Scoop Review of Books

Archive for September, 2013

Aotearoa’s Anarchic History

Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism and Early New Zealand Anarchism by Jared Davidson. (AK Press 2013)
Reviewed by Cameron Walker

Anarchism is an often misunderstood ideology. Proponents of anarchism believe in full equality between humans, the abolition of hierarchy and argue that workers’ collectives are a better form of human organisation than the state and the capitalist system. Sometimes the ideology is referred to as libertarian socialism or libertarian communism.
In the early Twentieth Century, newspaper reports and authority figures in many countries promoted an image of anarchists as terrorist bombers and nihilists. At the time socialist and union movements, with a large militant anarchist component, were challenging employers and governments in a number of countries across the World including the United States, Spain and Argentina. Anarchist writers and activists, such as Emma Goldman of the US and Peter Kropotkin from Russia became known around the World. Read more »

A Slice of Life

The Fall of Light by Sarah Laing (Random House, $37.99)
Reviewed by C P Howe

FallofLightIn The Fall of Light, Sarah Laing has moved away from the more complex structure of her first novel Dead People’s Music – with its shifts in time and place – to a more straightforward approach, narrated by the main character, Rudy. Rudy is in his forties, and is an architect and a purist. Estranged from his wife Yasmin, he has an accident on his scooter and this is what kicks off a story of growing self-doubt, fall from grace and journey back to redemption.

If you’ve seen Nothing Trivial or The Insider’s Guide to Happiness on TV, it’s easy to imagine some of the shows’ characters as the cast of The Fall of Light. There are well-to-do professionals, their longstanding, charismatic but disreputable artistic friends, young alternative types, and hard-working and worthy immigrants. Typical urban New Zealand? Yes, for a certain audience, and Laing succeeds in showing us that particular slice of contemporary New Zealand life.
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The Spirit of Sailing

How to Sail a Boat by Matt Vance (Awa Press, $26)
Reviewed by Bill Nelson

G13Sailcoveriii_Mar6 The latest in Awa Press’ “Ginger How-to Series”, How to Sail a Boat is a memoirish journey through the culture and sub-cultures of sailing: everything from what it feels like to race down stormy ocean swells to the delight of a sedate afternoon jaunt with friends.

There is nothing how-to about this book, however, and you won’t find knot-tying guides nor diagrams of little triangular boats going in all directions. This is a why-we-do-it book or a stir-your-adventurous-spirit book.

As a lapsed sailor, I probably fall into one of Vance’s lesser categories of sailor who talk more than they do, or leaf dreamily through boats-for-sale sections. I won’t apologise for that except to say, after reading How to Sail I suddenly feel the urge to get myself a racing dinghy again or get on to that childhood dream of cruising across the Pacific. A dream I thought I had left behind with childhood.
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Family Secrets

A History of Silence: a Memoir by Lloyd Jones
Penguin Books, RRP: $38

Reviewed by Simon NathanHistSilence-001

The first page of this book contains a geological quotation from my colleagues Hamish Campbell and Gerard Hutching: “Faults may appear haphazard, but they are never random. There is always a hidden control or reason for their presence….”. It seemed a strange choice, but the meaning gradually became clear as Lloyd Jones painstakingly pieces together the story of his family, and discovers some of the relationships that his parents never understood or explained.

As always, Lloyd Jones writes wonderful evocative prose, and it was easy for me to identify with some of his experiences. Like him I am also an ‘autumn leaf’, born much later than my siblings, and brought up almost as an only child after the older ones have left home. I work only a few hundred metres away from 20 Stellin Street where the Jones family lived, and know many of the places he describes in Lower Hutt, Wellington and Christchurch. And I have been involved with family research, which so often seems like doing a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing.

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