Tuesday, July 31, 2007



This story from the Guardian..............

Another Report From the Montanas ...
Jill Rawnsley writes......

It was a night of many return visits to the stage for “seconds”, humility, and good will towards all the writers in the room...

Winning over the audience, the elegant octogenarian Audrey Eagle, author/illustrator of Eagle’s Complete Trees and Shrubs of New Zealand, confessed on her return visit to the stage, that her skirt had nearly come down as she walked up the stairs - the first time.

The Penguin table was positively whooping for joy when Lloyd Jones was announced as the supreme winner of the Montana Medal for Fiction or Poetry – having already received the prize for the fiction category with Mister Pip. Lloyd said he really hadn’t felt that Mister Pip was any more special than his other books when he was writing it!

William Cottrell, author of Furniture of the New Zealand Colonial Era, visited the stage twice, too. It was lovely to hear him talk about what an inspiring experience it was to take part in this year's Auckland Writers & Readers Festival , and he told the audience a heartwarming story of having been handed some lost treasures the night before, by the granddaughter of one of the designers featured in his book. He showed, yet again, his infectious enthusiasm for his topic. William’s busy working on other books, having been bitten by the bug, and seemed genuinely awed to be receiving quite so much attention. Many winners admitted they’d not prepared speeches – having never expected to win.

Having been involved in the cringe-making task of having to choose winners this year (for the Book Publishers Association of New Zealand Review Awards - the New Zealand Listener and David Eggleton (Reviewer of the Year) were the winners), I now have an inkling of the challenge the Montana judges face.

When you're like me and just want everyone to win, you can't help feeling for those who miss out on the final prize – so hats off to all of the gracious finalists in the room! Also, sincere thanks to Pernod Ricard and Montana for their generous support of this major celebration of New Zealand books and writers.

Oh, and publishers - note to self - it was clear that books needed high production values in order to win, particularly in the age of the internet. A book is an artefact, a piece of art in its own right, and high standards of presentation and design clearly influenced the judges’ overall decision in many categories.

Jill Rawnsley

Auckland Writers & Readers Festival Director

I sought a copy of this from the PM's private secretary but she has advised me that the PM delivered her remarks "off the cuff" so I am unable to share them with you.
However among other things she spoke of the role publishers and booksellers were playing in these days of ever increasing digitalisation and talked of the need for well-designed books.

It was an excellent speech which was an appropriate lead into the main presentation of the evening, the awarding of the Montana Medals, which were won by Audrey Eagle and Lloyd Jones respectfully, two popular winners.



Rachael King's later father would have been so proud about this result. Good to see the family tradition being continued. Rachael has set herself a very hard act to follow with this win for her first published work.

Hopefully we will not have to wait too long before her next book as she told her audience at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival in May that she was well into the research.


This had been announced last Friday on Montana Poetry Day and while it was won by Secret Heart by Airini Beautrais I reckon the other two shortlisted titles, Cup by Alison Wong and After the Dance by Michele Amas both had better designed covers. However this is not a cover competition!


A clear winner here with William Cottrell's fine book, Furniture in the New Zealand Colonial Era.


Having waxed lyrical on this blog about Eagle's Complete Trees & Shrubs of New Zealand I was not at all surprised when this title won both this category and also the Montana Medal for Non-Fiction making it in the view of the judges the outstanding non-fiction title published in New Zealand in 2006. Had I been a gambling man I would have bet the family farm on this result. . Congratulations again Audrey.You are a star.


Ghosts of Gondwana - George Gibbs. Nor arguement here.


While I was not surprised at the winner, Stitch: Contemporay New Zealand Textile Artists, by Ann Packer, (herself a longtime textile artist), I must admit great surprise at some of the titles that were not shortlisted. Two in particular that inexplicably missed out, coincidentally both from Random House's Godwit stable, were Christopher Johnstone's Landscape Paintings of New Zealand and Maps New Zealand


Furniture of the New Zealand Colonial Era. This would have been a unanimous decision.


Another obvious winner - Vaka Moana


It must have been a very close contest here between the Lilburn & Beaglehole biographies.
A photo finish I suspect.

But spare a thought for the very fine third title in this category, Chris Price's Brief Lives, which one assumes ended up here because the organisers couldn't find anywhere else to put it!

After all while it does contain pieces of memoir it also includes a deal of poetry and short fiction. It is a fine, and unusual, piece of writing and publishing, but it didn't stand a chance in the biography section. This is an issue to which the organisers of these awards must pay some attention.


Another category where they may have been surprise in some quarters at the shortlist omissions but no arguement over the winner, The Goose Bath by Janet Frame. The author's niece in accepting the prize thanked Bill Manhire for all his help referring to him as "literary statesman" a description Bookman Beattie warmly supports.


And so to the big one !!

Well I guess with all the international acclaim including winning the hugely prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize there wasn't really a lot of surprise when Lloyd Jones' Mr.Pip was announced the winner. I certainly wasn't surprised. Well-deserved lloyd.

What did surprised me enormously however, however was how the judges in naming two runners-up, did not include C.K.Stead's My Name Was Judas. They in effect said that Stead's book was either 4th or 5th in the shortlist. Astonishing. I was flabbergasted. I still am actually.

One final comment about this years fiction awards before I go.

I thought Lloyd Jones was less than gracious in his acceptance speeches - he also won the Montana Medal.

Okay Lloyd so we know in recent months you have been in Israel, Portugal, Australia , the Caribbean and perhaps other places too, and you must be tired and by now be fed up with talking about a book which you finished two years ago but this is your home and this is the biggest book bash of the year and you have just won the biggest prize so it wouldn't have hurt for you to have expressed a little more gratitude.I hope the sponsors were not as unhappy about your words as I was.

But now its time to start speculating about books being published this year. And with what has already been published along with the forthcoming publishing that I saw at the Book Trade Conference yesterday 2007 is shaping up to to be a real humdinger!


These awards are principally (and generously) sponsored by Montana and Creative New Zealand and provide wonderful recognition each year for the best books written and illustrated by New Zealanders.
The annual awards ceremony and gala dinner were held last night in Auckland and from Bookman Beattie's view there were a number of stars.

*First and foremost Audrey Eagle. Her stunningly beautiful two volume "Eagle's Complete Trees & Shrubs of New Zealand" from Te Papa Press won the Illustrative book category, (it was the red hot favourite ), and also the big one, the Montana Medal for non-fiction.

But it was the author herself who stole the show with both her obvious surprise and delight and her comments that moved many in the audience including this hardened old award dinner attendee. Well done Audrey, we salute you. (See my blog review/comment from last November)

2.Jennifer Ward-Lealand
MC for the evening and what a great job she made of it.
If you are going to use celebrities for this sort of work, and not everyone believes you should, then it is vital that you get someone interested in the field, and in the case of book events someone who is an avid reader who feels passionately about the subject. Jennifer is just such a person and it is interesting to recall that she also opened the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival in May this year.

3.Paul Millar

Dr.Millar works in the English Department at Canterbury University, Christchurch and is an authority on James K. Baxter and his verse. He was Chairman of the Montana NZ Book Awards juding panel this year and made a superb fist of his responsibilties last evening.

I have requested a copy of Paul's notes with a view to publishing them on my blog in the next day or two.

Having judged and chaired these awards myself I know what a huge task it is and how important the chairman's role is at the awards ceremony. Well done Paul.

4.William Cottrell

William Cottrell's most impressive Furniture of the New Zealand Colonial Era picked up two well-merited awards but it was the sheer delight at his win and the story he told about an event resulting from his research that had the audience captivated. Wonderful stuff.

5.Helen Clark
The Prime Minister, a book lover from way back, is also Minister for the Arts, and I reckon she relishes these sorts of occasions, free as they are from politics and situated right in the heart of the arts world.
Another superb, non-political speech from the PM and I have been in touch with her electorate office to see if I might get a copy with a view to publishing on the blog. Watch this space.


This from the New York Times......


A great event last night in Auckland......

Here is this morning's report and full results from the New Zealand Herald.
Or here is the official website with results, details of judges etc.

Bookman Beattie's comments will follow later..................

Monday, July 30, 2007


Entertaining reading from the New York Times...............

The Best of New Zealand
by Denis Welch

We have so much to be proud of in New Zealand, but you might be forgiven sometimes for thinking that our main pastoral industry was tall-poppy lopping. So here, with a wide-ranging but by no means exhaustive list, the __Listener__ happily celebrates the best of New Zealand – and invites you, the reader, to celebrate, too, with your own contributions.

The cover story this week New Zealand's Best opens as above and makes for interesting reading. Of course the Best Novel was the item that interested me most and here is what Denis Welch had to say on the subject:
Plumb by Maurice Gee, or if you prefer, The whole Plumb trilogy, (Plumb, Meg, Sole Survivor) published bewteen 1978 and 1983; but most critics agree that the first book - which draws heavily on the life of Gee's grandfather, the Presbyterian minister Ja,mes Chapple - is a modern classic.

"No other writer," says broadcaster and reviewer Elizabeth Alley, "has yet paralleled Gee's clarity of vision or penetrating perspective on the New Zealand character. The books become even more relevant with time as lives have become more complex and closer to the abyss of which he forewarned us. And his so-called "dark vision" often masks a deep grain of humour."
Naming anything or anyone "the best of" is a tricky concept and inevitably leads to debate but I think Welch is on the button here. It will be interesting to see what sort of reaction his selection receives.


Min Jin Lee Hutchinson NZ$37.00

I reviewed this book on Radio New Zealand National earlier today. Here are my notes which are rather more comprehensive than I had time for on air..

This is a first novel and remarkably it runs to almost 600 pages so an ideal plane or beach read. As a debut it is an impressive accomplishment

It is the story of first and second generation Korean immigrants to New York and the resulting cultural clash between the immigrants and those already long-established citizens but even more the story of the clash between the Korean parents, steeped as they are in their beliefs and values, and their children who strive to rapidly become Americans and take up Western values and beliefs.

I was interested to read that the author was born in Seoul, Korea in 1968 who at the age of seven emigrated with her parents and two sisters to New York. So one can reasonably assume that this is a story written out of that experience which I guess is why it is such a totally believable story. Her protagonist is a young Korean American, Casey Han, who has grown up in New York, she is the elder and feistier of two sisters who are both now in their 20’s, and Casey is experiencing serious tensions with her parents who live in Queens and manage a Manhattan dry cleaning business. The gulf of understanding between them is ever-widening

This is how the book begins:

As a capable young woman, Casey Han felt compelled to choose respectability and success. But it was glamour and insight that she craved. A Korean immigrant who’d grown up in a dim, blue-collar neighbourhood in Queens, she’d hoped for a bright, glittering life beyond the workhorse struggles of her parents………..
Casey was unusually tall for a Korean, nearly five feet eight…..for a girl of only twenty two she had numerous theories on beauty and sexuality, but the essence of her philosophy was that allure trumped obvious display. She’d read that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis advised a woman to dress like a column, and Casey never failed to follow that instruction.

I guess you could say that Casey was in pursuit of the American dream. But she learns early on that keeping up with the Joneses isn’t easy even for a fashion-conscious, attractive young woman with a degree from an Ivy League college.

Early on she is kicked out of home by her father following a huge family row caused by what the father views as insolent behavior. To make ends meet she undertakes a variety of part-time jobs and stays with various friends.

As the story develops, and it takes place over about 4 years, we meet a myriad of well-drawn characters, friends and family and business colleagues, both Korean and European Americans and various sub-plots develop with Casey being the common link to all these storylines.

But it is Casey’s family, romantic and financial struggles with all their numerous ups and downs along the way that always takes centre stage.

Author Min Jin Lee lives in New York with her husband and son. She was a lawyer for several years before giving up the law to write fulltime. Her short stories have won her several awards and I am sure we can expect more novels after the robust praise she has received for FREE FOOD FOR MILLIONAIRES.

Her cause was greatly helped by an interview in Newsweek magazine where they talked of her novel being “showered with praise” and where she was described as “an overnight sensation”.

And for the author’s own website click here. At her website you can access the Newsweek interview.

Rotten English - A Literary Anthology

Edited by Dohra Ahmad W.W. Norton: 536 pp., $15.95 paper

"Rotten English" is the first anthology to collect a large sample of international literature written in what has often been called English-in-Situation -- or variously, vernacular, slang, dialect, patois, Creole. The phrase "rotten English" was popularized by Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa in his novel "Sozaboy," and it covers a lot of territory.

For instance, no one thinks of the United States as a post-colonial nation, but it is. And while no one commonly thinks of "American" -- that is, the version of English spoken here -- as vernacular or patois or even dialect, it is, also. Just ask my English mother!
In her introduction to "Rotten English," editor Dohra Ahmad, a professor at St. John's University in New York, does a good job of considering the problems and complexities surrounding the idea of "vernacular literature." Her observations about the paradox of this type of writing -- "Since its power arises in part from its oral and underground qualities, the logic goes, the act of becoming written literature will inevitably sap that power," she explains -- are sound. Heartening also is her acknowledgment of the subversive "vernacular" roots of what is now considered high classical literature, as well as the inherent capacity of language to accommodate new forms over time".
To read the full review from the LA Times click here.


report from New Zealand Herald

Sunday, July 29, 2007


After five years in Paris, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik returns to the Big Apple with Through the Children's Gate and falls in love all over again, says Rachel Cooke in The Observer on Sunday.

Through the Children's Gate by Adam Gopnik (Quercus £17.99, pp336)

"Adam Gopnik, who has been writing for the New Yorker since 1986, is best known for his book Paris to the Moon, a collection of dispatches from the French capital which he wrote from 1995 to 2000. It's a beautiful book. Gopnik is a brilliant writer in any case - warm, witty, wise and learned - but his outsider status in France brought something extra to proceedings: a certain beadiness, perhaps. Now here's another book about a city, New York, to which he and his wife and their two children returned seven years ago and, to a degree, his outsider status is intact".
The above para is the beginning of the review, the full Observer review can be read by clicking here.
Gopnik is one of my favourite contributors to The New Yorker. I also enjoyed his Paris to the Moon very much indeed and eagerly look forward to reading this new title.


With the Festival less than two weeks away The Daily Telegraph suggests the literary highlights.... and it is a most impressive lineup with Alan Bennett, Margaret Attwood, Ian McEwan, A.L.Kennedy, and Nick Cohen among them.

Picture of Alan Bennett (right) also from The Telegraph.

Picture of acclaimed Scottisdh writer A.L.Kennedy (left) from her own website.

On the Road (uncensored). Discovered: Kerouac 'cuts'

The original, 120-ft typewritten roll of the beat generation literary classic is being republished, complete with material too hot to handle in 1957

This story by Paul Bignell and Andrew Johnson from The Independent on Sunday.

It took Jack Kerouac just three weeks to write what became one of the most influential books of the 20th century, inspiring a generation of writers, artists and musicians from Bob Dylan to Hanif Kureishi.
Or such is the myth. In fact what became On the Road was edited extensively over a six-year period before it was published in 1957. The semi-autobiographical story of Kerouac's American road trips was also heavily censored with explicit scenes of gay sex and drug-taking removed.
Now, however, to mark its 50th anniversary, the beatnik classic is to be published for the first time in its original uncensored form as Kerouac intended.

The new edition will also give Kerouac's fellow travellers, the writers Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, and his muse Neal Cassady, their real names instead of the pseudonyms that generations of fans have had to decode.

Use the link above to read the whole story or click here.

Author pic above from Wikipedia website.

Rugby commentator and highly successful non-fiction author, Peter Fitzsimons, has written a book about a great Australian boxer for the Books Alive Programme - 260,000 copies have been printed to be given away free as an incentive to buy any of the books from the 2007 Books Alive Great Read Guide..

The Ballad of Les Darcy is published by Harper Collins.

Good on you Peter!

This story from The Courier Mail. Pic also from that newspaper shows authors Tara Moss and Peter Fitzsimons


Antony Moore, author of The Swap (Random House), writes in The Times of his experiences as a first-time novelist and the skulduggery that he gets up to to try and get his book noticed.


This from the BBC, for all interested in branding......

Saturday, July 28, 2007


In its lead story in the Sunday Book Review section the New York Times looks at several books on the subject.


The Times reports on this amazing London "literary" event.......


This is a question I used to ask myself years ago when I was a bookseller, and those were in the days before Thomas was a famous TV character!

This report from the Guardian.

Sign at right taken outside Scottish Writers Museum.

Have a look at her remarkable bibliography below, taken from National Library of Scotland, and you will agree that this honour is greatly deserved.

1957 The Comforters
1958 Robinson
1959 Memento Mori
1960 The Ballad of Peckham RyeThe Bachelors
1961 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
1963 The Girls of Slender Means
1965 The Mandelbaum Gate
1968 The Public Image
1970 The Driver's Seat
1971 Not to Disturb
1973 The Hothouse by the East River
1974 The Abbess of Crewe
1976 The Takeover
1979 Territorial Rights
1981 Loitering with Intent
1984 The Only Problem
1988 A Far Cry from Kensington
1990 Symposium
1996 Reality and Dreams
2000 Aiding and Abetting
2004 The Finishing School

Other works

1950 Tribute to Wordsworth [edited by Muriel Spark and Derek Stanford]
1951 Child of Light [a study of Mary Shelley]
1952 The Fanfarlo and Other Verse
1952 Selected Poems of Emily Brontë
1953 John Masefield [biography]
1953 Emily Brontë: her life and work [by Muriel Spark and Derek Stanford]
1953 My Best Mary [a selection of letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, edited by Muriel Spark and Derek Stanford]
1954 The Brontë letters
1957 Letters of John Henry Newman [edited by Muriel Spark and Derek Stanford]
1958 The Go-away Bird [short stories]
1961 Voices at Play [short stories and plays]
1963 Doctors of Philosophy [play]
1967 Collected PoemsCollected Stories
1982 Bang-bang You're Dead [short stories]
1982 Going up to Sotheby's [poems]
1992 Curriculum Vitae [autobiography]
2001 Complete Short Stories
2004 All the Poems

National Library of Scotland home page

We salute you Dame Muriel.


Book review in overnight from the New York Times.

The author has created an atmospheric, richly evocative history of Cuba’s past and present, using Fidel Castro’s school as a starting point.

Charlie Ward of Wellington has won the inaugural Great New Zealand Digi-Poem Competition with his audio-visual version of Paekakariki poet Apirana Taylor's poem 'Hinemoa's Daughter'.

The announcement was made by NZ Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) Director and Convenor of Judges Michele Leggott last night during the Montana Poetry Day event Poetry Central in Auckland City.

The judges were unanimous in their decision to give Charlie Ward's flash animation top prize from within a shortlist that shows clearly the range of skills needed to make a convincing digital work that is sensitive to the multiple demands of text and audio poetry. "Charlie Ward achieves a balance between the visual, textual and auditory components of Apirana Taylor's poem 'Hinemoa's Daughter'", Michele Leggott said.

"His composition follows Taylor's evocative performance with nuanced images and typographical overlays that surprise and delight the eye as the poet speaks."

The other finalists were:
· Jody Lloyd of Trillion in Christchurch: On Originality by Bill Manhire
· Paul Homeboy (Christchurch): Instructions for the Consumption of your humanitarian Food Package by Fiona Farrell
· Helen Sword of Auckland: Hinemoa's Daughter by Apirana Taylor

The Great NZ Digi-Poem Competition, created to celebrate Montana Poetry Day by the nzepc in association with Auckland University Press, sought the best digital transformations of poems by six well-known New Zealand poets.

The competition poems were drawn from AUP's Contemporary New Zealand Poets in Performance, the second of AUP's popular CD-with-book anthologies of poets in performance, which will be launched tonight on Montana Poetry Day, during Poetry Central at the Auckland Central Library.

The winner will receive an iPod Nano donated by the University of Auckland Library and books from Auckland University Press. All the shortlisted poems are on the nz electronic poetry website (http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/digital/contest07.asp).

Ø Audio files and texts of the competition poems are available at http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/digital/contest07.asp
Ø Individual clips can be provided on DVD; the winning clip 'Hinemoa's Daughter' is available in wmv and quicktime formats and is 1.51 minutes long.
Ø Available for interview: Michele Leggott, Director of the nzepc and convenor of Judging panel of The Great NZ Digi-Poem Competition; Jack Ross and Jan Kemp, editors of Contemporary New Zealand Poets in Performance.

Christine O'Brien,
Auckland University Press
PB 92019, Auckland, New Zealand Tel: (+64-9) 373-7599 x 85735 MOB: 027 276 3969 Fax: (+64-9) 373-7465


The following post came in by e-mail this morning and I am happy to reproduce it on my blog.

With all the fuss about Harry and what he does or doesn't do for literacy, we wouldn't want to forget the importance of life before Harry .

Building a love of reading starts well before our children are ready for the likes of Harry Potter. It starts with a daily, consistent and steady diet of high quality picture books.

From the very beginning, children need to be exposed to a huge number of well written, engaging, educational, entertaining books covering a wide range of attitudes, content, situations, storylines and to be invited to process, compare and contrast.

This is how we nurture that all important love of reading.The problem is that parents, though bombarded with the book-du-jour at the big box stores, often have a tough time finding good quality picture books. But now there's help -- a source of great children's reading recommendations right in your ears: the Children's Book Podcast Just One More Book ! -- a podcast about the children's books we love and why we love them.

Through this podcast and website, we are building a lively, interactive community linking children's book authors, illustrators, readers (parents and children) and publishers. Busy parents and educators can now discover great read-aloud children's books while they are busy doing the many tasks that would otherwise rob them of the opportunity to research great children's books in more traditional ways.
I hope you will stop by and give us a listen and, perhaps, spread the word. AndreaLink: http://www.justonemorebook.com/ Description: "Just One More Book!" is a thrice-weekly podcast which promotes and celebrates literacy and great children's books.

Each weekday morning, we take a few minutes out of our morning coffee ritual to discuss one of our many favourite children's books. We also feature weekly interviews with authors, literacy related discussions or audio reviews submitted by our listeners. Through this podcast and its website, we are building a lively, interactive community linking children's book authors, illustrators, readers (parents and children) and publishers. Episodes range in length from 5 to 25 minutes and can be played directly from our web page or downloaded to an ipod for listening on the go.
Each episode is an informal discussion of one of our family's favourite children's books. We also feature interviews with authors, literacy related discussions or audio reviews submitted by our listeners. Busy parents and educators can now discover great read-aloud children's books while they are busy doing the many tasks that would otherwise rob them of the opportunity to research great children's books in more traditional ways.
This podcast is powered by passion. We have no advertisers or sponsors and there is no financial gain to be had. Our goal is to link children with great books and help create happy memories for children and the adults that read to them…and to have fun!
For a downloadable brochure please see this link. For a 1 minute audio promo. please check out our About page . For a bit of background, you can check out this recent newspaper article and this interview about our podcast.
The "Just One More Book!!" podcast is featured on high tech, library, parenting and literacy education sites around the world (To see the many sites and directories that currently feature this site, please see this link) If you would like to share these conversations with others who are interested in connecting families and children with great children's books, please feel free to link to this site and to pass it along to parents and teachers.

-- http://www.justonemorebook.com/"A podcast about the children's books we love and why we love them -- recorded in our favourite coffee shop"

For several years now Jeff & Ros Grigor have put out a monthly e-mail newsletter talking of books read and browsed. They kindly gave my blog a plug in their latest newsletter, thanks guys.

In case you do not see it I am enlcosing parts of the latest issue. feel free to contact them if you would like to be added to their mailing list.

Chapters & Verses
272 Stafford Street Timaru.
Ph.036886491.Fax 036884436.
Email, chapvers@paradise.net.nz

Invitation to Book Launch.

Enclosed with this newsletter is an invitation to the launch of Owen Marshal’s new novel “Drybread” to be held at
At Chapters & Verses on Monday the 6th of August at 7:00 pm.
An invitation is extended to all of our newsletter recipients to attend. Dame Fiona Kidman will officially launch “Drybread”. Refreshments
will be provided. A review of “Drybread” follows later in this newsletter.

Beattie’s Book Blog

If you are interested in the world of books both in NZ and overseas one of NZ’s foremost readers has set up a “Book Blog” which is updated daily with interesting news and facts from the world of books. Graham Beattie founded Beattie and Forbes Bookshop in Napier and from there moved to become Managing Director of Penguin NZ and then Scholastic NZ. His blog address is “http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com”

Bishop John Spong is coming to Timaru.

We are delighted to announce that Bishop Spong is coming to Timaru and will speak for an hour on the evening of the 19th of September. We have yet to confirm a venue. Make sure you keep this night free to hear this most interesting and challenging of speakers. Bishop Spong is in NZ to promote his new book “Jesus for the Non Religious”. We have copies in store now at $39:99. We will keep you informed about the time and the venue of this exciting event.

Paullina Simons is coming to Timaru.
Another extremely exciting author event for us. Paullina is one of the world’s bestselling authors. Her bestselling novels include “The Bronze Horseman”, “The Bridge to Holy Cross” and “The Summer Garden” She was born in Leningrad and emigrated to the USA in 1973. She currently lives close to New York with her husband and four children. Paullina will be here in November and we will keep you informed as to venues and times etc.

Ros has been reading

Mother’s Ruin. By Nicola Barry. Autobiography $39:99
Nicola’s mother was a chronic alcoholic. Not only did it ruin her career as a well respected and liked doctor, but caused Nicola to be born with what was later recognized as foetal alcohol syndrome. This caused problems with her bones, and many of her formative years were spent in hospitals. While many people may have found that hard, Nicola actually enjoyed being in hospital. There she found love and security which were lacking at home – by this time her father, also a doctor, spent as much time away from home as possible due to his wife’s alcoholism. Years of terrible neglect were hidden behind middle-class doors and only came to an end after her mother drank herself to death. By this time Nicola had become an alcoholic herself. But if her mother was such a dreadful person, who were all these strangers at her funeral, and why did they speak so highly of her?
Mother’s Ruin is a remarkable true story of alcohol addiction and its devastating effects on the family. Yes, it is emotional, but also inspirational.

On Hitler’s Mountain My Nazi Childhood by Irmgard Hunt Autobiography $28:00.
Irmgard Hunt grew up in Berchtesgarden, Bavaria, her childhood seeming ordinary at the time; but her story is a first hand account of what it was like to be a child in Nazi Germany and reveals a child's-eye view of a brutalizing time when an entire people lost their way.On Hitler's Mountain is a powerful, intimate, riveting, and revealing account of a seemingly halcyon life lived mere paces from a centre of evil and madness; a remarkable memoir of an "ordinary" childhood spent in an extraordinary time and place. Born in 1934, Irmgard Hunt grew up in the picturesque Bavarian village of Berchtesgaden, in the shadow of the Eagle's Nest and near Adolf Hitler's luxurious alpine retreat. The very model of blond Aryan "purity," Irmgard sat on the Führer's knee for photographers, witnessed with excitement the comings and goings of all manner of famous personages, and with the blindness of a child accepted the Nazi doctrine that most of her family and everyone around her so eagerly embraced. Here, in a picture-postcard world untouched by the war and seemingly unblemished by the horrors Germany's master had wrought, she accepted the lies of her teachers and church and civic leaders, joined the Hitler Youth at age ten, and joyfully sang the songs extolling the virtues of National Socialism. But before the end -- when she and other children would be forced to cower in terror in dank bomb shelters and wartime deprivations would take a harrowing toll -- Irmgard's doubts about the "truths" she had been force-fed increased, fuelled by the few brave souls who had not accepted Hitler and his abominations. After the fall of the brutal dictatorship and the suicide of its mad architect, many of her neighbours and loved ones still clung to their beliefs, prejudices, denial, and unacknowledged guilt. Irmgard, often feeling lonely in her quest, was determined to face the truth of her country's criminal past and to bear the responsibility for an almost unbearable reality that most of her elders were determined to forget.
Highly Recommended.

Jeff has been Reading.

Drybread by Owen Marshall. Fiction $27:99.

A graveyard is all that's left of the remote Central Otago settlement of Drybread, where miners, often hungry and disappointed, once searched for gold. It is to an old cottage nearby that Penny Maine-King flees with her young son, defying a Californian court order awarding custody of the child to her estranged husband. And seeking her in this austere, burnt country is journalist Theo Esler. He is after a story, but he discovers something far more personal and significant. Drybread, Owen Marshall's third novel, is a moving study of love and disappointment, of the harm we do to each other, knowingly and unknowingly, of the power and significance of landscape in our lives. Rich and subtle, it is a compelling book from one of this country's finest writers.
Owen’s last novel “Harlequin Rex” won the Montana NZ Book Awards Deutz Medal for fiction in 2000. I believe “Drybread” is an even better book”.
Very Highly Recommended

Rocking Horse Road by Carl Nixon Fiction $27:99

The body of a teenage girl is found on the beach in the days leading up to Christmas, 1981. It's an event that makes a huge impact on all those who live along Rocking Horse Road, which runs through the Spit, a long 'finger of bone-dry sand' between the ocean and the estuary. It's an event that for one hot summer brings together a group of fifteen-year-old boys and then keeps them linked for the rest of their lives. Evolving from Nixon's celebrated short story, this powerful novel is much more than an intelligently evoked murder mystery. It's a book about coming of age and loss of innocence, not just for the characters but also for New Zealand, as the country turns upon itself during the 1981 Springbok Tour. It examines how early events can impact on the rest of our lives, and probes ideas of community, collective memory and story telling. Above all, it's a compelling story, set in a New Zealand we can all recognise. This is a wonderful novel. Carl Nixon will be a force to be reckoned with in NZ literature in the years to come.
Just read what Warwick Roger says about it in his review in North and South this month;
“I usually bridle when a new work of NZ fiction lands on my desk for review. Most NZ fiction is crap. There are certainly no more than 10 honourable exceptions among authors currently writing. Carl Nixon is a major talent and this is a very good book. You should read it.”
Very high praise indeed.

Rainbow’s End by Lauren St John. Memoir $37:00

This is a story about a paradise lost. . . . About an African dream that began with a murder . . . In 1978, in the final, bloodiest phase of the Rhodesian civil war, eleven-year-old Lauren St John moves with her family to Rainbow's End, a wild, beautiful farm and game reserve set on the banks of a slow flowing river. The house has been the scene of a horrific attack by guerrillas, and when Lauren's family settles there, a chain of events is set in motion that will change her life irrevocably. “Rainbow's End” captures the overwhelming beauty and extraordinary danger of life in the African bush. Lauren's childhood reads like a girl's own adventure story. At the height of the war, Lauren rides through the wilderness on her horse, Morning Star, encountering lions, crocodiles, snakes, vicious ostriches, and mad cows. Many of the animals are pets, including Miss Piggy and Bacon and an elegant giraffe named Jenny. The constant threat of ruthless guerrillas prowling the land underscores everything, making each day more dangerous, vivid, and prized than the last. After Independence, Lauren comes to the bitter realization that she'd been on the wrong side of the civil war. While she and her family believed that they were fighting for democracy over Communism, others saw the war as black against white. And when Robert Mugabe comes into power, he oversees the torture and persecution of thousands of members of an opposing tribe and goes on to become one of Africa's legendary dictators. The ending of this beautiful memoir is a fist to the stomach as Lauren realizes that she can be British or American, but she cannot be African. She can love it -- be willing to die for it -- but she cannot claim Africa because she is white.
I loved this book.

Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson Crime Fiction $36:99

Inspector Banks is back in this stunning new novel from bestselling author Peter RobinsonWhen Karen Drew is found sitting in her wheelchair staring out to sea with her throat cut one chilly March morning, DI Annie Cabbot, on loan to Eastern Area, gets lumbered with the case. Back in Eastvale, that same Sunday morning, 19-year-old Hayley Daniels is found raped and strangled in the Maze, a tangle of narrow alleys behind Eastvale's market square, after a drunken night on the town with a group of friends, and DCI Alan Banks is called in. Banks finds suspects galore, while Annie seems to hit a brick wall until she reaches a breakthrough that spins her case in a shocking and surprising new direction, one that also involves Banks. Then another incident occurs in the Maze, which seems to link the two cases in a bizarre and mysterious way. As Banks and Annie dig into the past to uncover the deeper connections, they find themselves also dealing with the emotional baggage and personal demons of their own relationship. And it soon becomes clear that there are two killers in their midst, and that at any moment either one might strike again.
A Superb Read

Don’t forget our author events. Everyone is welcome.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Report from The Bookseller


Available as a "free" download on the Web - the Guardian looks at the economics of the massive download.
Picture also from the Guardian.

Something one suspects booksellers have to do all the time.....
Interesting piece from the TLS.

This story from the Sydney Morning Herald...........
PEP/Whitcoulls still seen as front runner. Management buyout also being considered.

Poet Andrew Johnston talks on his blog about Bill Manhire and other things.....



Winner of NZSA Best First Book for poetry announced:
Victoria University Press author, Airini Beautrais has proven she is an author to watch by winning the NZSA Jessie McKay Best First Book for Poetry for her collection, Secret Heart.

Montana New Zealand Book Awards poetry category advisor, Dr John Newton says Beautrais’ book is extremely well-conceived.

'Secret Heart has a decisive choice of form perfectly matched to an original choice of content’.

Airini Beautrais completed a Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Victoria University in 2005. She has a background in ecological science. She is also a musician and has played in a folk/rock band called The Raskolnikovs for the last three years. She is presently training as a secondary teacher.

Top Poetry Prize Presented Posthumously

Janet Frame has won the poetry category of the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards for her collection, The Goose Bath three years after her death

A previous recipient of awards for both fiction and non fiction, the win confirms her place as one of our greatest and most adaptable writers.

She competed against The Year of the Bicycle by James Brown and One Shapely Thing by Dinah Hawken to take the prize.

The announcement made today marks Montana Poetry Day. With more than 45 events happening around the country, it is a major celebration of the nation’s poets and their writing.

Montana New Zealand Book Awards judges’ convenor, Dr Paul Millar says Frame’s edge is as we should expect, her use of inventive, imaginative and memorable language.

‘She steps lightly and precisely across the surface of the swamp of words…She is also highly original.’

Spokesperson for the Janet Frame Charitable Trust and Janet Frame’s niece, Pamela Gordon, says poetry was always her aunt’s first love.

‘This win marks a long overdue recognition for Janet Frame as a poet. She didn't seek accolades for her work, but she would have been very pleased that The Goose Bath poems have found favour.’

Despite a prolific writing career, Janet Frame had only one previously published collection of poetry (The Pocket Mirror, 1967) before The Goose Bath. She is the author of eleven novels, five collections of stories, a volume of poetry, a children's book and a three-volumed autobiography.

Janet Frame is New Zealand’s most distinguished writer: CBE, member, Order of New Zealand, nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Honorary Doctorate in Literature, University’s of Otago and Waikato. She was a Burns Scholar and a Sargeson Fellow. Janet Frame won the New Zealand Scholarship in Letters and the Hubert Church Award for Prose.

Born in Dunedin in 1924, Janet Frame died in January 2004.

The Goose Bath, published by Random House New Zealand, will be judged alongside the winner of the Fiction category for the ultimate prize, the Montana Medal for Fiction or Poetry (formerly called the Deutz prize). The winner will be announced at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards ceremony and gala dinner in Auckland at Sky City on Monday 30 July. Pamela Gordon, will accept the prize of $5,000 on behalf of Janet Frame, as winner of the Poetry category at this gala dinner.

The principal sponsors of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards are Montana and Creative New Zealand. The awards are managed by Booksellers New Zealand and supported by Book Publishers Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand Society of Authors and Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


With all the amazing hoopla surrrounding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I admit I contributed to, I greatly enjoyed reading this refreshing piece from Finlay McDonald in the Sunday Star Times this past Sunday:

And so the world awakes to news of the boy wizard's ultimate fate. Did Harry Potter vanquish He Who Shall Not Be Named? Or did His Imperial Not Niceness prevail? Did they both perish, like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty? Or has JK Rowling left the last page open for yet another episode, despite swearing she wouldn't? Has the world's media had its fill of the "frenzy of anticipation", and are we sick of the term "spoiler alert" yet?

Personally, the end couldn't come soon enough for this veteran of the Potter chronicles.

Having two children just far enough apart in age has meant I have laboured through roughly a decade's worth of bedtimes, trawling through at least four of the books twice, increasingly finding myself drawn to the dark side and willing Voldemort and his Death Eaters to an early victory.A futile hope. The publishing juggernaut and its cinematic equivalent was apparently set in stone from day one, when the central character leapt unbidden into his author's head - as if by magic, you might say! - while she sat daydreaming on a train.
It didn't take supernatural powers to work out that each book would end with Harry's nemesis surviving to fight another battle. Much wand waving and mumbo-jumbo would ensue, and like any third rate thriller, each narrative's many hanging threads would be trimmed away with convenient explanatory dialogue.

Unlike most of the rest of the world, I seem to have become less of a fan as the series ground on. The first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - at a relatively slim 250 odd pages - seemed inventive and fun, combining several well-worn themes of junior fiction into something, if not new, then undeniably entertaining. By the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - still a mere 300 pages - Rowling was in command of her subject, mixing just the right measures of invention, adventure and characterisation to drive the story forward efficiently.And then something happened. Maybe it all just went to her head, but the books suddenly became turgid and hideously overwritten.

I'm sure there are devotees casting the Cruciatus Curse at me as they read this, but they'll have to accept the separate but similar verdicts of my bedtime companions, too: both eventually gave up on Harry Potter because he got too boring.The books literally doubled in size. Inside each of them - The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, The Half Blood Prince - was a smaller and much better book struggling to get out, but subsumed in a mass of expository landfill. Daily life at Hogwarts became repetitive, maddeningly drawn out, often tediously tangential or inconsequential. Bedtime stories shouldn't actually put children to sleep.A matter of taste? Maybe.

But that doesn't explain away the observable decline in Rowling's writing as her bank balance increased. She's particularly hopeless with dialogue, needlessly signalling who is speaking at all times, never allowing a character to simply say something without redundant adverbial baggage..."Hermione said shrilly", "Harry said dully (two of her favourite clunkers) or, unforgivably, "he asked inquisitively". Does being Britain's second richest woman mean you don't need an editor, or simply that the editors are too scared to touch a word of your obese manuscript?You can see from the films, which are still good fun, how much better the stories are for a little compression and elision - although it's also plain from the latest, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (perhaps the low point in the book cycle), what a struggle it is to render the central conflict between good and bad magic compellingly.Oh well, one billion muggles can't be wrong.

And I certainly don't wish to be aligned with any of the nuttier detractors of Harry Potter, namely the fundamentalist Christian types who happily believe woman was created from the rib of a man, yet decry other fictional depictions of magic for fear the original He Who Shall Not Be Named might be encouraged.If it's real serial publishing evil they're worried about, they might take the time to peruse the abominable but hugely successful Rainbow Magic phenomenon, an industrial-scale exploitation of little girls' perennial fixation with fairies.

Thankfully my own fairy freak has recently graduated - to my enormous surprise - to Enid Blyton's Famous Five books. They too were frowned upon by do-gooders in their day for a supposed lack of literary merit, although talk of actual library bans was apparently overstated.But for all their quaintness and anachronistic stuffiness in the MySpace age, these tales of Julian, Dick, Anne, George (Georgina, the girl who longs to be a boy - oh Enid!) and Timmy the dog could still teach Rowling a thing or two about pace, plotting and economy of style.

Mind you, staring at the 20 or so titles in the series, not to mention all the rest of Blyton's mammoth oeuvre, there's something to be said for a little finality.No, Rowling must never be allowed to do a Conan Doyle, who gave in to public pressure and brought Sherlock Holmes back from the grave, and be allowed to resurrect her hero. Harry Potter must die, one way or another. Please, let it be over.


Ten talented teenage poets on New Zealand Post shortlist

Ernest Hemingway, fish, Taipei, musical scales and kayaks are a taste of the themes preoccupying the ten finalists in this year's New Zealand Post Poetry Awards. The ten finalists, a tiny proportion of hundreds of entrants from around New Zealand, are competing for a grand prize of cash and the chance for one poem to be turned into a song. Winners will be announced on August 17 at a ceremony in Wellington.

Judge Andrew Johnston (2007 J D Stout Research Fellow at Victoria University) says he was astonished by the range of tones and voices that came across in the ten very different poems. ‘In every case their energy and curiosity leapt out at me, and sometimes their imperfections make them much more interesting than poems that are polished but predictable. I'm confident the authors have what it takes to write even better poems, and it's exciting to imagine what they might go on to do.’

This is the first time the competition has offered the prize for a shortlisted poem to be recorded by Black Seeds performer Barnaby Weir. The song will be performed, distributed to radio stations and made available for free download on iTunes and Digirama. The overall competition winner will take away a $500 cash prize and a $500 grant to their school library. All ten finalists will have their expenses paid to attend a poetry masterclass at Victoria University in Wellington, and receive a package of book tokens and literary subscriptions from the New Zealand Book Council, Booksellers New Zealand, the New Zealand Society of Authors, and Sport and Landfall.

And the finalists are:

Zoe Newman, Year 13, Dargaville School
Laura Lincoln, Year 12, Karamu High School, Hastings
Michaela Ball, Year 13, Cashmere High School, Christchurch
Chloë Nannestad, Year 12, Epsom Girls Grammar, Auckland
Alisha Vara, Year 13, Rangi Ruru Girls School, Christchurch
Sam Wells, Year 12, Wellington College
Sue Mun Huang, Year 12, Karamu High School, Hastings
Michael Trigg, Year 13, Wellington College
Sarah Zydervelt, Year 12, Nayland College, Nelson
Shannyn Boyd, Year 12, Hutt Valley High School, Lower Hutt

The expanding bookshelf

Damien Wilkins will launch 2005 MA (Page) graduate Mary McCallum’s first novel The Blue (Penguin) in Eastbourne next week. The novel is set in an isolated whaling community in the 1930s, and rumour has it that the launch is to feature food appropriate to the period, although we assume the author’s quest for veracity won’t stretch as far as offering whale meat amongst the hors d’oeuvres. Mary McCallum discusses (and previews) the novel in her New Zealand Book Month blog

Illustrating children's books with Fifi Colston

Fifi Colston is a children’s book writer and illustrator with over 28 titles to her name (as well as an MA in Creative Writing from the IIML). She is offering a weekend workshop on illustrating children’s books that will look at character development, what makes a picture book great and examine illustration from a child's point of view. The workshop takes place in a central city (Wellington) location on the weekend of 18 -19 August, from 10am- 4.30pm. The cost of $250 includes all art materials, tea and coffee.
All levels of ability are welcome,
bookings essential (tel 021 448884 / email fific@paradise.net.nz).

Taken from the 111th in a series of occasional newsletters from the Victoria University centre of the International Institute of Modern Letters. For more information about any of the items, please email modernletters@vuw.ac.nz

You can also read the whole newsletter online at: http://www.vuw.ac.nz/modernletters/activities/newsletter.aspx (after tomorrow).


a new title from the man we all love to hate.......this from The Book Standard