Sunday, June 29, 2008


New Zealand has three national Sunday papers - Sunday Star Times, Herald on Sunday, and Sunday News. What sort of space to they give to books? I went out and bought today's issues, here are my findings.

From the Fairfax stable, the sole broadsheet, and the most serious of the three Sundays, the books editor is respected journalist and commentator Finlay Macdonald, pic left. The book reviews, author interviews and features are accorded two, sometimes three pages.
There are usually two longish reviews (800-1000+ words) by local reviewers, along with a selection of briefer reviews (400 words) of five themed titles - crime fiction, fantasy, children's books etc - , along with author interviews, a what's on my bedside table piece from a local celebrity, and occasionally a syndicated piece from a London newspaper.

Today's issue (June 29) for example includes a long piece by veteran reviewer, author/librarian/poet Iain Sharp in which he interviews the much-travelled Kapka Kassabova whom he points out at only age 34 as an author has in print four collections of poetry, two novels, as well as a dozen or so short stories published in literary magazines. The main focus of Sharp's interesting story though is Kassabova's recently published childhood memoir, Street without a Name, which provides a fascinating look into a little-known part of Europe.
Cheryl Sucher, New York bookseller and reviewer, and married to a New Zealander, reviews Unaccustomed Earth by Jumpa Lahiri; actor/director/tv presenter Oliver Driver reveals what is on his bedside table( it is an ecelectic bunch!); and Tina Shaw talks to literary prodigy Richard Mason, about handling success and his new book The Lighted Rooms.


Novelist/journalist Nicky Pellegrino edits the books pages at this Sunday, part of the APN Group, and while she also has two pages being in tabloid format they are smaller pages and her reviews and features therefore tend to be shorter.

Sadly, I think, the book review pages are tucked away in the lift-out Detours section of the paper which also includes travel and cooking.

In today's edition there are brief reviews of Taking Pictures by Anne Enwright, Love Marriage by V.V.Ganeshanathan, Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam; author and Montana shortlister Charlotte Grimshaw tells us what she is presently reading; Charoltte Evans sinks her teeth into three recent crime fiction titles; and there is a longish piece from London's Telegraph newspaper about Nobel Prize winner, 88 year old Doris Lessing, and her new book, Alfred & Emily.

Also out of the Fairfax stable, I guess this is the NZ equivalent of News of the World, very definitely in the true tabloid style in both content and presentation with the first half comprising sensational headlines above brief stories, and the second half comprising entirely sports news and stories.
There is a double page spread devoted to Entertainmant but it comprises stories about various music and acting celebrities, certainly no space for books!
Overall you would definitely give the top marks to the Sunday Star Times in terms of depth of review and other book coverage but Nicky Pellegrino at the Herald on Sunday is doing an excellent job at the more popular end of the literary spectrum.
Congratualtions to the Sunday Star Times by the way for being shortlisted for the best book review coverage awards; their fellow shortlisters are The Listener, and Landfall.
Declaration of interest - Bookman Beattie reviews crime fiction for the Sunday Star Times and is an occasional contributor to the Herald on Sunday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bookman. I like the idea of reviewing the reviewers! I didn't know about the awards for reviewers so I'll now go online and check them out.