Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Monday, April 30, 2007
What about this from the New York Times?
This from The Huffington Post over the weekend.
Check out these reviews of Australia's Miles Franklin Literary Award finalists from Brisbane's Courier Mail.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
This story over the weekend from the Daily Telegraph.
I wrote about this title last week.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Thursday, April 26, 2007
I just read this interesting piece on Arts & Letters Daily, Denis Dutton's marvellous electronic daily publication. The story originated from London's Daily Telegraph from where I also uploaded the picture which in turn came from the Getty Collection.
Not according to The Guardian. I've just been trolling through my favourite newspapers online to make sure I didn't miss anything while away this past week and came across this story from the 18 April issue in which it is suggested that "book prizes remain a vital, and equalising, means of alerting readers to rewarding books."
Amen to that I say!
24.04.07 Anna Richardson writing in The Bookseller:
The Orange Broadband Award for New Writers revealed its trio of shortlisted titles -
The prize, which is in its third year, considers first works of fiction written in English by a woman of any age or nationality, published as a book in the UK, with the emphasis on "emerging talent and the evidence of future potential".
Supported by the Arts Council England, it offers a bursary of £10,000 to the winner.
Chair of judges Jackie Kay said: "We were very impressed with this year's submissions for the Orange Broadband Award for New Writers. We admired the breadth, depth, insight and talent of so many of these books and were spoilt for choice and impressed with the state of women's fiction today. We are happy to see women take on such big and serious subjects, both personal and political, with such imaginative panache."
The winner will be announced at the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction award ceremony which takes place on 6th June at the Royal Festival hall. Previous winners are Diana Evans and Naomi Alderman.
I'm feeling a tad weary this am after getting home around midnight last night.
Never mind this morning I've been out walking in Western Park and then up to Ponsonby Road's Cafe 121 for a coffee before heading home for breakfast.
Who should walk in while I was waiting for my trim flat white (have been calling them skinny flats for the last week across the Tasman) than that human dynamo of a bookseller Carole from the Womens Bookshop. She has a genuine reason for feeling a bit spacy as she has just returned from the London Book Fair where she looked after the New Zealand stand and had some great adventures including talking to Margaret Attwood (a genius says CB) and Marilyn French (see my blog of two days ago). Carole now has an autographed copy of the new edition of The Women's Room!
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
From the Sydney Morning Herald.........................
This is a collection of paintings, pastels, prints and drawings of women in the collections of the Petit Palais selected by Quentin Blake to accompany an exhibition of the same name at the recently re-opened Petit Palais in December 2005-February 2006.
Blake is one of the finest contemporary British children’s book illustrators and his illustrations of the Roald Dahl books through the 70’s and 80’s have delighted thousands of children worldwide.
For this exhibition and book project he was given carte blanche access to the museum and all its collections. There are around 60 works featured and they are a diverse and interesting group which include both famous and less known works from painters such as Degas, Renoir, Cassat and others.
Throughout this utterly delightful book Blake has illustrated his text with his own zany art. Published by Frances Lincoln I can’t tell you the price because the book was a birthday gift to Annie.
Following the huge international success of his first novel, The Piano Tuner, this second work has been keenly anticipated. I read it while on holiday this week.
Set in an anonymous third world country, I assume somewhere in Central America, it tells the story if Isabel who has been raised in a remote village between the edge of the jungle and the sugar cane plantations which provides work for the men of the village.
From a very young age she is looked after by her brother Isaias and over the years they become inseparable friends. When drought strikes Isaias is sent off to the distant city to work and when he does not return Isabel sets out to look for him.
The bulk of the book is taken up with Isabel’s journey to the city, several days journey on the back of a flat bed truck, of her huge adjustment to the confusion and danger of the city, and of her search for her much-loved brother. She is just 14 years old.
Stylish and elegant, heart-breaking in parts, teeming with unusual and distinctive characters, including our protagonist this is a tale that is quiet but also both powerful and emotional
Monday, April 23, 2007
Oops missed posting this on Friday last. Sorry.
Reading The Australian today (20 April) I came across the short list for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s premier literary award.
The shortlist is
Theft: A Love Story - Peter Carey
Dreams of Speaking - Gail Jones
Careless - Deborah Robertson
Carpentaria - Alex Wright
To learn more about the Miles Franklin Literary Award visit here.
Are you a red wine drinker? Then you will take pleasure this mini review I read in the Sun-Herald yesterday.
"Drink red wine every day, live healthier and longer. It sounds too good to be true, but Roger Corder is a professor of experimental therapeutics, so I’m happy to take his word for it. Particularly as I do drink red wine nearly every day and am keen to hang around for a few more years. While Corder advocates drinking red wine regularly , he also encourages those following his lifestyle plan to eat lots of vegetables, fruit and nuts.
A lot of what he writes is simply common sense, but I’m pleased to know that if I keep drinking I’m less likely to suffer from dementia.
Came across this Australian magazine yesterday in Mary Ryan’s an excellent bookstore in Noosa, Queensland.
Check the magazine out on http://www.wetink.com.au/ and the bookstore on http://www.maryryan.com.au/
As the editors say, “Publishing Wet Ink showcases new and emerging grassroots writers in a national context by bringing them to the attention of readers and other publishers
30 years ago Marilyn French wrote what became hailed as the first feminist novel. On the anniversary she has written an essay introducing the new edition of the ground-breaking novel and she spoke to Jane Wheatley .
This from the Guardian over the weekend.
In the April 2007 issue of Literary Review there is a review under this heading by Frances Wilson of DECENCY AND DISORDER: THE AGE OF CANT 1789-1837 by Ben Wilson, Faber & Faber pds20.00
I thought you might enjoy the opening and closing paragraphs, I know I did.
“Cant is one of those kooky, quaint four-letter words which have long since lost their power to offend. Like ‘culture’, the slipperiness of its meaning makes it almost impossible to define, and much of Ben Wilson’s annoyingly brilliant analysis of the period called by Byron ‘the age of cant’ could serve as an appendix to Raymond William’s “Key Words”………………
To some the word cant was simply a reminder to a foul-mouthed youth of the importance of politeness, or cleaning up the mess after a party, while to others cant was synonymous with insincerity, hypocrisy, dogma, imposture, and jargon.
“Decency & Disorder” is a lambasting attack on philistinism, and Ben Wilson is to be credited with the dubious merit of bringing ‘cant’ back into the language.
Something I noticed in this issue of the Literary review was the number of non-fiction titles with sub-titles. Here are a few of them:
The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements
A Teardrop on the Cheek of Time: The Story of the Taj Mahal
The Mughal World: India’s Tainted Paradise
No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War
Hubbub: Filth, Noise and Stench in England, 1600-1770
Planet Chicken: The Shameful Story of the Bird on Your Plate
The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace
The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma
Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi
Panama Fever: The Battle to Build the Canal
Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera
Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector
Bomber Boys: Fighting Back 1940-1945
There are many more.
Friday, April 20, 2007
This from Sian Powell’s entertaining Strewth column in The Australian today (April 20):
Now that Peter Carey’s novel “Theft:A Love Story” has been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award, speculation has been mounting on the fate of his ex-wife’s tit-for-tat revenge book, reportedly titled “Mrs.Jekyll.” Alison Summers was married to carey for 20 years before their acrimonious break-up, and she has been open about her hatred of his book, which she claims features a rude caricature of her. “Theft’s” protagonist, a remarkable Carey-like man, has an ex-wife, dubbed a grasping shopaholic and referred to throughout the book as The Plaintiff. Summer has reportedly been hard at wok on her book, which she says is about a woman who is married to a man for many years before she finally realizes he is not the man she thought he was.
Although I read this weekly review online each weekend I still much prefer to hold that actual section of the newspaper in my hand when reading. So when a bundle of them arrive in the mail from my daughter in NYC I am always delighted even though they may be a month or two old. Three copies arrived earlier this week so I tucked them in my briefcase and read them on the flight from Auckland to Brisbane on Thursday.
The cover story in the issue of February 4 is entitled American Dream Deferred by Kaiama Glover and comprises a review covering two pages of ‘Man Gone Down’ by Michael Thomas (Black Cat/Grove/Atalanta, paper US$14).
It is a superb review, thorough and thoughtful and beautifully written but it is an example of a review that is so comprehensive that having read it I do not need to read the book.
The reviewer, Kaiama Glover, is the subject of the editorial which says in part “Glover notes that the book raises the question of how the narrator negotiates a color line that runs smack through the middle of his family. She’s no stranger to that reality –“ My own family pretty much runs the color gamut, so I am well aware of the intricacies of skin tone dynamics in contemporary America. My mother is of Bahamian, African-American and American Indian extraction, and my father is a blondish-haired, green-eyed ‘black’ man of multiple ethnicity”
The first black female valedictorian at White Palms High School, Glover went to Harvard and majored in French history and literature, and Afro-American studies.
She now teaches in the French department and Africana studies program at Barnard and Columbia”.
Also reviewed in this issue is Paris – The Secret History by Andrew Hussey , Bloomsbury US$32.50
This is the opening paragraph of Caroline Weber’s review:
Years ago, while strolling through a Parisian flower market, I was accosted by a man with a posy in his hands and a poem on his lips. ”Here are some fruits, some flowers, some leaves and some branches,” he declaimed, quoting the poet Paul Verlaine, “And here is my heart, which beats only for you.” At which the stranger dropped his bouquet, unzipped his pants and presented me with an organ quite different from his heart. In Paris, I reflected as I hurried away, the boundary between lyricism and squalor is as fragile as a rosebud, and as permeable as a man’s fly.
With “Paris-The Secret History”, Andrew Hussey shows that it was ever thus, as he sifts through two millenniums of history to expose the dark side of the City of Light.. Addictively readable and richly detailed………….
I could quote all day but I must desist. If you want more go to www.nytimes.com/bookreview.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Well well.... this story in from The Guardian overnight.
And this report on the new book from The Times.
Pic - Christopher Tolkien - from BBC website.
And from the Sydney Morning Herald today........... I can't wait to read it.
We are off to Australia for a few days holiday today, hopefully I will still be able to make daily postings to my blog. This is my first time overseas since I started Beattie's Book Blog last October so if there are no postings over the next little while you will no I am experiencing difficulties!
As we are about to depart I have just received a review copy of a children’s book that has taken America by storm and is due to arrive in this part of the world late next month.
THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, NY.
Because of its size and weight, think telephone directory crossed with a brick, there is no way I can take the book with me so it is going to be left behind with other books awaiting reading.
But just let me tell you a little about it which may give you an inkling as to why it has created such a phenomenal level of interest.
This from the inside cover flap:
“Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris railway station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity.
With 284 pages of original drawings, and combining elements of picture book, graphic novel, and film the author breaks open the novel form to create an entirely new reading experience. Here is a stunning , cinematic tour de force from a boldly innovative storyteller, artist, and bookmaker.”
Wow, I can’t wait to read/view it.
The author says, “ its not exactly a novel, and its not quite a picture book, and its not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things.”
Not surprising to read that Warner Bros. have already acquired the screen rights.
Watch this space, I’ll be back with more in a while.
By Arian Mostaedi
publisher Links International (Bookwise International in NZ & Aust.) NZ $48
If you are looking at building a holiday home on the coast then this is a book that you and your architect must have.
256 pages of full colour photographs, plans and sketches (440 in all) of gorgeous coastal houses, 24 properties in all, including one from New Zealand, Pete Bossley’s House in Bay of Islands, along with two from Australia but they are from all around the world including France, Spain, Brazil, USA, Mexico, Canada, Peru, Norway, Spain, Chile, the UK and Ireland.
It is interesting to observe the fundamental role played by the sea regardless of the size, style or location of these homes. The author lives in California and is widely published in this field with more than 20 books to his credit.
By Alberto Oilva and Norberto Angeletti with contributions by Anna Wintour, Annie Leibovitz, Grace Coddington and others.
Rizzoli, US $75
Apart from various editions of the Oxford Dictionary I have bought over the years, I suspect that In Vogue is the largest book in our house just now. It is a whopper.
Annie works in the fashion industry and this was a gift to her from our New York family.
As a physical object it is hard to imagine a more handsome volume. Gorgeous design, profusely illustrated (of course) and all printed on lovely thick matte stock.
I can’t claim to have read it but I did spend an enjoyable hour or so looking at the photographs and art work and reading selected pieces. I especially enjoyed the images of the earlier covers going all the way back to its founding issue in 1892.
With contributions by formers editors and others closely involved with the magazine it could hardly be called an objective history but it will be a long time before you will see a more sumptuous volume. Breathtakingly beautiful…………………
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright is on the shortlist for the Award which is given annually to “ a journalist whose work brings clarity and public attention to important issues, events of policies.”
For the full shortlist
Picture by Kenny Braun shows Lawrence Wright, winner of the general nonfiction category.
Bookman Beattie sincerely apologises over a posting yesterday, now deleted, in which I accidentally published a report on last year's Fair!
Today in fact is the third and final day of the Fair and I plan to get a full report to you in a few days.
As a matter of interest this is the 37th London Book Fair.
It is certainly proving to be a great year for Kiran Desai. This from Bloomberg.
Author pic from Wikipedia. where you can read more about her.
Those who live in New Zealand and Australia will find this splendid magazine wherever magazines are sold. It is $7.95 in Oz and $8.95 in NZ. If you don’t already know it, or can’t locate it then go to their excellent website at http://www.goodreadingmagazine.com/
It is chockerblock with book reviews, author interviews, author profiles, book trivia and even the occasional short fiction. Good value for book lovers.
By Joanna Orwin Scholastic NZ$ 17.00
This is the 15th story in the Scholastic My Story series.
Before starting to read this new title I asked Penny Scown, Senior Editor Scholastic NZ for the rationale behind the series.
“We began the series in 2003.
The concept is to make our history interesting for NZ children by creating a fictional diary of a child (around 12 years of age) who lived through a certain period or event. Topics covered to date include disasters, such as the eruption of Mt Tarawera, or the Tangiwai and Wahine disasters, alongside stories that exist simply to give an idea of life in a particular community or time, eg the Dalmatian community in Dargaville in the 1920s, the German community of Sarau (Upper Moutere) in the late 1800s and the Chinese community in Auckland during the second world war. Many of the stories have been written by proven authors such as David Hill, Shirley Corlett, Joanna Orwin and Fleur Beale, with others written by people who simply have a special interest in the story itself, such as Eva Wong Ng and Amelia Batistich.
Each fictional diary concludes with several pages of Historical Note at the end of the book, which puts the story into the context of the time, and several pages of contemporary photographs are also included to show children more detail of what life at the time was like. The series has been much acclaimed, particularly by schools and libraries, and My Story titles have been shortlisted for the NZ Post Children's Book Awards for each of the past four years (ie since they began!).”
Joanna Orwin is not only a very fine writer of books for young people she is also the author of “Kauri:witness to a nation’s history” published by New Holland in 2004 and so is very well qualified to write this story.
Perhaps the best way to describe the book is by quoting from Joanna Orwin’s
Letter to the Reader which appears at the beginning of the book.
“In August 2004 I spent four days in Whangarei recording Ruth (Micky) Murray then 93 years old, as she told me about her 1920s childhood in the kauri bush camps in the Kauaeranga Valley (Coromandel). The outcome was a set of fascinating tapes that covered her life working in the timber industry.
Scholastic’s My Story series seemed an ideal way of sharing her wonderful childhood memories more widely.
Micky’s childhood was wild and free, and most unusual for a girl in the 1920’s. She wore trousers, rode horses, swore like a trooper, and spent time exploring and hunting in the bush, first with her much older brothers and later with Jack Murray, another child growing up in the bush camps. With Mick’s permission I set to and wrote Kauri In My Blood.
Laura Ann Findlay’’s fictional diary is based closely on Mickey’s personal story and the true events that took place mostly in the Kauaeranga Valley during 1921-24. Because this is a fictionalized account and many of the charactyers are fictional, I have also given fictional names to the real people who lived and worked in the kauri industry.”
This is a most appealing book in every way.
Scholastic have done a very fine job of design and at the rear of the book are historical notes and 12 pages of photographs which illustrate excellently life in the kauri forests.
Ever since my early childhood days I have had a fondness for fiction which featured a map or maps. All the way back to Milly Molly Mandy and much later Lord of the Rings and Watership Down are some that come to mind. There are countless others.
So it was with much pleasure that I found a map of the Kauaeranga Valley included here.
Anne Morgan, Library Adviser with the National Library School Services has a special interest in NZ historical fiction for children, and this is what she had to say about the My Story series:
"I think this series has definitely helped promulgate a return to popularity for the genre - certainly when we compare the My Story books with other historical novels written right up the 1970s, we see (now) a real emphasis
on a wide range of personal experiences where once there was a concentration on very generic "European early settler" stories. I am generalising and there are exceptions to this of course - (Jack Lasenby's Mangrove Summer being one of my all time favourites), but the My Story series really highlights the diversity of the culture, heritage and experiences of New
Zealanders and, written to a particular format and formula as they are, provide excellent compare and contrast opportunities for young people who choose to read more than one.
This is not to say they are "formulaic" though - the fact that various accomplished NZ authors for young people are commissioned to write them, means that quality, freshness and originality are maintained. I visited a Kura Kaupapa yesterday and the principal there mentioned that she had just read Fleur Beale's "A new song in the land" - she said that she couldn't believe that a Pakeha had written it - such is the accuracy of the details and in particular, the protagonist's voice - high praise indeed I think.
Feedback from teachers and librarians has been really positive - the My Story books are extremely popular in schools and seem to attract an audience
of intermediate right through to senior secondary students. I always ask for feedback and contributions when I present my workshop and without fail I get comments from people who have read various titles because their
"Grandfather, Mother, Great Aunt etc. lived in Dunston; came to New Zealand in the 1940s; were Chinese migrants; were Dalmatian gumdiggers; were on the Wahine" - or whatever - in other words - people (young and old alike) really do seem to relate to the settings and experiences in the books."
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Penguin Books UK has announced that it has acquired world rights in Jamie Oliver's autobiography which it will publish for the Christmas 2008 market. Yay, can't wait.
I guess at 33 years of age we can expect this to be only the first of several volumes? I wager he'll never catch Clive James though who at last count was up to # 4 in his autobiographical sequence !
Kevin Ireland, in his 16th book of poems, takes a poke at that most unpopular but unavoidable place, the airport.
Ireland is of course much published, and is one of New Zealand’s best-known writers. His poetry and fiction, his non-fiction and memoir have won him many awards and accolades over the years as well as a legion of fans.
He is something of a philosopher I guess, but his philosophy tends to be well-laced with humourous observation, often of the irreverent kind.
The first 11 poems in this latest anthology are about airports, and the trials they present to travellers, while the poems in the second, larger part of the book come under the catch-all heading of Home Again.
And there are some real gems including one called A Literary Confession.
Kevin, as well as being much published also dabbles in paints as we read in this poem:
A Literary Confession
The trouble with oil paints is the godawful mess they make.
They get everywhere: all over the floor,
On your clothes, under your nails
And even in your hair.
Paints are greasy and gluey,
And even though they are great
To muck about with, they’re not nice
To sit down on, or leave on door handles,
And they’re nasty to masticate.
Words are a different matter.
Ever since carbon-paper disappeared,
Writing has been a clean business.
Our letters keep to alphabetical order
And they never snag in your beard.
Notice how, after a few strokes of the brush,
You need scrubbing, whereas after a poem,
You’re still perfectly spic and span-
Painting is obviously for rough diamonds,
And writing is for gentlefolks.
There is only this curious literary problem
Of where the smells keep coming from.
And the sordid bloodstains on the carpet.
And the sinister laughter. Sometimes, after
A bout of writing, I don’t feel at all well.
There are also two poetic tributes to the late Michael King, and inevitably a poem about one of his most favoured pastimes, fishing, A Line Upon The Waters.
The Evans cartoon on the cover depicting Ireland leaning on a glass of red wine is perfect!
Last Friday we had dinner with old friends who were visiting from the UK. Wyn is a conductor of symphony orchestras, among other things, and so spends inordinate hours in planes. Fortunately he is an avid reader and so is happily distracted by a good novel.
Usually he will recommend a book to me by e-mail but as he was here in Auckland he quietly passed to me a well worn paperback copy of The Fanatic with the comment he thought I might enjoy it.
You were correct Wyn I did enjoy it although it would be well down my list of favourite reads of the past 12 months. I struggled a bit initially with the Edinburgh dialect as you suggested I might but before long I was well buried in the body of the story and that was no longer a problem.
It is April 1997 and tour operator Hugh Hardie needs someone to play the ghost for his nightly Tour of Old Edinburgh. In Andrew Carlin he seems to have found the perfect candidate but Carlin’s research into the character he is playing leads to complications.
The story, set largely in Edinburgh, alternates between 1997 and the late 1670’s and in fact much of the story is set at the earlier date. They were grim days and describe an extraordinary time in Scotalnd’s history.
This is a book for those who are interested in Scotland’s history, particularly that involving Edinburgh and the Church and State during this period. It is also a book for those especially fond of Edinburgh and its Royal Mile.
This book was originally published in 2000 and at the time was Robertson’s first novel although he had two collections of verse in print and a couple of collections of short stories.