Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Times review by Michela Wrong
A Fork in the Road: A memoir by Andre Brink
Harvill Secker, £17.99
When a society is criticised by outsiders, its members wince but shrug their shoulders. “What can you expect from strangers?” is the feeling. When the attack comes from within, no such indulgence is shown. “He was one of us,” runs the refrain. “He should have known better. Traitor.”
That distinction is what makes André Brink's career so impressive.
Like his fellow South African writers J.M. Coetzee, Breyten Breytenbach and Athol Fugard, he came from within the Afrikaner laager. No one could have been expected to have a greater, or more sympathetic, understanding of the us-against-the-world mindset of that inward-looking community. Yet Brink shrugged off his inheritance to denounce apartheid, thereby ensuring the premature closure of his plays, the banning of his novels and decades of surveillance by the South African Government's security police, the Special Branch.

Born into a God-fearing Afrikaner family, he had the red dust of rural South Africa under his nails. Brink's father was a small-town magistrate - bastion of the white Establishment. Sundays orbited around church, boyhood games were inspired by biblical parables. His allegiance to the white cause seemed virtually preordained, and hewas actually initiated - alongside F.W. de Klerk - into the Broederbond, the Afrikaner secret society that saw itself as the rightful source of the nation's future leaders.
Read the rest at The Times online.
Sydney Writers' festival gets a Texan feel
Sydney Morning Herald report.

Chip Rolley (right) … tastes of El Paso, New York and Asia.Photo: Peter Rae

WHEN Texan-born Chip Rolley took a job with the women's magazines Ms and Sassy in New York 20 years ago he did not know how he was shaping his future.
In 1993 he moved to Australia as a freelance journalist and the partner of Anne Summers, the Australian feminist writer who had co-owned the New York magazines with Sandra Yates.
Now he has been chosen as guest artistic director of the Sydney Writers' Festival for next year by the festival board, which Yates chairs.

"It's a great opportunity," he said yesterday. "I went into the interview with a lot of innovative ideas about programming and strong views on delivering a good mix. With more than 300 writers and 400 sessions, there's an extreme amount of programming."
Rolley's one-year appointment is part of an unusual arrangement to retain the current director, Wendy Were, who will have her first baby in April, a month before this year's festival.
The full story SMH online.
Booker winners protest funding cut to Irish Writers' Centre
Alison Flood writing in, Friday 30 January 2009

Seamus Heaney, a regular at the Irish Writers' Centre. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

The Booker prize-winning trio of John Banville, Roddy Doyle and Anne Enright along with an army of the biggest names in Irish literature are protesting the termination of funding to the Irish Writers' Centre, a hub for Dublin's literary community which hosts regular readings from the likes of Seamus Heaney and Colm Tóibín.
The authors have put their names to a petition calling for the Irish Arts Council's decision to cut the Centre's €200,000 funding to be reversed, and for support to be "reinstated urgently". Other signatories include Sebastian Barry, fresh from winning this week's Costa prize, John Boyne, Ciarán Carson, Maeve Binchy, Paul Muldoon and Joseph O'Connor, as well as a host of international supporters, from Richard Ford to Will Self and the Forward prize-winning poet Sean O'Brien.
Amazon Has Big Year, Though Media Growth Slowed
by Jim Milliot -- Publishers Weekly, 1/29/2009

Any analysts who doubted that Amazon could significantly outperform other retailers in the fourth quarter were proven wrong Thursday afternoon when the company announced that total revenue rose 18%, to $6.7 billion and net income increased 9%, to $225 million in the period. For the full year, earnings rose 36%, to $645 million on a 29% revenue gain to $19.17 billion.

Peter Carey warns of dire threat to Australian publishing
Alison Flood writing in, Thursday 29 January 2009

Peter Carey speaks of a 'battle for the sake of our readers and writers'. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

It would be "cultural 'self-suicide'", says Peter Carey. A tragedy which would force many Australian authors to stop writing, adds Kate Grenville, while Thomas Keneally believes it would cause "irreparable harm". The Australian books world, from major authors such as Carey, Grenville and Keneally to publishers, booksellers and agents, is up in arms about a government review of Australia's copyright laws.

As the law currently stands, Australian publishers have a window of 30 days to bring out an Australian edition of a book once it has been released anywhere in the world. If they do so, then Australian bookshops have to sell the Australian version, and can't import the book from overseas. This can mean that books are more expensive - and harder to get hold of - in Australia than they are elsewhere, but also allows the country's local publishing to flourish, rather than forcing it to compete with a flood of cheaper-priced editions from overseas.
Read the full story here.

Friday, January 30, 2009


But is it at risk? Check this story out.
For me, if it did fold, it would be the end of the world as we know it.


BBC to strengthen arts coverage

The BBC is to "reaffirm" its commitment to arts and culture with a raft of new measures, director general Mark Thompson has said.
Plans include a pan-BBC Poetry season and an ambitious aim to put each of the 200,000 oil paintings in public ownership in the UK on the internet.
Mr Thompson outlined the corporation's commitment to the arts in 2009 and beyond during a speech in London.
The BBC has a "special responsibility" to culture in the UK, he said.
"We are not only reaffirming our commitment to arts, but we're announcing a series of measures that will put this relationship on an even stronger footing," he said.
"Through innovative new partnerships, I believe the BBC can deliver big, bold arts programming that is accessible, distinctive and enjoyable."
The full piece at the BBC online.
Washington Post’s Book World Goes Out of Print as a Separate Section

By MOTOKO RICH in The New York Times, January 28, 2009

In another sign that literary criticism is losing its profile in newspapers, The Washington Post has decided to shutter the print version of Book World, its Sunday stand-alone book review section, and shift reviews to space inside two other sections of the paper.
The last issue of Book World will appear in its tabloid print version on Feb. 15 but will continue to be published online as a distinct entity. The Post said in a statement Wednesday that in the printed newspaper Sunday book content will be split between Outlook, the commentary section, and Style & Arts. Book World will occasionally appear as a stand-alone print section oriented around special themes like summer reading or children’s books.Book World was one of the last remaining stand-alone book review sections in the country, along with The New York Times Book Review. The Post’s move comes as the company, like most other newspaper businesses across the country, has been hobbled by a protracted downturn in advertising.
Go to the NYT online to read Rich's full report.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The cover story of the latest issue of our city magazine is Secrets of the City - 100 things every Aucklander should know.

The Bookman, being an avid reader of Metro, was working his way through these secrets compiled by senior writer Simon Wilson, when he came to # 77 and was both astonished and delighted to find as the secret! Wow, thanks Simon, I'm chuffed.
There is also a great story on scooter riding in Auckland which the Bookman, a 15 year veteran of Vespa riding in the City of Sails, found especially interesting. And Wilson also has other stories on fishing and on the Martinborough Wine Festival where he obviously had a very good time.

Then there are the usual pile of staff book reviews, Paul Tudor on wine, Connie Clarkson on food, and a host of other stuff.
Good value Metro, and how lucky we are to have our own city magazine. They are a rare commodity these days.


Link to Paul's website, McGovern online, and see what he has to say. It is worth a read.

'He gave the impression that he had more writing to do'
The Guardian, Wednesday 28 January 2009

Warm tributes for John Updike from authors including Richard Ford, Zadie Smith, John Banville, Ian McEwan, Toni Morrison and many others.


Please come along to the book launch of “Bloodclot”, Tusiata Avia’s new book.

Nafanua, the Samoan goddess of war, leaves the underworld to wander the earth as a half-caste girl from Christchurch.

Bloodclot” is the astonishing new automythographical book by the author of “Wild Dogs Under My Skirt”.

Saturday 7 February, 5-8pm
at Our City Otautahi,
corner of Worcester St & Oxford Tce
Christchurch - part of Iva Pacific Arts Festival 09.
RSVP to by 31 January for catering.
What will we be reading in 2009?
Top editors are predicting a resurgence in escapism and cultural tourism, but what do you want to read in 2009?

Alison Flood looks into the crystal ball on her excellent Guardian blog.

If you want to know what you'll be reading later this year, then you could do worse than taking a look at literary agent Andrew Lownie's website, where he's asked 10 top editors for their thoughts on which books will prosper in 2009.

There's a prediction from Weidenfeld & Nicolson's eminent publishing director Alan Samson that "we may be in for another allegorical animal saga of some sort" - he's spotted that "during the darker days of the 70s, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was the bestselling book in America for two consecutive years while over here we were reading Watership Down". Not sure I'm too excited about a Richard Bach-esque fable, but at least it'd be a change from the rash of pet memoirs which have become the latest trend.

Mike Jones at Simon & Schuster feels that as we "perhaps won't be doing as much exotic travelling as we used to ... books which bring alive the beauty and diversity of the British countryside, its landscape and its history may do well"; if only there was more to come from Roger Deakin.

For Flood's full posting link here to her blog.
Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab
By MOTOKO RICH in The New York Times, January 27, 2009

The point may soon come when there are more people who want to write books than there are people who want to read them.
At least, that is what the evidence suggests. Booksellers, hobbled by the economic crisis, are struggling to lure readers. Almost all of the New York publishing houses are laying off editors and pinching pennies. Small bookstores are closing. Big chains are laying people off or exploring bankruptcy.
A recently released study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that while more people are reading literary fiction, fewer of them are reading books.
Meanwhile, there is one segment of the industry that is actually flourishing: capitalizing on the dream of would-be authors to see their work between covers, companies that charge writers and photographers to publish are growing rapidly at a time when many mainstream publishers are losing ground.

Read the full report here.
A Relentless Updike Mapped America’s Mysteries

John Updike at the Boston Public Library in 2006.

By MICHIKO KAKUTANI writing in The New York Times, January 27, 2009

Endowed with an art student’s pictorial imagination, a journalist’s sociological eye and a poet’s gift for metaphor, John Updike — who died on Tuesday at 76 — was arguably this country’s one true all-around man of letters. He moved fluently from fiction to criticism, from light verse to short stories to the long-distance form of the novel: a literary decathlete in our age of electronic distraction and willful specialization, Victorian in his industriousness and almost blogger-like in his determination to turn every scrap of knowledge and experience into words.
It is as a novelist who opened a big picture window on the American middle class in the second half of the 20th century, however, that he will be best remembered. In his most resonant work, Mr. Updike gave “the mundane its beautiful due,” as he once put it, memorializing the everyday mysteries of love and faith and domesticity with extraordinary nuance and precision. In Kodachrome-sharp snapshots, he gave us the 50’s and early 60’s of suburban adultery, big cars and wide lawns, radios and hi-fi sets, and he charted the changing landscape of the 70’s and 80’s, as malls and subdivisions swallowed up small towns and sexual and social mores underwent a bewildering metamorphosis.
Superb piece, read the full story here.
Craig lands role in Tintin movie
The Tintin movie is due for a 2011 release -

British actor Daniel Craig, best known for playing secret agent James Bond, has signed up to play the villain in the new Tintin movie.
The 40-year-old has landed the role of Red Rackham opposite Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell, who will play the intrepid young reporter Tintin.
Filming for The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, directed by Steven Spielberg, has already begun.
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Mackenzie Crook will also appear in the film.
The original Tintin character was created in 1929 by Georges Remi, better known by his pen name Herge.
His adventures were played out through two dozen books.
Over 200 million copies have been sold worldwide and the popular series has been translated into 70 languages.
It is thought the Tintin movie, planned for release in 2011, will be the first of two or three movies featuring the character.

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, who is co-producing the project with Spielberg, has been lined up to direct the sequel.
Amazon holding press conference to announce launch of Kindle 2?
Amazon has invited US journalists to a press conference, sparking speculation that it is about to announce the launch of the Kindle 2, the successor to its popular Kindle ebook reader.

By Claudine Beaumont, writing in The Daily Telegraph, 27 Jan 2009

Amazon is hosting a press conference at the Morgan Library in New York on February 9, leading to rumours that it will unveil a follow-up to its popular Kindle ebook reader.
The new device, expected to be named Kindle 2, will be smaller, thinner and easier to use than its predecessor according to inside sources close to the manufacturing process. Photos published on BoyGeniusReport show a slimmer-looking device with rounded edges, and a joystick instead of a click wheel.

The last time Amazon held a press conference, it was in November 2007 to announce the launch of its pioneering ebook reader, the Kindle. Although critics mocked the Kindle for its clunky design, initial supplies of the device sold out within hours of being listed on the Amazon website.
Although Amazon is yet to reveal sales figures for the original Kindle, some analysts have estimated that around a quarter of a million units were sold in the first eight months.
The Kindle, which is currently only available in the United States, can hold more than 200 books, and users are able to download new novels to the device over a special mobile phone network.
This also enables it to download newspapers, magazines and even blogs on-the-go, at the touch of a button. The device costs $359 (£255) and there are more than 150,000 books available in the compatible electronic format.
Electronic book readers have proven increasingly popular in recent months. Sony launched its rival to the Kindle, the Reader, in the UK last summer, priced at £200.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


One of the world’s leading modernist writers, New Zealander Katherine Mansfield, is to have her place in the English literary scene even further enhanced with the creation of the international Katherine Mansfield Society.

Society president, Emeritus Professor Vincent O’Sullivan, says the society has been set up to promote and encourage enjoyment of Katherine Mansfield’s writing, which influenced a fundamental shift in the way stories are told.
“Katherine Mansfield’s influence is still being felt by writers and readers today, and we want to ensure this recognition continues. She is New Zealand’s greatest writer, and ironically there’s the likelihood of her becoming better known overseas than she is at home.”
To that end, he says, while the society is international, with people from England, Ireland, Australia, France and the United States involved in its creation, there is a strong New Zealand focus, and it is incorporated as a charitable trust in New Zealand.

“The Society will work to ensure Katherine Mansfield is on school and university curricula in New Zealand and overseas and aims to establish a Mansfield memorial in her home town of Wellington.

“We will also be creating a biennial Katherine Mansfield Society literary scholarship – a Rhodes scholarship for literature as it were – for work in the modernist sphere.”

The Society’s founders comprise Mansfield scholars from around the world:
Emeritus Professor Angela Smith (UK), Emeritus Professor C. K. Stead (NZ), Dr Sarah Sandley (NZ), Dr Gerri Kimber (UK), Dr Sue Reid (UK), Dr Josiane Paccaud-Huguet (France), Janna Stotz (USA), Dr Melinda Harvey (Australia), Dr Anna Jackson (NZ), Dr Delia Da Sousa Correa (UK), Dr Jenny McDonnell (Ireland), Dr Sarah Ailwood (Australia), Professor Larry Mitchell (USA) and Professor Janet Wilson (UK).

A website,, has already been set up, and the Society aims for it to be the world’s most comprehensive hub of information on Mansfield. It includes images, literature on Mansfield and downloadable versions of all her short stories.

Society members will receive three newsletters a year, a free copy of The Annual Journal of Katherine Mansfield Studies, regular email news alerts, discounted rates for the bi-annual Katherine Mansfield conference and all other KMS events as well as access to Mansfield scholars worldwide. Membership costs just NZ$70 ($42 for students/unwaged/ retirees), and application forms are available on the website.


Irish author Sebastian Barry has won the 2008 Costa Book of the Year award for The Secret Scripture, a moving account of one woman’s stolen life and her journey to reclaim the past. The announcement was made this evening (Tuesday 27th January) at an awards ceremony held at the InterContinental Hotel in central London.

The Costa Book Awards recognise the most enjoyable books of the last year by writers based in the UK and Ireland. Originally established by Whitbread PLC in 1971, Costa announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK’s prestigious and popular book prize in 2006.

Barry, the bookmaker’s odds-on favourite, won against one of the most acclaimed collections of finalists in the Book Awards history beating 91 year-old author Diana Athill for her memoir Somewhere Towards the End, bestselling first-time novelist Sadie Jones for The Outcast, poet and writer Adam Foulds for The Broken Word and popular children’s writer Michelle Magorian for Just Henry, to win the overall prize and a cheque for £25,000 at the glittering awards ceremony.

Following the judging, Matthew Parris, chair of the final judges, said: ”Sebastian Barry has created one of the great narrative voices in contemporary fiction in The Secret Scripture. It is a book of great brilliance, powerfully and beautifully written.”

The Secret Scripture, published by Faber and Faber, is the ninth novel to take the overall prize. A. L. Kennedy was the last author to win the Book of the Year with a novel taking the prize in 2007 for Day.

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won eight times by a novel, four times by a first novel, five times by a biography, five times by a collection of poetry and once by a children’s book.
Wellington writer Fleur Beale wins ‘much-loved’ book award with psychological thriller

A tense psychological thriller, I am not Esther, has won the 2009 Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book for its Wellington author, Fleur Beale.

Established in 1997 to commemorate the life and works of the late Hamilton writer Gaelyn Gordon, the award goes to a book which, though not an award winner at the time of publication, has proved itself with readers and in the marketplace over a period of more than five years.

“I am not Esther is a gripping young adult psychological thriller,” says Storylines Trust chairman, Dr Libby Limbrick, “With over 15,000 copies sold, it has proved itself a favourite with teenage readers and in schools. In her portrait of Esther, the author has created a compelling and readable study of a young woman abandoned to relatives in a religious cult.”

A graduate of Victoria University and a former high school teacher, Fleur Beale wrote the novel inspired by a student’s expulsion and troubles after conflict with his family’s religious beliefs. It was an Honour Book in the 1999 New Zealand Post Awards and US book rights have been sold to a subsidiary of Disney.

Her steady output since 1988 has included 13 children’s and young adult novels, mostly either contemporary social realism with backgrounds such as camping, cars and rally driving, or historical novels such as A Respectable Girl, published simultaneously in UK, and My Story: A New Song in the Land – The Writings of Atapo, Paihia, c. 1840.

Her first children’s book Slide the Corner (1992) also won the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon prize in 2007, and many of her titles have been shortlisted for both the New Zealand Post and LIANZA awards.
John Updike, prize-winning writer, dead at age 76
By HILLEL ITALIE – reporting in The New York Times

NEW YORK (AP) — John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died Tuesday at age 76.
Updike, a resident of Beverly Farms, Mass., died of lung cancer, according to a statement from his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

A literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists, the tall, hawk-nosed Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems, criticism, the memoir "Self-Consciousness" and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams. He was prolific, even compulsive, releasing more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s. Updike won virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for "Rabbit Is Rich" and "Rabbit at Rest," and two National Book Awards.
Although himself deprived of a Nobel, he did bestow it upon one of his fictional characters, Henry Bech, the womanizing, egotistical Jewish novelist who collected the literature prize in 1999.
Guardian piece, Updike Remembered - link here.

Now I suspect I must be the only person in the universe who didn’t see this adorable YouTube clip last year.

It was the most-visited YouTube clip for 2008 (44 million!) .

The two-minute film clip, that became an overnight phenomenon, shows the remarkable, highly moving reunion of two men and their pet lion, Christian, after they had left him in Africa with Born Free’s George Adamson, who would introduce him into his rightful home in the wild.

I thought you might like to put it on your blog possibly with New Year’s greetings to everyone from me. Doesn’t it just make your heart sing?
We’re reissuing a fully revised and updated with stunning photos, the classic, A Lion called Christian, in April.

The book tells the back story of how John Rendall and Anthony ‘Ace’ Bourke, visitors to London from Australia in 1969, bought a boisterous lion cub in Harrods for 250 guineas. For a while, the three of them lived together as flatmates in a furniture shop in the King’s Road, Chelsea, where Christian quickly became a local celebrity. But the lion cub was growing up, fast, and even the walled church garden in which he exercised wouldn’t be big enough for him for much longer. How could John and Ace avoid having to incarcerate him in a zoo for the rest of his life?

It was thanks to Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, stars of Born Free, who dropped into the shop, that Christian was subsequently flown to Kenya and placed under expert care of Adamson.
Thanks Jennifer, yes, it certainly does make your heart sing. Imagine that, 44 million hits on You Tube. Amazing, but when you watch it you can understand why.


have a look (or even ask a question!) of Jeffery Deaver on the Waterstone's web chat, live and happening NOW
Asterix creator denies his daughter's accusation of selling out
Alison Flood writing in, Tuesday 27 January 2009

French cartoonist Albert Uderzo poses with his characters in 2005. Photograph: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images

That indomitable Gaul Albert Uderzo, creator of Asterix, has rounded on his daughter over her accusations that he sold out by ceding control of the comic book series to a major French publisher.
Earlier this month, Uderzo's daughter Sylvie wrote a piece in Le Monde suggesting that her 81-year-old father had been pushed into the deal to sell Hachette Livre a 60% share in Asterix's publisher Editions Albert-René. "I find myself entering the fight against, perhaps, the worst enemies of Asterix: men of industry and finance," she wrote. "They who pushed my father into reneging on all the values with which he raised me: independence, brotherhood, conviviality and resistance."

The intra-family spat has since shifted up a gear, after the illustrator responded to his daughter's claims, saying they made him look undignified and insulted Asterix readers. "To be accused by my own daughter, in the pages of the newspaper of reference, of being an old man, manipulated and deluded in his insatiable greed by the gnomes of finance, is already quite undignified," he said in a statement to the French press. "What has been given away is nothing more than shares in a publishing company, Editions Albert-René, that I set up in 1979. The accusation made against me is not only inspired by the appetite for power, it also aims to insult Asterix readers by confusing my abilities as an author with that of a publishing house shareholder."

More about the Newbery Medal winner:

The Graveyard Book’ Wins Newbery Medal
By MOTOKO RICH writing in the New York Times, January 26, 2009

Neil Gaiman, a renowned author of science fiction, fantasy, graphic novels and comics aimed at adults, won the John Newbery Medal for the year’s most outstanding contribution to children’s literature on Monday.
Beth Krommeswon the Caldecott Medal for her art in “The House in the Night,” below, by Susan Marie Swanson.

Mr. Gaiman, 48, won for “The Graveyard Book,” a story about a boy who is raised in a cemetery by ghosts after his family is killed in the opening pages of the novel. In announcing the winner of what is widely considered the most prestigious honor in children’s literature, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, cited Mr. Gaiman’s work for its “delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing,” noting its “magical, haunting prose.”
The association, which conferred the medal at its midwinter meeting in Denver, also awarded the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children to Beth Krommes, who illustrated “The House in the Night,” a book written by Susan Marie Swanson.
Speaking by telephone from Los Angeles, where he had been doing press interviews for the forthcoming film adaptation of his first children’s novel, “Coraline,” Mr. Gaiman said he was stunned by the award, partly because the book had already found a popular audience.
The Graveyard Book,” published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, has spent 15 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list for children’s chapter books.

I had thought that’s nice, there are books that are best sellers and books that are winners,” Mr. Gaiman said. “Very often, the world of award judges, and I think rightly, use their magical judging powers to try to bring books to the attention of the world that might not have otherwise been noticed.”
The selection of Mr. Gaiman’s book, which has already sold 71,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales, would seem to reverse a trend of the past few years when critics accused the Newbery committee of selecting books that had a tough time finding an audience among children.
And link here for The Guardian coverage.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Centre for New Zealand Studies
Birkbeck, University of London

Session 77
Wednesday 28 January 2009
Centre for New Zealand Studies,
Rm. 330, North Block, Senate House,Malet St.,
London WC16.30-8.00

Looking at Ourselves: New Zealand Painted Portraits, 1930-1970 Richard Wolfe, author of more than 25 books including Kiwi: More than a Bird, All Our Own Work: New Zealand Folk Art, In My Day: Looking at New Zealand's Past, The Way We Wore: The Clothes New Zealanders Have Loved, and Moa: The Dramatic Story of the Discovery of a Giant Bird.

Richard will be presenting from his new book New Zealand Portraits.

Leading Academic Convenes Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2009
A senior academic will lead the judging panel in the country’s most prestigious book awards this year.

Mark Williams, author and professor of English at Victoria University will judge the 2009 Montana New Zealand Book Awards together with award-winning writer, reviewer and editor, Jane Westaway and literary critic, journalist and editor, Margo White.

This year’s judging panel say the field is rich with established and new writers and there is an especially large number of beautifully produced books to consider.
‘With around 215 books to read and 15 separate prizes to award, we have full reading schedules. We are advised by experts in each of the eight main categories: fiction, poetry, history, biography, reference and anthology, lifestyle and contemporary culture, illustrative, and environment…The judges’ responsibilities are collective and we shall all read and, together with our advisors, debate our judgments across the whole range of books submitted,’ says convenor, Mark Williams.

Professor Mark Williams has previously taught at the University of Tokyo and University of Canterbury. His publications on New Zealand and modern literature include Leaving the Highway: Six Contemporary New Zealand Novelists (Auckland University Press, 1990), Patrick White (Macmillan, 1993), and, with Jane Stafford, Māoriland: New Zealand Literature 1872-1914 (Victoria University Press, 2006). He has edited or co-edited numerous anthologies and collections and is on the editorial boards of several international literary journals.

Jane Westaway’s book, Reliable Friendly Girls (Longacre, 1996) won Best First Book at the 1997 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Love and Other Excuses (Longacre, 1999) was shortlisted for the same awards in 2000, and the novel, Good at Geography also appeared that year. She co-edited the anthology, It Looks Better on You - New Zealand Women Writers on Their Friendships (Longacre, 2003) and co-wrote Accusation - A Wife's Story (Longacre, 2005). She reviews for Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon, and is co-editor of the review quarterly New Zealand Books. She lives in Wellington, and teaches judgment writing in New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Margo White has worked on several magazines, including the NZ Listener, where she first worked as a feature writer before becoming the magazine’s Arts and Books Editor, and Metro magazine, where she was Senior Writer and Books Editor. She is currently the deputy editor of New Zealand Geographic and also writes in a freelance capacity for a range of publications. She lives in Auckland.

The 2009 Montana New Zealand Book Awards category advisors are:
· Fiction: Tina Shaw is a novelist, short story writer, editor and reviewer
· Poetry: Bernadette Hall is an award-winning poet, essayist, editor, reviewer and creative writing tutor.
· Biography: Philip Norman is a freelance composer, author and biography category winner (2007) in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
· Environment: Geoff Chapple is a writer, editor, former Montana New Zealand Book Awards judge and former winner of the award’s environment category.
· Reference and Anthology: Anna Rogers is a freelance book editor and writer.
· History: Tim Beaglehole Emeritus Professor, MA PhD. Chancellor, Victoria University and published writer.
Lifestyle and Contemporary Culture: Charmian Smith is feature writer and food and wine editor at the Otago Daily Times.
· Illustrative: Dr T L Rodney Wilson is recently retired director of the Auckland War Memorial Museum and a former Montana New Zealand Book Awards judge.
· Te Reo Advisor: Hone Apanui is a widely respected Maori linguist, teacher and publisher.

This year’s finalists will be announced on Tuesday, 2 June.
The winners will be announced at a gala dinner held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum on Monday 27 July.
The winner of the poetry category will be announced on Montana Poetry Day, Friday 24 July.
AN ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TASK - five books in eight minutes

This morning on Nine to Noon with Lynn Freeman I had the almost impossible task of picking my five favourite books from last year and I had just eight minutes in which to address them.
I agonised over my selection for days, got to a long short list of seventeen, then ten and finally five. These were my five final choices:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson - Quercus
Ngaio Marsh - Her life in crime - Joanne Drayton - Harper Collins Into the Wider World - Brian Turner - Random House
Urban Village - Jenny Carlyon & Diana Morrow - Random House
Novel About My Wife - Emily Perkins - Bloomsbury

Narrowly missing the cut were Native Wit by Hamish Keith, Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks, Saffron by Peter Gawron, Fish of the Week by Steve Braunias and Forbidden Cities by Paula Morris. But truly there were so many fine books published last year, where do you start, how do you choose? How long is a piece of string?

Who will win the Costa book of the year award tomorrow?
Will it be Diana Athill's delicate memoir Somewhere Towards the End? Or Sebastian Barry's haunting novel The Secret Scripture...

Left - The books on the shortlist of the Costa books awards. Photograph: /PR

It's that time when thoughts turn to comparing apples with pears, cape gooseberries and subspecies of the Arctic tern: the Costa book of the year is announced tomorrow evening at 10.15pm, after the judges have weighed the relative merits of a populist first novel; a narrative poem; a 700-page children's book; a very slender memoir by a nonagenarian publisher; and a highly wrought literary novel by one of Ireland's most respected authors.
So which book should win it? And which book will win it?

Read Charlotte Higgins take on the Awards and her pick of the likely winner on her Guardian blog, link here.
Great review for senior NZ writer in the Sydney Morning Herald, Jan 24, 2009

Trans-Tasman devil after Hemingway's own heart
Reviewed by Peter Pierce

Collected Poems 1951-2006
By C. K. Stead
Auckland University Press, 548 pp, A$69.95

IF WE were able to talk comfortably of an Australasian literature, rather than its Australian and New Zealand sub-branches, then C. K. Stead would be regarded as one of the dominant writers of the past half century.
In common with some of his Australian counterparts, he has been an academic and writer (but asks: "Do good poets / Make bad professors?"), a poet (14 books) and author of fiction (11 novels, two books of stories and counting). As a novelist, he has written of the Maori Wars, Katherine Mansfield, the disastrous campaign in Crete in 1941. For 20 years he was professor of English at the University of Auckland, whose press has sumptuously published Stead's Collected Poems 1951-2006.
But on this side of the Tasman, how well known to Australian readers is Christian Karlson (Karl) Stead or any other living New Zealand writer from New Zealand?

A century ago the cultural traffic was decidedly two-way. A long line of Kiwi poets (Douglas Stewart), novelists (Jean Devanny) and editors (David McKee Wright) made their careers in Australia. The Bulletin found its audience in both countries.
Henry Lawson twice lived in what he called "Maoriland", to teach and in search of stories. And this is not yet to mention Anzac. The neglect of New Zealand literature and culture by most Australian critics and readers has been a significant if scantly remarked cultural loss for this country.

In the foreword to this book, and realising how much of a long life is depicted within it, Stead declares that: "I have tried, on the whole, to represent my own history as it occurred, and not to make it look better, or myself wiser, more mature, more adroit than I was at the time."
He confesses himself to have been "obsessed with poetic form throughout". Thus besides using regular forms such as the sonnet, there are concrete poems, bricolage (his verses interspersed with quotations from writers and painters), "versions" of the Roman poet Catullus, long poems that carry a strong narrative line, work through controlled digression, such as Walking Westward (1979).

In the poem A Natural Grace, Stead delivers a credo: "Since all who make are passionate for line /Proportion, strength and take what's near and serves." This pragmatic sense of craft informs his choices of subjects. Many times and places are traversed.
The poet encounters imposing and humble figures from the past - emperors and private soldiers - as well as many cities, from Auckland to Melbourne, London, Washington. As he admits: "Travel is my vice."
You Have A Lot To Lose limpidly restates his poetic principles: "Hard. Bright. Clean. Particular." Prose writer Ernest Hemingway, one of many influences subsumed here, would have endorsed each word in that lapidary line.
Stead's very early verse presents a too strenuous and assertive "I". T. S. Eliot inhibited him then but soon enough Stead would move into confident absorption and imitation, as in the long and funny poem, Yes T. S.

One of the striking features of many of Stead's extended performances is his use of short lines and taut language. Economy of means produces surprisingly expansive effects. Yet he is happy to relax as well into longer lines, as in the sequence Pairs (1984), which begins (as it might be, for all of us): "City so long announced come home to my dreams."
He is perhaps less content when more formal (as he concedes in the enlightening section of notes at the end of the book). Thus Voices (1990), commissioned for the sesquicentenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, has a ceremonial leadenness, although evidently it worked best as radio.
Elsewhere there is a happily unsuppressed, coarse undergraduate humour.

No fan of deconstruction is Stead: "'Academics are Saussure they know everything' / goes the graffito, 'They know Foucault about anything.' "
Stead is persistently engaged by the political world - the fall of Saigon, the anti-Springbok rugby tour demonstrations of 1981, the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour.
Some of the most moving poems are to other poets, for instance to Les Murray on his 60th birthday: "Corporate raider / in the larder / of language", or to Alan Curnow after his death: "As a man he wrote of islands, / talked tides and distances, / and seldom bought his round." Acerbity seasons admiration.

Stead bristles when he hears that a biographer is "wanting" his life: "The world's sure it / knows you better than / you know yourself."
But Stead is a fit subject for critical appreciation at least, a towering talent, cosmopolitan, lucidly intelligent. Few writers on either side of the Tasman have matched Stead's multifaceted achievements.

In May 2005 he suffered a migraine that turned out to be a stroke. There was a poem at the end of it, as jaunty as one would expect: "You're alive, Karlson / you're writing!"
Indeed, he is.

L’affare Café and the New Zealand Book Council present the first in a series of literary readings on 26 February at the L’affare café in Wellington.

Extended Play features four widely published poets reading poems you may never have heard read before. From the dark side, the underside, the B side.

The featured poets are :

Jenny Bornholdt
James Brown
Kate Camp
Bill Manhire

Door sales only.
Entry $10.00 (includes a free drink)
27 College St , Wellington, New Zealand.
Nonsense worth a second glance
Review by Meg Sorensen

SOME picture books arrive like missives from another world; small miracles of perfection that embolden a child to persist in mining the tunnels of their imagination, to find, for themselves, this better place.
Peter Pavey's perfectly formed One Dragon's Dream (Walker Books, A$15.95) is such a book.

First published 30 years ago and a subsequent winner of the Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year, it has languished out of print since 1988, until the good fairies at Walker Books included it in this year's additions to their classic Australian and New Zealand picture book collection.

With subtle changes to the cover and slightly richer colour throughout, here again in full illogical, fastidious detail are all of Pavey's evocations of the dream a dragon has about being beset by turkeys, tigers, frogs, kangaroos, stern storks, slippery seals, elephants and numbats, in incremental numbers up to nine, until a team of 10 turtles tows him home to bed.
For the full review go to the Sydney Morning Herald online.
Andrew Mason R.I.P.
A tribute by Denis Welch.

The 1980s was probably the Listener’s last golden age. At the end of that decade it shrank to its present size, and then it was sold to Wilson & Horton and ceased to be asubsidiary of state broadcasting; now it’s just one of manyhorses in Tony O’Reilly’s global media stable and, given the current state of his finances, it’ll probably be flicked onto a new owner soon.

But the 80s… the magazine lost its monopoly on advance TV program information in 1982 and inexorably the circulation, which had averaged a freakish 380,000 for a while, began to slide. Even so, formost of the rest of the 80s it was around 250,000; andwhat you can’t get over, looking back at old copies, is how big the magazine was—A3 size, no less.

Everything in it was literally writ large; photos and cartoons seem enormous by today's standards. There’s a prodigality about it that probably reflects only too well the big-spending ethos of the era.

Trace Hodgson’s stunning political cartoons splatterthe pages like graffiti daubed on the nation’s wall.There was a great flowering of feature-writing too, with writers like Murray McLaughlin, Sue McTagget, BruceAnsley, Helen Paske and Gordon Campbell given seemingly unlimited room to move.

But the true glory of the magazine then was the Books section, which under, first, Vincent O’Sullivan and then Andrew Mason attained an authority unmatched before or since. In the late 80s, as the front ofthe magazine began to lose shape, the Books pages kept theirs—and that was entirely due to Andrew, whose literaryjudgment and exquisite editing eye gave the book reviews unimpeachable integrity. They were never showy or flashy; the layouts were models of restraint.
The sole merit of the reviews lay in their content, which Andrew had supervised down to the last comma. I remember his precisely pencilled sub editing marks on the copy that went to the printer (no screens then). They showed absolute attention to every line of every review—the editing often so deftly done that the writer didn’t even realise how much had been scalpelled out. Sick copy was healed in Andrew’s hands.
Read Denis' full tribute to Andrew Mason on his blog Opposable thumb.
James Ashton writing in the Sunday Times

Twelve years into her reign as chief executive of Pearson, Dame Marjorie Scardino can celebrate her 62nd birthday today safe in the knowledge that shareholders can now see how she has transformed the business.

There are even signs that what was once a muddled conglomerate has enough grit to trade its way successfully through a recession - albeit aided by favourable currency fluctuations.
Pearson, which marks school tests, produces learning materials and publishes the Financial Times and Penguin Books, serves as a reminder that the weak pound does not have to harm all British businesses. The group generates 60% of its sales in American dollars.
On top of a lower tax rate, the swing from an average exchange rate of $2 to the pound in 2007 to $1.44 at the 2008 year-end added 2p a share to annual earnings forecasts. The other 4p, which raised expectations from 50p to 56p a share after last week’s trading statement, can be put down to a stronger performance in American higher education and Pearson’s international arm.
Read the full piece at the Sunday Times online.

Nick Hornby & Kate Mosse New Hosts for Waterstone's Writer's Table

Nick Hornby, author of Fever Pitch and High Fidelity, and Kate Mosse, Orange Prize co-founder author of Labyrinth will host Waterstone's Writer's Table in 2009.

Launched in 2008, The Writer's Table allows its curators to reveal some of the books and authors that have shaped and influenced their writing.

"Our two Writer's Tables in 2008, with Sebastian Faulks and Philip Pullman, caught everyone's imagination and gave a real insight into what influences and inspires writers, and so we are very pleased to be continuing the Writer's Table into 2009, " said Toby Bourne, head of fiction at Waterstone's.
"We are extremely excited that Nick and Kate have agreed to choose the titles for their own Writer's Tables. We're looking forward to discovering an eclectic and thought-provoking selection of books from two of the nation's, and Waterstone's, favourite writers."
2009 Newbery Medal and Honors

2009 Newbery Medal: Neil Gaiman, author of “The Graveyard Book,” illustrated by Dave McKean
The book is published by HarperCollins Children’s Books.Four Newbery Honor Books were named:

2009 Newbery Honor Book: “The Underneath” by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small
The book is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Newbery Honor Book: “The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom” by Margarita Engle and published by Henry Holt and Company LLC

Newbery Honor Book: “Savvy” by Ingrid Law
The book published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group in partnership with Walden Media, LLC

Newbery Honor Book:After Tupac & D Foster” by Jacqueline Woodson
The book is published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Books for Young Readers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Battle of Hay-on-Wye
Is the festival ruining Britain's premier town for secondhand books?

Andrew Johnson reports in The Independent , Sunday, 25 January 2009

An uncivil war has broken out in the small but internationally renowned book town of Hay-on-Wye on the Powys-Herefordshire border. Pic - Getty Images.

The booksellers who put the town on the map 30 years ago are angry and fearful at collapsing sales, and are pinning the blame on the festival, which began 25 years ago, on the internet, and now on each other.

The chief culprit, to their minds, is the self-styled King of Hay, Richard Booth, who is credited with starting the whole Hay phenomenon and who used to run one of the town's biggest book dealerships.
Mr Booth, they say, is no longer capable of attracting the publicity the town needs, nor of challenging the festival which, they argue, has become a corporate monster with sponsorship by Sky and The Guardian. They argue it sucks up the thousands of tourists who used to browse in the town's second- hand book emporia but now no longer visit except to park their cars.
In response, the rebels have been condemned as "parasites feeding on [Booth's] success" by his loyal bookkeeper Eve Redway.

The dealers are, however, facing real concerns. Paul Harris, who runs the antiquarian shop Oxford House Books, said some have seen their trade fall by 50 per cent over recent years.
"You can fill a town with books, but that won't bring people to the town," he said. "You need publicity and promotion, which is now all sucked up by the festival. Richard used to be great at drumming up publicity and denouncing the festival. He's not able to do that any more, so we need to set up a council to replace him."
Read the full piece at The Independent online.
When Obama tells a story, we listen

Robert McCrum writing in The Observer, Sunday 25 January 2009

Malia Obama, aged 10, got it in one. "The first African-American president?" she is said to have twitted her father on the eve of the inauguration. "Better be good." It was more than good; it was a thrilling example of America reinventing itself to the world. When President Obama had finished speaking, a new page had been turned and naysayers like crotchety Gore Vidal, who echoes the common complaint that Obama is nothing but rhetoric, all hat and no cattle, had been put in their place.

Hillary Clinton expressed a similar objection during the campaign, trying to paint her opponent as slick but empty. But as Obama's election proves, these critics have missed the point. His rhetoric is not so much about big ideas, expressed in ringing phrases. These were strikingly absent last Tuesday, as if to demonstrate the gravity of the world crisis. No, it is all about storytelling.
Look at Obama's speeches; each tells a simple, compelling story.
The famous keynote address to the 2004 Democratic convention? We might appear divided, red and blue, but we are one country, full of optimism.
The 2007 announcement of his "improbable" candidacy? I'm following in Lincoln's footsteps. You all know what a long-shot contender he was. Watch me, I'm on the right side of history.
The justly celebrated "race speech" of March 2008? I'm disowning Reverend Wright's crazy comments, but I stand by the bitter history that inspired them. There's race anger on both sides of the black-white divide. Who says I'm a lightweight?

People often talk about his books. The Audacity of Hope is really a brilliant cuttings job. His 1995 autobiography Dreams From My Father is the one to look at. It's an American classic, written with grace and precision. More than that, it's wonderfully well constructed - as a story. In college, apparently, Obama had aspirations to write fiction; he has a novelist's sense of narrative. The story he tells is that age-old tale of a young man searching for, and finding, his true self.

Read McCrum's full, thoughtful piece here.
University Press axes 160 staff

A FLAGSHIP Cambridge firm has axed almost 160 jobs.

Workers at Cambridge University Press (CUP) - one of the oldest companies in the city - were told of the huge cuts yesterday.
They branded the decision "immoral" but the company defended its move, saying it had gone through "extremely difficult times" and this would not mean the end of 425 years of printing in Cambridge.
The devastating blow comes after the company announced that revenues have risen 40 per cent in six years.The cuts will see the firm's 170- strong press team at Cambridge Printing Services Ltd reduced to just 37 as it seeks to have books destined for the foreign market - which make up 80 per cent of its sales - printed abroad.

Workers at the press will now be involved in a 90-day consultation.A further 25 jobs will be axed at the Press's UK Education publishing business, which currently has 50 staff.
In the firm's annual report, it claims to have turned operating income losses of almost £7 million in 2001 into profits of £2 million last year.The news of job cuts amid robust sales has been branded a "disgrace" by Amicus, the print workers' union.One worker, who asked not to be named, said: "The whole thing is immoral."
In the company's annual report, out this month, bosses said 2007/8 was a "first-class year for the press with sales reaching £179.5 million" and "another year of market-leading growth, at 11.8 per cent".
Speaking yesterday (Wednesday, 21 January), chief executive Stephen Bourne said: "We know that this is an incredibly difficult time for those staff that are affected and we will be doing all we can to support them through these changes."
Read Raymond Brown's full story here.
And OUP US axes 60 positions. Read PW story here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

‘Mad’ Women and Political Murder –
£50, 000 Warwick Prize for Writing announces first ever shortlist

• Diverse shortlist sees six different genres compete for £50, 000 prize
• Scientist and music critic vie with novelist and political journalists

The Warwick Prize for Writing has announced its first ever shortlist. The unique prize, open to all genres and nationalities, reveals an eclectic shortlist of six international titles.
The £50, 000 inaugural prize, run and entirely funded by the University of Warwick, stands out as an international cross-disciplinary biennial award open to substantial pieces of writing in the English language, in any genre or form.

This year’s prize theme of ‘complexity’ is interpreted differently by all six shortlisted writers, all experts in their diverse fields. Themes range from global political corruption, female psychology, 20th century music, scientific theories on religion to a Spanish literary fiction puzzle.

The six shortlisted titles chosen from a longlist of 20 are:

Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800
Lisa Appignanesi Virago Non-Fiction

The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed Bishop Gerardi?
Francisco Goldman Atlantic Books Non-Fiction

Reinventing the Sacred Stuart A Kauffman Perseus
- Basic Books - Non-Fiction

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Naomi Klein Penguin Non-Fiction

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century Alex Ross 4th Estate,
Harper Collins Non-Fiction

Montano's Malady
Enrique Vila-Matas (translator: Jonathan Dunne)
New Directions Fiction

Chair judge China Miéville comments: 'Working through a longlist of such quality and variety, selecting a few excellent books from so many, has been exactly the kind of agonised pleasure you'd think. Every one of the titles on this shortlist is here because all the judges agreed that it is doing something new, doing something complex, and doing them brilliantly.'

The judging panel includes journalist Maya Jaggi; novelist, translator and academic Maureen Freely; Britain’s first book blogger Stephen Mitchelmore and University of Warwick mathematician Professor Ian Stewart.

The winner will be announced on 24 February 2009 at the University of Warwick.
To find out more visit

Friday, January 23, 2009

Barack Obama Sells Out
Thursday 22 Jan 2009


ARCADIA BOOKS is delighted to announce that its first UK printing of Anthony Painter's BARACK OBAMA: THE MOVEMENT FOR CHANGE (10,000 copies) has sold out the day after the Inauguration, with a further 500+ dues recorded today.
A further 10,000 copies of the book were printed in Australia, for the Aus/NZ market, and the book is performing very well there also.
A UK reprint is in hand, and the Italian edition follows next week, to be closely followed by the Japanese edition.

In the past week, Anthony Painter has done 25 TV and radio interviews, as well as a number of UK author events, which are ongoing.
Yesterday, in Westminster, he gave a talk to about 250 research assistants to Labour MPs - astonishingly young - and a sprinkling of Labour MPs, including the ever-youthful Ben Bradshaw MP, after Obama's inaugural speech.

Press Release from Arcadia Books.
Author Salman Rushdie reflects on his work, legacy and the death decree
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Associated Press, from The Plain Dealer, Cleveland Ohio.

New York - Nearly 20 years after being driven underground by a religious decree, he is now Sir Salman Rushdie, properly famous and free, yet still burdened by his status as a symbol of persecution.
"This is the albatross around my neck," the novelist said Sunday during a conversation with author-activist Irshad Manji at the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
The 61-year-old Rushdie said he would rather be known as an artist than as a social critic and worries the attacks against his religious satire, "The Satanic Verses," have obscured "the real person that I am and the actual value of the books."
The full story at The Plain Dealer.