Monday, January 04, 2016

Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2016

Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2016
Edited by Susanna Andrew & Jolisa Gracewood

Twenty-four writers have contributed to make this anthology a worthwhile publication. That is, the 23 whose contributions are featured, plus John Campbell whose Foreword is as readable and literate as any of those selected and makes a very good introduction to the body of the work.

   If I know anything about authors, each of the 23 will now be skim-reading through this review to see if their piece is singled out, so here they are – Charles Anderson, Vicki Anderson, Naomi Arnold, Steve Braunias, Rachel Buchanan, Kate Camp, Megan Dunn, Dan Eichblatt, David Fisher, Nicky Hager, Ross Nepia Himona, Ali Ikram, Lynn Jenner, Elizabeth Knox, Tina Makereti, Kirsten McDougall, Kristen Ng, Joe Nunweek, Jenni Quilter, Sylvan Thomson, Giovanni Tiso, Matt Vickers, Ashleigh Young.

   Other than mentioning them all, I’m not playing favourites. Not that I didn’t appreciate some of the works more than others. As with any collection, they vary, but overall I found them entertaining, admirable, interesting, fascinating, moving, and one or two a tad boring. I won’t say which I’d put into each group because another reader will judge them differently. I, on another day, or on further reading, might well change my mind and switch them between categories. So, the 23 writers can select for themselves from the adjectives above.

   These pieces are as short as four pages, and as long as twenty. I thought I’d tackle them by reading one per day so as to give each one fair consideration, but on several days I ploughed right on to a second, even a third.
   Through them I was taken to parts of life I know because I’ve been there, or somewhere similar. On other days I visited places foreign to me, beyond my experience. In each case I was pleased for the reminder or the additional insight.

   Most of the works have been published previously, but this doesn’t detract because they’re likely to have been overlooked in the original sources. Or, if already read, they’re worth rereading. Many appeared first online, and there’s something oddly backwards, yet satisfying, about this web-to-print flip.

   Apparently there was a previous collection published last year. That one passed me by, but I’m glad I caught up with this one with its varied pieces and its contributors. On the way through the pages I smiled wryly at this story, empathised with the author of another, and I made a note to reread those that most moved, or challenged, or informed me. It’s a book to return to.

A Flaxflower Review by Kauri Wood

Title: Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2016
Editors: Susanna Andrew & Jolisa Gracewood
Publisher: Auckland University Press $29.99
ISBN: 978-1-86940-844-2
Available: Bookshops

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