Thursday, May 31, 2007


this from Booksellers New Zealand.

This year's Spectrum Print Book Design Awards shortlist is as follows:

Eagle's Complete Trees & Shrubs of New Zealand, Audrey Eagle, designer - covers Neil Pardington, interior Robyn Sivewright (Te Papa Press)
Landscape Paintings of New Zealand, Christopher Johnstone, designer Nick Turzynski (Random House)
Stitch, Ann Packer, Designer Sharon Grace (Random House)

Brief Lives, Chris Price, illustrator Brendan O'Brien, designer - cover Sarah Maxey, interior Katrina Duncan (Auckland University Press)
How to Catch a Cricket Match, Harry Ricketts, designer - cover Scott Kennedy, series design Sarah Maxey (Awa Press)
Instructions for New Zealanders, Richard Wolfe, designer - cover Katy Yiakmis, Interior Christine Hansen (Random House)

African Wildlife, Dr. Rod East, designer Alexandra Johnson & engine (Rod's Friends)
Sigma Mathematics (3rd Edition), David Barton, designer – cover and page design Polly Faulks, interior Mona Mohun (Pearson Education)
Te Kete Kupu, Huia Publishers, designer Rose Miller (Huia Publishers)

Barnaby Bennett, Hannah Rainforth and Ali Teo, designer Lynley McDonald (Huia Publishers)
Legends of Ngatoro-i-rangi, Karen Taiaroa-Smithies and Mervyn Taiaroa, designer Cheryl Rowe (Reed Publishing)
Riding the Waves, Gavin Bishop, designer Jacinda Torrance and Sharon Grace (Random House)

Eagle's Complete Trees and Shrubs of New Zealand, Audrey Eagle, designer - covers Neil Pardington (Te Papa Press)
Farm, Vaughan Yarwood, designer Nick Turzynski (Random House)
Paintings of the Birds of New Zealand, J G Keulemans, designer Chester Elliot (Random House)

The winners will be announced on 29 July during the Industry Awards at the Booksellers Conference in Auckland.

The Friends of the Takapuna Library and publisher Chris Cole Catley

Warmly invite you to the launch of:

Natasha Judd’s Lessons to Learn

To be launched by Dame Cath Tizard

Tuesday, 12 June 2007, at 6pm
Takapuna Library, The Strand

Please RSVP to Helen Woodhouse, 486 8469


I have quite a collection of books on the subject of urban legends, largely superfluous today because of the Web, but this morning in the small but perfectly formed Moahunter Books at 277 Ponsonby Road I came across the above title by Jan Harold Brunvand who is really the authority on urban legends. At $10 I couldn't resist it.

Have a look at Professor Brunvand's website and you'll see he has written widely on the subject of the fascinating urban legend.
Footnote, the new picture of me across to the right was taken at Moahunter Books by Harvey Benge.


Author's moving opening night address
Pic of Andrew O'Hagan by Steve Baccon from same source.

This story today from mediabistro.


His story from The New Yorker June 4.

Photo from same source shows Grass on right aged 16.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Here are three blogs, two of them brand new, which I have come across just this week, they are all worth a visit:

Sue Courtney's Blog of Vinous Ramblings

Found this one this afternoon as a result of looking at the Web for info on screwcaps on wine bottles.

Christchurch City Libraries Blog

Excellent coverage of the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival over the past weekend, great to see libraries getting involved like this. Top community work. Christchurch Public Libraries are right at the forefront of website/blog activity.

Top photographer shares his stunning images with us. How I envy the beautiful quality of the images Benge is able to upload to his blog.


Following my remarks earlier today about Keith Stewart banging on in the Listener all the time about screwcaps on wine bottles a Hawkes Bay winemaker has kindly sent me the following press release from Philip Gregan of New Zealand Wine which was sent out today to members .

Oops! It seems I may have unwittingly wandered into a bit of wine industry controversy.

TO: All Members
From: Philip Gregan
Date: 30 May, 2007
RE: Claims regarding screwcaps

This memorandum is to update you on our investigations regarding the assertions made by Mr Keith Stewart of links between screwcap liners and cancer.

We have continued to investigate the assertions by Mr Stewart since they were first raised with us in late April. Our investigations indicate that there is no evidence to support allegations of a link between the screwcap liners used for New Zealand wine and cancer.
Our investigations have included:

· discussions with the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, and in particular their consultant toxicologist;
· discussions and information from the manufacturer and distributors of screwcaps and screwcap liners;
· review of research papers and risk assessments from various sources including the World Health Organisation and Codex Alimentarius;
· discussions with numerous national and international experts;
· correspondence and meeting with Mr Stewart.

On the basis of the above, we have written to the Listener to inform them of the results of our investigations and to request a retraction of the allegations made by Mr Stewart.
We will inform you of any further developments.

Philip Gregan

I have just found which gives a brief history of the screwcap in the wine industy. Worth a look.

Lloyd Jones, superstar. joins all New Zealand Panel at Sydney Festival

There will be standing room only I reckon after Lloyd's big win in Jamaica.

Thanks to the IIML Newsletter for alerting me to this item.

The NZ Listener

This is my favourite NZ magazine and it seems to me the latest issue is filled with especially interesting pieces.

Lengthy book reviews by David Larsen (Jim Crace's The Pesthouse) and David Eggleton (Cultural Amnesia by Clive James), a nice tribute to Auckland Writers & Readers Festival director Jill Rawnsley, Joanne Black on Tintin, a great cover story on NZ art and heaps more.

But having said all that I must say that one does get sick and tired of Keith Stewart bleating on about screwcaps on wine bottles. Get over it Keith !

Along with virtually every wine consumer in New Zealand I love them - easy to open, easy to store, and best of all no more corked wine. I suspect Keith Stewart is past his use-by date, corked perhaps, and its time the Listener found a new wine correspondent.


The Guardian catches up with the news............
As does the International Herald Tribune..........
and the BBC.................
And finally the Commonwealth Foundation sent out the official release....


First edition goes for record price.

This item from the Ibookcollector Newsletter # 64:

At the sale on 24 May Bloomsbury Auctions set another record with a signed
first edition of J.K.Rolwing's Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone.

Intense bidding in the room and on the telephone pushed the final price to a staggering pds.27,370 (inc.premium).

The lucky recipient was an overseas buyer who has obtained a unique presentation copy inscribed "To David with best wishes J.K.Rowling

You can contact Ibookcollector at:

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


A big day yesterday with 478 visitors to my site and loads of reaction to my Best of piece on events, chairpersons etc at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival. Thank you for that, and for the kind comments about my blog, it is a thrill for me to get this feedback. And if you want to say something about the Festival but haven't done so yet then it is not too late. Just scroll down to that posting below and hit comments .

Monday, May 28, 2007


This from the Sydney Morning Herald.
Pic from Jamaica Gleaner shows Lloyd on far left with other finalists.
I had the great privilege and wonderful experience of being involved for three years in the judging of the Commonwealth Writers Prize firstly at the Regional level and then on to the International level.

It is a very difficult prize for NZ writers to win as first off they have to beat off all the best Australian fiction writers, (and there are many of them – think Tim Winton, Peter Carey, Murray Bail, Shirley Hazzard, Elizabeth Jolly, Frank Moorhouse, Rodney Hall, David Malouf and loads more), - it is a tall order believe me - as well as their own contemporaries on the NZ scene.
Having won the regional prize, and very few kiwis have done so, it has always been totally dominated by the Aussies ( a bit like cricket and swimming!), and then of course you have to go on to beat all other writers writing in English which is pretty much those from everywhere except the US.

So this is an enormous achievement for Lloyd and beattiesbookblog offers its warmest congratulations. Sensational Lloyd, well done mate.
Footnote - Only two other New Zealand authors have ever won prizes in these Awards which were established in 1987:
Janet Frame won Best Book Award in 1989 for The Carpathians and
John Cranna won the Best First Book Award in 1990 for Visitors.

For a full list of winners for past year and more details on the Commonwealth Writers Prize go to the Wikipedia website.

In search of Graham Greene's Capri
Photo by Chris Warde-Jones for the NY Times.


An article in the Guardian on Sunday suggests he might be.................

Illustration above from the official Robert Burns website.


This from Josh Spero reported in the Guardian.

Photo by Douglas Healey from same source.


Warsaw Book Fair does the right the full story.

(with the comment that I only attended 18 of the 65 events)

Most outstanding speakers:

Tim Winton
Pico Iyer

Most charming author:


Best chairpersons:

Kapka Kassabova
Stephanie Johnson
Harry Ricketts
Lauraine Jacobs

Most entertaining session:

Buy champagne, pour tea, cook rice, write bestseller…tick

Best innovation this year:

Recorded announcement of sponsors rather than being done by individual chairpersons

Biggest need for next year:

Free wireless broadband availability at venue

Sight to behold:

Silver haired Remuera/Parnell book enthusiasts jostling for front of queue positions at entrances to ASB Theatre and then charging down the aisles to get best possible seats.

Suggestions to organisers:

Screen book covers during author sessions rather the just leaving up name of session, author/s and chair.

Ask publishers not to hold social functions when sessions are on.

Remind Chairpersons that the punters have come to hear the authors not the Chairpersons.


Fabulous venue, hope Festival can afford to return?

Great organization and management.

Creativel marketing.

Wonderful team of volunteers.

Terrific selection of guest authors.

Best-ever Auckland Writers & Readers Festival – hands down!

So hats off to Jill and her team - Shona, Annaliese, Angela, Mel & Michelle- to the Trust Board, to the big team of generous sponsors, and indeed to everyone who played a part in staging this world-class event in our city. Roll on next year!

I spent $200 plus on tickets and much more than that on books but I consider it all GREAT value. Thanks everyone, ciao.


1.An hour with Vikram Chandra.

A serious hour suitably seriously chaired by the serious Ian Wedde in which the author read from and talked about his three books.

Like many authors today Chandra has his own website.

2.Loose Women

I hadn't planned on attending this but Annie persuaded me to do so after we heard much about Carolyn Burke's Dachau slideshow the day before.

The session, most ably chaired by Harry Ricketts, featured biographers Carolyn Burke and Patrick Marnham reading from their books and talking about their subjects, Lee Miller and Mary Wesley. Both authors knew their subjects, which gave their comments added interest.

It was a fascinating hour which resulted in further book purchases!


It was my great pleasure to chair this session which featured three first-time NZ novelists - Rachael King (The Sound of Butterflies), Paul Cleave (The Cleaner) and Paul Shannon (Davey Darling) - who spoke about the highs (there were many) and lows (there were few) of being a first-time novelist. They alkso ranged across such matters as choosing titles, the part that plot and character play in their books, reviews, research, and future work.

It seemed from where I was sitting that they were refreshingly honest in their comments and it was a joy to witness their excitement and pleasure in describing the arrival of their advance copies, their first reviews, and seeing their books in the bookshops.

Paul Cleave's second novel, The Killing Hour, has just been published while Rachael King and Paul Shannon are both well into the writing of their second titles.


I'm right with Philip Pullman on this one. Read his views in this report from the Guardian overnight.



This account by Camilla Havmoller in the New Zealand Herald.

Lucy Vickers writing in the New Zealand Herald..............

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Story, and photo by Gene Puksar, from the Washington Post today.


Here were four highly accomplished food writers talking about food, and what a rollicking good, mouth-watering time they gave the 400 of us present on this Sunday morning, the final day of the Festival. The chemistry within the group was wonderful.

Full marks to Lauraine Jacobs who was both Chair and a participant. She was well-prepared, warm & relaxed in her manner and much of the success of the session was due to her direction.Having said that however, each of the others - Sarah-Kate Lynch, Julie le Clerc, and Janet De Neefe were all stars in their own rights.

Lauraine has been a food editor at Cuisine for over 20 years and has recently published The Confident Cook, a large sumptuous and immensely practical book featuring over 130 of her favourite recipes many of which have appeared in Cuisine over the years.I was given this book at Christmas and reviewed it on my blog.

Sarah-Kate Lynch, The House of Peine, is not only a terrific writer whose food novels have enjoyed great sucess world-wide, she is also a natural comic and she had the audience and her fellow panellists in stitches on a number of occasions. She is off to London in a week or so to launch The House of Peine over there and to research her next book which is going to be set in a London teahouse.We wish you well Sarah-Kate.

Julie le Clerc is the author of many cookbooks, her latest being the truly stunning Taking Tea in the Medina which was one of the first books I reviewed after starting this blog back in late October last year. She is also Food Editor for the NZ Woman's Weekly. She is Cordon Bleu trained as has been a caterer, and cafe owner but these days is a fulltime writer.

Janet De Neefe was born and educated in Melbourne, Australia and fell in love with Bali while on holiday there with her family back in the 70's. She returned in the 80's, fell in love and married a Balinese and has lived there ever since in the gorgeous city of Ubud. These days she runs a restaurant, cookery school, guesthouse and homeware store and somewhere in between she found time to write Fragrant Rice which I will write about once read but a quick skim suggests that it is a memoir with a generous selection of Balinese recipes. Annie and I tried to get into her cookery school on a visit to Ubud but there were no vacancies. Having now listened to her and met her and bought her book we have promised ourselves we are going back but this time we will book for the school in advance.

Well with that lineup of talent it is not surprising the event was so successful. Led by Lauraine Jacobs they discussed a wide range of subjects including the food they ate as children and the influences of family on their later cooking as adults, their food heroes and mentors, recipes, travel, nutrition, and oh so much more.
On the way out Annie said "Wonderful, butI feel so hungry now".
Skilled food writers had proved they were also skilled food talkers. A great session.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

THE HOLE IN THE HEDGE: Landscape and the Fragility of Memory

This is how the programme blurb read:

Author and film-maker Peter Wells takes a celebratory look at Frank Sargeson's cottage in Esmonde Road, Takapuna. Using more than 200 stills in a spell-binding photo essay, he completes his visual celebration of the Sargeson cottage with a quirky fifteen minute film of the interior. His talk evokes the landscape of the cottage, a place where 'a truly New Zealand literature began'.
Introduced by previous Buddle Findlay Sargeson fellows Karyn Hay and Emily Perkins.

I have a great admiration for Peter Wells and his writing and film making, and of course he is one of the co-founders, (with Stephanie Johnson), of the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival, so we all him a great deal of gratitude for that.

Then of course there was the subject matter and the opportunity to learn more about the "father" of New Zealand literature, Frank Sargeson.

Peter had some heavyweight competition as on at the same time in other spaces in the Aotea Centre were the immensely popular Australian author Kate Grenville who was spending An Hour with Auckland bookseller Carol Beu and Canadian "rock star" poet Shane Koyczan.
Nevertheless some 150 turned up at the NZI Upper Room to hear Peter and to look at his photographs and watch his movie.
There were immediately several bonuses - first delightful introductory pieces by Emily Perkins and Karyn Hay, ( I hope to post these introduction on my blog in a day or two), then a clip from TVNZ's Kaleidoscope programme (remember that wonderful programme?) filmed back in 1981 in which Gordon McLauchlan interviewed Frank Sargeson at his cottage 8 months before he died.
As Peter wells remarked, those were the days when TVNZ had a real commitment to New Zealand culture.
Right from the beginning the enormous admiration that Emily Perkins and Karyn Hay and have for Frank Sargeson was apparent.
Then we moved to Peter's address to which there were three main parts :
Clip from Kaleidoscope - this was a real burst of nostalgia (cars and traffic and houses) and it was also interesting to note how lively and well Sargeson appeared at that time only 8 months before his death.
Then came a sequence of superb colour photographs starting in the Hamilton Public Gardens on the first day of Spring 2006 (Peter was the Writer-in-Residence at Waikato University last year) moving on to photographs taken in Takapuna in the vicinity of Frank Sargeson's cottage and the dramatic changes taking place including the alarming widening of Esmond Road.
Peter provided a live voice-over to these 200 photographs talking first about place and the inseparable part it plays in our culture then moving on to the landscape, its threats and its fragility.
Then we saw the 15 minute silent film Peter made of the interior of the Sargeson cottage which looks largely today how it did when Frank was still alive, his cap and scarf still hanging by the back door and his dressing gown draped over the back of his reading chair.
Peter also provided a voice over commentary for the film.
All too soon the hour was up.
This was a heartfelt, evocative, poetic and very personal presentation by Peter Wells with an underlying sadness, perhaps even sorrow. It deserved/deserves a much wider audience and I hope that Peter might look at publishing a book built around his presentation. I also feel that universities teaching Sargeson should look at him making this presentation to their students each year.
I was greatly moved and on the way out Annie and I resolved to visit the Frank Sargeson Cottage, now a literary museum, at the first opportunity. The cottage is administered by the Frank Sargeson Trust and you arrange to visit it by phoning the Takapuna Public Library.


This from today's New York Times.

This thoughtful piece, doesn't only apply to librarians by the way, from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

An Hour with Pico Iyer

We had the perfect chair in Kapka Kassabova. She and our author have remarkably similar backgrounds. Born in one country, educated in another, now living in yet another place, and both travelling the globe regularly. Citizens of the world.

Or you could put it another way, as he once described himself, "I'm a global village on two legs".

Pico Iyer is , of course, one of the world's most respected and widely admired travel writers and having heard him articulate some of his experiences under the skilful probing of Kapa Kassabova one can easily understand how he has earned this reputation. He is a superb storyteller, he must be a joy to interview, he is certainly a joy to listen to. He had his large audience totally captivated.
On the subject of audience both Pico and Kapka expressed astonishment at the huge audience that turned out for a 9.30am Saturday event. There were several hundred in the audience.

Pico Iyer went on to say he had attended a Writers Festival in New York recently where the events were held in college classrooms and often auidiences comprised fewer than 10 persons.

I must say that having been to many Festivals over the years - in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Edinburgh, Wellington and Toronto - the audiences in Auckland this year are as large as I've seen anywhere. Wonderful to see people queued up and jostling to get into the auditoriums!

It says much for both the authors present and for the superb organisation and marketing carried out by the Festival organisers.

An Hour with Tim Winton

Out of one session and straight back into the next. An even bigger crowd this time with the ground floor stalls area filled to capacity the Festival organisers were forced to open the upstairs area. My guess is there would have been 1200 people present.

Tim Winton came on stage in his trademark tee shirt and jeans. He is a great Australian author, indeed for my money he is one of the world's great contemporary fiction writers in English.

Again another superb choice of Chair.

This time it was Festival Co-Creative Director Stephanie Johnson. I guess there is something really appropriate about an author interviewing an author.
It certainly worked well in this instance. She had done her research and had obviously very recently re-read the three titles she told us they were going to discuss:

Cloudstreet 1991
The Riders 1994
The Turning 2004

And so followed an hour of thoughtful, often humorous musings and discussion. The thing that so impressed me was Winton's ponderings about his characters, he talks of these people, (and remember between these three titles there are probably 200 different characters), as if they are real, as if he had been talking to them yesterday.
And I loved the following he threw in at one stage following a discussion on religion, "Australia, the most secular place on the globe. If the US President goes to church no one takes any notice but if the Australian Prime Minister goes to chruch people start phoning".
He treated us to one reading, the first three pages from the title story in The Turning, and what a treat it was too. Perfect.

At one point he was talking about two of the most wonderful experiences available, experiences that have the power to transport oneself anywhere, these experiences were reading and writing, and then he threw in this gem, "reading is eternally being in the present tense".
Winton is a totally grounded man, a family man, a modest man, a man who turns down honorary doctorships, a man with a truly huge writing talent and it was a great privilege for a bunch of Kiwis to spend an hour with this great Aussie.
Congratulations to the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival for persuading him to join us for a few days, I know it is always difficult, nigh impossible to get him away from his beloved Western Australia and its rugged coast.
Go to the Wikipeia website and have a look at the long long list of his publishing and all the Awards he has won. And then, if you haven't already done so buy and read Cloudstreet which I wrote about here last week.Or any of his other titles. The Turning, his latest book, is a collection of short stories so if this is your preferred genre then start with that one.

As we left the auditorium Penguin NZ's publisher Geoff Walker commented to us, you feel like jumping up and yelling yahoos like you were at a rock concert. Yes I agree Geoff, Tim Winton is a star, in fact he even looks something like a rock star from the 70's.

We salute you Tim Winton. Thanks for coming over here mate.
And now I had better get back to the Aotea Centre!
More tomorrow if I get a chance although with the schedule I have on Sunday it may be Monday before my next Festival report. I'll see how I go.
Of course it there was a free wireless broadband internet connection available at the Aotea Centre (as there should be at every world class convention centre!) then I could report directly from there.


Riding with Lise…………..Lise, our events coordinator, recently took a trip aboard the SCIBA bus and would like to offer the following report:

“Whenever I travel, I always visit local bookstores, its part of the fun. So does my mother. So, when I saw that the local association of book sellers (the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, of which in the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess to being a past president) offered bus tours of Southern California bookstores, I thought what better Mother’s Day gift! The bus visited four Orange County bookstores, each one with its own charm. We dined at a rooftop restaurant at Laguna, heard two authors speak, and spent an idyllic day browsing. SCIBA is offering three more bus tours this year: June 23 to four Los Angeles book stores, August 18 to San Diego (leaving from Union Station downtown), and September 29 to museum book stores in Los Angeles. Each includes lunch (excellent food, by the way) and a goodie bag (mine had Andrea Portes’ novel Hick plus another novel). Highly recommended, perhaps I see you on one in the future. The web site is

Contact us

Dutton’s Brentwood
11975 San Vicente Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049

On the web

In case you missed it………..Berkeley Breathed’s recent signing was a great success. The creator “Bloom County” and its beloved Opus, signed his most recent children’s picture book Mars Needs Moms for an appreciative audience. Pictured here is Mr. Breathed and two helpers:

The grill of it all………..with Memorial Day weekend upon us, it’s time to dust off the old grill and get cooking. Now, hot dogs and hamburgers are well and good, but if you’re interested in raising the barbecue bar, you might want to check out these books, recommended by Dutton’s resident grillmaster, Billy:

Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine
Barbecue! Bible by Steven Raichlin
Mastering the Grill by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim