New Zealand

Bungy Jump
Photo of Queenstown by Kinho Pizzato used under a Creative Commons license.

Marion McLeod & Bill Manhire, eds., Some Other Country (Bridget Williams Books, 1997).
An anthology of short stories from New Zealand. The earliest story here is “At the Bay,” by Katherine Mansfield (1922), and other well-known authors here include Janet Frame and Frank Sargeson, but the collection is weighted to more recent stories. Maori authors here include Witi Ihimaera, Janet Frame and Keri Hulme (and of course there’s no shortage of Pākehā authors).

This book has little internet presence, alas. Here’s a list of New Zealand short story writers from the Christchurch City Libraries. Here is a long profile of Katherine Mansfield. Alan K. Grant says there are only six kinds of New Zealand short stories. Despite its name, this YouTube clip doesn’t have anything to do with the book.

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Tainui waka at Raglan, New Zealand 1992
Photo of Waikato by PhillipC used under a Creative Commons license.

Patricia Grace, Potiki (Penguin, 1986).
A novel about a small coastal community, a Maori whanau. Grace draws on Maori oral storytelling traditions to alternate deftly between several narrators, primarily the couple of Roimata Kararaina and her husband, Hemi Tamihana, and their child, Toko.  In the first part of the book, Grace portrays the daily life of the community.  The second part brings economic dislocation, as Hemi loses his job and the way of life is threatened by development.  In the third part, the Maori struggle back — storytelling being part of the fight. The novel won the New Zealand Book Award for fiction in 1987.  Grace recently was named the 2008 laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for literature.

Here is a biography of Grace.  Paloma Fresno Calleja interviewed Grace (.pdf). Mark Williams discusses Grace’s work as part of a Maori renaissance. Joy Harjo has been reading Grace. This 1993 paper by Miriam Fuchs might be too academic for some. The Constructivist shares his student reactions to the book.

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Monument to those who defended Hong Kong in December, 1941.
Photo by unforth used under a Creative Commons license.

Shirley Hazzard, The Great Fire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003).
A novel of the aftermath of World War II. In 1947, Aldred Leith, a decorated British veteran and former POW, is stationed at the naval base in Kure, near the ruins of Hiroshima, finishing a book on his recent travels in China. His friend, Peter Exley, an Australian, is prosecuting war crimes in Hong Kong. Both are wrapped up with the war’s aftermath, needing new promise. Leith finds this in the precocious children of the brigadier: Benedict, a 20-year-old boy with an incurable disease, and his 17-year-old sister, Helen, with whom Leith falls in love. The obstacles to this romance seem insuperable, especially when Helen’s family departs for New Zealand and Leith for England. The story moves around the world, but it particularly evokes the sites and moods of post-war Hong Kong (where Hazzard lived then) and Wellington. The Great Fire won the National Book Award in 2003.

Links to various reviews are here. The National Book Foundation has an excerpt. Hazzard did this on-line chat after The Great Fire won the National Book Award. You can listen to an interview with the BBC, and this piece on the The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC. MSNBC profiled Hazzard. She was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation after winning the Miles Franklin Award. Here are reviews from Judith Shulevitz (Slate), Thomas Mallon (The Atlantic), Alan Wall (The Guardian), Peter Craven (The Sydney Morning Herald), Jim Barloon (The Houston Chronicle), Charles Taylor (Salon), Adam Mars-Jones (The Observer), Tom Nissley (The Stranger), Neil Jillett (The Age), Nicholas Addison Thomas, Alden Mudge (WaterBridge Review), and Liz Fraser. And you can listen to Alan Cheuse review the book on NPR. Blogtastic reaction from
, Susannah, Wendy, Howard Choo, Nate, beche-la-mer, Lisa.

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