Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Port Out, Starboard Home – and other language myths – Michael Quinion – Penguin Hardcover RRP NZ$35 UK 13.00 pds. Bought at UBS Christchurch on special at $30

Cut the mustard, the full monty, the real McCoy, curry favour, spitting image, straight and narrow, sling one’s hook, in like Flynn, kibosh, proof of the pudding etc etc etc

The author, a writer on language and researcher for the OED, explains the origins and meanings of these and hundreds of other words and phrases that we use in our every day speech. Fascinating, fun and invaluable for anyone interested in language.

Quinion is famous as the writer and editor of the newsletter and one of my favourite websites both called World Wide Words –

Do have a look at this site when you have the time.

Riding with Rilke - Reflections on Motorcycles and Books – Ted Bishop - Norton
NZ $48 US $23.95 Pub.by Penguin in Canada Can$32.00
Bought at Unity Books, Auckland

“Rilke is a German poet, and it is unlikely Ted actually rode with him, ‘cause he was dead by 1926, but if you’re an English professor from oot’ west I guerss you can imagine this sort of stuff….” – this from an online review.

English professor Ted Bishop suffers a fall from his motorbike, in fact breaks his back in two places, and as a result finds himself in an unusual situation, he finally has time to read everything he wants. This is his story, much of it about literature but also much about motorcycle journeys across North America and Europe.
Reminded me somewhat of that 1970’s classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Geography for the Lost– Kapka Kassabova – Auckland University Press NZ$25
Published in the UK by Bloodaxe.
Bought at The Booklover, Takapuna.,Auckland.

This from the remarkably talented Kapka Kassabova who writes, fiction, poetry and travel guides. Born in Bulgaria and living there until she was sixteen, she has since lived in the UK and New Zealand but these days seems a citizen of the world as she travels the globe. Presently in Edinburgh her latest work comprises travelling poems clearly written from the heart, and from her experiences.
KK will be back in NZ for the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival 24-27 May.

An excerpt from “I Want to be a Tourist”

I imagine my life as a city
Somewhere in the third world, or the second.
And I want to be a tourist
In the city of my life.

LITERARY LIVES - Edward Sorel Bloomsbury US US$14.95 NZ $36.00
Bought at Unity Books, Auckland.

Caricaturist Edward Sorel provides hilarious illustrated biographies of ten iconic literary figures – Tolstoy, Rand, Proust, Yeats, Hellman, Jung, Sartre, Eliot, Brecht & Mailer.
Great fun, an extravagance on my part but simply couldn’t resist it when I found it at Unity Books on my most recent visit.

Wild Mary – A Life of Mary Wesley – Patrick Marnham – Vintage NZ $30
Bought at The Booklover, Takapuna, Auckland.

I bought this for Annie. It has been widely and wonderfully reviewed and as she has read most of Wesley’s novels I thought she would find it fascinating. Sure enough she has been buried in it the last two nights. Marnham is a master biographer.He Is a former literary editor of the Spectator.

Canterbury University Press NZ$29.50
My copy from the publishers.

The\is book is the brainchild of two keen outdoor enthusiasts who both happen to be food lovers and it is a delight. The authors have never been keen on boil-in-the-bag meals or scroggin and so have designed easy-to-make but delicious meals, and not only that but they have matched them with NZ wines!

The book does two things – it provides detailed, and illustrated tramping and direction instructions for 14 of New Zealand’s most spectacular two-day walks (from as far north as Great Barrier Island to Stewart Is in the south) as well as the aforementioned recipes and how to prepare them in the wilderness. Profusely illustrated throughout by superb full-colour photographs, featuring both meals and scenery, this gem of a book may revolutionise the way we Kiwis approach our tramping.

A MAN ABOUT A DOG – Euphemisms& other examples of verbal sqeamishness
Nigel Rees Collins NZ$50
Bought at UBS, Christchurch
Nigel Rees seems to have been writing about language forever. I certainly remember his books from the 1970’s, there was one on the subject of graffiti that was a best-seller back then. This book contains 2467 examples of what he terms “verbal perfume”. He has been writing and publishing on euphemisms since the mid-80’s but I reckon this is his best to date. He says a euphemism “describes the process of mincing words and the tendency that most of us have towards verbal sqeamishness”. Illuminating, entertaining and useful this 400+ page book will have an honoured place on my reference shelves

THE IMPERIAL, NEW DELHI by Andreas Augustin

Friends of ours recently stayed at this beautiful hotel in New Delhi, part of the Most Famous Hotels in the World group and on checking out were given this sumptuous, lavishly illustrated hard back book which is a history of the hotel and all the famous people who have stayed there over the years, Mahatma Ghandi, Nehru, Queen Beartix,Lord Mountbatten and others.

I gather similar titles are published for each property in the group.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kapka Kassabova is visiting New Zealand for a month and while she is here she will be making appearances:

24 May Auckland City Library Desert Island Reads (6pm)

24-7 May: various appearances at the Auckland Writers and readers festival

18 June: an event at The Women’s Bookshop in Ponsonby with poet Janet Charman and novelist Paula Morris (6pm)