Tuesday, September 30, 2008

By Stieg Larsson
Translated by Reg Keeland. 465 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. US $24.95.

By MICHIKO KAKUTANI writing in the New York Times,
Published: September 29, 2008

Combine the chilly Swedish backdrop and moody psychodrama of a Bergman movie with the grisly pyrotechnics of a serial-killer thriller, then add an angry punk heroine and a down-on-his-luck investigative journalist, and you have the ingredients of Stieg Larsson’s first novel, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” a huge best seller in the author’s native Sweden, and a sensation in France, Germany and the Netherlands too.

It’s Mr. Larsson’s two protagonists — Carl Mikael Blomkvist, a reporter filling the role of detective, and his sidekick, Lisbeth Salander, a k a the girl with the dragon tattoo — who make this novel more than your run-of-the-mill mystery: they’re both compelling, conflicted, complicated people, idiosyncratic in the extreme, and interesting enough to compensate for the plot mechanics, which seize up as the book nears its unsatisfying conclusion.
Mr. Larsson (left) — who died in 2004, shortly after turning in this novel and two companion volumes — was himself a journalist and a magazine editor, and his knowledge of this world enables him to do a credible job of recounting Blomkvist’s efforts to investigate the two biggest stories of his career: corruption, embezzlement and money laundering on the part of a big-shot Swedish industrialist, and the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl named Harriet, who seemingly vanished without a trace during a family reunion.
Read the full review here.
Kakutani didn't rate this book as highly as the Bookman. Read my April review here . Published by Maclehose Press in the UK & Commonwealth.
Parsons Bookshop Auckland - new title, just into the shop
'New Zealand Portraits' by Richard Wolfe

New Zealand Portraits by Richard Wolfe
HB.239 pages - Penguin Books
Parsons Price $69.95 (RRP $79.95)

This handsome production contains a very good selection of more than 80 painted portraits.
Two essays by Richard Wolfe.
Each of the 83 full page portraits is accompanied by an individual essay.
18th -21st Centuries. Chosen from public and private collections.
Glenda Randerson; Susan Wilson; Peter Stichbury; Zarahn Southon; William Sutton; Ivy Fife; Douglas MacDiarmid; Thomas Ryan; Robyn Kahukiwa; Garth Tapper; Sydney Parkinson; James Nairn; Grace Joel; William Beetham amongst many, many others.

Parsons Bookshop Auckland
26 Wellesley Street East
Auckland 1010
New Zealand


Lloyd Jones, winner of the NZ$60,000 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction, September, 2008 has posted bail for Augustine Pip.

The author of a memoir, Missus Pip: The Confessions of a Hawkes Bay Vintner’s Wife, was arrested yesterday for the murder of her husband.

For more details, and other unlikely stories, visit http://www.nzbooksabroad.com/ for the last chance to enter their competition to win over $1300 of fantastic NZ books.
THE TIN DRUM-Retranslating Gunter Grass

Fifty years ago, Günter Grass’s novel Die Blechtrommel hit the headlines, signalling the arrival of a brilliant new talent who would go on to become a Nobel Prize winner (1999).

Translated into a number of languages, The Tin Drum has become one of the best-known works of contemporary German literature. Now, as part of world-wide celebrations of the book’s half-century, a new English translation by Breon Mitchell is to appear in 2009.

But how does the translator take into account five decades of scholarship, a new edition of the German text, and over 3,500 issues raised by Grass himself in a page-by-page examination of the novel?

Hear this distinguished translator talk at Victoria University in early October about the fascinating process and special challenges of re-translating a classic text.

Victoria University’s New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation, in association with the Goethe Institute, is hosting Breon Mitchell, an internationally-acclaimed translator of contemporary German fiction. He is currently Professor of Germanic Studies and Comparative Literature at Indiana University, and Director of the Lilly Library.

What: Oskar gets a new Tin Drum: Retranslating Günter Grass
When: Wednesday 8 October, 6.30pm
Where: Lecture theatre 3, Government Buildings, Pipitea campus, 15 Lambton Quay, Wellington. N.Z.

The New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation was launched at Victoria University in March 2008. For more information about the Centre, please contact its Director, Dr Jean Anderson by emailing jean.anderson@vuw.ac.nz or by calling 04 463 5797.

Media: Journalists are welcome to attend the lecture. Breon Mitchell is in Wellington from 5 October until 10 October and is available for interviews. Copies of the lecture can be provided upon request to journalists.
The Colourful Story of a City
Gordon McLauchlan – Penguin - $40

One of New Zealand’s most widely experienced journalists, and with a string of books to his name, McLauchlan has now turned his attention to the city he calls home. While Dunedin-born, and Wellington College-educated, and having lived in diverse parts of New Zealand, McLauchlan has spent the second half of his life in Auckland and in his new and entertaining book he has delivered a frank, not uncritical, but nevertheless fond look at the city he clearly loves.

McLauchlan is my kind of historian. He is passionately interested in Auckland and its history, has a significant library of his own on books about the city, is widely read, while his writing style is crisp, entertaining and accessible. He doesn’t bring too scholarly a feel to this book, there are no footnotes that so abound in more academic tomes, it is a book for the interested layman and it reads like a good novel.
Publication date was yesterday, 29 September, and the title is to be launched at a function at the Auckland City Library later this week. This seems an eminently appropriate venue as the appealing image on the back and front covers is an early map of Auckland from the Special Collections at that library.

Although McLauchlan deals briefly with Auckland’s volcanic past this history is really about the village, town and city of Auckland from the time of European settlement in the early 19th century to the present day.

Quite early on in the story, after describing in some detail Auckland’s first regatta held on Friday 18 September, 1840, gun salutes all over the harbor, the author notes rather drolly, “Quite a lot of pomp for a quiet spot at the end of the world, accompanying a deep sense of circumstance”.

And this about the initial land purchase from local Maori:
The land purchased was like a tasty wedge of cake – 3000 acres sliced from the coast to the crest of Mt.Eden and back. What was this inchoate city worth? Fifty pounds, fifty blankets, 20 trousers, twenty shirts, ten waistcoats, ten caps, 100 yards of gown pieces, ten iron pots, twenty hatchets, four casks of tobacco, a box of pipes, one bag of sugar, one bag of flour. (Seven months later, sections in town were sold on to settlers for an average of 525 pounds an acre to the later chagrin of Maori”).

McLauchlan tells his story chronologically but he is not afraid to be occasionally sidetracked which adds to the enjoyment of the book. His premise that Auckland’s past is not too different to its present is certainly illustrated in the tensions that existed between Auckland and Wellington in particular but also between Auckland and parts further south from very early times. Here he is on this subject:
It was not just envy that drove Wellingtonians to claim the capital nor the absolute conviction that their centrality made the move essential. Their sense of class and moral superiority motivated them powerfully – a sense, some would say, they and other southerners have never lost”.

In the course of his “Life and Times” he tells his story by way of charming vignette portraits of many of the main players who helped shape Auckland including George Grey, John Churton, Logan Campbell, Charles Heaphy, Bishop Selwyn, Frederick Maning, Josiah Firth, david Nathan, Elizabeth Yates, John Allum, Dove Myer Robinson, Henry Kelliher, Ernest Davis, Cath Tizard and many others.

Not surprisingly he devotes a chapter entitled “A First Wave of Writers” where he writes of the work and influence of Rex Fairburn, James Betram, John Mulgan, Jane Mander, Roderick Finlayson, Frank Sargeson, Robin Hyde, Allen Curnow, Keith Sinclair and others who gave New Zealand a new body of literature.

He has a deal to say about the ethnic diversity of Auckland’s population and how it has changed so dramatically in recent years. He takes pleasure in this but wonders about” the widening cultural gulf between Auckland and the rest of the country where populations have tended to stay whiter and more conservative”.

Like his friend Hamish Keith in his recent book, Native Wit, , McLauchlan laments the widespread destruction of important heritage buildings, indeed he rises in anger over the “persistent penchant of Aucklanders for knocking old buildings over to replace them with something new or for building on any open space a developer may identify”,

This is a personal, occasionally polemical, always entertaining look at Auckland, “a town that started off running” and has scarcely stopped to draw breath since. It is a valuable addition to Auckland’s written heritage.
The right to offend
A criminal attack on the Jewel of Medina publisher should not distract us from recognising that we all rely on free speech

Inayat Bunglawala writing in Guardian.co.uk,
Monday September 29 2008

Oh boy, what great timing. Last Friday, on the 20th anniversary of the publication of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, I wrote a piece arguing the case that, in my view, many Muslims who had once supported the banning/pulping of the book had since revised their views and recognised that such actions were quite wrong and completely counterproductive.

Noting that another controversial novel, The Jewel of Medina – which is said to be about the Prophet Muhammad's relationship with his youngest wife, Aisha, and has been described as "softcore pornography" by one American academic – was due to be published next month by the UK publishers, Gibson Square, I said:

Already emails are being circulated calling on British Muslim organisations to mobilise to try and stop its publication. Will they try and do so? I really hope that appropriate lessons have been learned from the Satanic Verses affair and that British Muslims do not take the bait.

Well, that very night, it transpires that three men were arrested by anti-terrorist officers during an apparent arson attack on the home of the proprietor of Gibson Square publishers, Martin Rynja.
Read the full Guardian story online.
Pullman defiant over US protests against Northern Lights
Alison Flood writing in guardian.co.uk,
Monday September 29 2008

'Glee' ... Philip Pullman. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

Philip Pullman has revealed he was delighted to discover his novel Northern Lights was one of the most "challenged" titles of the year in America, with numerous calls made to have it removed from libraries.

Pullman's children's novel, which is sold as The Golden Compass in the US, was the fourth most challenged book in 2007, according to the American Library Association, which received 420 formally submitted complaints to libraries or schools over "inappropriate content and subject matter" last year.
Writing for guardian.co.uk this morning, Pullman said his immediate response on hearing the latest figures from the ALA was "glee".

"Firstly, I had obviously annoyed a lot of censorious people, and secondly, any ban would provoke interested readers to move from the library, where they couldn't get hold of my novel, to the bookshops, where they could," Pullman said, pointing to previous objections to the film of The Golden Compass, which he said resulted in soaring book sales.

It's a point given added weight by a promotion featuring censored books currently running at Borders bookshops. According to one of the chain's buyers, Rob Hughes, it has been"very successful", generating considerable interest in books which have been banned around the world in the past.
"It's a way of measuring the morals of today against those of yesterday," he said, adding that Borders have no plans to include books by Philip Pullman in the promotion.

Northern Lights, the first in Pullman's bestselling Dark Materials trilogy, came in on the ALA list behind Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell's And Tango Makes Three, Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War and Kevin Henkes' Olive's Ocean.
Read Alison Flood's full acount here.
Alexander McCall Smith lends support to gay rights with new characters

Charlene Sweeney writing in The Times, September 29.

Alexander McCall Smith, the best-selling author is to introduce gay characters into his books.
The author, who is best known for The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, said that he hoped to encourage greater acceptance of the gay community.
“I take the view that gay people should be treated in fiction in the same way as everyone else – with the courtesy and respect we should all show to each other. I do not like hurtful or cruel portrayals of any group.”

The gay characters will feature in his 44 Scotland Street and Sunday Philosophy Club series.
McCall Smith, who is a passionate supporter of HIV charities, insisted that including gay characters would not alter the general tenor of his books, which are renowned for their simple, homespun morality. However, he risks alienating some readers. When J. K. Rowling revealed at a reading in New York last year that Dumbledore in Harry Potter was gay she provoked protests from Christians.
Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, welcomed McCall Smith’s announcement. “I guess a lot of writers and publishers have been afraid of alienating readers who they assumed to be homophobic. But in recent years the taboo has begun to fade.”
Go to The Times online to read the full piece.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Writers who write about writing are stuck in a dead end. Why not get out and see the world?
Mark Ravenhill writing in The Guardian,
Monday September 29 2008

A friend recently pointed out to me that artists of all kinds often make their discoveries early in their working lives. Writers, painters and musicians, he suggested, frequently know what they want to say and how they want to say it by the time they are 30. The rest of their careers are then spent refining these initial discoveries.

It's an idea that has a great deal of truth. Look at the retrospective of Francis Bacon that has just opened at Tate Modern, and you see an artist who discovered as a relatively young man a small but resonant set of images that spoke to him. He then refined this personal iconography over decades. Major events in his life may have rearranged the furniture a little, but the twisted bodies in the little rooms remain essentially the same.

Samuel Beckett (left) is perhaps the starkest example of a writer whose work was not about discovering new perspectives as he got older, but about refining his vision; his diminishing word count is evidence of this. After emerging from the shadow of Joyce, Beckett moved from the novel to the theatre, and his theatre work gradually became shorter and sharper. The four rootless adults, the boy and the tree in the two-act Waiting for Godot, seem recklessly extravagant compared with the stark images of his later work: the isolated, babbling mouth in Not I, the brief glimpse of litter and the sound of exhalation that constitute the tiny play Breath.

Read the full story at the Guardian online.
GLENN COLQUHOUN - author, poet, doctor and orator.

Glenn is an University of Auckland Arts alumni, and he made a speech on 23 September to Arts and Law graduates which made a great impression on those present.

By courtesy of Amber Older, Communications Adviser, University of Auckland, Faculties of Arts, Education & NICAI I have obtained a copy and Glenn's permisson so I am delighted to post it here for your enjoyment.

Graduation speech

Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Distinguished guests, Members of the Council, Members of the University, Graduands, families and friends, it is my very great pleasure to address you today and to congratulate you all.

To those of you who are staff of the University, congratulations on guiding your students safely to this point. It defines what you do as teachers. It broadens the coastline of knowledge. It reproduces what we think we know and sends out a generation to inform and refute that. More importantly, it means you will never have to see some of this lot again.

To family and friends, congratulations for tying shoelaces and for cutting lunches and working late and worrying; for buying things you weren’t ever really sure were related to education in the first place; for accepting bad manners, gangsta rap, labile moods and body piercings; for filling up empty tanks of petrol, turning down the television and not saying anything about dress standards. Not all the graduands today have been studying law though.

To the graduands themselves, congratulations for staying the course. It is a significant achievement and one you should feel proud of. As time passes it will become a reference point in your life, a shelf upon which the years and both harder and more joyful lessons will rest like odd shaped books. Be fabulous. Punch the air with your fist. Wallow in a well earned sense of accomplishment. Tomorrow there will be no share-market, no finance companies, no banks and no petrol. The world will be an Arts student’s paradise.

Life is often lived with a slight lean forward. Most people, most of the time live on an incline, waiting for the weekend, a renovation to be completed, the exams to be over, an unspecified number of kilograms to be lost or a goal to be achieved. When we get to these points we seldom appreciate them but begin again to wait for the next bend in the road, our lean undiminished.

In many ways we never arrive. Life occurs as we pass by it. Some live leaning back, the past hanging from their shoulders and obscuring a sense of possibility. I wish you enough of this sort of living for you not to lose sympathy with the human condition but more than anything else I wish you a life full of moments, and the shocking and liberating wonder of your perpetual arrival within them. I wish you the present lived over and over and over again.

The world is deeply folded. Most times we gloss over the top of its convolutions and settle for that. I challenge you to stop sometime and explore them instead. In the few minutes I have spoken to you many worlds will have opened and closed, looks will have taken place between people, smells alighted, commentaries in your head played out, a sense of your body remarkably occupying space buzzed past you - before being quickly swatted away. Don’t. This is the rich soil of life. It is yours now and was yours before you graduated and will be yours again while you are pitched forward heading towards whatever it is you will do next - but I can assure you no matter what that is this is where the pay-dirt is and this is where we find wonder and this is what people wish they’d done more of once they get to wherever it was they were going.

Poetry is the literature of the moment. To that end it seems appropriate that I should leave you with one written about the eternal minute, the responsive heart and the possibility of lives lived in a glance. It is a poem you will recognize as being set in New Zealand’s capital city of love, Hamilton. On this very special day I wish you once again great joy, much aroha and every now and then, a queue to stand in.

To the girl who stood beside me at
the checkout counter of Whitcoulls
bookstore in Hamilton on Tuesday.

For ten seconds I fell
in love with you.

The first second we met.

You were buying recipes.

The second second we turned,
taking pieces of each other out of our eyes.

The third second we held each other gently.
Your skin was a small kitten playing with a curtain.

The fourth second we kissed.

Front gates clicked against our fence.

In the fifth second we married.
Your dress was made of Nikau palm.

The sixth second we built a house beside a lake.

It was never tidy and the grass was up to our knees.

The seventh second we argued:

about toothpaste and poetry
and who would put out the rubbish.

The eighth second we grew fat and happy
and lay on the ground after eating.

Your stomach wriggled with a round child.

In the ninth second we were old in the same garden
of the same house by the same lake in the same love.

The tenth second we said goodbye.

Your hand slipped away from mine but
seemed to me like something I could feel.

We passed again beside each other without turning

as though we had somehow only met at the checkout
counter of Whitcoulls bookstore in Hamilton
on a faintly blue September Tuesday.

Great stuff Glenn, thanks for allowing us to share your thoughts presented to the graduates.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cate Foster & Shelley Bridgeman
Renaissance Publishing - %27.99

‘First-time buyers are in a better position than they have been for years.’

That’s the message from Shelley Bridgeman and Cate Foster, property writers and co-authors of an insightful new real estate book; Buying Your First Home: An Essential Kiwi Guide.

First-time buyers are in a unique position in the marketplace, say Bridgeman and Foster. The effects of the ‘credit crunch’ have raised the bar for these buyers when it comes to securing a mortgage, but this is outweighed by other positives: softening house prices, new initiatives like KiwiSaver, and the high interest rates paid on money held in savings accounts.

Their conclusions are echoed by recent front page headlines like ‘Price is right for house hunters’ (NZ Herald), inspired by the results of the ASB Bank housing confidence survey, which revealed most house hunters believe this is the best time in years to buy. The quarterly survey for the three months ending July 2008 showed that 55% of those surveyed anticipate lower house prices, compared to a net 34% in the previous quarter.

‘Be patient,’ is Bridgeman and Foster’s advice to those new to the property market. ‘Keep saving – hard – and sleep well at night because you no longer have to worry about climbing property prices outstripping your ability to keep up with them.

‘You might have to wait a bit but, for once, the waiting is in your favour. Your time will come.’

Buying Your First Home: An Essential Kiwi Guide is vital reading for all first-time aspiring homeowners. Bridgeman and Foster have set out to make the book as accessible as possible, with all the important nuts-and-bolts topics presented alongside useful cautionary tales, plenty of insightful tips, and advice that encourages lateral thinking.

All aspects of the journey towards home ownership are covered from decoding real-estate speak, to the ins and outs of buying property with friends or partners, to the latest Government initiatives, and essential advice on negotiation and contracts.

Buying Your First Home: An Essential Kiwi Guide also covers:

· Why, what, when and where to buy
· Budgeting, saving and finding finance
· Negotiations, sale and purchase agreements
· Banks, loans, buying strategically
· Dealing with lawyers and real estate agents
· Renovating, and planning your next move

Local authorities and lenders are listed, along with excellent references for further reading and relevant website addresses, making this a must-read for aspiring Kiwi first home buyers.

About the Authors:

Cate Foster has lived, loved and written about all aspects of property since the mid 1990s. A veteran writer, she has contributed to NZ House & Garden and Your Home & Garden magazines as well as HeraldHomes – for which she wrote a weekly column entitled ‘My First House’. During the course of her work she was regularly in contact with hundreds of property experts including real estate agents, builders, architects, valuers and moneylenders. As her own children approached adulthood, Cate gained first-hand appreciation of the significant challenges facing first-home buyers today. In response to this, she was inspired to gather her hard-earned wisdom in order to help others negotiate the minefield that is home buying. Buying Your First Home is her offering to all those who aspire to own a home of their own.

Auckland-based journalist Shelley Bridgeman has researched and written about real estate and property since 1998 during which time she has had over 150 articles published in NZ House & Garden magazine – covering homes from Kerikeri to Lake Tekapo and most places in between. She’s reported on property markets in Waikato and Gisborne for the Herald on Sunday newspaper and written weekly articles about real estate for HeraldHomes. Having lived in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch, Shelley has an insider’s understanding of the nuances of the property markets in different regions. In co-authoring Buying Your First Home, she is delighted to be able to share her knowledge about buying and improving houses so that first-timers can approach the purchase of their new home with confidence and from a position of informed strength.

Firebomb attack on book publisher
Firm had bought rights to a controversial novel about the Prophet Muhammad's child bride
Jamie Doward and Mark Townsend writing in The Observer,
Sunday September 28 2008

The London home of the publisher of a controversial new novel that gives a fictionalised account of the Prophet Muhammad's relationship with his child bride, Aisha, was firebombed yesterday, hours after police had warned the man that he could be a target for fanatics.

A petrol bomb is believed to have been thrown through the door of Martin Rynja's £2.5m town house in Islington's Lonsdale Square, which also doubles as the headquarters of his publishing company, Gibson Square. Three men have been arrested on terrorism charges.

The Observer has learned that police told Rynja late on Friday night to leave his property. His company recently made headlines when it announced it was to publish The Jewel of Medina.
Written by US journalist Sherry Jones, the book was due to have been published in August by US giant Random House. But amid controversy the company halted publication, a move denounced by Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, as 'censorship by fear'.

Rynja bought the UK publishing rights earlier this month. 'The Jewel of Medina has become an important barometer of our time,' Rynja said at the time. 'As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate.'
The full story at The Observer online.
Screen test: Look what they've done to my book!
Book-writing is a very different art from writing screenplays. So what happens when an author's cherished creation finds itself in Hollywood's tender embrace?
Charlotte Cripps, writing in The Independent, asked nine novelists how they cope.

A bestselling or award-winning novel does not necessarily make a good blockbuster movie – The French Lieutenant's Woman, anyone? – but how do novelists feel when their books are being turned into films?

This is a good time to pose that question, with Toby Young's How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, directed by Robert B Weide, coming out on 3 October, followed by Chris Cleave's Incendiary, directed by Sharon Maguire (24 October) and Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk's Choke, directed by Clark Gregg (21 November).

The novelist Rose Tremain, for whom the film version of her 1990 Booker-nominated novel Restoration (out in 1995, starring Meg Ryan, Hugh Grant and Robert Downey Jr), was "a huge disappointment", says that she couldn't sit through the film again. But other adapted writers often find themselves basking in the glory of rampant book sales.

These include Ian McEwan, whose 2001 Booker-nominated novel Atonement was last year transformed into the Keira Knightley/James McAvoy box-office hit, directed by Joe Wright. According to Nielsen BookScan, Atonement sold 661,827 copies before the movie came out last year. After the film's release, sales of the tie-in book total 642,595 so far – so the film has doubled sales of the book.

Soon to be released as movies are Audrey Niffenegger's Time Traveler's Wife, directed by Robert Schwentke and due out in the United States in November. Richard Yates's classic Revolutionary Road, due for American release in December and directed by Sam Mendes, reunites Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio for the first time since Titanic. And the sixth instalment of JK Rowling's Harry Potter saga, The Half-Blood Prince, is now scheduled for release next summer.

Other books in the movie pipeline include next year's version of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, directed by Peter Jackson. Tim Winton's Dirt Music, directed by Phillip Noyce, is due out in 2010. And firmly on the movie "to do" list are Life of Pi by Yann Martel and Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre.

The film tie-in editions produced by the publishing houses for the big movie adaptations can sell in enormous numbers, as well as boosting sales of the regular editions. According to Random House, the tie-in edition of Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) sold more than 330,000 copies, and sales of the standard edition picked up by 50 per cent at the same time. The tie-in of Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001) sold more than 300,000 copies, and the standard edition sold more than 250,000 copies that year.

This is a fascinating story, to read it in full link here to The Independent online.
Where the heart is

Michele Powles, Author and director of New Zealand Book Month

Having returned home to New Zealand and my west Auckland house recently, this topic has been hovering near the surface of my thoughts of late.

Being home has meant being able to unpack all my books (and there are lots of them), shake out the trunk of costumes from dancing days, plant vegetables, strip wallpaper, and paint grandfather clocks on the wall. It's meant eating feijoas and relishing the thrust and jab of their flavour, spitting watermelon pips at anyone who is close enough without being frowned at, and being the one who has to send Twisties, Tim Tams and Marmite overseas in care packages.

Home is hot sun, green unfurling fronds, black sand in the hairline, and sharp stinging mosquito bites.
But these are mostly nostalgic memories of what home means: these are memories of a never-ending Kiwi summer. Home now means never-ending rain and the land reaching slick muddy hands up to pull you down: squelching you into its boggy unhappy mire.

Home really, is a story. The fiction we pen to boost our spirits when it's raining, or to celebrate the glory of nature, or the sun, or the wide blue ocean. Home is in the emails we write to our poor friends still stuck in a European or North American winter; or in living on the beach, looking at a never-ending blue sky while breakers crash and people smother their burnt sausages in tomato sauce. Home, surely, is where we start from and what we compare everything else to. Home is in our words, our memories. Home is in our stories.
Nice piece from Michele which appeared in the New Zealand Herald, yesterday, September 27.
Nice to have you home again Michele, and you are doing a great job for NZ Books!

Bookshops can provide explosive revelations

By Kathleen Noonan writing in the Courier Mail, Brisbane.
September 27, 2008

BOOKSELLERS are arms dealers and libraries are weapon stockpiles.
They loan and sell these things we call books.
Books are actually little grenades that detonate in our minds days and weeks and even years later.

You're lying in bed at 2am reading a book and kapow!Something explodes.
The words hold some revelation.Something finally makes sense or is suddenly revealed.

Sometimes I'm surprised the whole neighbourhood doesn't hear and come running in their faded pyjamas and the dogs don't go mad barking and the person next to me doesn't wake, sit up and say: "What the hell was that?"And I'd have to say casually: "Oh, just an idea."

But there's no "just" about it.

Sometimes we go through a whole day, or whole week, or whole month in the midst of people talking about Fannie Mae and silly footballers in toilets - and you start to feel empty and hungry for an authentic idea.We are starving for something truly stimulating.

Then bang, between two simple bits of hard cardboard, there it is.

Books - these friends we turn to when life turns mean, when love deserts us, when shares plummet and the debtors knock - can deliver welcome shockwaves in our minds.

I was thinking about little grenades sitting in soft spring light near the Brisbane River listening to an angular woman with wise words and 'fro hair at the Brisbane Writers Festival.
Read Kathleen Noonan's full piece at the Courier Mail online.
Selwyn Parker
Little Brown. pds.12.99

It's a great time to retell the classic story of the Great Crash of 1929, says Dominic Sandbrook writing in the Telegraph.

The Wall Street Crash has become the paradigmatic case of boom turning into bust, and few people have not heard the stories of ticker-machines running out of control, brokers hurling themselves from high windows, savings disappearing up in smoke, and the cocktail parties of the Roaring Twenties suddenly turning into the dole queues of the Hungry Thirties.

Given the events of the past few weeks, Selwyn Parker's sprightly new history could hardly be better timed.
If nothing else, Parker's account of the Crash of 1929 bears out Mark Twain's famous remark that if history does not repeat itself, it certainly rhymes.
Read the full story at the Telegraph online.
The author is a well known New Zealand journalist & writer who these days lives mainly in the UK and Queensland. The book will be released in NZ by Hachette LIvre in December - RRP $40
The book was also reviewed extensively in The Mail.
From The Times
September 26, 2008

Exclusive interview with Margaret Atwood
Tom Gatti meets the author to discuss debt in her latest book Payback

Sitting in A grand 18th-century clubhouse near St James's Park in London, Margaret Atwood exudes intelligence; her fine, birdlike features, mischievous blue eyes and barely tamed curls suggest a mind still gleaming on the eve of her 70th birthday. Even more remarkable than her presence, though, is her prescience.

In 1984 she wrote a dystopian vision of a fundamentalist society in which women are reduced to the status of child-bearers and servants, forcibly desexualised and veiled - The Handmaid's Tale pre-empted the Taleban's misogynist regime in Afghanistan, and the rows over Islamic women's dress and rights in Europe. Another futuristic novel, Oryx and Crake, charted the destruction of the Earth by global warming, pandemics and rampant genetic engineering. It was published in 2003, before Sars, bird flu, An Inconvenient Truth, and the genome revolution.

Now, in her new nonfiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth - a fascinating, freewheeling examination of ideas of debt, balance and revenge in history, society and literature - Atwood has again struck upon our most current anxieties. As the credit crunch grounds airlines and topples banks, nobody can escape the spectre of debt. So where does she keep her crystal ball?

“It was a coincidence,” she claims. “I chose this topic several years ago and then found myself writing the book while all this was happening - the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and these ads plastering the Underground: ‘We will help you with your debt', ‘Why pay more?', ‘Declare personal bankruptcy!'.”
Read the full interview at The Times online.


Saturday, September 27, 2008


Friday night saw the good and the great of the local community of Ponsonby turn out in large numbers to celebrate the launch of an impressive history of their area.

A full review will follow once The Bookman has had a chance to read the book but meantime suffice to say that this new, handsome and prolifically illustrated Random House publication by two local historians is so appealing that even at $70 a copy the locals were lining up in their droves to buy copies from endlessly energetic local bookseller Carol Beu. Rumour has it the print run was 5000 copies and it is my bet that this first edition will be sold out by Christmas.

The book was launched by local identity Hamish Keith, himself recently published, and I liked his suggestion that books should really be "opened" rather than "launched". Keith took the opportunity to remind his audience of the need to preserve our buildings heritage, a subject about which he writes passionately in his autobiography, Native Wit.

Luxury Apartments as the New Aphrodisiac
By JANET MASLIN writing in the New York Times
Published: September 25, 2008

In her fifth book about ambitious, covetous, pampered New Yorkers, Candace Bushnell laments the decline of art, the bitchiness of gossip and the crass commercialization of publishing. The author sounds genuinely battle-scarred. Her complaints seem to come from the heart. But if memory serves, Ms. Bushnell was part of the problem before she became part of the solution.
By Candace Bushnell
433 pages. Voice/Hyperion. US$25.95.

Remember “Sex and the City”? The characters in Ms. Bushnell’s self-promoting new novel, “One Fifth Avenue,” certainly do. They treat her big hit as a reference point and as a standard of writerly and box office worthiness. One, a conniving 22-year-old flirt, even pays tribute to Ms. Bushnell by becoming a sex columnist. But almost everyone in “One Fifth Avenue” is middle-aged and settled — and none the better for wear.

Forget shoes. Forget clothes. Forget even sex, since the creator of “Sex and the City” writes about it so awkwardly. (“That was the defining moment of great sex: when the penis met the vagina.”) Instead, the status symbols for these characters are their apartments, and ye shall know them by their square footage. The operating assumption is that those dwelling in renovated servants’ quarters are duty-bound to hate the billionaire upstairs.

Tolkien heirs can't seek punitive damages
But $150M suit over 'Lord of the Rings' royalties to continue
Associated Press - Deseret News
Published: Friday, Sept. 26, 2008 12:40 a.m. MDT

LOS ANGELES — A judge has barred the estate of "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien from seeking punitive damages against the studio that brought the trilogy to the big screen.
Tolkien's heirs claim New Line Cinema has failed to pay any royalties from the estimated $6 billion they say the movie has grossed worldwide. The lawsuit is seeking more than $150 million in compensatory damages based on breach of contract, fraud and other claims.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones also ruled this week that the estate and Tolkien heirs have established a legal basis for the fraud claim against New Line.
Read the full piece online.
Milton Regained: A Helluva Party

By CHARLES McGRATH wreiuting in the New York Times.
Published: September 25, 2008

John Milton won’t turn 400 until Dec. 9, but a number of institutions have already jumped the gun on celebrating his quadricentenary. The New York Public Library, for example, gave him a show that opened in March, the Morgan Library & Museum opens its exhibition in October, and there has been a yearlong program of lectures, exhibitions and performances at Christ’s College, Cambridge — Milton’s alma mater and an institution for which he had no great fondness.

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
A sculpture of John Milton by Arthur Kirmss.
Exhibition Review: A Giant’s Roaring, Faintly Echoed (March 15, 2008)
Times Topics: John Milton
Exhibition Web Site

It’s hard to know what he would have made of the Grand Paradise Lost Costume Ball that the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center in Brooklyn is holding on Saturday evening. His father was a composer, and Milton wrote and played music himself, but as a Puritan he probably took a dim view of dancing. His idea of an evening was a supper of “olives or some light thing,” a pipe and a glass of water.

Nor, despite his fond depiction of marital love in “Paradise Lost,” was Milton much of a ladies’ man. His first wife found him so sullen and gloomy that she left him for three years. His second and third wives he turned into drudges and amanuenses. Samuel Johnson said of Milton that “there appears in his books something like a Turkish contempt of females.”

On the other hand, Milton might have been fascinated by the art exhibition the Williamsburg center has installed in his honor: some 90 paintings and sculptures by 70 artists, including Rich Buckler and Amin Gulgee.
Read the full story in the NYT online.

Friday, September 26, 2008

In October iconic Kiwi brand Edmonds is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Edmonds Cookery Book.

A special hardback edition of this Kiwi institution will be released to mark this auspicious occasion.

Celebrity guests Te Radar and Katrina Hobbs are going to prepare their favourite recipes from the Edmonds Cookery Book at a special launch event. And the Bookman will be there. Watch this space!


Paula Morris – Penguin Books - $28

Paula Morris, presently the Buddle Findlay Sargeson fellow at the University of Auckland, and the author of three acclaimed novels, has moved to short fiction in her new book due for publication Monday, September 29.

I caught up with Paula yesterday to talk about Forbidden Cities and started by asking her if her opening story, Like a Mexican, ever felt like it might turn into a novel.

That story has had several incarnations, recently voyaging into second person, but I never saw it as a bigger story. The longest story in the collection is the final one, Chain Bridge. At times I was tempted to make it even longer ... It’s too long for most literary journals, unfortunately.

I believe I am the second person already to interview you today. Are you comfortable as an interviewee?

Yes, I was interviewed by Kim Knight for the October 5 issue of the Sunday Star-Times. I’m a nervous and circumspect interviewee, I think; I feel much more comfortable asking the questions. Though when interviews are published, I always feel as though I wasn’t quite circumspect enough.

It seems to me that you are NZ’s most travelled author making the title of your new novel especially relevant. How many trips have you made across the Pacific this year? How many across the Atlantic?

By the end of the year, I’ll have crossed the Atlantic six times, and the Pacific ten times, in the space of nine months. The guy in the Koru Club at LAX remembers me now, though that’s probably because I had to spend eight long hours there after a “bird strike” incident in July. And also because I tend to wear the same travel clothes, and pounce on the tray of Afghan biscuits (which get offered far too infrequently, in my opinion).

How many literary festivals have you attended this year? As a participant or as an observer?
Not that many, really – I took part in the Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans, and the wonderful Auckland Writers and Readers Festival; I gave a paper on writing about New Orleans at the AWP (Associated Writing Programs) conference in New York, and visited Lafayette College in Pennsylvania to give a reading and speak to classes. Kirsty Gunn and I talked about short stories at the Centre for NZ Studies in London in June. I was sad to miss Going West this year; I was travelling back from the US last weekend.

Do you feel that your extensive, regular travel helps with your writing or do you regret the time lost? What do you do during those interminable hours waiting to board after checking in?

In search of lost time, indeed: this is why I forked out for the airport lounge membership this year. I’ve done quite a lot of writing in airports. As long as I have a table and chair, I can work pretty much anywhere. I’ve had too many deadlines this year, so I can’t just languish, reading magazines and abusing the free snacks. Once on the plane, however, I cease to be productive. I watch TV and silly movies.

How do you handle the time you are away with your teaching commitments?

I only had to teach for the first part of this year; I’m free from the end of April until next January, because Tulane has given me time off. Usually, I teach two afternoons a week, though university jobs come with many additional time-killing responsibilities, of course, like committee work, thesis supervision, etc. Even though I’m officially on leave, I was back there last week to interview writer Mohsin Hamid for a big campus event. We received a large creative writing gift which we spend on programming at Tulane: last semester we hosted Louise Gluck and Salman Rushdie; in November we’re holding an African Writers Symposium; and in the New Year we have visits from Claire Messud, Billy Collins, and Joan Didion scheduled. These visits mean a tremendous amount of planning and promotion. I’ve developed a “literary events management” internship to involve students, and next semester I’m offering this as one of my courses, along with the advanced fiction class I usually teach. My background in PR/marketing is proving quite useful.
Over what period of time did you write the stories in Forbidden Cities?
The stories represent my entire adult writing career to date. Many Mansions is the oldest, its first draft written 11 years ago when I was going to night classes at the West Side YMCA in New York. The most recent, The City God, was written in May, when the manuscript was already past deadline! Several of the stories started life with “foreign” settings that I changed in order to get them published in New Zealand; I’ve changed all these back to their original settings for the collection. Unfortunately, I was reading the proofs at speed in various airports in England and Ireland, and missed, in one story, a word that needed to be changed back from Kiwi usage to American. I’m sure eagle-eyed readers will spot it at once. It will give them something new to tell me at festivals, other than critiquing the navigating-Auckland specifics of Hibiscus Coast.

Do you find writing short fiction more or less challenging/rewarding/satisfying?

I really love writing (and reading) short stories. Often the writing of them stretches over several years, in part because I’m an obsessive re-writer. Many of my favourite writers are short-story specialists, or best known for their stories: Jhumpa Lahiri, William Trevor, Ellen Gilchrist, Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, George Saunders. Completing work on anything, a story or a novel, is extremely satisfying. Until I start wanting to make changes, of course.

Have you any theory as to why NZ writers seem especially fond of, and generally are more than competent at short fiction?

I’m in the process of making final selections for a contemporary short story anthology for Penguin, so I’ll save any theories for the introduction.

Do you enjoy your blog writing?

My blog isn’t informative like yours – or rather, it’s of interest, I think, mainly to my friends and family (and some of my students). I like keeping them entertained. It started as a cheap, easy alternative to an author’s web site, a way to let people know I had a new book coming out, and tell them how to buy copies, etc. I don’t know what it is now.
Nonsense with photos, perhaps. I’ve been taking lots of pictures of signs in Auckland and plan to post them at some point.
I just discovered that if I mention certain businesses or organisations , large numbers of their employees get alerts and end up reading the post. I intend to abuse this with mentions of other corporations any time I have a new book to promote.
New Zealand Short Fiction

New Zealanders, writers and readers, seem especially keen on short fiction with a dozen or more volumes being published here every year.
The four latest to come to my attention are:

Edited by Owen Marshall – Random House - $34.99

Selected & introduced by Graeme Lay
David Ling Publishing - $34.99

A Short Story Collection
Penguin Books - $28

Selected Stories
Edited by Vincent O’Sullivan
Random House $39.99

The first two are collections featuring various authors totaling around 20 stories in each.

The Best New Zealand Fiction clearly comes from a winning formula as this is number five in the series and Owen Marshall follows Fiona Kidman and Fiona Farrell as editor. Owen Marshall has provided and interesting introduction to the volume explaining the process by which he has made his choice. And at the end of the book there are lists of the authors whose work appeared in the first four volumes and it is fascinating to obersve the commonality in these lists. An excellent snapshot of the contemporary short story scene in NZ.

The New Zealand Book of the Beach 2 is somewhat different in that the stories are all stories inspired by the beach and the sea.
Publisher David Ling and editor Graeme Lay were sufficiently encouraged by the positive response of readers and reviewers to the first New Zealand Book of the Beach to present us with volume two. Some of the stories have been written especially for this new collection while others have been garnered from previously published collections. As Graeme Lay says in his introduction volume two “continues the celebration of the unique role the beach plays in New Zealand’s physical, social and literary consciousness” And I love the cover image featuring “Sunbather” by Tony Ogle 2007.

Forbidden Cities is ex-pat New Zealand novelist Paula Morris’ first collection of short fiction and she has done us proud with stories set in Auckland, Los Angeles, Shanghai, London, Budapest, New York and New Orleans. Morris is something of a jet-setter with frequent trips from her home in the southern U.S. across both the Atlantic and the Pacific. She is no newcomer to short fiction having had many stories broadcast and published in various literary journals and magazines but this is her first collection, I am sure it will not be her last.
The stories, as you would expect from an author with a reputation for narrative and characterization, are sharp and insightful, funny and sad, and without exception entertaining.
(The Bookman interviewed Morris yesterday and that interview appears elsewhere on Beatties Book Blog today).

Owen Marshall Selected Stories brings together 60 of Marshall’s best as selected by Vincent O’Sullivan who starts his thoughtful eight page introduction with these words:
Even when a publisher allows you sixty as a round number, to choose the “best” stories from a writer you greatly admire can turn out to be a tall order.
I can believe that but O’Sullivan has pulled off the challenge with style giving us a fine selection of stories from the past 30 years from the man rated our most celebrated and loved contemporary short story writer.
This is a bumper collection running to more than 600 pages and featuring on the cover a gorgeous Grahame Sydney painting, Cookhouse 2001; altogether a delicious package that will make a handsome addition to the home library.

At a most enjoyable function in Auckland last evening Elizabeth Caffin was made an honorary life member of the Book Publishers Association of New Zealand.

Tributes were paid to her by the President of BPANZ, Tony Fisk, pictured here with Elizabeth, and fellow honorary life members, Rosemary Stagg and Graham Beattie.

In her typically modest manner Elizabeth then replied as follows:

Thank you Tony, Rosemary, Graham. To receive the approbation of one’s professional colleagues is the highest of honours and I am deeply grateful for this honorary life membership of our association. I was a pretty small player in this industry, much in awe of the movers of millions – in books and dollars -- so I am humbled and I thank you all.

When I first went to AUP in 1986, having been made redundant by Collins, I was extremely naive and inexperienced. Somehow I got put onto the Council of the Book Publishers Association where I learned for the first time what a profit and loss account was. The university financial arrangements were fairly rudimentary then too and I had to get an economist friend to show me how to write a budget.

That first experience on the Council taught me heaps. Most of the things I know about publishing I learned from all of you. In a small press, without its own sales or distribution arm, you are very isolated and I was all the more so from being in a big institution whose collective mind was on other things. So Rosemary Stagg, Bob Ross, Graham Beattie, Gerard Reid, Michael Moynahan, David Elworthy and many more of you taught me how to be a publisher. Thank you for all those lessons and even more for your friendship.

We are so lucky to be in an industry of gifted people who are as profoundly cooperative as they are fiercely competitive. By getting together we’ve made ourselves stronger and had a good deal of fun in the process. Events like the weekend workshops took a huge amount of organisation but were for me enormously exciting and stimulating.

As it happens this is also a farewell, as I have recently sold my Auckland house and I am moving to Wellington in a few weeks to start the next part of my life. But I can assure you that it is bound to have connections with book publishing. I’m marked for life.

These are hard times in the book trade and the speed of change is terrifying; but we all know that writers will never stop writing or readers reading and that each new book is a different one.
There are going to be a lot more good books in my life and I hope in yours too.

Greetings friends, family, colleagues, and a few of you we don't know nearly as well.

If you're not aware, Eleanor and I have been working for the past nine months on a new current affairs website that will offer the best commentary and writing New Zealand has to offer.
It will be the meeting place for a community of people eager to debate the issues that matter in New Zealand and around the world.
We've teamed with Ian Fraser and recruited a crew of top flight thinkers and writers. With an election just 10 weeks away, former TV3 chief political reporter Jane Young and much-sought-after political scientist Jon Johansson will offer political commentary alongside two men who know what politics is like from the inside:

Ex-Listener editor and press secretary to Jim Bolger, David Beatson, and Helen Clark's former chief press secretary and speech writer, David Lewis.

Today, the clock has been ticking down and as of now...http://www.pundit.co.nz/ is online!
The new home of smart current affairs and debate. It's a soft launch, as we're still stocking the shelves with our writers and recruiting a few more contributors.

In the next week or two, look out for cultural comment from renowned novelists Paula Morris and Kelly Ana Morey, and global political coverage from ex-pat Kiwi journalists Richard Adams in Washington DC and Toby Manhire in London.

Plus much, much more. Two things you can do to support us, and quality journalism in New Zealand - make Pundit your homepage and forward this email to everyone you know (and even a few you don't).

Many thanks,Tim Watkin & Eleanor Black

Download today! Free Windows Live software. Chat, search, share pics and more.

At a reading last night in Wellington author/blogger/bookseller Mary McCallum was greatly taken by James George.

Link here to read Mary's account and also get details of his reading in Palmerston North tonight.

Thanks to author Richard Wolfe for bringing this interesting story to my notice.

Good on you Bob!
Traditional Home Baking
Alexa Johnston – Penguin - $45.00

It seems to have been a golden year for the history of cooking in New Zealand .
Books that come to mind immediately include The Pavlova Story by Helen Leach, Cooking Times by Kate Fraser, and David Veart’s First Catch Your Weka.

All splendid books to which we can now add another stunner, Ladies, A Plate by accomplished home baker, historian/curator, the multi-talented, Alexa Johnson who has spent the last two years searching through dozens of early/mid-20th century community cookbooks, then testing the selected recipes to come up with over 80 of the best versions of the classics of New Zealand home baking.
Included are Afghans, Anzac biscuits, Belgian biscuits, Ginger kisses, Meringues (of course), Gingerbread biscuits, Pavlova, Trifle, Sausage rolls and so on. It is a treasure trove filled with all the things my Mum and Nanna used to make.

Colour illustrations throughout, with a foreword by top food writer Ray McVinnie, and a super introduction by the author, this book is a little gem, one that is guaranteed to inspire you to get back into home baking.
Interesting to note too that both the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival in May and the Christchurch Writers Festival in August both had very well attended sessions featuring cookbooks and their authors.

In Auckland the panelists were Helen Leach, Alexa Johnston and Ray McVinnie, superbly chaired by Lauraine Jacobs, while in Christchurch the panellists were TV star Richard Till, Kate Fraser, and David Veart.
While at the NZ Post Writers & Readers Week in Wellington one of the stars was former NY food critic, now editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, Ruth Reichl.
As a foodie and keen amateur chef myself I hope this trend continues.

Pic left shows afghans made by Annie using the recipe in Ladies, a plate. And I can report they were delicious!
Inspirational Landscape Ideas
Gil Hanly/Rose Thodey
Random House - $59.99

These two women between them know just about everything there is to know about New Zealand gardens.
Rose Thodey is a passionate gardener as well as gardens editor of NZ House & Garden magazine, she has a number of books to her credit, and was a judge at the Ellerslie Flower Show for five years.
Gil Hanly is New Zealand’s premiere garden photographer and her work appears regularly in books and magazines. She has more than15 gardening books to her credit; this is the second title she has worked on with Rose Thodey, the previous one, also published by Random House, was Landscape Gardens by New Zealand’s Top Designers. These two know what they are about!

This is a big, handsome and sumptuous book which will almost certainly be the outstanding gardening book published in New Zealand this year. It is a stunner. There are chapters on walls, entrances, water, plants, paving, seating, sculpture (my favouite), and a whole heap more and of course it is profusely illustrated with Hanly’s gorgeous colour photographs on every page.

The Artful Gardener is a treasure trove of garden design excellence and creativity and I have no doubt that many a lucky gardener will find this in their Christmas stocking .

With essays by Peter Simpson and Peter Peryer
Auckland University Press - $59.95

Next Tuesday, 30 September, marks publication of the long awaited new book of photographs illustrating the largest body of work of Peryer’s yet assembled. Featuring an intriguing selection of over 80 images chosen by the artist himself it also includes a fascinating autobiographical essay by him along with a thorough discussion on the artist’s practice by academic/curator/writer Peter Simpson.

To coincide with this major new book Webb’s have mounted an exhibition of recent and vintage Peryer works.
Webb’s are at 18 Manukau Road, Newmarket, Auckland.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Friday 26th September

Auckland City Libraries present:

Does fiction matter?

With Iain Sharp, Gordon McLauchlan and Paula Morris,
(pic left) arguing the case

Where and When:

Central City Library, 44-46 Lorne Street, Auckland @ 7:00 pm

A free event. Everyone welcome.
Wine genrously supplied by Glengarrys.