The review is thoroughly thorough, so thoroughly thorough that it is almost as long as the book. Very Borgesian, that (or Steven Wrightian: Wright has a joke about a 1:1-scale map of the world). However, being by Lawrence, it is also very good. Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Otago, he is a specialist in New Zealand literature and knows the territory as well as anyone. He also reviews the reviewers, including me, so this is an overview of reactions to the book as well as a thoughtful, informed review of the thing itself. Quote unquote:
In some ways the AUP anthology could be discussed as many rugby matches are, as a game of two halves. In the first ‘half’, the 600 pages of texts covering from 1769 to 1969, there is the sense of a balanced and at the same time imaginative choice and arrangement of texts that gives a clear sense of the shape of New Zealand literary history while at the same time opening up a fresh sense of relationships by the juxtaposition of texts. In the second ‘half’, the 450 pages of texts covering 1970 to 2011, there are some brilliant episodes in the juxtaposition of texts but the general sense of the shape and balance of the whole is lost.Coming attractions: Chris Else’s review in the latest issue of New Zealand Books.