Monday, April 27, 2015

Dorothy Vinicombe R.I.P.

Joan McKenzie advises:

It is with enormous sadness that I advise that Dorothy Vinicombe lost her battle with cancer last evening . She has many friends and admirers in the book community, who will join with her family and colleagues in mourning her, and remembering the good times. 

Details of the funeral service will be posted on this blog when they come to hand. 

The Writers' Festival - one of NZ's leading contemporary writers at the top of her game

What a marvellous novel. I couldn't get my nose out of it ! I guess because I have spent most of my adult life working in the book world, first a bookseller, then publisher, then to judging book awards, reviewing books and blogging about them, I related so strongly to this terrific story and to many of the author's superbly drawn characters.
Everyone one who works in the world of books as well as all bibliophiles must read this book. It is a knockout.

Here is the book's back cover copy which I think sums it up well without giving too much away.

Wit, compassion and insight combine in this entertaining novel that explores the politics and human comedy behind writers' festivals and the publishing industry.

Writers' festivals can be hotbeds of literary and romantic intrigue, and the Oceania is up there with the best of them. Rookie director Rae McKay, recently returned from New York, fears she has bitten off more than she can chew. Pressure comes not only from local and international writers but also from the prestigious Opus Book Award, which this year is being hosted by the festival. Add to that high-level diplomatic fallout surrounding a dissident Chinese writer, Rae's slowly disintegrating private life and ongoing dramas involving much loved characters of The Writing Class, and the result is a wise and witty novel that explores the contemporary phenomenon of the public face of the writer. 

About the author:

Stephanie JohnsonStephanie Johnson is the author of several collections of poetry and of short stories, some plays and adaptations, and many fine novels. The New Zealand Listener commented that Stephanie Johnson is a writer of talent and distinction. Over the course of an award-winning career — during which she has written plays, poetry, short stories and novels — she has become a significant presence in the New Zealand literary landscape, a presence cemented and enhanced by her roles as critic and creative writing teacher.' the Shag Incident won the Montana Deutz Medal for Fiction in 2003, and Belief was shortlisted for the same award. Stephanie has also won the Bruce Mason Playwrights Award and Katherine Mansfield Fellowship, and was the 2001 Literary Fellow at the University of Auckland. Many of her novels have been published in Australia, America and the United Kingdom. She co-founded the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival with Peter Wells in 1999.

The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature describes Johnson's writing as ‘marked by a dry irony, a sharp-edged humour that focuses unerringly on the frailties and foolishness of her characters . . . There is compassion, though, and sensitivity in the development of complex situations', and goes on to note that ‘a purposeful sense of . . . larger concerns balances Johnson's precision with the small details of situation, character and voice that give veracity and colour'.

Her writing has been described as ‘skilful, insightful, witty', displaying ‘a truly light touch' (New Zealand Herald). Belief, which was shortlisted for the 2001 Montana Book Awards, was called by Sara Wilson in The Historical Novel Review (UK) ‘a powerful novel, unsentimental and unflinching in its portrayal of the potentially destructive power of love and faith'. In North & South, Warwick Roger wrote that Music from a Distant Room saw Johnson in ‘top form'— a novel which is ‘immensely satisfying, utterly believable'.

Reviewing The Open World in The New Zealand Listener, John McCrystal praised the ‘deftness of touch' with which Johnson renders her characters: ‘it's often no more than a little detail, such as the habitual movement of a muscle in a face that brings a character to life'. After commending the lightness with which she wears her obviously extensive research, he noted the care she takes with language — ‘Best of all is her feel for the elegance of the Victorian turn of phrase.'

Novels include: Crimes of Neglect (1992; short-listed for Wattie's Book Awards 1993); The Heart's Wild Surf (1996, and Dymock's/Quote Unquote Readers' Poll's Best New Zealand Book 1996; published in the United States in 2003 as The Sailmaker's Daughter); The Whistler (1998; third prize in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 1999); Belief (2000; short-listed for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2001); The Shag Incident (2002;Deutz Medal for Fiction, Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2003); Music from a Distant Room (2004; long-listed 2009 Impac Prize, Dublin); John Tomb's Head (2006; long-listed 2006 Impac Prize, Dublin); Swimmers' Rope (2008; long-listed 2009 Impac Prize, Dublin); The Open World (2012); and The Writing Class (2013).

Short story collections include: The Glass Whittler (1989); All the Tenderness Left in the World (1993); and Drowned Sprat and Other Stories (2005).

Poetry collections include: The Bleeding Ballerina (1986) and Moody Bitch (2003).

Stage plays include: Accidental Phantasies; Folie a Deux; Strange Children; and Goodnight Nurse.

The Children Act review – Ian McEwan’s compelling study of rational versus religious belief

A high court judge is the voice of reason in the face of religious short-sightedness in McEwan’s 13th novel

Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan: ‘His atheism rings loud and clear.’ Photograph: Karen Robinson
The Children Act, McEwan’s 13th novel, presents us with some of the usual trappings that have come to characterise his recent work: the well-educated and well-off protagonist whose equilibrium is suddenly upset by a powerful external force; and a single moment of apparently innocuous, but ultimately momentous, misunderstanding.

By day 59-year-old Fiona Maye, a high court judge, presides over family division cases; by night she sips Sancerre on the chaise longue in her Gray’s Inn flat, dines with colleagues at Middle Temple, or attends concerts at Kings Place “(Schubert, Scriabin)”. Her 35-year marriage with her academic husband is imploding, but this is background noise; the main event is the emergency case she’s just agreed to take on. A 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness named Adam – an impossibly beautiful, slightly unbelievable, near ethereal presence who writes poetry and plays the violin – is refusing the blood transfusion that could save his life, and Fiona has to decide whether rational or religious thought wins the day.

The Wolf Border review – Sarah Hall’s wild and sensual novel

The reintroduction of the grey wolf into Cumbria serves as a powerful metaphor for wildness and regeneration in this rich tale from a master storyteller

'Notions of wildness': grey wolves pictured at Bristol Zoo.
'Notions of wildness': grey wolves pictured at Bristol Zoo. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Two years ago, the twice Man Booker-nominated author Sarah Hall won the BBC short story award for “Mrs Fox”, a tale of domestic entrapment told through the lens of transmogrification. Her new novel is a natural successor since, although the story lacks the magical realism of its predecessor, it’s built around a similar central examination: notions of wildness – animal, human, environmental – and the complex interplay between them.

Facing an unplanned pregnancy, Rachel Caine leaves the Idaho reservation where she’s worked for 10 years. At home in the UK, she takes charge of a project to reintroduce the grey wolf, “tawny as the landscape, and utterly congruent” to the Cumbrian countryside. The controversial scheme is the latest pet venture of the Earl of Annerdale, a “landed British entrepreneur, known for causing trouble in the House, for sponsoring sea eagles and opposing badger culls”. He is also, Rachel eventually learns, after a prominent role in the redefined landscape – both political and ecological – that looks set to emerge after Scottish independence.

Regeneration in a multitude of guises is the mainstay of the novel; but rather than overworking the metaphor, Hall organically incorporates each and every instance into the narrative, adding a tensile strength to the base architecture upon which the story hangs. She is both master storyteller and skilled wordsmith. Her evocation of the landscape is particularly sensual – “Moorland, peat, ferns, water and whatever the water touches: the myrrh of autumn” – but she also draws her characters and the relationships between them with an equivalent richness. It is still only April, but I’m confident The Wolf Border will be one of the fiction highlights of this year.

The Wolf Border is published by Faber (£17.99).

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Rediscover New Zealand’s hidden First World War history through the places where it happened in handsome new hardback

New Zealand's First World War Heritage

Imelda Bargas and Tim Shoebridge

Hardback | 242 x 184 mm | 288 pages - Exisle Publishing - $49.99

No battles were fought here, yet the First World War intruded into the daily life of every New Zealander who remained at home. This ground-breaking book provides vivid new insights into their experiences through exploring the places where they lived, worked, coped and mourned: army camps, fortifications, soldier-settler farms, town halls, wharves, convalescent homes and hospitals, cemeteries and war memorials, dairy factories and woollen mills.

From Northland to Stewart Island, our landscape is signposted with thousands of poignant memorials, and behind the façades of old buildings, beneath scrub and behind farm fences lies a less visible landscape of war and hundreds of hidden stories waiting to be told: a soldier’s name carved on a remote railway station, a once bustling uniform factory in the heart of a city, a long abandoned gun battery …

This unique book will be a revelation to all New Zealanders. Extensively illustrated with new and period photographs and fascinating maps, it contains original research and information that will open the eyes of every reader to places and stories in their community hidden in plain sight. The impact of the First World War on New Zealanders was immense; its legacy can be seen all around us today.

About the authors:

Imelda Bargas is a Senior Historian in the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s History Group, having previously worked as a registration advisor at the then New Zealand Historic Places Trust. She has written extensively for, which she helps manage.
Tim Shoebridge is also a Senior Historian at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, having previously worked as a researcher and report writer at the Waitangi Tribunal. His publications include The Good Citizen (2009), Quarantine! (with Gavin McLean, 2010), and Featherston Military Training Camp and the First World War (2011).

The New York Times Sunday Book reviews

'My Struggle: Book 4'

Jeffrey Eugenides reviews Karl Ove Knausgaard's "My Struggle: Book 4," which centers on the author's yearlong stint as a sexually frustrated young teacher in northern Norway.
Per Petterson

'I Refuse'

Per Petterson's new novel is about lost parents and the unexpectedly divergent paths of childhood friends who meet again as adults.
Asne Seierstad

'One of Us'

"One of Us" explores a dark side of contemporary Scandinavia through the life and crimes of Anders Behring Breivik, a mass murderer who killed 77 people, most of them teenagers.
Olen Steinhauer

Olen Steinhauer: By the Book

The author, most recently, of "All the Old Knives" says the best espionage stories "not only ask questions about how spying is performed, but they also question the value of the job itself."
Teatime at Faringdon House, home to Lord Berners, far right, and his lover, Robert Heber-Percy.

'The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me'

In the 1930s and '40s, a resplendent English estate was the home of a most unconventional family.
David Brooks

'The Road to Character'

David Brooks contrasts marketplace skills and the drive toward self-promotion with inner character.
The barbed wire of the Manzanar camp, secretly photographed.

'Infamy' and 'The Train to Crystal City'

Two books about the internment of Japanese- (and sometimes German-) Americans during World War II.

'Lurid & Cute'

A loafer lapses into a hedonistic, drug-hazed life.

Dave Eggers explains why he’s blowing the whistle on the internet era

Dave Eggers: 'We worry about the NSA and GCHQ, but we're complicit. We spy on each other'

We’re monitoring our spouses, brainwashing our children, and putting power into the hands of the few. The novelist Dave Eggers explains why he’s blowing the whistle on the internet era.

Future shock: Dave Eggers is alarmed at how the internet and big data are warping our lives
Future shock: Dave Eggers is alarmed at how the internet and big data are warping our lives Photo: Peter Strain
Dave Eggers has just been reminded why he can’t allow himself near the internet. The night before I meet him in Paris to talk about his latest three novels – published in a burst of creativity over the past three years – he has been up until 3am watching videos on YouTube on a houseboat he has rented in Amsterdam. “I got back, and to wind down I watched the comedy duo Key & Peele,” he says, while we sit in a bijou hotel overlooking the Place du Panthéon. “There’s just hundreds of YouTube clips. I couldn’t stop. That’s my thing. I can’t be near that stuff. I can’t have it in the house. I would never work again.”

Eggers, you see, has been working very hard indeed. Since his 2000 debut, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated memoir about his parents’ deaths from cancer within five weeks of each other and his subsequent rearing of his then eight-year-old brother, Christopher – Eggers has published short stories, novels, anthologies and children’s books. In 2002, he founded a literacy centre, 826 Valencia, for schoolchildren in San Francisco. On the back of its success, he opened a string of them across America, which led to others being set up in Europe. Eggers has come to Paris to visit the latest of these. 

The Saturday poem: In the Vicinity of the Crank-House by Anthony Thwaite

An elderly man holding a walking stick
'There are worse ways of being a connoisseur than comparing walking sticks' … from In the Vicinity of the Crank-House by Anthony Thwaite. Photograph: Alamy

I am becoming a connoisseur of walking sticks
Comparing my own stout stump with the slender ferrule,
The harsh metal wand, or the pair of hospital crutches.

Not lameness or amputation, thank God, simply old age
And a condition known as “degenerative spine” –
Something between a moral menace and a washed-out weakling.

In the vicinity of the crank-house the maimed swing by
As I make my own slow way between sets of traffic lights,
Grinning a greeting grimly in complicitous courtesy.

My first was something much lighter, with a silver band,
But I had to leave that behind as my back shrank.
Sometimes I journey uphill muttering to myself

That bit of Christina Rossetti in a stertorous way.
There are worse ways of being a connoisseur
Than quoting Christina Rossetti, and comparing walking sticks.

From Going Out by Anthony Thwaite (Enitharmon £9.99)

The businesses of books

ADTECH GmbH (Master default)

Published April 21, 2015. TBookseller - By Philip Jones

From personalised cookbooks to co-publishing, the London Book Fair last week was awash with companies talking about their latest innovations. Many of these were reported in The Bookseller Daily but, in case you missed them, here’s a round-up with some additional commentary as to why I think they are important.

Among the most interesting announcements was Quarto launching a new online business which will enable readers to create personalised hardback cookbooks. This is Your Cookbook lets users create a 96-page hardback, collating recipes from Quarto’s cookery archives as well as incorporating their own recipes. Users can also add images, select a front cover and write their own dedication. The project is being run by Quarto publisher Mark Searle, who said: “The idea for This is Your Cookbook came about when we were talking about our favourite cookbooks. We’ve all got a few that we turn to again and again, but every cookbook we own has recipes we don’t want in it.”

The Quarto move is a kind of holy-grail for illustrated publishers, who have assets a plenty, the rights to re-use them, and need to find new ways to monetise them. There have been similar pushes in the travel field (create your own guidebook), and of course in academic publishing, where institutions look to create their own course packs.


How to get down to grips with writing a book?

How to get down to grips with writing a book? Take a walk on the wild side

Researching her latest novel, Melissa Harrison found herself walking alone up the A5. She spent four days not fitting in – exposed but exhilarated
Private no access to farm land Derbyshire Peak District Monsal Dale England UK
Road to nowhere … Melissa Harrison attempted to follow in the footsteps of her protagonist, an itinerant farmer, but found many of the fields were fenced off. Photograph: Alamy
I don’t remember deciding to walk the old Roman road north, but strange things can happen when you’re wrestling with a novel. All I can recall is that it suddenly seemed imperative, as things often do in dreams. What I really needed was to step into the half-born book and let it close over my head for a few days – perhaps it was this kind of inchoate instinct rather than the more rational reason I gave myself, which was that I should walk at least a little way in my character Jack’s shoes in order to get a feel for the journey he makes.
Melissa Harrison. Photograph: Jason Alden/eyevine.

Melissa Harrison. Photograph: Jason Alden/eyevine.
Jack is a one-time protester, itinerant farm-worker, vagrant, poet and seer who has spent 30 years on the road, and of At Hawthorn Time’s four main characters he’s the one with the least conventional life. When the book opens he has just served half of a prison sentence, the latest in a long line of convictions for trespass; he skips bail to walk up Watling Street, now the A5, in search of work. Jack’s journey north out of London was, for me, uncharted territory.

Not that the busy, workaday suburb of Harpenden felt particularly like the unknown as I disembarked from a train with my backpack one April morning. I was well prepared for the next four days, or so I thought: better than Jack would have been, anyway. I had hiking boots on, and a walking jacket, an Ordnance Survey map and a mobile phone; and I’d booked overnight stays at two pubs and a B&B, wild camping being illegal in England. I had water and cash, and my notebook, and the weather was nice. How hard could walking up Watling Street be?

Discovering Pablo Neruda

Work in Progress: The Latest from the Front Lines of Literature
An Ode to the Captain: Discovering Pablo Neruda
Casey Rocheteau
On Writers
Pablo Neruda found me in a strange way. I was still a teenager, obsessed with the Beats and pouring over Whitman in English class. I enjoyed writing poetry, but did not yet take it seriously. I was standing in the poetry section of the Barnes and Noble in the Cape Cod Mall, with my boyfriend, who was also an aspiring poet, trying to discern what new book to bite into. An older man who looked identical to Charles Bukowski, down to the mole on his face, appeared from around the corner of the shelf. Returning a book to the shelf, the man said, "This is what you should be reading. That's the good stuff." As he walked away, I looked to see what he had put back. It was a bilingual edition of The Captain's Verses. Incredulous, I asked my boyfriend "did Bukowski's ghost just tell us to read Neruda?"

Read on...
Negotiating the Sky
John Freeman and Adonis
In Conversation
The poet Ali Ahmed Said, better known by his pen name, Adonis, was born in a mountain village of a few hundred people in Northwestern Syria in 1930. For the past thirty-some years, Adonis has lived in Paris, but continues to write in Arabic. His poems of exile and longing reflect a long life spent, for political reasons, outside of his native Syria. He despairs of the war that rages there now, and does not see easy solutions. During a free-ranging conversation in New York City at the PEN World Voices Festival last spring, the spry, eighty-four-year-old poet explained how the forces behind his modern voice are actually centuries old. He also spoke boldly against the force of organized religion within the Middle East and Syria.

Read on...

Nelson book launch invitation

We wouldn't need the word "prose" if it weren't for poetry

Inside the Mind of Poetry
We wouldn't need the word "prose" if it weren't for poetry.

One must have a mind of winter.

The greatest lines in poetry are infinitely quotable while having no definite meaning. What is a mind of winter, and why must one have one? It doesn’t matter. Wallace Stevens’ greatness lay in his ability to produce these kinds of anti-aphorisms, seemingly wise but ultimately ungraspable: Thought is false happiness. She sang beyond the genius of the sea. The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream. And, most pointedly: The poem must resist the intelligence / almost successfully. (Or, nay, successfully!)

I believe that to read poetry, one must have a mind of poetry. You must enter a state where you come to understand meaning-resistant arrangements of language as having their own kind of meaning. It’s quite similar to those Magic Eye posters from the ‘90s: If you haven’t figured out how to look at them, you can’t believe that anyone really sees the dolphin. (This metaphor has its limits, making learned skill seem like an on/off conversion; too, with poetry, even when you’ve mastered “the trick,” not everyone sees the same thing.) 


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Book-to-Screen Adaptations That Are Worth the Read

By Pamela Satran    |   Friday, April 24, 2015 - Off the Shelf
The very best book-to-screen adaptations are those where you can’t tell which you like better—the cinematic version or the literary work that inspired it. I feel that way myself about my own novel Younger and the new television series of the same name, created by Sex and the City’s Darren Star and starring Sutton Foster, Hilary Duff, and Debi Mazar.

I envisioned Younger on the screen almost before I plotted it out as a book, mostly because it’s such a perfect property for a forty-ish actress, letting her look hot and at the same time show off her depth and hard-earned acting prowess. With that starting point, I was extra thrilled when I heard that Star had chosen Sutton Foster to play the lead in the show. A Tony Award–winning Broadway star, Foster brings soul, depth, and glamour to the character.
Here are some of my favorite book-to-screen adaptations:... READ MORE

Far from the Madding Crowd – does the film live up to Hardy's novel?

Far from the Madding Crowd might be Hardy’s sunniest novel, but it is also subversive and unsettling. Thomas Vinterberg’s new film adaptation creates a Bathsheba for the modern audience, but does it capture the book’s strangeness and erotic energy?

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene in Thomas Vinterberg’s Far from the Madding Crowd. Allstar Picture Library/Fox Searchlight
Far from the Madding Crowd has been called the “warmest and sunniest” of Thomas Hardy’s novels. In contrast to the inexorable tragedy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles or the nihilistic horror of Jude the Obscure, it indeed has a conventional happy ending. The narrative follows the fortunes of the spirited “woman-farmer” Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors: the sturdy, steady shepherd Gabriel Oak; Sergeant Troy, a dangerous Don Juan in uniform; and the repressed gentleman farmer William Boldwood. Gabriel is ultimately rewarded for his constancy, and the book ends with his wedding to Bathsheba.

Latest News from The Bookseller

Connect Books m.d. Justin Adams has said a more “sustainable” model is needed for the library supply chain.
Adams, who has led the company since January, emphasised Connect Books’ commitment to serving the public library sector, but said the Norwich-based firm had recently conducted an internal review of its library supply contracts to identify a number that were “unprofitable and unsustainable” in the medium term. 
Pearson has said trading for the first three months of 2015 has been in line with expectations, with a "good" first-quarter performance from Penguin Random House boosted by "million-copy" sales for The Girl on the Train.
Pearson's underlying sales for the quarter were down 1% to £0.9bn. Headline sales increased 5% with the benefit from the strength of the US dollar against sterling.
Conflicting messages have been issued on the Green Party's copyright policy, after an uproar among authors over its proposal to limit copyright to just 14 years.
Amazon achieved a 15% rise in first quarter net sales to $22.7bn, but sales in its international division were down. 
The e-commerce giant reported a loss of $57m for the quarter.
Authors gave a passionate defence of libraries and teachers at an event held last night (23rd April) to mark World Book Night.
Writers including David Almond, Lynda La Plante [pictured] and Irvine Welsh made speeches and gave readings during the event at the Shaw Theatre in London, the flagship event of World Book Night, which saw thousands of volunteers across the UK giving out 250,000 books to people to spread the love of reading.
Parragon has made three new senior management appointments.
The Bookseller is looking for this year’s Rising Stars for its annual feature on the next generation of movers and shakers in the book industry.
Nominations are now open to anyone across the industry, with a deadline of Friday 8th May.
A retrospective of Lauren Child’s work, including 50 original pieces of art by the author and illustrator, will take place at the National Trust’s Mottisfont property in Hampshire this summer.
The Art of Lauren Child: Adventures with Charlie, Lola and Friends will run from 18th July to 6th September, featuring illustrations by Child as well as objects that have inspired her work—including the vial that Lola’s pink milk glass, which features in the Charlie and Lola series, was based on.
Independent Bath-based bookseller Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights is being "twinned" with Parisian independent Shakespeare & Co next week to celebrate the publication of Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop (Abacus).
Figures from across the publishing industry are limbering up for the Virgin London Marathon this Sunday (26th April).
Nick Coveney, head of digital at Blink Publishing, will be running to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society and the Albert Kennedy Trust via his fundraising page.
Vintage is launching its lead debut fiction title of the summer, Kirsty Logan’s The Gracekeepers, with an interview on BBC Radio 2’s “Simon Mayo Book Club” and a circus-themed launch at Foyles at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Logan will appear on Mayo’s show on 27th April. The book launch event will take place the day after and will see acrobats, fire performers, stilt walkers and face painters entertaining guests at the bookshop.
Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon will narrate the audio edition of Harper Lee's forthcoming novel, Go Set a Watchman.
The audiobook will be published by Random House Audiobooks on 14th July, alongside the print edition, published in the UK by William Heinemann.