Issue Two: Stakeout
NZ$5.95 | Reviewed by Christine Linnell

‘STAKEOUT’ is the second issue of newcomer Hue & Cry, and from the very start, the journal seems designed to pull you in. The vaguely threatening scrutiny of the title, the issue number reflected and re-reflected across the cover, the wide margins and bold black-and-white of the layout – all of it suggests a kind of mirror, an invitation to project your own identity onto the pages.

Cloe Lane’s opening editorial takes the theme further, using an anecdote to show “the awkwardness... of taking the self-portrait” – the tension between how we define ourselves and how others define us, and the barriers we often use to protect ourselves. You could argue that to get past those barriers, we have to catch each other unawares. We spy on each other.

With that image in mind, this issue can be seen as a collection of clues. It includes flashes of honesty, explorations of intimacy and betrayal, and here and there, glimpses of seemingly random objects – hand-written notes, a sheaf of documents, a worn-out library book. The result is thought-provoking, puzzling, and appealing.

The writing is very personal in tone and style, such as Tahi Moore’s rambling-yet-insightful piece on adapting to the shifting nature of ideas (among other topics like blue jeans and crap movies). Pansy Duncan offers a wryly philosophical explanation of why humans identify so strongly with dogs, and John Ward Knox celebrates “inhabiting your own body ... not just using it as a vehicle to transport your head around.”

One of my favourite pieces is ‘The Gladeyes vs. Geoff,’ in which Gwen and Jade of The Gladeyes are interviewed by Gwen’s dad. Geoff plays the role of a hard-hitting Rolling Stone reporter and enjoys himself so much that the girls have difficulty keeping up. It’s great to see the dynamic between the three of them – particularly, how Geoff’s relationship with his daughter skews the discussion in his favour.

Also engrossing is Lawrence Patchett’s interview with Carl Shuker, author of The Lazy Boys and The Method Actors, which are now on my ‘To Read’ list. Shuker discusses the contrasts between the two novels – “from total restriction to total freedom,” and the danger that lies in both extremes of personality.

A number of the selections explore a feeling of isolation. Poet Amy Brown dreams of abandonment and vulnerability in ‘The Long Night’ and takes a painful look at a homeless man in ‘Nelson.’ Pip Adam’s short story ‘Tick’ puts a dismal twist on the stakeout theme, evoking strong feelings of paranoia and loss.

Particularly effective is Eleanor Catton’s ‘Mother Love,’ in which an adopted son searches for his birth mother. A sympathetic character on the surface, the son is utterly self-absorbed; his mother exists only as “half of me” and his girlfriend is little more than a stepping-stone in his quest. Anything in his life that doesn’t reflect his identity is discarded, and so his relationships disintegrate.

Photography plays an important part in the ‘portrait’ theme, not just in the visual art included in the issue, but in the mindset of the photographer. For instance, Joan Fleming’s two poems ‘Making it up’ and ‘Photograph’ suggest the seductiveness of being the hidden observer, detached and in control.

There’s also a funny sequence beginning with Simon Denny’s opinions on photo composition. “I am only comfortable at a certain distance from things. [...] In the face of this ‘mess of scale,’ I am always aware that I am looking for a bit of rest.” Sarah Gruiters responds with her photography – in which she invades privacy and messes with scale. And then there’s Tao Wells’ review of Sarah Gruiters, aptly entitled ‘Starts Off Awkward and Then I Really Say Something.’ The beginning is awkward because Wells keeps coming back to himself – his own relationship to the art scene, not knowing what to write about, etc. Eventually he has insightful things to say about Gruiters’s work, but I got tired of waiting for them.

Really, the only disadvantage of the issue’s eccentricity is the potential to feel shut out. I was confused by ‘Three Street Review,’ a collection of notes from a kind of scavenger hunt in the streets of Auckland. Interesting once I figured out the format (hint: follow the columns, not the pages), but I had to plough through a lot of randomness to get there.

Overall, ‘Stakeout’ is an intriguing collection and a strong follow-up to Hue & Cry’s debut. I’m eager to see where the journal will go next.