Scoop Review of Books

Articles News

Looking for Vampires in Vanuatu

By Scott Hamilton

Last month a couple of vampires knocked on my door. It was after eight o’clock in the evening, and I had fallen asleep, as the fathers of three small boys so often do, on the couch. I opened the door and swallowed my yawn in alarm when I saw the black robes and blood-speckled cheeks of my visitors. One of them opened his black lips, and revealed two long fangs. Saliva dripped from them, so that they resembled melting blebs of ice.

The vampires were short, and I wondered for a moment whether a diet of blood and a nocturnal lifestyle had stunted their growth. Then I noticed the plastic pumpkin emerging like a distended stomach from the robe of one of the vampires, and heard both of my visitors squeal ‘Trick or treat!’, and heard the same greeting echoing through the twilight from a neighbour’s porch. I remembered that it was October the 31st, Halloween, and that, across Auckland and the other cities of New Zealand, groups of kids were hurrying up and down streets pounding on doors, like Jehovah’s Witnesses or desperate insurance salesmen. I yawned again and wandered inside to look for some chocolate in the fridge.

In New Zealand and in many other Western nations, vampires are in fashion. Movies like the Twilight Saga, television series like Van Helsing and Preacher, and a slough-heap of novels all describe the dress, diet, and social codes of the creatures. Sam Neil’s movie Daybreakers made vampirism into a sophisticated allegory for a resource-hungry capitalist society, and professors of cultural studies and sociology are publishing books with titles like Blood will Tell: vampires as metaphors before World War One and Vampires Today: a study of the subculture.

Read more »

Author Q&A: Nikki Slade Robinson

On 8 June, the finalists in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced, and among them is a longtime Scoop Review of Books reviewer, Nikki Slade Robinson, for her children’s picture book The Little Kiwi’s Matariki.

Photo by Neil Hutton.

Photo by Neil Hutton.

Following is a Q&A with Nikki about her life, inspiration and work:

Where were you born? Te Puke – though I only lived there until I was 1 month old.

N publicity shot 2016 cropWhere do you live now? In paradise, near Ōpōtiki.

Where did you go to school? Woodlands School and then Ōpōtiki College.

What were you like in school? I drew heaps. I have a maths report that says I should try not to draw quite so much in my maths book. (Don’t get me wrong, maths IS important, it’s just I understand it better when I turn it into pictures.)

What was your favourite book growing up? Tons! I loved helping unpack the cartons of books at school from the National Library Service. Miffy was the first book I remember getting hooked on. Some of our books at home had been in a school fire and they had smoke marks on the pages, and smelt smoky but I loved them just the same. Dr Seuss was utterly awesome. Then I got into Cricket magazine, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tolkien, Harriet the Spy… there’s just too many to name.

Who is your favourite children’s author? Wah! How do I choose? There are wonderful NZ authors that would have to top the list – Margaret Mahy of course, Jack Lasenby, David Hill, Des Hunt, Joanna Orwin … there are just so many now writing such fantastic young adult books that to list them all would take ages. But they are all wonderful so hunt out kiwi authors next time you go to the library or bookshop!! Read more »

Our Unresolved Tensions

Asians and the New Multiculturalism in Aotearoa-New Zealand
Edited by Gautam Ghosh and Jacqueline Leckie
(Otago University Press, $40)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

otago088838This is an important and timely book, because the Asian segment of the New Zealand population is increasing exponentially faster than any other ethnic grouping, given – of course – that the term Asian is rather general and sweeping and includes Chinese, Indian, Korean, Filipino, Cambodian et al.

Now, I am duty bound to point out that the edited set of chapters that make up Asians and the New Multiculutralism in Aotearoa New Zealand  is the result of a 2011 symposium held in early February at Otago University. Because of this, the figures quoted throughout are largely taken from the 2006 nationwide census, which lends a somewhat dated feel to many of the chapters.

For, whilst the 2006 census results show a very rapid increase in the number of Asians in NZ, whether as new arrivals or as born here, the 2013 census results – touched on really only in the Afterword – ram home just how massive this expansion has become. Because in 2013 Asians identified as 11.8%, double the sum of the 2001 census, and out of this 11.8%, 31.6% were overseas born (See Figure One below). On this basis, it is predicted that by 2026, people identifying themselves as Asian will be the second largest ethnic grouping within NZ behind the sluggishly growing Caucasian majority, and surpassing the tāngata whenua, Māori (See Figure Two below).

Read more »

Māori Past and Present

Tangata Whenua: An illustrated history
by Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney and Aroha Harris
(Bridget Williams Books, $99.99)
Reviewed by Mark Derby

tangatawhenuacoverbwbwebsiteThis imposing tome seems more likely to be bought as a prestigious gift, or an adornment for the coffee table, than to become a carefully perused and frequently consulted addition to your personal book collection. In its heft, exceptional production values and omniscient tone, Tangata Whenua looms a bit like a Bentley in a downtown parking building – a distinguished and doomed reminder of a former literary age.

Even before reading the first word, its qualities are apparent in its heirloom materials, beautiful photo reproduction and classic, elegant page design. The superb production of my copy was only marred by a random and evidently unintended switch of typefaces in the middle of an essay on muttonbirding.
Read more »

What Norman Kirk Means Now

The Mighty Totara: The Life and Times of Norman Kirk
by David Grant (Random House, $44.99)
Reviewed by Max Rashbrooke

Norman_Kirk_WebFor Labour politicians seeking an intellectual touchstone, there is no safer place to go to than Norman Kirk, whose legacy and legend have lasted far longer than the 21 months he spent in power between 1972 and his death in 1974. Two recent Labour leadership contenders, Shane Jones and Grant Robertson, named him as their political hero, while David Cunliffe carried a portrait of him at Waitangi. Current leader Andrew Little spoke at a seminar on Kirk in 2012.

There is much in David Grant’s biography of Kirk, The Mighty Totara, published in 2014, that explains their admiration. In particular, if there is one thing that sets Kirk apart, it was his ability to dream big, especially in foreign policy. Grant’s book makes clear just how much New Zealand’s foreign policy pre-Kirk had been bound up with appeasing Britain and America, and how radically he reoriented us towards trading with Asia and being a more generous neighbour in the Pacific. Both moves have had their proof from time. On top of that, his exceptional courage in sending a frigate to try to disrupt French nuclear testing at Mururoa has, rightly, gone down in legend. Kirk also delivered domestic policies that have changed New Zealand forever, and for the better, most people would argue: ACC, the DPB, the Waitangi Tribunal, and plenty more.

Read more »

Next Page »