The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 3 (June 1, 1937)
Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two
As far as I can see not one of our reviewers has appreciated the romantic story wrapped up in the recent publication of “The Whalers,” a copy of which I have received from my good friend, Mr. F. W. Reed, the noted Dumas authority. Because I played an unsuccessful part in the first attempt to interest an Australian publisher in this story Mr. Reed has been kind enough to favour me with a copy. Since then the book has been published by Hutchinson's (London) and will, I am sure, meet with a big sale. However, to the story behind the story as to how two New Zealand literary authorities chanced, after the lapse of nearly a hundred years, to link up with a meeting that took place between Alexandra Dumas and a certain Dr. Maynard, a French surgeon. It was in the year 1854 that Dumas happened upon a parcel of disconnected articles dealing with the sea adventures of Maynard. He arranged to meet the French doctor and prevailed on him to enlarge on his experiences. The articles were in due course edited and probably added to and re-written in parts by Dumas and published in France in 1858. The amazing thing is that although the story intimately concerned the early whaling days in New Zealand it was not until this year of 1937 that it has been published for English readers. For this we have to thank Mr. Reed, who made the translation and who sought the help of Johannes Andersen who wrote a most interesting introduction and provided the notes. The result is no dry historical document but a thrilling story of the old whaling days, reminiscent in parts of the immortal “Moby Dick.” We must feel proud of the part this country has played in giving this remarkable book to the world. I am amazed though over the fact that the publishers have failed to make more use of the story behind the story as briefly sketched by me in this paragraph.
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The results of the annual short story competition held by “Art in New Zealand” are announced in the latest issue. The winning story “Understanding” by Mrs. E. D. M. Doust, is a model in economy of words. For this reason it is worth study by budding short story writers. This is only one interesting feature in the March “Art in New Zealand.” There is a fine appreciation of the Labour Government's encouragement of cultural arts, an article by J. H. E. Schroder on Cecil F. and Elizabeth Kelly (with beautiful examples of their work in colour and black and white) verse by Marie Conlan and F. H. Harris and other items of interest to the literary and art world in this country.
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Noel Hoggard, editor of “Spilt Ink,” writes to me as follows:—“I noticed in the April issue of the ‘Railways Magazine’ in your book page, you referred to the fact that the Canterbury Public Library Magazine was practically the only literary journal in New Zealand. You may be interested to know that from the April-May issue of ‘Spilt Ink’ my journal will be enlarged to twenty pages, including a cover with a modern cover design by Mr. Lindsay Constable, a young Wellington artist. It will also have a coloured inset of photographic blocks and will be illustrated throughout with original line-cut blocks and wood-cuts. As ‘Spilt Ink’ has now reached Vol. 4, No. 7, and between 500 and 600 are distributed each issue, I think you will admit that it has reached the distinction of being called a New Zealand literary journal.”page 62
The New Zealand Women Writers' and Artists' Society is doing useful work. Besides competitions held inside the Society, several members have come to the fore in outside competitions. The two lady prize-winners in the recent radio play contest, Mrs. Alice Waldie and Mrs. Isobel Andrews, are both members of the Society. The one-act play competition run by the “Taranaki Daily News” was won by Mrs. Audrey King, while Mrs. Andrews gained second place. The “Manawatu Daily Times” short story competition was won by Mrs. King, with Miss L. Morgan second. Mrs. E. D. M. Doust won the recent short story competition in “Art in New Zealand.” This is, of course, quite apart from ordinary acceptances in current publications, where many of the members are regularly represented. The Society has now adopted a new policy and instead of restricting membership to women who have actually had their work published, it is admitting affiliated members as well. That is, members who, although they have not actually had work published, are yet interested enough and promising enough to be regarded as members.
“Backs to the Wall” by Captain G. D. Mitchell, M.C., D.C.M., is the most vivid and convincing war book I have read. Certainly no other soldier has given us such a graphic and sincere story of the four terrible years of strife. Captain Mitchell must have a charmed life. He confesses that time and again an instinct that he never dreamt of fighting against saved his life. He takes readers through a ceaseless storm of shot and shell, at times almost as casually as a tourist guide. With the ear of a musician he traces the gamut of sound of the flight of a shell and then turns on the full orchestration of the devilish cacophony of a mass offensive. A fascinating yet terrible story.
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“A Naval Wife Goes East,” by Eilleen Walker (Blackwood, London; Whitcombe & Tombs, Ltd., New Zealand agents) is a delightful and unaffected story of travel in the East. The author is candid without being rude, an engaging frankness particularly palatable in the surfeit of highly spiced literary dishes that load the world's reading table these days. Well known and little known parts of China and Japan are visited in company with this charming literary hostess. A valuable guide book and containing travel tips worth remembering.
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shibli listens in.
The magazine sensation of last month was the big Wellington Station Number of the “New Zealand Railways Magazine.” Not only was it a record in size but more important a record in sales. A few copies are still available from the Editor of the magazine.
“I'm Happy, I'm Happy” is the title of a fox-trot song published by the Southern Song Service, Gore. Words have been written by “Oliver Twist” and music by “Northan Southe.”
Will Lawson has been in Hobart writing a history of the old shipping days. He has also secured colour and theme for a whaling novel.