Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 8. 1967.
"New Zealand literature has about as much hope of survival as the Maoris standing on the Petone Beach watching the first white settlers arrive," said thrice famous author Ian Cross speaking on the New Zealand Novel.
"The vision of cultural nationhood that offered hope to my generation has vanished." he said. "To ask me to write a New Zealand Novel now would be like going down to the museum and asking the stuffed moa to lay an egg."
It was such similes as these that characterised the first of the Winter Term lectures on the subject of "The Arts in New Zealand."
Explaining that the New Zealand short story and the New Zealand novel had to be studied together in order to get the novel into perspective, Mr. Cross summarised briefly New Zealand writers from Katherlne Mansfield and J. A. Lee to the present day, showing the recurrent theme of male inadequacy and insecurity; of male sexual failure and desire to escape from that failure, to "clear out" and leave it all behind.
"Male and female New Zealand authors are preoccupied with the male and female solitary," he said.
"The writer in New Zealand reflects in his characters what must exist in our society. The New Zealand male is a eunuch of twentieth century socialism," he suggested, but he did not qualify this somewhat alarming conclusion.
"It will be a new era in our writing," he said, "when a classic male emerges, the hunter and not the hunted." But he held little hope that this new era will now ever be able to dawn.
"New Zealand, that place so eagerly hoped for in our literature, is dead." he said. He gave as a reason for this his opinion that New Zealand was a victim of American provincialism, where the reality was Peyton Place and Coronation Street.
New Zealand literature has no chance to develop by itself, he said, because modern mass communications overwhelm it with external influences. He described New Zealand as being on the periphery of the world's great capitals, and instanced the New Zealand edition of "Life" and the simultaneous printing in New Zealand of "Time" as manifestations of this.
"A little over 100 years is not an adequate gestation period for a new nation in this age," he said in mourning New Zealand's lost chance of ever attaining national individuality in the field of literature.
"In the future, to talk of the New Zealand Novel will be as quaint as to think of the Manitoba writer or the Queensland writer," he said.