in global superstars like our own Sir Peter Jackson, Johnny Deep and Eddie Vedder to her campaign, and in August 2011, securing his release.
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The father of New Zealand geology

Hochstetter Collection Basel, Part 1: New Zealand Paintings and Drawings by Sascha Nolden and Sandy B. Nolden (Mente Corde Manu Publishing, $124, available from mente.corde.manu@gmail.com)
Reviewed by Simon Nathan

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Ferdinand Hochstetter was just 29 when he arrived in in New Zealand at the tail end of 1858 as the geologist on Austria’s scientific expedition around the world. He spent the next eight months travelling widely around Auckland and Nelson provinces with his compatriot, Julius Haast, recording and interpreting the biological and geological features of the country they passed through.

After Hochstetter returned to Vienna, he published books, research papers and maps about New Zealand, and encouraged his scientific colleagues to work on his New Zealand collections. For the 25 years after his visit he corresponded regularly with Haast, who stayed in New Zealand, and followed developments Downunder with interest. Hochstetter’s work is still held in high regard, and he is widely regarded as the father of New Zealand geology.
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Peace on Earth

Making Peace with the Earth by Vandana Shiva (Spinifex, $A36.95; order online from Spinifex.com.au)
Reviewed by Marlene Ware

In this book based on her 2010 Sydney Peace Prize lecture, Vandana Shiva passionately articulates her vision of a sustainable world.

The book is divided into two sections. The first is titled ‘Wars against the Earth’ and covers ‘eco-apartheid’, the ‘great land grab’, as well as water, climate and forest wars. The second section, ‘Food Crises, Food Justice and Food Peace’, looks at hunger by design, seed wars and corporate-controlled trade. Her conclusion, ‘Beyond Growth’, discusses ways to make peace with the earth.
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Falling down a Wishing Well

Three Days in a Wishing Well by Kerrin P. Sharpe (Victoria University Press, $25)
Reviewed by Sienna Latham

What would it be like to spend three days in a wishing well? Cold, certainly. Dark and damp — the kind of damp that seeps into your bones and stays there, even during the brief summertime interval when you’d get a fleeting glimpse of the sun crossing the tiny circle of sky you can spy. It would be lonely, too, with only the curved stone walls and a periscope of light and slick rocky mirrors for company. But you’d have your wishes. Your hopes.

In her debut collection, Christchurch poet Kerrin P. Sharpe invites us to imagine ourselves inside the wishing well, peering up at the craggy hands holding coins to drop in, the symbols etched onto their faces and the dreams they embody. Like dream language, her wistful, wish-full poems rely upon a surreal, stream-of-consciousness style that borrows from familiar syntax then twists it slightly, finding a new angle and lending a new perspective. Read more »

The King and His Fayre Lady

Soon by Charlotte Grimshaw (Random House, $37.99)
Reviewed by Ruth Brassington

I haven’t read Charlotte Grimshaw until now. I know she lives in Auckland, has written “four critically acclaimed novels” called Provocation, Guilt, Foreign City and The Night Book, and has several awards for her writing. And I believe some of the characters in Soon have appeared before. But I came to this book fresh and found it a stand-alone read.

I like mystery novels, and this one is a bit old-fashioned in that it reminded me of both Iris Murdoch and C P Snow, the former because of the intricate interconnections between characters, and the latter because of the conversations between “important” men. For all that, it’s very much a New Zealand novel, and Grimshaw owns her depictions of dangerously vacuous women with strong, baseless views. Read more »

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