Sunday, July 31, 2016

A New FlaxFlower Review via

Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933–1953
by Peter Simpson

     There was a golden age in New Zealand in the two decades between 1933 and 1953, and Christchurch was at the centre of it. Culture bloomed and flourished. Exceptional people – Denis Glover, Ursula Bethell, Toss Woollaston, Evelyn Page, Allen Curnow, Ngaio Marsh, Douglas Lilburn and many others – were busy painting, writing, reading and making music. It was a fizzing, vibrant time – while it lasted.
     Peter Simpson, who lived in Christchurch and knew several of the people he writes about, has delved into the lives and achievements of these individuals and the environment in which they worked. This handsome book, full of pictures in colour and black and white, and the whole printed on glossy paper, is a celebration of those people. They were young and bold. They flatted together, socialised, argued, supported each other. They challenged the conservative establishment which resisted change and innovation, as it always does. They deplored the prevailing but phony nostalgia for everything English, and worked to create literature, music and art not inherited from older, northern hemisphere traditions.
     The comparison with the Bloomsbury Group that became famous in London between the two world wars is nevertheless apt. There were the same attachments, passions and commitment to culture that was innovative and eclectic, the individuals within the group were exceptionally talented, and they found the support and inspiration they needed from each other. So, the writers and painters, poets and musicians, printers, actors and dramatists in Christchurch gathered together and set their part of the world to buzzing.
     There are towering personalities throughout this book – people whose influence extends down the years to this day. At the centre was the poet Ursula Bethell, older than most but with an elegant knack for mentoring those who gravitated towards her, especially, it seems, young men. Ngaio Marsh, who was both a painter and a passionate director of Shakespeare’s plays and, in the words of one of her student actors, “boomed like the proverbial bittern” strides theatrically across the pages. Her detective novels, quite rightly, don’t get a mention here.
     Landfall was launched in 1947 and Charles Brasch and many of those involved with the periodical are household names now. And the painters: they were scoffed at but they had new ways to show what they saw, and they found support from the discerning few. However, as Simpson reminds us, the Colin McCahon painting International Air Race was accidentally broken up and used for packaging – surely someone is still having nightmares about that? The long-running controversy about Frances Hodgkins’s painting Pleasure Garden most clearly reflected the clash between the old and the new: “No episode better illustrates the cultural forces … that prevailed in Christchurch in these decades, especially in the visual arts.”
     So, why did that golden age end? By 1953 Ursula Bethell had died and many others had moved, mostly north. Christchurch was “left only with the old colonial standbys of choirs and brass bands” – Bloomsbury South had shrunk, dispersed, evaporated.

Review by Joan Curry
Title: Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933–1953
Author: Peter Simpson
Publisher: Auckland University Press
ISBN: 978 1 86940 848 0
Available: bookshops

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Writing is a Great Journey

Writing is a great journey.
It is a path with the
possibility of making us free.
And it can do all of this
while you sit at a desk.


(BANTAM BOOKS) Natalie Goldberg

Murder on Muritai The Ryxin Trilogy - book one by Genesis Cotterell (Reviewed on

If you have ever met someone so ‘other-worldly’ that you thought they could almost be ‘from another planet’, then Murder on Muritai may be all the confirmation you need that aliens – Ryxins from the planet Ryxin in this case – have indeed settled on Earth, in human guise, naturally.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Writing Brings You Back

Writing brings you back
to the natural state of mind,
the wilderness of your mind
where there are no refined
rows of gladiolas.

Source: Natalie Goldberg
             Wild Mind
           (BANTAM BOOKS)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

See a Book Review from

Murder on Muritai The Ryxin Trilogy - book one by Genesis Cotterell (Reviewed on

If you have ever met someone so ‘other-worldly’ that you thought they could almost be ‘from another planet’, then Murder on Muritai may be all the confirmation you need that aliens – Ryxins from the planet Ryxin in this case – have indeed settled on Earth, in human guise, naturally. The book opens like any other murder mystery, with Curtis McCoy, a private investigator, listening to his client’s report of her partner’s death, which she assumes was murder. We soon learn however that this is no ordinary crime scenario since the deceased is Ryxin, and Human police are forbidden by law to investigate crimes involving Ryxins. Muritai Island should be an idyllic setting in the southern Pacific Ocean but instead its population is deeply divided: lawless Ryxins are striving to outnumber the Human population. McCoy is a new comer to the island and a new comer to detective work – this murder is his first case and as he tries to solve it he becomes entangled with the worst features of Ryxin society. At the same time, his involvement with a couple of Ryxin women distract him from his investigation to the point where he seems to have forgotten that he has a murder mystery to solve. And yet, cunningly, as the book draws to an end, McCoy pulls himself and all his clues together and identifies the killer. And on the surface, this is Murder on Muritai: a not overly gripping crime novel where the investigator spends much of the book either racing around the island (or catching the ferry to the mainland) in pursuit of various women, or mourning the end of his marriage to a Human. In spite of weaknesses in the crime-solving aspects of this book, I found Murder on Muritai both fascinating and disturbing. Cotterell cleverly brought the Ryxin aliens to Earth – to Ireland in a flash of blue light, in 1905 – not so very long after the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand must have seemed like an alien invasion. From Ireland, many Ryxins have made their way to Muritai Island ‘in search of a better life’. Some of them have obeyed government regulations and only mated with Humans, thereby diluting Ryxin blood. Others are intent on illegally preserving their full-bloodedness, and all the superior powers that that entails. Putting the science-fiction - suspended reality - aspect of Murder on Muritai aside, it is impossible not to reflect on its parallels with some of the volatile racial and migrant dramas currently unfolding around the world, with their associated issues of socio-cultural diversity, integration and identity preservation, or to muse on colonisation, ethnic cleansing and master races. And then there’s the question of those ‘other-worldly’ people that we’ve all met from time to time: could they have come ‘from another planet’? Murder on Muritai is book one in the Ryxin trilogy. If Curtis McCoy is going to stay in business he will have to spend less time chasing beautiful women, but like all good first books in a trilogy, Murder on Muritai ends with some questions still unanswered – a reason for catching up with McCoy, as he strives for a better Muritai Island, in book two.
Review by Carolyn McKenzie

Friday, July 08, 2016

Do You Want to be Heard?

We all have to tell 

our stories.

(BANTAM BOOKS) Natalie Goldberg

Friday, July 01, 2016

An Inspirational Pearl of Writer's Wisdom (source: Natalie Goldberg)

Writing is a way to connect
with our own minds, to
discover what we really think,
see, and feel, rather than what
we think we should  think,
see, and feel.