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Rite of Passage

Book Review
The Fell
by Robert Jenkins (RedDoor Publishing, 2019)
Reviewed by Johnny Tell

410khbegzulVery recently I posted a review for this novel on Goodreads.com and make no apology for posting another here. It is my intention to ensure The Fell finds as wide a readership as possible. It matters that much.

The Fell is tagged as a debut novel by Robert Jenkins and RedDoor Publishing, but the quality of its craftwork suggests otherwise.  I would like  to know more about the author but his bio tells us little.

The Fell reads like a classic of literary fiction, a rite of passage that stands testing against any previous work. I suspect, in time, if it finds its feet,  it will rank alongside the likes of The Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies. Actually, for readers today, this will eclipse them. They are vanilla in comparison.

To be fair, in comparison Fight Club is tame and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest is set in a normal and well-run institution.

The Fell reeks of lived experience and is in places harsh, brutal and disturbing, but also poetic, subtle, tender and clever. I suspect for many readers it will be almost too subtle, an entire life-changing event is distilled into a single line. “I let him have me all”, is all we hear about the boy narrator’s first experience of homosexuality. A line referencing a hilariously inappropriate folk song catches you unawares until it percolates and then stuns with how very appropriate it really is. His view of old people in a park is heartbreakingly on the money.

Sometimes confusion, honesty and raw experience are encapsulated in a single word and the simplicity of language used by the young character is employed perfectly.

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Excerpt: ‘200 Women’: Marama Fox

Excerpt / Release
200 Women
Ruth Hobday, Geoff Blackwell, and Kieran Scott (distributed by Upstart Press, $75 RRP | Website: http://www.twohundredwomen.com/)

*****

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Marama Fox was born in Hamilton, New Zealand. She has taught at Māori-language immersion schools aimed at fostering an understanding of Māori language, culture and wisdom, and in public secondary schools. Fox was an advisor to the Ministry of Education before being elected to the New Zealand Parliament in 2014; she is a representative* and co-leader of the Māori Party.

Q: What really matters to you?

Our Māori children – I went into politics to help our nation remember how to love our children. It is time to correct the disparity that exists between Māori and Pākehā – between indigenous New Zealanders and those descended from European settlers. People have to listen to the realities of what it means to be Māori, so that we can develop and implement better policies that help our children realise their aspirations. I want our children to know how great they are – to stand up and embrace the greatness of their ancestors and their achievements. So, I am paving the way for my children’s generation to take back their narrative.

For a long time, I myself held negative perceptions of my people and thought I had a great Western education; I learned about Elizabeth I and about the wonderful settlers who colonised New Zealand. I had intended to go to university, but I had a baby instead. It was when I took my son to kōhanga reo that I was exposed to a Māori world view. Kōhanga reo is a Māori language nest – a pre-school – hosted by our elders in an effort to revive our language. They invite mothers to bring their children along to be spoken to in te reo Māori and to be schooled in the knowledge of our people. It felt like someone had taken off the top of my head with a can opener and had started pouring in all this knowledge. Oh, my gosh, my brain!

Images copyright © 2017 Kieran E. Scott kieranscottphotography.com

Images copyright © 2017 Kieran E. Scott kieranscottphotography.com

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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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Excerpt: Ice Bear

Excerpt / Release
Ice Bear: The cultural history of an arctic icon
by Michael Engelhard (University of Washington Press, paper, $US29.95)

 

ice_bear_cover_600If art’s mission is to change public perceptions or to transcend established practices, it can no longer be apolitical, unaware of social or economic currents. The creators of an exhibit that examines the “cultural afterlife” of taxidermised polar bears (nanoq: flat out and bluesome, by Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson) sum up a rather recent shift in our attitudes toward their subject: “During the last decade the image of the polar bear has moved in the public imagination from being an icon of strength, independence and survival in one of the most climatically extreme of world environments, to that of fragility, vulnerability and more generally of a global environmental crisis.”

Donald Gialanella’s 'Spirit of the North,' concept for a sixty-foot sculpture welded from scrap automobiles for a downtown park in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Donald Gialanella)

Donald Gialanella’s ‘Spirit of the North,’ concept for a sixty-foot sculpture welded from scrap automobiles for a downtown park in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Donald Gialanella)

Their latest project, Matrix, focuses on the bears’ maternity dens in Svalbard, “perfectly adapted model[s] for habitat in the arctic environment.” Since the Rodin pupil Francois Pompon’s L’Ours Blanc (1922), the language of polar bear art has changed, as have its approaches. Read more »