ReadingRoom

The killing of New Zealand Books

Ten questions for Creative New Zealand to consider following its decision to kill the distinguished literary journal, New Zealand Books.

Creative New Zealand probably ought not look like a pack of vandals and philistines, but that's the optics and the perception and the reality of the situation since its decision to reject the application of the distinguished literary journal New Zealand Books, forcing its closure after 29 years.

The journal is - was - an intelligent and in-depth print quarterly. It could be infuriating; reviews often appeared months after the book was published. It could be a little bit toothless; there was a general reluctance to maim or kill New Zealand authors. But it published many or most of the finest minds in New Zealand writing, and above all it covered the waterfront: here was a print journal exclusively devoted to New Zealand literature, and it wrote with authority on fiction, history, natural history, memoir, children's books, everything. It is - was - an essential part of the literary infrastructure.

Reaction to its killing has been horrified and outraged. Twitter exists to be horrified and outraged, and it's recorded a running commentary since Peppercorn Press, publishers of New Zealand Books, announced last week that it was forced to shut down operations. But protest hasn't just been contained to the Twitter machine. There is now an online petition addressed to part-time arts minister Jacinda Ardern. It serves notice as a formal protest and urges Creative New Zealand to pull finger, come to its senses, wake up and reinstate New Zealand Books.

ReadingRoom supports the petition and as an attempt to further urge Creative New Zealand to pull finger, come to its senses, wake up and reinstate New Zealand Books, we have 10 questions to put to the pack of vandals and philistines.

1. Why did it reject the application?

2. Was it aware that its failure to fund New Zealand Books would likely cause its demise?

3. Did it consider that the likely reaction of New Zealand’s literary community would be one of horror, alarm, and disgust?

4. Is it aware now?

5. Did it consider the notion that high-quality reviewing is essential to the maintenance of New Zealand literature?

6. Did it consider the notion that it might be a good thing to continue supporting the existence of a quarterly print journal which has operated for 29 years?

7. Did it honestly believe that after 29 years of supporting the only long-form review journal exclusively devoted to New Zealand books that it is appropriate to say: “Wait 20 days and we’ll give you feedback about our rejection”?

8. Has it received any communications on the issue from the Minister of Arts, Jacinda Ardern?

9. Is it sorry now?

10. Is it considering any steps to remedy the situation and offer some kind of emergency fund to resurrect New Zealand Review of Books?

Disclaimer: Newsroom applied to Creative New Zealand for funding and was also rejected 

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