Scoop Review of Books

Archive for February, 2016

(Being) Māori

For someone I love – a collection of writing by Arapera Blank (Anton Blank Ltd, 2015)
Crimson by Marino Blank (Anton Blank Ltd, 2014)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

crimsonI will start off with a writer who most certainly deserves our renewed attention, the late Arapera Blank, who passed in 2002. The compilation here presented is full of love: not only from her son’s excellent hard-cover product, replete with photos of whānau me aroha, whānau ki te aroha permeating everywhere, but also within the pages of Arapera’s poems, five short stories and five non-fiction pieces; although she certainly could write with an acerbic slice if necessary. The compilation exudes love for her photographer husband, Pius Blank, more particularly displayed in the earlier stages – just take a look at the front cover, where a very happy couple manifest this. It is easy to see why the title and the first titular poem is For someone I love; given that later on Blank steers away from such romantic expressions of aroha toward Pius and moves into a graphic representation of places and then into quite philosophical pronouncements regarding what makes a Māori.

Anton and Marino Blank (his sister), as editors here of their mother’s work, also have ensured a thematic approach in that the poems especially, tend to run in sequences of similar subject matter: all very professional throughout.

Arapera is a damned good writer in both languages, often side-by-side on the same page: clear, concise, well-balanced, mature and her being awarded the 1959 Katherine Mansfield Memorial Competition in 1959 and her consistently good work in Te Ao Hou exemplify this aspect. There are also ample explanatory Notes included to explain the specific kupu [words].

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Go East!

Paradise: Eastern Bay of Plenty
by Andrea Cooper and Nikki Slade Robinson (Mann Print, $25)
Reviewed by Alison McCulloch

cover loresI love the Eastern Bay of Plenty. I live next door, in the Western Bay of Plenty, and traveling from one to the other sometimes feels like traveling from the city to the countryside: it’s just so much bigger, wider, and emptier of people. So I devoured Andrea Cooper and Nikki Slade Robinson’s picture-heavy “Paradise: Eastern Bay of Plenty” in one sitting. It’s a small book (A5 or 21cm by 14.8cm to be precise) that the authors’ were prompted to put together after realizing there hadn’t been a book showcasing the region since the 1950s.

In a media release accompanying the release of “Paradise” last year, Cooper, a sculptor and painter, said that while working in retail, she’d often been asked for a book about the area, “and there just hasn’t been one available for as long as I can remember”. She and Slade-Robinson, an author and illustrator (and contributor to Scoop Review of Books) “got talking” and decided to make it happen. The effort was something of a community affair, with local sponsors and a photo competition last summer that provided some of the images.
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A Nurse at War

Petals and Bullets: Dorothy Morris, New Zealand Nurse in the Spanish Civil War
by Mark Derby (Potton & Burton, $39.99)
Reviewed by Alison McCulloch

Petals-&-Bullets_coverI’m sorry this is trite, but I couldn’t help think, while reading Mark Derby’s book about the wartime New Zealand nurse Dorothy Morris, that if only she’d played rugby she’d be so much better known.

There are scores of them – those exceptional yet neglected New Zealanders who, despite books like this one, will likely remain so, and for reasons too many to count (and not just because of their absence from the rugby field).

In Morris’s case, as Derby explains in the introduction to this short biography Petals and Bullets: Dorothy Morris, New Zealand nurse in the Spanish Civil War, those reasons include her forbidding publication of a biography while she was still alive, the wartime censorship and turmoil that prevented many of her letters from the warzone reaching their destination and, sadly, a decision by her sister to destroy a good chunk of those that did make it home apparently because she ran out of space to keep them.

Those are some big gaps in source material for any biographer to overcome, and if the introduction is anything to go by, Derby took some convincing to take the project on. In the end, though, it was the quality of the correspondence he did have access to that made the case: “vividly descriptive, fiercely polemic and historically fascinating…with a journalist’s eye for the telling detail”. Still, it took a lot of research both here and in archives overseas – for which Derby enlisted local help – to tell the story of this extraordinarily brave, terribly competent and possibly rather disagreeable woman.
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