Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 10 May 28 1968
As I predicted in an earlier issue of Salient, the trial of Last Exit to Brooklyn in Britain last year has frightened many publishers who were set to bring Britain up-to-date with "fringe" American fiction.
Because most publishers now don't know exactly what can be expected, their decisions about what they publish are governed by mere expediency.
Of course, this means a cautious, conservative approach involving editing of "suspect" passages. Candy, coauthored by Terry Southern, long the most famous "underground" novel will be published with cuts. When I read it last year in a cheap version from Los Angeles, I found it highly enjoyable and very, very erotic. It is perhaps, the only successful send-up of "hard-core pornography".
Gore Vidal, author of many good novels and the screenplay of The Best Man, will have his new novel Myra Breckbidge toned down.
A new novelist, Barry Cole, was persuaded by his publishers, Methuen and Co., to rewrite extensive parts of A Run Across the Island. However, Cole has worked off his not surprising anger by rewriting the offending matter as self-parody.
Well-known for its outbursts of puritan outrage the book selling chain of W. H. Smith, as well as other booksellers, have refused to sell Paul Ableman's Vac. But publishers. Gollancz, not usually noted for setting the pace in literature, are not holding back.
Ableman's first novels were published in Paris by the Olympia Press. Most critics seem to agree that Vac is his best work to date. Watch for it before the Tribunal gets at it.
Those who read the small public notices in the papers will have noticed that the Comptroller of Customs has submitted a book of Aubrey Beardsley's drawings. Long considered an excellent cartoonist and sketcher, Beardsley has only just been given the treatment he deserves by the publishing trade. If the Tribunal axe these they will be adding a little more to their already not inconsiderable contribution to putting New Zealand well back behind the rest of the world in the literary arts.
The unrelenting monthly inundations of paperbacks in the bookshops still provide the only satisfactory way for students to enjoy cheap reading. It is no longer possible to categorise the different publishers into "good", "bad" and "indifferent". Penguin maintain their quality quota, although in recent months their lists are far from exciting. Most of the new Penguins are safe but not wholly stimulating.
Best so far this year (not in order of merit) are Charles Webb's The Graduate, a novel about an adolescent who rebels against his bourgeois upbringing, recently filmed by Mike Nichols; Mervyn Peake's gothic monstrosity Titus Groan (Modern Classics); Bruce Jay Friedman's A Mother's Kisses, and two novels by American Thomas Berger: Little Big Man and Reinhart in Love.
Coming shortly from Penguin are three more volumes in the New Writing series dealing with Australia, France and England. Christina Stead's long unavailable The Man Who Loved Children will be a welcome supplement to some of her other work which is in paperback from the enterprising Melbourne-based Sun Books.
Panther Books are noted for this colourfulness, although of late an increasing number are being submitted to the Indecent Publications Tribunal and thus delayed. Of those available don't miss William Burroughs' science-fiction phantasmagoria Nova Express which is rewarding if demanding. David Caute's Decline of the West received mixed reviews when first published, but it makes for a fascinating look at violence and torture.
Corgi, Mayflower and Pan are still vying for an increased share of the prestige market in fiction, although their books cater largely at the unsuspecting. Don't overlook them in your Drowsing: diligence can yield some rewarding results.
The New English Library is increasingly reflecting its American ownership. Latest and best is the revival of the magazine-book devoted to new writing. Under the title New American Review the two volumes so far contain much of interest. Fiction by writers like Philip Roth, John Barth and William Gass with essays on homosexual literature, drama and films are of generally high standard, despite catholicity, to please the middlebrows. Good value for $1.10.
If you can't afford too many paperbacks (and who can?) new fiction in hard-back form is generally available in the public library, although not without some trouble. Pick or the new books in alphabetical order by authors would include Burrough's The Soft Machine (if it isn't banned); Jean Genet's Funeral Rites; Mordecai Richler's Cocksure; Death Kit by Susan Sontag; Christian Stead's The Puzzleheaded Girl, and finally the three current bestsellers in America, William Styron's Confessions of Nat Turner, Couples by John Updike and Myra Beckinridge (in a bowdlerised version) by Gore Vidal.
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Nationalism has traditionally been used to camouflage capitalism; Mr. Rosenberg's book is another example of this tired polemical device. At no point in his book does he make one criticism of New Zealand capitalism, even (pp. 183-4) though arguing it must necessarily, as a result of import controls, become more monopolistic.
Predictably, he opposes "foreign" borrowing, though he admits it has co-existed with import controls, and even at times safeguarded full employment, and opposes any Australian competition with New Zealand industry— though he does not discuss the possibility that such competition might lead to a fall in the price of the commodities involved, a rather strange omission for an economist.
Mr. Rosenberg's book is best regarded as an essay in politics rather than economics, even though it is shorn of the introduction from Mr. T. E. Skinner Mr. Rosenberg was at one stage soliciting for it.
There is a popular impression that Mr. Rosenberg is a left-winger or socialist of some kind. What he is, however, is simply an apologist for New Zealand business, as this book makes clear. His book should be treated on the same level as any other effusion of patriotic self-congratulation and complancency; that is, it should be ignored and time spent on writers honest enough to admit there are one or two areas where New Zealand capitalism actually doesn't work well.
A Guidebook To New Zealand's Future by W. Rosenberg. Caxton Press, Christchurch, 1968. $2.50 Reviewed by Owen Gager.
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Because of various cultural and economic factors, New Zealand has a peculiar sub-culture of "suburban" literature. The main result is poetry: for little cost a book of poetry can be published and have a guaranteed market, get reviewed everywhere in polite if perhaps dismissive terms, and go unnoticed by most people. Little books of poems are expensive in page for price ratio (in this particular one over 3c per page of poetry) and hence are aimed at the gift buyer. One wonders if they are ever read.
The term "suburban" literature must be qualified. It does not refer so much to the content (which is of course a valid subject for examination), as to its mediocrity and amateurishness. The vision of housewives scribbling while the kids are at school is peculiarly New Zealand. Larger countries' publishing businesses would go bankrupt if they published and encouraged such activity, except in some cases. While Mrs. Dunstan's poetry may be appreciated by some. I find most of it incredulous. None of it stands up to "out loud" reading. It lacks tension, wit and content. Flabby images and limp rhythm are the only striking features. If you want some real stuff not found in English Literature, try Adrian Mitchell's new volume, Out Loud (Cape Golliard Press, $2.25).
Patterns On Glass. Poems by Peggy Dunstan. Pegasus Press, Christchurch. $1.75 62 pp. Reviewed by Nevil Gibson.