Scoop Review of Books

Archive for May, 2017

What’s Fair?

Book Review | BWB Texts
Tax and Fairness
by Deborah Russell and Terry Baucher (BWB Texts, paper $14.99; e-book $4.99)
Reviewed by Peter Malcolm

bwb7890_tax_and_fairness_highres_awThis is an excellent and timely book, since apart from general statements about increasing or mostly reducing tax, there has been very little comment or debate as to whether we should pay tax at all and how much tax each of us should pay.

The authors have subtitled the book “we need to talk about why we pay taxes”, an important statement, although I believe they should have added “and how much should each of us pay”. The last couple of pages make an excellent case for “the why”, and the last two sentences encourage us to see our tax system in a more positive light:

“Proudly paying our taxes is a sign that we believe in our own capacity to create a flourishing society that gives all New Zealanders fair opportunities. We should smile when we pay our taxes.”

But what about the “Fairness”? The authors give little space to this critical question apart from the unfairness of an almost non-existence Capital Gains Tax. The question of tax scales, progressive or regressive tax systems, hardly rates a mention. Many commentators aruge that in comparison with most other developed countries our tax rates on the poor are heavy and the tax rates on the high income/wealthy are light. Is this fair?

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Individual Happiness Now

Book Review
Individual Happiness Now
by Len Lye and Robert Graves, with an introduction by Roger Horrocks (Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, $12)
Reviewed by Jan Rivers

individual-happiness-now-book-coverThe recent launch for the previously unpublished Individual Happiness Now by New Zealander Len Lye and UK academic and classicist Robert Graves by the Govett Brewster Gallery brings an essay first written in 1941 to a contemporary audience. Lye, who was living in Kent at the time, wrote it with bombers flying overhead towards London each night. It was edited, improved and toned down by Graves.  Lye was troubled that English propaganda about the fight against fascism failed to have the power, vibrancy and persuasiveness of the German variety in support of the Reich. At a time when some were advocating that being conquered might be tolerable he wanted to write something that countered this propaganda with a powerful statement about the freedoms offered by UK culture and society, guaranteed through its government, and to make the case that they were worth fighting for.

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2 Poems from ‘Manifesto Aotearoa’

Excerpt / Release
Manifesto Aotearoa: 101 Political Poems
Edited by Philip Temple & Emma Neale (Otago U Press, $35)

We are grateful to Otago University Press and to Maraea Rakuraku and Vaughan Rapatahana for permission to reproduce their poems below, just two of the 101 included in this collection. Click here for more information about the ‘Manifesto Aotearoa: 101 Political Poems.

For those of you who insist on using the term Te Urewera 17, 12 or 4 to accompany any newspaper headline or media soundbite. by Maraea Rakuraku

anglican prattle. by Vaughan Rapatahana



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Stealing Eyeballs

Book Review
The Attention Merchants: The epic scramble to get inside our heads
by Tim Wu (Penguin Random House, $50)
Reviewed by Alex Beattie

cover_attention_wuIn the 2016 sci-fi movie Arrival, there’s an intriguing scene that speculates about the effects of learning a new language. A linguist, played by Amy Adams, offers a theory that the language you speak determines how you think. Part of what makes Arrival fun is the implausible places it goes with this. But the idea – known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – is real and the lesson quite handy: language is a toolbox to unlock new perspectives.

If that’s the case, than Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants could change the way you see the Internet. It isn’t science-fiction, or about extra-terrestrials – rather, it’s a non-fiction book that offers a new language to understand the economics of the Internet. Reading it will alert you to how Internet really works, and make the whole online experience feel – well,  a little alien.


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Release: Brasch Journals

Charles Brasch Journals 1945-1957 selected by Peter Simpson (Otago U Press, $59.95)

brasch_coverThis volume of Charles Brasch’s journals covers the years from late 1945 to the end of 1957, when the poet and editor was aged 36 to 48. It begins with his return to New Zealand after World War II to establish a literary quarterly to be published by the Caxton Press. The journals cover the first decade or so of his distinguished editorship of Landfall, a role that brought Brasch into contact with New Zealand’s leading artists and intelligentsia.

‘Although a discreet and reserved man in public, Brasch was often candid and direct in his comments about people he met,’ says editor Peter Simpson.

They included many of the best known people of his generation – including Frank Sargeson, A.R.D. Fairburn, Keith Sinclair, Eric McCormick, James Bertram, J.C. Beaglehole, Maria Dronke, Fred and Evelyn Page, Alistair Campbell, Bill Oliver, Toss and Edith Woollaston, Denis Glover, Allen Curnow, Leo Bensemann, Lawrence Baigent, Ngaio Marsh, Colin McCahon, James K. Baxter, Janet Frame, Ruth Dallas and many others – and are among the highlights of the book.

Unmarried and longing for intimacy, Brasch also writes with great candour about his relationships with Rose Archdall, Rodney Kennedy and Harry Scott, revealing a side of himself that has not been known about before. Read more »