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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Recognition, and rewards of success

Recognition, and rewards of success

The most significant recent published research on literary criticism, book reviewing, and literary prizes and awards, are two essays published in 1991 as part of a broad study of New Zealand literature. They are Dennis McEldowney's 'Publishing, patronage, literary magazines' and John Thomson's discursive bibliography, both in the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, ed. Terry Sturm (1991, second edition forthcoming). Thomson's survey of work in literary history and criticism should be augmented by reference to his entries on individual authors. The genre-based studies which make up the bulk of Sturm's volume also supply the most useful accounts to date of critical activity in their various fields. For the period to 1975, Three Hundred Years of New Zealand Books (1990), compiled by Peter Alcock and William Broughton, provides a useful chronology, with critical work listed under a separate heading from 1956.

The online database Index New Zealand (INNZ), launched in 1987 and available through the National Library's Kiwinet, on microfiche and on CD-ROM, selectively indexes articles and book reviews in over 450 current specialist and general interest New Zealand and Pacific periodicals. The Scitec Index, also on Kiwinet, indexes articles and book reviews of interest to the New Zealand scientific community. Titles indexed on these databases range from the Journal of New Zealand Literature (1983- ) and New Zealand Libraries (1932- ) to the New Zealand Medical Journal (1887- ) and New Zealand Sociology (1986- ). Prior to 1987, INNZ was published in a printed format. Retrospective indexing of journals onto INNZ is being carried out by the National Library.

Book reviewing and literary criticism

The main focus here is on the reviewing of creative literature in English, particularly at the specialist level. For other disciplines, the primary sources for reviews are the relevant professional journals, many of which are indexed on Kiwinet, as noted above. The development of book reviewing in fields other than New Zealand literature requires further critical analysis. Ray Grover's contribution to the World Bibliographical Series, New Zealand (1980), provides a useful introduction to the professional and general interest journals, current listings of which are to be found in Nielsen Publishing's biannual Media Directory, established in 1976 as the Advertising Directory and Media Planner.

Until the 1930s, literary criticism in New Zealand was almost entirely restricted to book reviews published in newspapers and magazines. From as early as the 1880s, many of these publications committed themselves to supporting the development of a distinctive New Zealand literature, although until at least the 1940s discussion focused almost entirely on overseas publications, with literary journalists demonstrating a clear preference for poetry and short fiction imitative of British models. Iris M. Park's bibliography, New Zealand Periodicals of Literary Interest (1962), lists the magazine outlets for this type of reviewing. Substantial work on the literary pages of the newspapers remains to be undertaken. Guy Scholefield's Newspapers in New Zealand (1958) makes passing reference to this aspect of their content, and may be taken as a suitable starting point for further work, supplemented by Ross Harvey's Union List of Newspapers preserved in Libraries, Newspaper Offices, Local Authority Offices and Museums in New Zealand (1987). Book reviewing has been a regular feature of New Zealand radio, most significantly in Elizabeth Alley's long-running 'Anthology' programme, succeeded by the late Ross Stevens's 'Bookmarks', and in Kim Hill's 'Speaking Volumes'.

Prior to the 1940s, few efforts were made to survey the overall state of New Zealand literature. Introductions to anthologies of poetry supplied brief accounts. One of the earliest of these was Alexander and Currie's New Zealand Verse (1906), revised as A Treasury of New Zealand Verse in 1926. The publication in 1930 of both Quentin Pope's Kowhai Gold verse anthology and O.N. Gillespie's New Zealand Short Stories provided a foil against which an emerging group of younger critics and writers were to react. Influenced by British and American literary modernism, this new generation challenged the hegemony of the literary journalists, most effectively by participating in a series of avant garde little magazines and newspapers— Phoenix (1932-33), Tomorrow (1934-40) and Book (1942-47)—which provided for the serious examination of New Zealand literature, as well as encouraging new and innovative creative work. The culmination of this initial movement was the establishment in 1947 of the quarterly magazine Landfall. Its editor, Charles Brasch, drew support for the development of a more rigorous critical climate from other key members of his generation, including Allen Curnow and Denis Glover. Landfall combined with a number of other magazines published during the 1950s and 1960s (including Here & Now (1949-57), Canterbury Lambs (1946-49), Hilltop (1949) and Arachne (1950-51), Numbers (1954-59), Mate (1955-77), and the annual anthology New Zealand Poetry Yearbook (1951-64)) to stimulate an increasingly vigorous local criticism. The New Zealand Listener (1939- ) has long provided an important weekly outlet for book reviewing in both literary and other genres, as well as occasional longer pieces of criticism. Again, for the period to 1961, Park's bibliography provides the most accessible guide to these publications.

Since the 1960s, book reviewing and literary criticism has continued to develop in line with available outlets. The Listener and Landfall have remained important, and new literary magazines to emerge include Argot (1973-75) and Islands, first published in 1972, and a number of university-based periodicals. The most significant of these, The Word is Freed (1969-72), affected a self-consciously revisionist critical stance. This tone was sustained during the 1980s by several little magazines, including Parallax (1982-83), Splash (1984-86), and AND (1983-85). Local and overseas academic journals, including SPAN (1975- ), the Journal of New Zealand Literature (1983- ), the Journal of Commonwealth Literature (1965- ), World Literature Written in English (1971- ), and Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada (1989- ), continue to give space to much important critical work, as have other magazines with a focus broader than the strictly literary, including Comment (1959-70, 1977-82) and Te Ao Hou (1952-75). The appearance in 1991 of the quarterly New Zealand Books signalled the maturing of book reviewing in all genres, while Stephen Stratford's monthly magazine Quote Unquote, founded in 1993, provided an outlet for both reviewing and literary news. Previously, book trade and library journals were the outlets most explicitly dedicated to book reviewing. Prominent among these are the National Library's bulletin Books to Buy (1966-92) and the New Zealand Book Council's Booknotes, founded in 1981 and still current.

In the immediate post-World War II period the most substantial fruit of the new critical rigour was Allen Curnow's introduction to his Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-45 (1945, enlarged 1951). In this text and its successor, The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse (1960), Curnow commanded the critical high ground and established for the first time a credible canon of New Zealand poetry. During subsequent decades, local poetics has largely been constructed in the light of Curnow's work. In fiction, Frank Sargeson's anthology of short stories, Speaking for Ourselves (1945), though lacking an introduction of comparable depth, served a similar purpose and consolidated its editor's influence over the direction taken by New Zealand short fiction through to the 1970s.

Eric McCormick's 1940 centennial survey Letters and Arts in New Zealand, revised in 1959 as New Zealand Literature, stood as the only book-length historical study until the publication of Patrick Evans's Penguin History of New Zealand Literature in 1990. Evans's work was soon superseded, however, by the more comprehensive Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (1991), ed. Terry Sturm. Presently under revision, a new edition of this work will include an essay by Mark Williams on New Zealand literary scholarship and criticism.

A number of important genre studies and collections of essays began to be published from the early 1950s, one of the earliest of which was James K. Baxter's essay Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry (1951). The School Publications Branch of the Department of Education (now Learning Media Ltd) produced a number of useful genre studies as Post Primary School Bulletins, including M.K. Joseph's The New Zealand Short Story (1956) and W.H. Oliver's Poetry in New Zealand (1960). Likewise, Joan Stevens's comprehensive The New Zealand Novel: 1860-1960 (1961) found a ready market among both secondary and tertiary students. It reappeared in a second edition in 1966, covering the period to 1965. Publishers also sought to supply the student market with several series of critical monographs. These include A.H. & A.W. Reed's New Zealand Profiles, the Oxford University Press's Writers and their Works series, and New York publisher Twayne's World Authors series, which turned its attention to New Zealand from the 1960s with S.R. Daly's study of Katherine Mansfield (1965) and H.W. Rhodes's Frank Sargeson (1969). Kendrick Smithyman's A Way of Saying (1965) began life as a series of essays in the little magazine Mate. It remains the most sustained (if difficult) attempt to date to develop a local, post-Curnovian poetic.

Essays on New Zealand Literature (1973), ed. Wystan Curnow, was the first attempt to gather together serious critical work in the field. Much of this were drawn from academic journals which had begun to play a key role in the development of ideas about New Zealand literature, including the Journal of Commonwealth Literature and World Literature in English. Cherry Hankin edited two important texts: Critical Essays on the New Zealand Novel (1976) and Critical Essays on the New Zealand Short Story (1982).

Collections of essays and monographs by individual authors have appeared at regular intervals since the 1970s. Prominent among these are Allen Curnow's Look Back Harder (1986), ed. Peter Simpson, and two collections by C.K. Stead, In the Glass Case (1981) and Answering to the Language (1989). Others are listed by John Thomson in the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (p.612 and passim). Such essays are usefully augmented by interviews and biographical writings. In particular, the autobiographies of Frank Sargeson and Janet Frame are exemplary of the genre in New Zealand. Katherine Mansfield has been a major subject for the literary biographer: Antony Alpers's Life (1980) and Sylvia Berkman's Critical Study (1951), supplemented by the collected letters and critical writings, remain required starting points for researchers. Though many other important personalities in the literature remain to be properly treated, several recent literary biographies (Michael King on Frank Sargeson, Keith Ovenden on Dan Davin), although generally not critical in their focus, supply important insights into the personalities behind the work. Beginnings (1980), based on a series of autobiographical essays commissioned by Robin Dudding for Islands, was the first sustained attempt to account for the personal origins of modern New Zealand literature. Collections of interviews with writers also add to this body of resources while theses in the area of New Zealand literature are also of immense value. All supply useful bibliographies, some of which are listed in Bibliographical Work in New Zealand (1980- ). Theses are listed in the Union List of Higher Degree Theses in New Zealand Libraries, the most recent edition of which covers the period up to 1992, with current theses now listed on the New Zealand Bibliographic Network (NZBN).

Literary prizes and book awards

McEldowney gives an outline account of state and private support for creative writing in New Zealand in his chapter in the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (1991, pp.574-79, 595-600). Creative New Zealand supplies a listing of special funds, fellowships, awards and scholarships in its publication Funding: A Guide for Applicants (1996) and the Department of Internal Affairs maintains a database of funding sources as part of its Link Centre service.

Before the establishment of the Literary Fund in 1946, competitions run by newspapers and magazines constituted almost the only regular acknowledgement of success for writers. The university colleges hosted a number of literary prizes, the most coveted of which remains the Macmillan Brown Prize. Substantial state-funded literary patronage began with the Centennial celebrations in 1940, when prizes were offered for work in a wide range of
Black and white photograph

An admiring audience for author Bob Kerr whose book Mechanical Harry won the inaugural Children's Choice award at the April 1997 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. Kerr's picture story book (published by Mallinson Rendel) explores some of the laws of physics through the adventures of Mechanical Harry, a genius inventor and descendant of Sir Isaac Newton. The popularity of the book (which didn't receive any of the awards decided by adults) has been a surprise, with the first edition selling out. (Photographed by Evening Post photographer Craig Simcox and reproduced by permission of the Evening Post; reference number 960-1997)

genres and centennial histories commissioned, including McCormick's pioneering survey, Letters and Art in New Zealand (1940). Largely owing to lobbying by the New Zealand Branch of PEN, the impetus created by the Centennial was sustained, culminating in the establishment of the Literary Fund in 1946. The extent of the Fund's support for writing and publishing during its first 25 years is set out in its report published in 1970 (New Zealand Literary Fund 1946-70). From 1950, the work of the Fund was detailed in the reports of the Department of Internal Affairs, published in the annual AJHR. The Fund was disestablished in 1988, immediately re-emerging as the Literary Fund Advisory Board of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, now Creative New Zealand.

Literary awards began to be privately sponsored with the establishment of the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Award for short fiction in 1959, organised by the New Zealand Women Writers' Society with the support of the Bank of New Zealand and still current. Mansfield's name is also associated with the prestigious Memorial Fellowship, a residential fellowship currently funded by the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand and administered by Creative New Zealand. The Wattie Book of the Year was founded in 1968 with the support of the Publishers Association and became the first of an increasing number of such awards. Recent issues of the annual New Zealand Books in Print provide retrospective listings of the winners of the various book awards. These currently include the NZ Post (previously AIM) Children's Book Awards (1983- ), the New Zealand Book Awards (established 1976) and the former Wattie (later Goodman Fielder Wattie) Book Award (1968-93), and its successor, the Montana Book Awards. In 1996, the Montana Awards amalgamated with the New Zealand Book Awards to form the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, managed by Booksellers New Zealand and offering prizes in six categories. The criteria for these and other awards are described in New Zealand Books in Print, as are other current sources of assistance for writers, including residential fellowships. The first of these was the Robert Burns Fellowship, set up from anonymous funding (widely attributed to Charles Brasch) at Otago University in 1959. Similar fellowships were established at Canterbury, Victoria, and Auckland Universities between 1978 and 1981, with other tertiary institutions following suit during the following decade.

Grants for research leading to a publication are available from, among other agencies, the Lottery Grants Board, the Historical Branch of Internal Affairs, the National Library of New Zealand, and the Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington. Scientists and academics can apply for funding to the Marsden Fund, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand, as well as to individual universities and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors Committee. The major source of funding for creative writing is Creative New Zealand. As well as contributing to the university fellowships, and to the Todd and Louis Johnson New Writers Bursaries, which it also administers, Creative New Zealand distributes significant funds in the form of project grants to writers. These succeed the Literary Fund's system of Scholarships-in-Letters, Bursaries and Project Grants, which were designed to allow writers to work full-time for 12, 6 and 3 months respectively. The New Zealand Authors' Fund compensates registered authors for losses of royalty on books borrowed from New Zealand libraries. In addition, Huia Publishers offer the Huia Short Story Awards for Māori Writers. Finally, work in children's literature is currently recognised by eight awards briefly described in New Zealand Children's Book Awards: Complete List of Winners and a List of Books Shortlisted 1988-96 (1996).

Financial incentives and support for publishers are discussed in Chapter 3 under the heading 'Encouragement to publish' within the 'Process of Publishing' section.