Saturday, December 3, 2011

Distance looks our way

In the December issue of Word magazine, regular contributor Fraser Lewry writes:
Last month I relocated my desk to the Southern Hemisphere to examine the Rugby World Cup at close quarters. Distraction was provided by Chris Bourke’s multiple award-winning book Blue Smoke: the Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918-1964, which led me to the delightful swing of Pixie Williams, whose 1949 hit gave the book its title.
Of more recent vintage is Tiny Ruins’ exquisite debut album Some Were Meant for the Sea, which is decidedly post-Joanna Newsom but somewhat less squeaky. [. . .]
I’ve been dipping into First Catch Your Weka, a history of NZ cooking, and devoured Lloyd Jones’ The Book of Fame, a fabulously poetic novel about the 1905 All Blacks tour, when they lost only to Wales. The 2011 bunch remained undefeated, but shredded my nerves in the process.
Chris is convenor of the judging panel for the 2012 NZ Post Book Awards, a job I did in 2010 and our mutual friend – it’s a cabal! – Paul Diamond did in 2011. It’s bloody hard work and Chris will be as brilliant at it as Paul was.
Anyway it’s good to see Blue Smoke being publicised in the UK to a music-friendly audience of literate people. Which brings us to Distance Looks Our Way: the Effects of Remoteness on New Zealand, the seven Winter Lectures given at the University of Auckland in the second term of 1960. 

This was the second series of lectures: I don’t know if the first lot were published. The book was edited by Keith Sinclair and published for the university in 1961 by the hugely influential Paul’s Book Arcade. Contributors included “Mr R. M. Chapman, Mr C. K. Stead, Mr E. H. McCormick and Mr P. Tomory”. Glancing through it now, the writers’ concerns seem as distant now as England still is – but it must have been a wonderful book when it appeared 50 years ago.


Paul said...

I have been grappling with Tomory's lecture of late: "A colonial heritage begets directness, bluntness, in fact a kind of colonial brutalism which provides a strong tonic to the too sugared spirit of European sophistication."

It seems to have been quite influential and the notion of colonial brutalism is still in the discourse: Francis Pound mentions it thrice in The Invention of New Zealand.

I think you are right: the first series does not seem to have been published, although subsequent lectures were.

Stephen Stratford said...

I think all these essays were quite influential - that's why the early 90s international travelling exhibition of works by Gretchen Albrecht, Gavin Chilcott, Jacqueline Fraser, Bill Hammond, Tony Lane, Richard Reddaway, John Reynolds, James Ross, Michael Stevenson and Elizabeth Thomson was called "Distance Looks Our Way". It was a great show, curated by Ross, Lane and Chilcott. From memory the Sarjeant got behind it but it was basically artist-driven and thus a curator-free zone.

There's quite a bit about Peter Tomory in Hamish Keith's recent memoir "Native Wit", which is worth reading anyway.

Carole said...

Great blog. I love Gretchen Albrecht's work.