Glenn Colquhoun: Jumping Ship

Harry Ricketts: How To Live Elsewhere

Lydia Wevers: On Reading

Life is very nice, but it has no shape.

The object of art is actually to give it some," as the French dramatist Jean Anouilh said, which is one way of explaining the appeal of this latest trio of essays from Jones' series.

At the intersection of life and literature lie new perspectives on the situations in which we find ourselves — in this case, all three essayists are concerned to some degree with identity and place, and what could be more timely than that?

In Wevers' case, these are largely found amid a landscape of books, and only more incidentally mentions her arrival here in New Zealand from Holland as a child in 1953.

The Ans Westra photo on the cover — of a little girl peeping somewhat illicitly into a magical, hidden world — is a wonderful metaphor for Wevers', or any reader's, life-in-books.

But Ricketts and Colquhoun deal directly with the matter of fitting in, of functioning in ways appropriate and meaningful in new, chosen environments, and, in their turn, being shaped by those new places.

Ricketts arrived in New Zealand as an adult in 1981 after a nomadic childhood in Britain and her former colonies, and thus views what he finds here with fresh, sometimes surprised eyes, before concluding, happily, that "life here is lived on a human scale".

Colquhoun's essay feeds most directly into the present post-Brash-at-Orewa milieu, and, characteristically, he brings humour and humanity — a touch of the real — to the debate.

A few years ago Colquhoun went to live in the tiny, mainly Maori community of Te Tii in the Bay of Islands.

There he met and fell in love with Aunty Rongo — "one of the great relationships of my life" — made many other friends, and was open enough to change the way he saw himself as a New Zealander.

"For me to be Pakeha now is to be in part Maori," he explains, in tacit agreement with the many New Zealanders who have recently pointed out that, while Maori must live in a pakeha world, most pakeha never engage with the Maori side of our nation — as Colquhoun puts it, across the Maori "border".

He explores the phenomenon of Pakeha Maori, and says: "Pakeha and Maori are joined at the historical hip.

We will trip and we will dance." Somehow, reading Colquhoun's take on this, it all seems straightforward, personal, desirable — and enjoyable.

His language is joyous; his universe, living in that small place, is large.

It's art, and it matters.

Four Winds Press, $14.95 each