Wednesday, October 31, 2007


From The Guardian overnight. Pic of the reclusive author also from The Guardian.

Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by George Bush.

Whether or not one of the world's most publicity-shy literary stars will relish being given America's highest - and very public - award remains to be seen.
According to the citation the reclusive author has been honoured for "an outstanding contribution to America's literary tradition. At a critical moment in our history, her beautiful book, To Kill a Mockingbird, helped focus the nation on the turbulent struggle for equality."

Lee's 1960 classic tells the story of a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman
and is an indictment of racial prejudice. It is told from the perspective of a
young white girl, Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, whose father, Atticus
Finch, is the lawyer defending the innocent man, Tom Robinson.

Lee set the story in the town of "Maycomb" in Alabama and drew on her own childhood
experiences in the South. While insisting that the novel is not
autobiographical, she has acknowledged that Scout is based on herself.

Lee was born in Monroeville in 1926, in the deep South, at a time of strict racial segregation. She was a voracious reader who moved to New York determined to become a writer, and
succeeded with To Kill A Mockingbird. The book was an instant bestseller and
won a Pulitzer prize. It was also made into a hit film starring Gregory Peck,
which quickly gained similar "classic" status to the book's.
Unnerved by the extent of critical and popular acclaim her book won, Lee then disappeared from public life, stopped giving interviews about 40 years ago and, other than a 1983
review of an Alabama history book, has published nothing of significance in
some four decades.

However, she did step out of the shadows last year when it came
to light that for five years she had been quietly attending a ceremony at the
University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa for a high school essay-writing contest
based on her work. She granted a single interview to the New York Times,
speaking only about the students and the essay-writing contest. The picture
that emerged of the author from the interview was of a lively and quick-witted
old woman who was happy to chat to the students, sign autographs and pose for

While To Kill a Mockingbird is taught in more than 70% of schools in the US, the book's popularity is not restricted to the States. Last year the book topped a World Book Day poll
conducted by the UK's Museum, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), in which
librarians around the country were asked, "Which book should every adult
read before they die?"

Should she attend, Lee will be presented with the Presidential Medal at a White House ceremony on November 5 with this year's other recipients, who include the 1992 Nobel economics prize winner Gary Becker; Human Genome Project leader Francis Collins; US
civil rights leader Benjamin Hooks; and former House Foreign Affairs committee
chairman Henry Hyde.

The Medal of Freedom was established by President Truman in 1945 to recognise civilians for their efforts during the second world war. The award was reinstated by President
Kennedy in 1963 to honor distinguished service. It is given to those deemed to
have made remarkable contributions to the security or national interests of
the United States, world peace, culture, or other private or public endeavors.
Cover image from Wikipedia website.

JAYCEE – Developers of People- Builders of Communities
Graham & Susan Butterworth Ngaio Press $49.95

In its heyday Jaycee was undoubtedly New Zealand’s liveliest service organization with members who were both ‘developers of people’ and ‘builders of communities’. The organisation made an impressive contribution to the social infrastructure of New Zealand after World War II and later. Almost every community has amenities built or aided by the Jaycees.

Over the years I belonged to the Gisborne, Tawa and Napier chapters of Jaycee and we undertook a huge number of worthwhile community activities – creating community parks, painting the roof of a children’s home, building walkways, raising funds for cardiac equipment for the public hospital and a raft of other things. It was a most rewarding experience and even today, many many years later I feel great pride in what we achieved.

The organisation's role in training leaders in politics, local government and business is less well known but many a parliamentarian and mayor learned public speaking and meeting procedure in a Jaycee chapter. And I was one who gained my skills in this area from Jaycee. Public speaking and debating was very much an everyday part of Jaycee activities.
I had the great privilege of being President of the Napier chapter of Jaycee way back in 1969 and was a member for several years of the successful debating team which made it all the way to the National final in 1972.

Jaycee was also an international movement that looked to foster world peace through democracy, trade and international brotherhood. New Zealand Jaycees boxed far above their weight in the international body, taking a strong lead in the Asia-Pacific region. But, like the whole voluntary sector throughout the western world, Jaycee lost ground as new forces in society and the economy invaded its niche. By century’s end the decline in social capital and social cohesion emerged as a worldwide concern. As the New Zealand movement celebrates its 75th anniversary it faces reinventing itself in this new situation.

This readable and well-illustrated book remembers the fun times and the more serious times, while making an important contribution to New Zealand history and the international study of service organisations.

This book is a must-have for all those thousands of former Jaycees out there many of whom will find themselves mentioned as it lists all the winners of the various trophies competed for on an annual basis as well as describing some of the many outstanding projects undertaken. The book is prolifically illustrated with more than 200 photographs.

For me reading it proved quite emotional especially seeing and reading about old friends no longer with us, and also recalling many happy and rewarding occasions particularly those Napier days.

If any former Jaycees have trouble locating this book, (I can’t imagine too many bookshops will be stocking the title although they can order it for you from Ngaio Press), there is a facility for direct purchase from JCI Senators –

Wellington-based authors Susan and Graham Butterworth are long-established independent professional historians. Susan has been in practice since 1985 and Graham since 1990, after a career in government, university and as executive officer of the Police Association. Their books and papers cover a very wide range of New Zealand history, government and local government, business, community and Maori history.

They have done the Jaycees proud with this title.

Photos show the Napier Jaycee Christiaan Barnard organising committee in 1969, left to right,
John Wade, Tony Reid, Christiaan Barnard, Graham Beattie, Ian Price and 1972 Napier Jaycee President James White with Princess Alexandra. Both of these fabulously successful fund-raising events are covered in the book from where the photographs were taken.

HISTORIC HOUSES – A Visitor’s Guide to New Zealand Settlers’ Houses
Linda Burgess Random House $45

In the world of books and writing in New Zealand the multi-talented Linda Burgess is everywhere. The author of short and long fiction, non-fiction particularly travel writing, and television scriptwriting; she also teaches creative writing, and reviews books for Radio New Zealand and television for The Dominion newspaper. She regularly visits schools as part of the Writers in Schools programme, is a wife and mother and grandmother, and amongst all of this busy life last year also managed to be a Montana New Zealand Book Awards judge with all that that entails. Phew!

This month has seen the publication of her latest work, a quite beautiful, well-researched and most appealing guide to 65 historic houses spread throughout the country. The homes, all visited by Linda and her husband Robert, (who took the many gorgeous colour photographs that are a feature of the book), were mainly built in the nineteenth century and they range from tiny cottages to large country mansions.

In her interesting introduction to her book the author explains how she came to write the book as well as writing warmly about our early settlers.

A fine book which makes me want to pack a bag and jump in the car taking off for a few months travelling the country visiting these special houses along the way. Burgess made one of the criteria for including the properties that they had to be “available to the public in some way, either as house museums, bed-and-breakfasts, fabulous lodges or even just open once a year for charity”.

Goodness knows where Burgess will pop up next, or what her next book will be, but I suspect it will be a long time before she produces another book as handsome and entertaining as this one. And what great value at $45. Bravo.
The indefatigable Linda Burgess.

A US review (from Shelf Awareness) of The Gathering.

Book Review: Booker-Winner The Gathering
The Gathering by Anne Enright (Black Cat/Grove, $14, 97

This year's surprise Booker-winner is a surprise in more ways than one.

It's a cocky, sure-of-itself, in-your-face literary experience that's bracingly honest and frequently roaringly funny on the least funny of subjects: a funeral. It's not the plot that's dazzling.

The story itself is hardly more than a pretext: Liam Hegarty's suicide at the age of 40 draws his nine surviving brothers and sisters back to the old over-extended family home in Dublin.The 39-year-old narrator Veronica Hegarty was always close to Liam and wants to tell you about her brother's death, and in particular about something that happened when she was eight and Liam was nine (or, at least, could have happened, or maybe didn't happen at all), but to do so she has to go back to 1925 and the meeting of Veronica's grandmother, Ada, age 19, with the mysterious, enigmatic Lambert Nugent in the foyer of a Dublin hotel.

It's love at first sight. Does Ada marry Lambert? No. Instead she marries his best friend, Charlie Spillane, who drives up with a flashy car outside. Thus, according to Veronica, her brother's fate is set in motion. What this has to do with Liam's death is the mystery.Don't expect to find out what really happened in grandmother's house. Memory in Enright's hands is even more treacherous and unreliable than in Proust's. Veronica gives you all kinds of variant possibilities, but that's all they are, contradictory interpretations of the past, fallible guesswork.

Author Enright has a fine time entertaining you, with a spunky irony to the writing style, an exuberance in the language, a sly wisdom underlying the twists of the narrative. Her tale is pull-no-punches honest about the unfairness and disappointments of life, but playful enough to include a sex scene that didn't really happen. It's a thrillingly honest and unsentimental look at the human experience, with plenty of defiant Irish laughter in the face of mortality.Dotted with deadpan gems, every page seasoned with Enright's irrepressible spirit, The Gathering is a good-natured tribute to the family funerals of life, where grief is "somewhere between diarrhea and sex."

Future Reading
Digitization and its discontents.

From The New Yorker, November 5.
Illustration by Tom Gauld.

In 1938, Alfred Kazin began work on his first book, “On Native Grounds.” The child of poor Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, he had studied at City College. Somehow, with little money or backing, he managed to write an extraordinary book, setting the great American intellectual and literary movements from the late nineteenth century to his own time in a richly evoked historical context.
One institution made his work possible: the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street. Kazin later recalled, “Anything I had heard of and wanted to see, the blessed place owned: first editions of American novels out of those germinal decades after the Civil War that led to my theme of the ‘modern’; old catalogues from long-departed Chicago publishers who had been young men in the eighteen-nineties trying to support a little realism.” Without leaving Manhattan, Kazin read his way into “lonely small towns, prairie villages, isolated colleges, dusty law offices, national magazines, and provincial ‘academies’ where no one suspected that the obedient-looking young reporters, law clerks, librarians, teachers would turn out to be Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Sinclair Lewis, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore.”

It’s an old and reassuring story: bookish boy or girl enters the cool, dark library and discovers loneliness and freedom. For the past ten years or so, however, the cities of the book have been anything but quiet. The computer and the Internet have transformed reading more dramatically than any technology since the printing press, and for the past five years Google has been at work on an ambitious project, Google Book Search. Google’s self-described aim is to “build a comprehensive index of all the books in the world,” one that would enable readers to search the list of books it contains and to see full texts of those not covered by copyright. Google collaborates with publishers, called Google Publishing Partners—there are more than ten thousand of them around the world—to provide information about books that are still copyright protected, including text samples, to all users of the Web. A second enterprise, the Google Library Project, is digitizing as many books as possible, in collaboration with great libraries in the U.S. and abroad. Among them is Kazin’s beloved New York Public Library, where more than a million books are being scanned.

Google’s projects, together with rival initiatives by Microsoft and Amazon, have elicited millenarian prophecies about the possibilities of digitized knowledge and the end of the book as we know it. Last year, Kevin Kelly, the self-styled “senior maverick” of Wired, predicted, in a piece in the Times, that “all the books in the world” would “become a single liquid fabric of interconnected words and ideas.” The user of the electronic library would be able to bring together “all texts—past and present, multilingual—on a particular subject,” and, by doing so, gain “a clearer sense of what we as a civilization, a species, do know and don’t know.” Others have evoked even more utopian prospects, such as a universal archive that will contain not only all books and articles but all documents anywhere—the basis for a total history of the human race.

In fact, the Internet will not bring us a universal library, much less an encyclopedic record of human experience. None of the firms now engaged in digitization projects claim that it will create anything of the kind. The hype and rhetoric make it hard to grasp what Google and Microsoft and their partner libraries are actually doing. We have clearly reached a new point in the history of text production. On many fronts, traditional periodicals and books are making way for blogs and other electronic formats. But magazines and books still sell a lot of copies. The rush to digitize the written record is one of a number of critical moments in the long saga of our drive to accumulate, store, and retrieve information efficiently. It will result not in the infotopia that the prophets conjure up but in one in a long series of new information ecologies, all of them challenging, in which readers, writers, and producers of text have learned to survive.

As early as the third millennium B.C., Mesopotamian scribes began to catalogue the clay tablets in their collections. For ease of reference, they appended content descriptions to the edges of tablets, and they adopted systematic shelving for quick identification of related texts. The greatest and most famous of the ancient collections, the Library of Alexandria, had, in its ambitions and its methods, a good deal in common with Google’s book projects. It was founded around 300 B.C. by Ptolemy I, who had inherited Alexandria, a brand-new city, from Alexander the Great. A historian with a taste for poetry, Ptolemy decided to amass a comprehensive collection of Greek works. Like Google, the library developed an efficient procedure for capturing and reproducing texts. When ships docked in Alexandria, any scrolls found on them were confiscated and taken to the library. The staff made copies for the owners and stored the originals in heaps, until they could be catalogued. At the collection’s height, it contained more than half a million scrolls, a welter of information that forced librarians to develop new organizational methods. For the first time, works were shelved alphabetically.

Six hundred years later, Eusebius, a historian and bishop of the coastal city of Caesarea, in Palestine, assembled Christian writings in the local library. He also devised a system of cross-references, known as “canon tables,” that enabled readers to find parallel passages in the four Gospels—a system that the scholar James O’Donnell recently described as the world’s first set of hot links. A deft impresario, Eusebius mobilized a team of secretaries and scribes to produce Bibles featuring his new study aid; in the three-thirties, the emperor Constantine placed an order with Eusebius for fifty parchment codex Bibles for the churches of his new city, Constantinople. Throughout the Middle Ages, the great monastic libraries engaged in the twin projects of accumulating large holdings and, in their scriptoria, making and disseminating copies of key texts.

Dallaglio and Catt force Twickenham to muzzle players
By David Llewellyn in The Independent overnight.

After a weekend when English rugby's dirty World Cup laundry was aired in the media, Twickenham is to take steps to gag players after future tournaments and major tours.

The move was prompted by the serialisation in two Sunday newspapers of autobiographies by Lawrence Dallaglio and Mike Catt. The two were extremely uncomplimentary about England's preparations and Brian Ashton's performance as head coach and what Dallaglio and Catt have written has shocked the game from top to bottom. "The whole situation is very, very sad," said Phil Vickery, the England captain. "This has taken away from what is important and that is what we achieved in France. From my perspective Brian Ashton and the coaches worked their arses off to get things right. We [the players] did have issues and some of Lawrence's points are valid, but at the same time we have to remember there is a book to sell."

Martyn Thomas, the chairman of the Rugby Football Union, said last night: "I think it is absolutely disgraceful. This has tarnished a great achievement."
When England won the World Cup in 2003, the coach, Sir Clive Woodward, ensured that all players' columns and interviews were closely scrutinised, but he went further when he took charge of the 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand.

Then he introduced a clause preventing players and coaching and support staff from giving interviews or publishing any tour diaries or autobiographies for six months after the end of the tournament.
England rather missed the boat for this World Cup, but Thomas is determined to introduce some form of control of what players and coaches can say.
He wants a cooling-off period similar to the one the Lions had, saying: "Any clause we introduce will apply to major tours and major tournaments, but within the confines of the law. We can't become censors. We have freedom of speech. I have already put a call in to the RFU legal officer, Karena Vleck, and we will discuss it, and I will raise it at the management board meeting. I am sure that Rob Andrew [England's director of rugby] and chief executive Francis Baron will raise it as well."

Dallaglio and Catt could be disciplined under RFU regulations, if it is proved that either autobiography contained statements prejudicial to the interests of the Union or the game.
Dallaglio, in his book It's in the Blood: My Life likens England's World Cup campaign to Monty Python's Life of Brian and claimed the team members felt they were more akin to a pub side. Catt's book, Landing On My Feet: My Story was not much more sympathetic to Ashton, accusing the former Bath coach of being "in a state of confusion".


By Shannon Maughan -- Publishers Weekly

Amazon has taken another step further into the audiobook market by adding a featured audiobook store to its Web site, fueling speculation that the online retailer will sell downloadable audiobooks at some point. Amazon has long sold traditional audio formats on cassette and CD (and tracked top sellers) and partnered with to offer downloads of select audiobook titles. Amazon currently offers DRM-free MP3 music downloads as well, (avaialable to US cutsomers only).

But the new audiobook store brings tighter focus to the spoken-word audio category and gives prominence to titles from recent Amazon acquisition Brilliance Audio, including those in the MP3CD format. In the mold of other stores on the site, the new audiobook store includes bargain titles, highlighted genres, a “New & Notable” section and a bestseller list. In addition, browsers will find such syndicated material from Audiofile Magazine as downloadable reviews and blog entries.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Books of The Times
Has Her Majesty Read Any Good Books Lately?

I reviewed this charming title a few weeks back, here is the New York Times take on it......

Queen Elizabeth is known for loving her horses and her corgis. She has sat, reportedly, for more than 120 portraits, conferred some 400,000 honors and awards, met with a long parade of prime ministers and attended countless garden parties and receptions. She has frequently been described as an exemplary monarch, dedicated and dutiful and decent. And just as frequently described as a forbidding mother, chilly and withholding and given to playing ostrich whenever it comes to emotions.

By Alan Bennett
120 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $15.
(Profile Books in Commonwealth NZ$30)

One thing she has never been described as is an avid reader. One biographer asserted that the queen once asked if Dante were a horse — or a jockey. Another biographer declared that she rarely reads a book unless it is horse-related.

Enter Alan Bennett, the deft, virtuosic author of plays like “The History Boys,” “The Madness of George III” and “The Lady in the Van.” In “The Uncommon Reader” Mr. Bennett poses a delicious and very funny what-if: What if Queen Elizabeth at the age of 70-something were suddenly to become a voracious reader? What if she were to become an avid fan of Proust and Balzac, Turgenev and Trollope and Hardy? And what if reading were to lead her, in turn, to becoming a writer? Mr. Bennett’s musings on these matters have produced a delightful little book that unfolds into a witty meditation on the subversive pleasures of reading.


In a number of Nigella's recipes she includes "sunblush tomatoes" which she later explains are those tomatoes "that are halfway between fresh & dried and come soaked in oil in deli counters"

I haven't been able to locate these locally. Can anyone suggest where I might be able to buy them?

Peter Janssen with Malcolm Evans
Hodder Moa $20

The first of the stocking stuffers of the season.

Former publisher Peter Janssen, with tongue firmly in cheek, in an amusing take on the flip side of Global warming e.g. “Global warming may not be all bad: you can get the summer you want by speeding it up, then you and your family can have the beach holiday you richly deserve”.
Great fun, and I just love those Malcolm Evans illustrations.
Hilarious from beginning to end.

Here is an example - Janssens's text to accompany this is:

Can't afford to live by the sea? Don't worry, buy now in Kaitaia, Putaruru, Hawera, Levin, Ashburton and Winton, and soon the sea will come to you.
If you live in Huntly start building that little yacht you have always wanted as, with rising sea levels, Huntly will be the new Port Waikato. Juust imagine whitebaiting in the tidal waters of the Manawatu along the Esplanade at Palmerston North. Those ice caps are melting by the minute so son't delay, stake out your whitebaiting spot now before it's too late.

Two of the top selling books in the UK when I was there a couple of weeks back were Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home and Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson.

Today I took my copies of both books around to Bhana Brothers, my fruit & vege shop in Ponsonby Road, and got them to weigh them for me.

Here are the results:

Nigella Express 1.524 kilos
Jamie at Home 1.402 kilos.

They are both around 400 pages in length.

If you are giving either/both for Christmas gifts this year, and they both make superb presents, better deliver them in person rather than post them!

Citizenship book becomes best seller

From The Daily Telegraph, London:

A book designed to help immigrants pass the UK citizenship test has become an unlikely publishing phenomenon.
The Home Office's Life in the UK is the bestselling political book of the year, selling more than 80,000 copies and outselling Alastair Campbell's diaries.

Together with a further five manuals on how to pass the test which between them rack up a further 138,000 sales, it accounts for one-third of the total spending on political books in the country.

According to industry publication The Bookseller, the guides to the test, which assesses immigrants' grasp of British culture, politics, customs and society, have fuelled a 16 per cent rise in revenues for the political book sector so far this year.
It follows the revelation last week that record immigration with the expansion of the EU is fuelling the biggest rise in the population for almost 50 years.

Ten years from now, there will be 65 million people in the UK - an increase of five million - and by 2031, the population will be over 70 million, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of immigration pressure group Migration Watch, said the book sales explosion was another "rather unusual" way in which immigration is affecting every corner of our society.

The 24-question multi-choice citizenship exam was introduced by former Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2005 in a bid to quell concerns that new immigrants were failing to adapt and integrate themselves into British life.

The exam includes questions such as "What is the speed limit on single carriageways?" and "How many weeks of paid holiday each year are employees of over 16 normally entitled to?"

Pop in and print off that rare novel
A new way to buy books

This story from The Times:

Imagine being able to pop into a bookshop with a request for a rare book and then supping on a latte for a few moments while it’s printed to order. You won’t hear the assistant say: “It’s out of stock but we can get it – it will take a couple of weeks.” Or worse: “It’s out of print, try a secondhand bookshop.”

The Espresso Book Machine (EBM), coming to Britain soon, is produced by an American company called On Demand Books. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the future of how we may buy books. There are five EBMs so far operating (four in America and another at the library of Alexandria, Egypt) but On Demand is “in advanced talks with a well known London-based bookseller to bring one to the UK on early 2008”, says Dane Neller, the company’s chief executive.

It works like this: once you have selected, say, an obscure noir novel, the EBM will go online to a partner publisher and download the files needed to print it. As these files are stored in scanned page form, the book can be printed in any language or alphabet it is available in, such as Latin, Cyrillic or Arabic, and can even incorporate monochrome pictures.
“Retailers will only need to stock bestsellers and perhaps hold a selection of titles for browsing purposes. Nothing will ever go out of print,” enthuses Neller. The cost of the machines producing a book is currently a penny for every two pages, plus the royalties where copyright or other legal rights apply, and the retailer’s commission. On Demand says that prices will soon tumble.
Perhaps so, but as anybody who works in an office will testify, printers have a tendency to go wrong – and sod’s law dictates this will happen on the day you are halfway up the queue waiting for one of these machines to emit a text you urgently need and have already paid for. Neller insists the Kyocera laser printer at the heart of his literary marvel was chosen for its reliability and that, with an occasional service, it will function well. But success will also depend on the quality and feel of the finished books.

“The whole point of building these five initial machines was to prove that the idea was viable,” he explains. However, the second generation of EBMs will go on sale late next year and, measuring roughly 5ft cubed, they will be far less industrial-looking than the current models (see a video of one working at

On Demand is also working with the Open Content Alliance (OCA), a nonprofit collaboration of cultural, technology and government bodies from all over the world that is building an online archive of multilingual digitised texts that are available, without charge, to everybody.
The OCA has already digitised 200,000 books ranging from Moby Dick by Herman Melville to Songs of Innocence by William Blake – and it is “scanning them in at a prodigious rate”, according to Neller. These titles are available to be printed by the Espresso alongside those On Demand has secured deals for from publishers. Last week the OCA announced it had signed up several US academic institutions to its project as they preferred its more open approach over the commercial restrictions that would be imposed by signing up for the free book digitisation services offered by Google or Microsoft.

Cynics would argue the days of print are numbered and that the ability to download books in a purely digital form to a laptop or a portable electronic-reader gadget are the next big thing. It is a proposition that Jason Epstein, co-founder of On Demand Books and former editorial director of Random House, disputes. “Printed books are one of history’s greatest and most enduring inventions. What needs to change is the outdated way that books reach readers,” he says.
He’s right, of course. InGear has seen various fancy electronic reader gizmos, but these are no use if you are trying to read in bright sunlight or you drop your pricey new toy in a puddle.


Auckland and Paris based photographer Harvey Benge will be in London this week to launch his new book A Short History of Photography at the Photographers Gallery on Thursday night.

British photography crtitic Gerry Badger writes in the forward to the book,

" Harvey Benge´s work here is a meditation on photographic style. While looking through his contact sheets, he noticed pictures that reminded him of a 'Friedlander', or whatever, while another image reminded him of someone else.All photograpers do this, and if the photograph in question apes another photographer too closely, it´s usually a case for rejection. But Benge did the opposite.

Picking out his 'Friedlander' of 'Parr' and 'Baltz' he decided to make an 'anthology' of contemporary photography featuring some of its biggest names. Of course they are all genuine Benges. And it is important that they are all good pictures, and not mere pastiches of the 'originals' of which they gently and insistently remind one. This may be a game, but games can be very serious, and this is both a serious and light-hearted exploratiooin of photographic style."

A Short History of Photography will be launched in New Zealand in April of next year as a co-editon with Random House.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Is Dumbledore Gay? Depends on Definitions of ‘Is’ and ‘Gay’

By Edward Rothstein writing in The New Yorke Times, October 29, 2007

In some circles the “Harry Potter” news that erupted a little over a week ago still inspires as much amazement as Hagrid’s pet, the half-horse, half-eagle hippogriff. And the Web chatter has been as deafening as the noise in Hogwarts dining hall before the sorting ceremony determines the fates of entering students. Dumbledore, it turns out, the wise and wizened wizard of “Harry Potter” fame, is taking his place alongside other media figures, like Bert and Ernie and Tinky Winky of the Teletubbies. For all, sexuality has become an issue. Dumbledore is, as his creator, J. K. Rowling, asserted at Carnegie Hall, gay.
Dumbledore? The master wizard of the age, whose guidance of Hogwarts put that British boarding school for young wizards in the vanguard of the war against evil? Who watched over Harry from his infancy, schooling him for the last and greatest battle? Who knew? But the real shock in Ms. Rowling’s declaration is not that Dumbledore thought about sexual encounters with men, it’s that he thought about sex at all, given the need to thwart Voldemort’s plot for world domination.

In her outing of Dumbledore, Ms. Rowling seemed to be confirming the smarmy kiss-and-tell insinuations of her gossip-mongering character Rita Skeeter, whose lurid biography of the apparently saintly headmaster — titled “The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore” — is described in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

Reading Jane Austen on a BlackBerry -- Reader, I Liked It

This story from the Chicago Tribune.

It is a truth too rarely acknowledged, that a commuter in possession of a sophisticated electronic device, must be in want of a good book.
Put another way, free of the influence of Jane Austen's famous first sentence, I just read "Pride and Prejudice" on my BlackBerry.
And, reader, I liked it. Against all my own prejudices, all my own pride in the history and tradition of the printed word, I liked it.
I liked holding it in one hand, having it always with me, and customizing my fonts and screen color. I liked reading it on the train without advertising my tastes; I could have been reading "Tropic of Cancer" or "The Firm."
I really liked reading it in bed without the encumbrance of a book light.

I liked it all so much, I've moved on to Austen's "Persuasion" and am, frankly, halfway annoyed at having to take time away from that to write this. What comeuppance will the vain spendthrift Sir Walter receive, and will his deserving daughter Anne find satisfaction?
I hadn't expected to fall so easily under the spell of the e-book.


Jamie Oliver
In conversation with Sarah Barnett

Crumpet-turned-campaigner Jamie Oliver has barely been off the box since the days of The Naked Chef. School Dinners rattled cages when he ventured into the dark heart of British school kitchens and discovered the kind of food that should only exist on Fear Factor – mystery meat and Turkey Twizzlers. But Jamie’s Kitchen had already revealed his altruistic bent: underprivileged – and, sometimes, underwhelmed – young people were given the chance of a career in his restaurant chain, Fifteen. Now, he’s cooking for the camera again, and from his own garden.

Jamie at Home is a total change of pace from your last couple of cause-driven series. Was it a deliberate decision to slow down and keep away from controversy for a while? It was pretty much a deliberate decision. I thought it was time that people saw me cooking again and not rushing about like a crazy person trying to change the world. And I got the inspiration, really, from my weekend life, which is pottering in the garden, growing stuff and then harvesting and cooking.

Were you surprised at the School Dinners controversy?
There seemed to be quite a big backlash – even down to idiot parents passing their kids McDonald’s through the school gates. The thing about the UK media is that they’re generally very supportive and they all backed the campaign when it was at its height, but because school meals is now a hot topic, whenever anyone wants to get their name in the paper they simply do a survey and reveal that X number of kids don’t want the new school meals or X number of kids are bunking off school to go down the chippy. The fact is that this is a long-term plan and it’s taking a little while to show signs of working, but already there are encouraging figures coming out of loads of schools and councils. There are good things happening now, but bad things are still happening, and I’ll be pushing and badgering the government for years to come. But on the whole, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far.

This year you appeared with Ricky Gervais and Bob Geldof in a Comic Relief spoof, brandishing bags of junk food and offering tips on how you make yourself cry “over the state of some fat chav”. Could it have all gone horribly wrong? (And was that a real Turkey Twizzler?)

I wasn’t worried at all. It was a great sketch, and what brilliant people to work with for such an important charity. Was it a real Twizzler? I don’t think it was, to be honest. I think the BBC had to make a pretend one.

New Zealand Listener November 3 - 9
Just "lost" an hour and a half over a couple flat whites at my local cafe, Agnes Curran, while reading the issue of The Listener on sale today.
Great issue.
Thoughtful editorial on climate change - should be compulsory reading especially for politicians!
Good Letter to the Editor from Anton Oliver giving Bill Ralston a few home truths.
10 pages for Arts & Books including the welcome return of Culture Vulture whose comments include the following:
Prizeless publicity
by Denis Welch

The vulture is back. Back from an intensive three-week Creative New Zealand training camp deep in the Ureweras, where participants were taught sustainable art, semiotics and the ukulele. We also learnt by heart the words of that rousing international anthem the “Venice Biennale”. Further charges are pending.

DON’T YOU JUST LOVE THESE publishers? They take an essentially sunny, Candide-like view of life’s little setbacks. “Although Lloyd Jones has failed to win the Man Booker Prize,” blogs Penguin’s Geoff Walker, “Mister Pip is in many ways the real winner of the overall process.”
No other Booker shortlister, warbles Walker, went from 20-to-one to two-to-one in the betting. And during that time the British publisher has sold 30,000 copies. And there’s “hot interest” in film rights.

Great stuff. We should all be proud. All the Vulture can say is, thank God Mister Pip wasn’t beaten by a French book, or there’d be hell to pay.

MEANWHILE, THE WORLD’S RICHEST short story prize has gone to Miranda July for No One Belongs Here More Than You (review, page 39). This is the prize Charlotte Grimshaw was shortlisted for: the $60,000 Frank O’Connor Award, dished out in Cork, Ireland. Grimshaw was there: a grand time was had by all, she says. In the bar afterwards, “Miranda July – a size zero, Joan Didion-style character – refused champagne and even fizzy water (too exciting for her system) and celebrated with still water.”
For further exclusive behind-the-scenes revelations, see next week’s Listener for Grimshaw’s Cork Report.
Plus there are all the usual excellent columns from Jane Clifton, Joanne Black, Diana Wichtel, Martin Bosley and others.
AND an interview with chef of the hour, Jamie Oliver.
Don't miss this issue.
From our Canterbury Correspondent…

A bleak cold spring day didn’t stop an enthusiastic group of Banks Peninsula history buffs attending a special function in Akaroa to celebrate the reissue of Gordon Ogilvie’s book Banks Peninsula - Cradle of Canterbury on Saturday afternoon.

This was held in the splendidly refurbished Gaiety Theatre in Jolie Street – the result of some vigorous fundraising by dedicated locals,

Gilbert Glaussius, Chair of the Akaroa Civic trust, chaired the event with much panache and local historian John Wilson, [author of the much sought after Lost Christchurch amongst others], warmly introduced author Gordon Ogilvie who gave a witty and informative talk on how the book came to be, enlivened with some entertaining anecdotes.

The event was hosted by fledgling publishers Phillips & King (pictured right) with fine wines flowing [nothing less would be expected!] and food prepared locally by Akaroa Civic Trust members.

And sales of the book were very healthy with some attendees purchasing multiple copies. The record purchase was 8 copies by one enthusiastic buyer – all individually signed by a tireless author..

Sunday, October 28, 2007

REAL GOLD - Treasures of Auckland City Libraries
Text by Iain Sharp, Photographs by Haruhiko Sameshima
Auckland Univerity Press $50
This book has such an appropriate title as it is indeed filled with real gold, some 100 of the great treaures to be found in the Special Collections of the Auckland City Libraries.
As the Group Manager, Libraries for Auckalnd City, Allison Dobbie says in her introduction "a busy public library catering to the needs of New Zealand's most populous city is probably not the place where one expects to find medieval manuscripts, or a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, or extremely rare editions of William Blake's "Europe" and "America", or an early versopn of The Treaty of Waitangi, or the opriginal manuscripts containing the lyrics and score of "God Defend New Zealand".
It may not be the place where you expect to find them but indeed that is where they are along with scores of others. Some that especially excited me included:
Plan of the City Park shewing the development of the first grant by the Honourable Council of the City of Auckland, March 8th, 1874.
This especailly interested me because this park today is called Western Park and I walk in it several mornings most weeks.
C.I.Hutchinson. Sketchbook. Circa 1848.
The sketchbook includes "a large number of drawings of homesteads, livestock, Landscapes and Maori items, women, carvings and canoes"
Robert Maunsell, A grammar of the New Zealand language. Auckland. John Moore. 1842.
Sir George Grey had this copy "rebound so that blank pages alternated with the printed text and he could append his own extensive commentary".
The Yellow Book, London: John Lane, 1894-97
"A quarterly hardback journal running to thirteen issues published between April 1894 and April 1897. Durings its brief duration The Yellow Book was Britain's leading literary & artistic magazine. The Library's set of all thirteen issues was purchased".
Jane Austen. Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion
London: John Murray, 1818.
Published as a four volume set by John Murray in 1818 Murray was the foremost literary publisher in Britain at the time. And of course today that same publishing house is the publisher of Lloyd Jones' Mister Pip.
Anthony Powell Collection
First edition hardback copies of all twelve volumes of A Dance to the Music of Time.
Charles Darwin. Manuscript letters to George Grey.
Of special interest to me because of the Darwin Exhibition at the Auckland Museum currently showing and Lloyd Davis' recent splendid title, Looking for Darwin (Longacre Press)
But these are a mere handful of the 100 treasures so wonderfully described by Iain Sharp and beautifully photographed by Haruhiko Sameshima.
This book is itself a treasure.

Teacher Faces Possible Criminal Charges for Reading List

Texas Teacher Placed on Leave After Complaint About Reading List; Town Rallies to His Defense

A Texas teacher was placed on leave and may face criminal charges after a student selected Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God" off a class reading list."
A popular English teacher has been placed on paid leave and faces possible criminal charges after a student's parents complained to police that a ninth-grade class reading list contained a book about a murderer who has sex with his victims' bodies.
Kaleb Tierce, 25, is being investigated for allegedly distributing harmful material to a minor after the student selected Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God" off the list and read it.

We've got a ticket to read

Sartre? Camus? Hugo? Jordan? What exactly do Parisians read on the metro on their way to work? We went on an underground quest to find out.
Interviews by Katie Toms and Robert McCrum
Sunday October 28, 2007The Observer

The game I like to play in Paris, especially with my wife, who is a whiz at it, is Sartre. The rules are simple and it requires no special equipment or even a knowledge of French. You just have to have an appreciation of Gallic cultural cliches and to be, preferably, on the Left Bank, or Rive Gauche, as one likes to say. The object of the game is to score points for spotting everyday Parisians who seem somehow to express an angsty, existential esprit, or at least an awareness of la vie bohème.

So it's 10 points for a black beret, five points for a leather jacket and two points
for a lighted Gauloises or a demitasse. Existential stubble, plus a beret,
is 20 points. In the spirit of anarchie, players are encouraged to announce
their own sightings and award themselves points accordingly. On one
memorable occasion, I maxed out by spotting a young Parisienne wearing a
beret and smoking a cigarette while seated in a cafe reading a copy of
Albert Camus's L'etranger.

The metro, such a pleasant and efficient contrast to London's tube, is probably a good place to warm up for a game of Sartre. But you'll never get a really high score down here.
For that, you need cafes, bars and tabacs and the anomie of autumnal
boulevards. The metro is - how can I put this ? - just too social and
probably too banal. It sponsors reading habits that would give Jean-Paul
apoplexy. In the sample we reproduce here, for instance, the choices tend
towards bestselling crime and glossy magazines such as Ca m'interesse (New
Scientist-lite), index. neither of which merits a high score on the Sartre index.
However, on closer inspection, it turns out to be a promising sample and distinctly Parisian.
Ingrid Mongin holds a detective novel with 'ennuis' in the title, and
Lavinia de Naro Papa is reading Victor Hugo. A bourgeois bestseller from the Second Empire is impressive enough - how many London tube travellers read William Thackeray? - and Lavinia gets a bonus for saying that her favourite reading is Alessandro Baricco. No one on The Observer's metro was reading La nausée, or La chute, or En attendant Godot, but that, surely, speaks to the decline of the avant-garde.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Odds and Ends....

...................With all the high-minded literary prize news of recent weeks (the Booker, the NBA finalists, the Nobel) it's easy to overlook one of the great literary honors - the esteemed Bulwer-Lyton Prize. The annual award is named in honor of the Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author most famously of The Coming Race and, more importantly, of the novel Paul Clifford which gifted our literary culture the immortal opening line: "It was a dark and stormy night....". The contest, sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University ever since its inception by Prof. Scott Rice, seeks the worst possible opening lines in the spirit of Bulwer-Lytton's famous phrase. Though, admittedly, submissions are almost always composed specifically for the contest and not as actual novels, the results are always splendidly uggh-worthy. This year's winning entry was submitted by Jim Gleeson of Madison, Wisconsin:
"Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them 'permanently' meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee."
To read more about the contest, including other winning entries, please visit their website at

Outing Albus...........Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling recently admitted that Hogwarts' beloved headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, is gay. The revelation - which was greeted by a few vigorous reactions on either end of the spectrum but generally went unnoticed, or at least uncommented upon, by the general public - plays no visible role in any of the novels, but does raise the interesting question of what life a character might inhabit outside the words that define him or her. Rowling has stated that Dumbledore's back story, though only fleetingly explored in the novels, did figure in to how she approached his character and helped to inform his actions.
This would imply that Dumbledore's character resides as much in his creator's imagination as on the written page (a claim that may give textual literalists a pause). Another question that the revelation raises is who is allowed to "out" a character? Presumably, the writer would have the authority to do so; but what about a third party?
What is to stop theorists from combing works for clues as to a character's sexuality in the same way that Freudian critics have tried to psychoanalyze fictitious characters or Marxist analysts tried to shoe-horn works of literature into their ideological frameworks? What if the author disagrees? Is it possible that the character is keeping secrets even from his or her creator? (And if so, who is really keeping secrets from whom?) Of course, ultimately Albus Dumbledore is really nothing more (and nothing less) than a beloved character in a cherished septology which has entertained millions of readers.

Harry Potter news (2).........With the series now officially at an end, Scholastic has finally released the slipcased collector's edition. The seven-volume set of hardcovers also includes a replica (albeit cardboard) Hogwarts trunk. At the price of $195.00, the set is the perfect way to introduce someone to the magic.

However, if you've already collected the hardcovers individually you may want to think twice.


Story from The New York Times.

For 26 years, Kinokuniya, the Japanese bookstore chain, has served New York’s Japanese-language readers from its outlet at Rockefeller Center with scores of paperbacks imported from Japan, hundreds of cellophane-wrapped manga titles and translations of the most recent Harry Potter installment. Now the company has decided that Japanese is no longer the center of its universe.

With a new store overlooking Bryant Park that opened last weekend, Kinokuniya is expanding its focus from Japan to all of Asia and beyond. Japanese-language books, which occupy the bulk of the first floor of the slightly worn Rockefeller Center store, have been banished to the basement of the new, airy three-story store on Avenue of the Americas, near 40th Street.

On the first floor, which is serenely decorated in blond-wood flooring and minimalist black shelving, English-language readers can peruse coffee-table books of posters from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Korean cookbooks and histories of the Middle East. In the literature section, English translations of Japanese novelists like Haruki Murakami and Shusaku Endo share shelf space with titles by Salman Rushdie and Anita Desai and translations of books by the Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz and the Chinese-born Gao Xingjian.

“At the old store the main purpose was to sell to the Japanese community,” said Shigeharu Ono, director of Kinokuniya in New York, while giving a tour of the new store this week. “We want to expand our audience.” He said Japanese-language titles represented about 70 percent of the stock at Rockefeller Center, but he expected English-language titles ultimately would be in the majority at the new location. (Books are also sold online at
With just over 61,000 Japanese natives in the New York metropolitan area, according to the Consulate General of Japan, the niche focus of the old store, which is to close at the end of this year, limited its customer base. Given high rents at Rockefeller Center, said Mr. Ono, “it was always a very tough business.”

But Japanophiles need not panic: The Bryant Park store, one of nine Kinokuniyas in the United States, is stocked with plenty of Japanese-language novels, fashion magazines and a mother lode of manga in both Japanese and English. About a third of the second floor, which also features a branch of Cafe Zaiya, a Japanese-style pastry and sandwich shop, is taken up by packed rows of manga titles. There are also DVDs of popular anime shows like “Naruto” and “Fullmetal Alchemist.”

The new store also includes expanded fashion and art sections in the hopes of capitalizing on its location overlooking Fashion Week headquarters. John Fuller, store manager, said that on the day the store opened, someone from a nearby fashion designer’s office walked in and bought 11 issues of Fruits, a monthly Japanese magazine of photographs capturing on-the-street style.
Mr. Fuller said the new location would hold more events in English than the Rockefeller Center store did. Next month there will be a costume competition, a talk by Brian Camp, co-author of “Anime Classics Zettai! 100 Must-See Japanese Animation Masterpieces,” and a demonstration by Machiko Chiba, a popular cookbook author who focuses on microwave cooking.

On Nov. 20 the store plans to unveil a mural it commissioned from Takehiko Inoue, one of Japan’s best-known manga artists. Mr. Inoue writes and draws the “Vagabond” and “Real” series.
Mr. Ono acknowledged that the store competed for manga readers with Barnes & Noble and Borders.
Jim Killen, the chainwide manga buyer for Barnes & Noble, said it had “a couple thousand” titles in its database in English translation.
Mr. Ono estimated that there were about 1,000 English titles in the Bryant Park store.
But Kinokuniya has one exclusive title: The Japanese translation of “The Secret,” the best-selling positive-thinking self-help book, which doesn’t even go on sale in Japan until Monday.

Iran clamps down on coffee shops

They have become a haven for modern bookworms everywhere - a place to combine a love of the written word with the pleasures of cafe society.
But now the trend of opening coffee shops inside bookstores has fallen foul of the authorities amid a general clampdown on social and intellectual freedoms.
Four bookshops in Tehran this week closed their coffee shops after receiving a 72-hour ultimatum from Amaken-e Omoomi, a state body governing the retail trade. The order has led to the closure of the cafe in one of the city's best-known bookshops, Nashr-e Sales, which has hosted reading sessions by writers, including the Nobel prize-winning Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk, and become a popular meeting point for literary types.

Amaken justified the closures by declaring that the coffee shops constituted an
illegal "mixing of trades". However, critics suspect the move is
aimed at restricting the gathering of intellectuals and educated young people.

The reformist newspaper, Etemad-e Melli, pointed out that Ahl-e Ghalam, a bookstore linked to the culture and Islamic guidance ministry, had been allowed to keep its cafe.
"When we pointed this out to the authorities, their argument was that
just because other people make a mistake doesn't mean you have to repeat
it," one bookshop owner told the Guardian."We are trying through our
trade association to find a remedy."

The closure order comes amid an offensive against liberal trends by the Islamist government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which has included the banning of western books.

Friday, October 26, 2007

9:30am Saturday TV One

On The Book Show this week Emily and the panel discuss Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Finlay catches up with Vincent O’Sullivan in Central Otago and choreographer Douglas Wright drops by to talk about a favourite book.

Whitcoulls has now lodged an application with the Commerce Commission for approval to purchase Borders Ltd in NZ. This application can be viewed at

BPANZ will be making a submission to the Commerce Commission regarding this acquisition.
If you wish to make a personal submission from your company please note that the closing date is next Friday 2 November.
The address is Commerce Commission, PO Box 2351, Wellington. Submissions can also be emailed to
Dane Gunnell
Can this story from mediabistro be for real?

Britney's Mom Sold a Parenting Memoir?

Oh, this ought to be good: According to the deal database at Lynne Spears has signed up with Thomas Nelson for a memoir about "raising high-profile children" (Britney and Jamie-Lynn Spears) "while coming from a low-profile Louisiana community."

Can't wait to see how Britney's tabloid biography meshes with the book's necessary religious message (this is Nelson we're talking about, after all); I mean, this material's much more, well, tabloid-y than even It's All About Him, Nelson's big summer bestseller from country singer Alan Jackson's wife, Denise.

And somehow "I tried to do right raising my kids, and this is what happened" doesn't seem like a Nelson book (although any number of secular publishers would've snapped that version up, I'm sure).

I wish them well in their endeavours.
It made me recall the days when New Zealand had a reduced postal rate for books, magazines & newspapers.
US visitors to Beattie's Book Blog may care to sign the e-mail petition

Dear Graham Beattie,

On July 15, the postal rates for many of this nation's small magazines increased by 20 to 30 percent, due to a decision made by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) that turns against more than 200 years of postal policy.

We believe this issue to be of such importance to small intellectual publications on both the right and left that we felt it imperative to alert our readers.
This rate increase has the effect of shifting costs from the large publishers, such as Time Warner, to smaller publications, such as The New York Review, Commentary, The National Review, and The Nation. These unfair and onerous rate hikes threaten the future of many smaller, independent publications.

Congressional hearings have been scheduled for next Tuesday, October 30. Prior to that, we are requesting that all concerned readers sign a congressional email petition that can be found here:
Free Press, working with a wide variety of small publishers, is hoping to collect well over 100,000 signatures by the end of this week in order to get the attention of the committee members prior to the hearing.

We hope you will join in this effort. These new postal rates threaten the existence of the small independent magazines and journals that are so important to a free press and a vibrant democracy.

Thank you for your help.

Rea S. Hederman
The New York Review of Books
1755 Broadway, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10019

At Home Amid the Red Lights

Bookman Beattie is a huge fan of John Burdett's Bangkok novels, which have been reviewed on this blog, so was thrilled to find this story in The New York Times overnight.

Soi Cowboy and other shadowy areas of Bangkok figure prominently in the novels of the English-born former lawyer John Burdett.
As John Burdett ambles down a street packed with girlie bars, he passes two women in skimpy outfits waving their hands excitedly and calling out, “John! John!”

Mr. Burdett has conducted a lot of research for his detective novels in Soi Cowboy, a red-light district in Bangkok.
There are plenty of johns around — this is Soi Cowboy after all, one of the better-attended red-light districts in Bangkok — but the bar girls are waving to John with a capital J, their author friend and confidant. Mr. Burdett waves back.

Mr. Burdett, a 56-year-old former lawyer turned novelist, has spent the past seven years chatting up hundreds of bar girls as inspiration for his trilogy, soon to be a quartet, of detective thrillers set in Bangkok’s netherworld.

“Bangkok 8,” published in 2003, has sold more than 100,000 copies in the United States in hardcover and paperback, according to Nielsen BookScan; rights to the novel have been bought by publishers in 19 other countries. The sequel, “Bangkok Tattoo,” was released two years later; “Bangkok Haunts,” the third in the series, was published in the United States this year and made it onto best-seller lists on the West Coast.

Among critics Mr. Burdett has both ardent fans and equally ardent skeptics. Laura Miller of described “Bangkok 8” as a “deliciously fresh breath of air in the often musty halls of detective fiction.” Michiko Kakutani, writing in The New York Times, bridled at the book’s “grotesque, voyeuristic scenes” and found the female characters not “remotely credible.”

Mr. Burdett explores a side of Thai society that has long fascinated Westerners: the apparent willingness of large numbers of women here to sell their bodies without obvious shame; and, in a country where brothels are illegal, the willingness of the police, the government and the society as a whole to look the other way.

Harry Potter breaks a new record - this from The Guardian overnight.

A rare first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has fetched the record-breaking price of £19,700 at auction.
The first book in JK Rowling's bestselling series had an initial print run of only 500 copies. Many of the first editions of the book, which set the boy wizard bandwagon rolling, were bought by libraries and have since disintegrated or are in very poor condition. In contrast, the copy that went under the hammer at Christie's today was in pristine condition.

Originally bought by a father who read a review and thought it sounded like something
his son would enjoy, the novel has only been read once. It stayed on the
boy's shelf in his father's house until the family realised recently that it
might be valuable. A copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone sold
recently for £19,500.

According to Crispin Jackson, head of books at Christie's South Kensington, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the most valuable book in the series by a long way.
"From Goblet of Fire "onwards, the series took off so quickly that first editions were common
because the print runs were huge," he said.
"The collecting buzz started with Prisoner of Azkhaban in 1999 and while the market slightly
dipped before the publication of Deathly Hallows, it has picked up again
with the conclusion of the series and the huge success of the films".

The auction also featured an uncorrected publisher's proof copy of the book, produced for internal use and promotion, and with "JA Rowling" printed in error on the title
page. It went for £2,250.
A paperback and hardback edition of the second book in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, both signed by the author, one with the inscription "To Ella -
I know your Mum!!! And she beat me in the quiz but we won't mention that -
love from Jo (aka JK Rowling)", sold for £1,250.