Authors Graeme MacRae, Grant Duncan, Jack Ross, Eleanor Rimoldi, David Ishii, Cluny Macpherson and Warwick Tie at the book launch yesterday. Absent were Ann Dupuis, Jennifer Lawn and Isabel Michell.


Urban myths and marvels evoked in Auckland essays


Book cover features a painting by Graham Fletcher
from his Lounge Room Tribalism series.

Murders, motorways and migrants are some of the subjects of a new book, 11 Views of Auckland, by Albany-based academics from the University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Edited by English lecturer Dr Jack Ross and public policy lecturer Associate Professor Grant Duncan, the books is printed and published by the University.

The essays are by no means gushing endorsements for the metropolis – home to an estimated 1.25 million people, or about a third of the nation’s population.

Each is a unique exploration on an aspect of Auckland’s past or present, its complexities and contrasts, penned by academics from sociology, history, English, linguistics, public policy, anthropology and political studies at the University’s Albany campus.

That the writers all live and work in Auckland is pertinent to the spirit of these essays, which evoke personal experiences and insights within the framework of their particular discipline.

Thoughtful commentaries on urban experiences include Dr Isabel Michell’s Auckland City: Becoming Places. She describes the pleasures and perils of being an inner city pedestrian who suffers “near hits, noise and air pollution, and the annoying experience of what might be called pedestrianas interruptus: the sudden cessation of footpath in favour of road.”

She reflects on the need for “life in or between buildings”, lamenting the lack of appealing public spaces through which a diverse muster of humanity can flow or congregate.

English and Media Studies lecturer Dr Jennifer Lawn delves into crime fiction set in Auckland as pathway into the links between real crime, place and urban experience in Soft-boiled in Ponsonby: The Topographies of Murder in the Crime Fiction of Charlotte Grimshaw and Alix Bosco.

Real crimes, reported and sensationalised in the media, can provide a backdrop or echo for imagined ones. "Grimshaw's Auckland is scarcely fit for human habitation; it is waterlogged, slimy, rotting, hostile to the scale and pace of the human frame – yet curiously sublime, even daemonic...” she writes.

Anthropologist Dr Graeme MacRae traces a fascinating history of his neighbourhood in Freeman’s Bay in The Bay that Was, a Park that Isn’t and the City that Might Have Been. He traces its evolution from community-oriented council housing to hub of commercial development and victim of “social cleansing.”  

Sociologist Associate Professor Ann Dupuis reflects on the emergence of gated communities, and Dr Warwick Tie explores the link between aesthetics and economics in relation to downtown Auckland’s glass-walled Metropolis building as a symbol of precarious corporate ethos in Between Itself: The Political Economy of the Metropolis

Associate Professor Grant Duncan adds a poetic touch from the vantage point of a bus passenger in his essay The Making of the Super City. "The bus climbs steeply to the apex of the Bridge, a place where every traveller gets a fleeting million-dollar view, and this ride impresses itself as one of the great ways to experience the brutal velocities, the pounding sensations and the beautiful vistas from unexpected windows that create the way the hapless denizen takes part in the life of the city – just another body going along with the city's great lava-flows of traffic that congeal and contest within the channels designed for them by anonymous planners."

He asks the reader to look beyond the potentially "sleep-inducing boredom" that the subject of local government may invoke to the basic relevance of urban policy making; ""How do people, politics and social trends shape the places we inhabit and the ways we experience life, move about and get things done in the city?"

The book is the 10th monograph in a series started by the former School of Cultural and Social Studies.

Dr Ross’ quirky essay describes his involvement in a thwarted art project to engrave poetry on Auckland’s harbour bridge supports. He says he hopes the book will provoke readers with its “truthful depiction of how the city seems to each of us right now,” that will “grow in value as Auckland’s various futures unfold and interlock.”

Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey, who launched the book, praised its rich, diverse content and described it as “a time capsule of Auckland today that will become a valuable reference point for how the city changes and evolves.”

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