Available now from selected bookstores
Griffith Review is published quarterly by Griffith University in Brisbane, showcasing new fiction writing, essays, memoirs, poetry and art of Australian contributors. It is probably most similar to the six monthly Otago University publication Landfall, which has been in continuous publication since 1947 and performs the same function for NZ writers and artists.
In light of the success of New Zealand writers in recent years, this latest issue, “Pacific Highways” is devoted to all things New Zealand – a showcase of the depth of writing we have here, and the issues/ideas/themes currently in circulation. In the true spirit of trans-Tasman cooperation, this issue is edited by founding editor and academic Julianne Schultz who incidentally did travel on a New Zealand passport at one stage, and NZ’s very own Lloyd Jones – need we say more. He sees New Zealand positioned in a very exciting place at the moment, “one where it is possible to think of NZ as a hub in a mesh of highways spanning the littoral of South America, Asia, and Australia. There lies the future, as economists used to say. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge what is even more obvious. The future is here.”
For a young country with a relatively small population the number and variety of high calibre contributors to this edition is fantastic. Two photographers, ten poets, three ‘reportages’, six memoirs, three fiction items, and a most alarming twenty one essays. Twenty one essays? I would have liked to have seen half of this number, with the other half given over to ten more fiction writers. Wouldn’t it have been marvellous to see something, if at all possible, from the only other Booker Prize winner Keri Hulme? Admittedly some of the essays have been written by well known fiction writers such as Damien Wilkins – finding himself ‘forced’ by virtue of having young daughters to watch TV reality show monster The X Factor NZ – as well as Alison Wong, Kate de Goldi, and Hamish Clayton, but I really would have liked to have seen some more fiction.
However, the choice of writers cannot detract from the variety of subject and the writing quality. Contributors are young and not so young, Chilean, Chinese, academics, publishers, journalists, Samoan, Maori, Pakeha, a scientist, a teachers, well known, completely unknown, fiction and non fiction writers, a sportswriter, men and women – and many of these contributors are several of these things. It is a thing of wonder indeed that such a young and small country can produce such a huge pool of writers.
So what are the topics of choice for these writers in the twenty first century? Again many and various – the Christchurch earthquakes, the recent death of artist Ralph Hotere, a descendant of Chinese origin who migrated to NZ a hundred years ago, a poem about the 1979 Erebus tragedy, beautiful and personal writings inspired by the land and seascapes, an economist looking at our economic future, a children’s author marvelling over Margaret Mahy. And at the root of almost all the writing, our ongoing search for a national identity and finding our fit in the world.
There is something here for everyone, a lot of it is easy to read, to understand and enjoy. And some of it not so much. But it is great to see the continued respect being given to New Zealand writers and artists from outside our borders.
Reviewed by Felicity Murray
Griffith Review 43: Pacific Highways
edited by Julianne Schultz and Lloyd Jones
Published by Text Publishing