Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Zealand Book Month

To observe New Zealand Book Month the Herald on Sunday has been running a series featuring well known NZ'ers and their three favourite books.

Here are some of those featured so far:

Since training at Auckland's influential Theatre Corporate, New Zealand actor Jennifer Ward-Lealand has worked extensively in theatre, film and television for over 25 years. She has excelled in both dramatic and comedic roles, as well as numerous roles in musical theatre and cabaret.
In recent years Jennifer has also become a director of theatre, especially musicals, and has devised many cabarets. As an accomplished singer, she presents her own shows, Falling in Love Again and The Look of Love, at festivals and venues in New Zealand and Australia. She is also in demand as a tutor of musical theatre.
Jennifer is President of New Zealand Actors Equity and serves as a trust board member of Silo Theatre and an honorary board member of Women in Film & Television-Auckland. In the 2007 New Years Honours List, she was named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit "for services to the theatre and the community.

Bulibasha by Witi Ihimaera.This is one of the most enchanting books I have ever read, and one of only a few I have re-read several times. It is positively Shakespearean in its combining of the family story with the bigger picture.

Crime Story by Maurice Gee.I am a big Maurice Gee fan and had read this twice before finding out about the film adaptation (Larry Parr’s “Fracture”). I love the way he interweaves several stories and his characters are superbly drawn.. I ended up playing Ulla Peet in the film and got to meet Maurice on set, which was a real thrill for me. It is the first time I have been able to say to an author “I have read everything you have written!”

Story of a NZ River by Jane Mander . The necessary reinvention that Alice, an English emigrant, has to go through is captured brilliantly in this book.
Everything she has thought to be right and proper is turned upside down in the surprisingly egalitarian society of colonial New Zealand. A great read.

DAI HENWOOD - Dai was born and raised in Wellington, he trained in Theatre and Film at Victoria University. From there he moved into Stand-up comedy winning best new face in 1999’s Pulp Comedy on TV 2 and the prestigious TV2 Billy T Award in 2002. From there Dai toured to Melbourne and Edinburgh in 2003. In 2004/5 he performed the sell-out shows “The Hot Stepper” and “Champagne Table Tennis,” in the New Zealand International Comedy Festival as well as performing at the Tokyo Comedy Store and all around Britain and Melbourne. In 2006 he performed with Rhys Darby in “The Everymen.” From there Dai was given his own TV show on C4 called ‘Insert Video Here,’ which quickly became a cult classic. The momentum continued in 2007 where Dai won the coveted Fred Award at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival and has become a household name for his TV Series ‘Roll the Dai’ on C4 Television.

Stone Dogs by Craig Marriner
I like this book because it is about seedy rural people who take bad things and do bad things. Also I am a big fan of kiwi slang and colloquialism and this book is full of both.

Hairy Maclary from Donaldsons Dairy by Lynley Dodd
An iconic kids book. The whole series is great and transcends generations. I sent the whole collection over to family in Britain and they love it as well. Every kid should have it (even every adult)

Under The Mountain by Maurice Gee
This is the first book I read that really scared me. To this day even thinking about it gives me the shivers. It is amazing how things that affect you when you are young stay with you all your life.

After a small break (recovering from her near-death at the hands of the Ferndale Strangler), actor Sarah Thomson is back for her second stint on Shortland Street, playing Nurse Tracey Morrison.Sarah’s on-screen and off-screen credentials are pretty impressive.
She has been seen on screen in a wide variety of roles, playing everything from an alien to a pizza freak with a sinus problem, in US Disney’s Power Rangers series.
Prior to her current Shortland Street gig, Sarah was engaged as the Music Producer at Alt TV [Sky Digital 65]. She also had a show at seven pm every weeknight called Lamest Girl Alive. Sarah says she likes to spend her spare time being as nerdy as possible, especially if it involves music, theatre and film. She greatly enjoys food, sleeping and robots.
Her aspirations for the future are to be a world authority on '60s French Chanson, 1950's women's tailoring and surrealist British comedy.

Stranded In Paradise - John Dix
Both the original 1988 version and the updated/revised 2005 edition of this book are the perfect tome for the New Zealand based music nerd. It's a hard job finding the original (out of print) edition for less than sacrificing a few limbs, so the newer version takes the chance to couple the old-school anecdotes of our rock 'n roll past with detailing the diverse and potent music surges of our present. Bonus!
The Vintner's Luck - Elizabeth Knox
A truly beautiful confusion of desire, faith, boundaries and wine. Always striking, never ostentatious, while maintaining a rich world of man and myth treading the lines of their 'nature'.

Bare - Toa Fraser
I know, I know, it's a play. But the printed text itself is beyond read-worthy, and has been my favourite portrayal of our conflicted Kiwi identity for years. The university lecture passage alone sends me simulatneously into education nostalgia and fits of giggles. A classic.

EMILY PERKINS - Emily is the author of Not Her Real Name, a collection of short stories which won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and the novels Leave Before You Go , The New Girl and Novel About My Wife. She is the host of The Book Show. Emily lives in Auckland.

The Complete Stories of Katherine Mansfield
I have an old Golden Press edition from the 70s, which saves me from having to choose here between her books as they were first published. I love her human preoccupations, her exquisite style, her modernity and above all the ease with which she attaches language to her characters and lets those voices speak.
Owl Do Cry Janet Frame
Sad, sad, sad. Stops language as we would tamely have it, makes it true and new. Painful, beautiful. She has a hotline to the shames and fears from childhood that we never truly outgrow. Hugely compassionate and bold.

Larks in a Paradise: New Zealand Portraits. Photographs, Marti Friedlander. Text, James McNeish.
This book must have captured a lot of what New Zealand was in the early 1970s. It's made of photographic moments and tape-recorded moments - but Friedlander and McNeish are artists, of course, they're showing us a particular lens on the world. Their aim is to shatter generalisations and there are many different voices in it talking about the way New Zealanders lived then. The photographs are knockout. Some of them I can see without needing to look again at the book. It's something we're still doing as a country - trying to get ourselves down, to put our different selves alongside one another and to understand something. Trying to accumulate meaning out of what lives next to what.

MIRIAMA KAMO - Miriama is the presenter of TV2’s top rating current affairs programme, 20/20. She came to 20/20 after three years onscreen as a correspondent for award-winning current affairs programme Sunday. Miriama's journalism career began in radio, where she worked throughout the country as an announcer and producer. Since moving to television a decade ago, Miriama has worked in just about every genre, from children's programmes to lifestyle, from sports to the arts. She worked on the highly respected arts and issues programme backchat as an onscreen journalist and director for more than three years. A diverse and busy freelance career was interrupted by a six-month stay in Sydney where she failed miserably in a number of non-broadcasting jobs, like waitressing. After vowing off 'trying' to serve coffee, Miriama returned to NZ after the 2000 Sydney Olympics to begin work on Sky's Golf Show - chasing golfing greats around the world. This led to TVNZ, the Sunday programme, the odd stint here and there as a relief presenter for Breakfast, Midday, One News and Tonight, and now a regular role as presenter of TV2's 20/20 programme. Miriama won the Qantas Media award for Best Current Affairs Reporter in 2005.

Pounamu Pounamu – Witi Ihimaera
I was a prolific reader as a child, I read anything I could get my hands on. But Pounamu Pounamu was the ‘growing up’ of me as a reader. I was so struck by its familiarity, its humour, and its accuracy about NZ life, particularly from a Maori perspective. About a year later, Witi Ihimaera came to town and did a reading at a convent. I was about twelve, and was utterly enthralled by the magic he spun. I bravely attempted The Matriarch not long after, though I confess, it was years later that I actually managed to finish it. But I devoured a number of Witi’s books in between and have been a big fan since.

To the Is-land – Janet Frame
Isn’t it interesting that so many ‘favourite’ books come from your childhood. They’re like markers of ‘good times’ and ‘growing up’ times. That was the case with both Pounamu Pounamu and To the Is-land. Janet Frame was a master of her craft. Like Witi, she made me want to tell stories. I recognised so much in this book, which is remarkable given there are so few parallels between her life and mine. It’s her extraordinary gift to be able to reach beyond personal experience and find a common place with her readers. I went on a Janet Frame reading rampage after To the Is-land.
Mr Pip – Lloyd Jones.
Here’s my selection from adulthood. I loved Mr Pip. I’m still shocked when I think about certain plot-points in the book. It was so beautifully rendered, the imagery, the conversations, the child’s perspective and how it dissolves into a more adult voice. To be honest, and probably completely unfair, I was astounded at how accurately a man was able to render a young girl’s experience, and capture such a truthful voice.

WITI IHIMAERA - Witi is a New Zealand Maori and a renowned Pacific writer. He has written several of the major New Zealand novels of the past two decades and has also edited and compiled some highly regarded anthologies and works of non-fiction. He is also a frequent commentator and writer on Maori affairs. He has received a number of New Zealand book awards.

Came a Hot Friday by Ronald Hugh Morrison Hilarious, and the Whakinga Kid with his psuedo-Mexican accent has you in stitches. I borrowed some of the humour of this book for my own Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies."

Patricia Grace's "Cousins" is a terrific novel with unforgettable scenes: the switch when one sister marries the boy who's supposed to be marrying the other sister is unforgettable. Plus there's all that gorgeous writing that we've come to expect from one of our greatest writers.

"Songs from the Violet Cafe" by Fiona Kidman is what might be called a "sleeper." What I like about this novel is its extension into Asia, a region that New Zealand writers don't really write about. And of course it is hugely wise.

RICHARD TILL - A South Islander, Richard was born in 1959 and grew up in Christchurch and Dunedin. He liked metalwork and woodwork at school and developed an interest in food by watching his mother deal with everyday meals, ‘filling the tins’ and being a hostess for ‘important’ people (Richard’s father is Maurice Till, the well-known pianist).
Richard has become well known to many more New Zealanders through the popular TV One programme ‘Kiwi Kitchen’, the second series of which showed on our screens earlier this year and which was followed by a best-selling cookbook of the same name.

I have spent the past few years reading cooking books....none of them count as a favourite, so I have to go back a bit......

Uncle Trev's teeth; and other stories, Jack Lasenby.

I've had so much pleasure reading this to each of my children (the older ones always wanted to hear it again). I'm hoping for grandchildren so I can read it again.

Map New Zealand: 100 magnificent maps from the collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library
Have a map fetish. Especially love the informative statistic laden Government Department maps of times gone by.

Shackleton's Boat Journey by Frank Arthur Worsley - Epic tale, extraordinary language. It's the well elaborated true story written by a man raising funds for the next adventure.

19 year-old Harry McNaughton is a new face to New Zealand television screens. He describes himself as having ‘belly-flopped’ straight into the acting industry having never done any previous film and television work before landing the role of new receptionist Gerald Tippett on SHORTLAND STREET.

The Door in The Air and other Stories by Margaret Mahy
I loved this book as a kid, re-read it a few months ago after having read my sister Talia McNaughton's thesis on children's books, and loved it even more. She does an unbelievable job of establishing a dual narrative that is both allegorical and engaging, without being patronising or dry.

The Lagoon and other Stories by Janet Frame
I studied this book years ago, but can still vividly remember the images that she used and the sadness they invoked in me. She uses few words with more precision than almost any other writer I know of.

The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox
My favourite thing about Knox is that a bookmark was issued with one of her stories to help you keep up with all the characters. She always writes using multiple characters, issues, themes, and stories, but somehow manages to avoid getting confusing and maintains internal consistency. I love her writing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We have done a page of favourite NZ books at Christchurch City Libraries - everyone feel free to email yours in, we've got a competition and prizes