Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bad Sex Award: Irish author Rowan Somerville beats off others

Rowan Somerville,left, the Irish author, has narrowly beaten the former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell to win this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
By Heidi Blake , The Telegraph 30 Nov 2010

Somerville was crowned overall winner of the prize, which celebrates crude or outlandish sexual passages in modern literature, for his second novel, The Shape of Her.

He also beat the American novelist Jonathan Franzen, who was nominated for Freedom, and the Austrialian author Christos Tsiolkas, whose novel The Slap was long-listed for this year’s Man Booker Prize.

The judges said they were particularly taken with Somerville’s sentence: “Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.”
Other amorous passages in The Shape of Her contained a female body part “upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing the night” and described how one character “twisted onto her belly like a fish flipping itself”.

The Irish author was presented with the 18th annual Bad Sex award by Michael Winner, the film director, at a lavish ceremony in London last night.

Full story at The Telegraph.

Unity Books Christmas Newsletter

Unity Books has just published their epic Christmas/holiday newsletter which they say is "remodelled to look like the best parts of the rest of our shop, it’s full of beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent, strange and wonderful books". You can check it out by clicking on this NEWSLETTER link and from there you can purchase your books online.

Quaky Cat - Final cover revealed

Quaky Cat

by Diana Noonan/Gavin Bishop
Scholastic - $19.50

A very special book created in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquake, with proceeds going to help the recovery of the people affected.

New Zealand may have been the first to use Mondayitis but the Aussies gave rise to the sickie



• 600,000 words … 3 million quotations … More than 1000 years of the English language

• New pathways through the story of English shed light on the evolution of the language

• First ever online publication of the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, fully integrated into OED Online

The first evidence for Mondayitis – a reluctance to start the working week - was found in a New Zealand Dictionary published in 1979, according to the Oxford English Dictionary which is relaunched online today, Tuesday 30 November 2010. However, the Australians got in earlier with the sickie, with references to its use as early as 1953.
he OED Online contains 1386 words with a lexicographical link to New Zealand, including 282 with Maori as the language of origin.

• The OED Online comes down on the side of New Zealand with regard to the origin of Pavlova, stating that the first recorded use was in 1927 in Davis Dainty Dishes, a publication by Davis Gelatine (NZ).

• Other interesting words recorded in the OED Online with New Zealand origin: scroggin (1944), half-pie (1926), puckeroo (1844), plutie (1952), and of course Pakeha (1817).

The Oxford English Dictionary is the only English dictionary that aims to trace the first known use of every sense of every word in the English language. Published by Oxford University Press, the OED has been the definitive record of the language since it was first published in 1884.

Ten years after it first appeared online, the OED Online’s new site will give readers full electronic access to the Historical Thesaurus of the OED – the first comprehensive historical thesaurus ever produced for any language, which shows words grouped according to meaning throughout the huge and varied vocabulary of English. Readers can take a journey of discovery from their first click through textual, visual and graphical links, and enhance their own understanding of the English language across the globe.

The relaunched OED Online will also give readers unparalleled access to the hundreds of thousands of revisions the OED lexicographers have made to the Dictionary over the last decade.

Searching the new OED Online also reveals:
Different ways of popping the question:

If Prince William had been asking Kate Middleton to marry him three hundred years ago, he might well have asked her (in a colloquial moment) to “join giblets” with him.
Alternatively he might have suggested that they “buckle”, a word used by the poet, John Dryden, in 1693, meaning to unite oneself in wedlock.

And if people had been looking for clues for the date for the Royal wedding, then they could have checked one of the OED Online’s many sources, the author JG Lockhart who, in 1823, declared that “May… is the only month that nobody in the north country ever thinks of buckling in”.

And since the answer was yes to being “buckled”, then no doubt Kate Middleton is feeling happy or “eadi” (from 825), “seely” (1272) or “roseate” (1787).

The new search facilities in the OED Online will lead you to:

The origins of the English language which demonstrates that, sometimes, all is not quite as it seems:

• Search for recession and you’ll find it first appears in 1606 when it was used to describe “a temporary suspension of work or activity”; in 1614 there are references to it meaning “a desertion of party principles”.

A second definition, “the action of ceding back; a territory that has been ceded back” appears in 1832, but it is not until 1903 that a newspaper refers to a recession in an economic context.

The many languages that have helped to shape English:

• From apathy to zest, many thousands of French words have been absorbed into the English language. Newly published in December are fully revised entries for many major words of French origin, including action, animal, class, crime, intelligence, society, and universe

• From abseil to zeitgeist – more than 3000 English words originated in modern German. In the letter A alone you’ll find allergy, ambivalence, angst, antibody, and aspirin

• anorak and muktuk (the skin and outer blubber of a whale) from the Eskimo Inuit language

• kipper – from Dharuk, an Australian Aboriginal language, meaning a young man

• From aikido to zen and from zaitech back to anime, the Japanese language has contributed hundreds of words to English: among them, bonsai, futon, karaoke, manga, reiki, Sudoku, and sushi

The influence of the famous and infamous on the English language:

There are thousands of people whose names have entered the English language, such as Alexander (the great or the technique). Thatcherite appeared three years before the Conservative General Election victory in 1979, and the first recorded use of Blairite is from 1993, four years before he became Prime Minister.

Insults over the centuries:

The 18th century saw around 150 new derogatory words introduced into the language (such as bean eater, brattery, namby-pamby, and Frenchy); that more than doubled in the 19th century (bint, cantabank, geek, meathead, and nincompoopiana) only to be exceeded between 1900 and 1999 with 440 derogatory phrases, from arty farty, batty and bean counter to scroddy, shoegazer and spod.

Other new features in the OED Online include:

• Timelines which show the first appearances of words and meanings over 1,000 years. Readers can browse timelines to see peaks and troughs of word formation through history – when words have arrived from other cultures, for example, or developed in a subject area such as law, science, or the military. Or they can turn any list of OED search results into their own timeline at the click of a button

• ‘About this entry’ pages which give all kinds of background information and links, including word-timelines which chart the rise and fall of words. Over their lifetimes the fortunes of words can vary through association with significant scientific or social change. The OED’s entry for digital, for example, shows that, despite being considered a seemingly modern term, the word itself has a 600-year history dating back to the fifteenth century

• The advanced search features allow visitors to understand how language has developed through time. You can search or sift through results in many ways, including by:

• date, to see when words entered the English language. There are over 450 words celebrating their centenary this year, for which first use has been traced back to 1910, including seemingly modern terminology such as ‘cheerio’, ‘klaxon’ and ‘keystroke’

• geographical region, to see where words originate or have particular meanings

• usage, to find words are used in slang, colloquial, derogatory, humorous or other ways

• subject, from Accounting to Zoology – via Sport, where ‘sledging’ (abusing batsmen to put them off) has been prevalent in Australian cricket slang since at least 1977

• Free features and articles on English updated and added monthly from writers and scholars, on subjects including this month the rise of global English; genes and genetics: the language of scientific discovery; and the scandal-strewn history of –gate after Watergate. Also on the public pages of the OED Online, words of the day and news

• Links through to the award-winning Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, other Oxford Dictionaries and further scholarly resources

John Simpson, Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, comments,
“With the relaunched site, the OED Online is no longer a resource you approach just for information about a word. Through intensive research in both past and present-day usage we are rewriting the story of our constantly changing language. Now the interweaving of the Historical Thesaurus of the OED and other linking features, as well as the ongoing revisions made by OED lexicographers, ensure that readers can take a journey through the language – from their first point of contact on through textual, visual, or graphical links which all help to illuminate our understanding of the language, culture, and history of English speakers around the world.”

Subscription rates.
The University of Auckland/Creative New Zealand Writer-in-Residence
at the Michael King Writers’ Centre 2011

The Michael King Writers’ Centre and The University of Auckland are calling for applications for a joint six-month writer’s residency in 2011.

The residency will take place between July and December, during the University’s second semester. A stipend of $30,000 will be paid.
The residency, which is offered with the support of Creative New Zealand, aims to foster New Zealand writing by providing an opportunity for an established author to work full-time on a major project in an academic environment, together with free accommodation and a studio working space at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Devonport, Auckland.

The appointed writer will be based at the Michael King Writers’ Centre and spend two days each week at the English Department at The University of Auckland. The writer would be expected to take part in literary activities at the university and in the cultural life of the local community.

The residency will be available from 12 July 2011 and the writer will be required to be available for the start of the university’s second semester on 18 July 2011.
The deadline for applications is Tuesday 7 December 2010 and the selection will be made by 20 December.

How to apply
Applicants should complete the application form available from the centre or on its website www.writerscentre.org.nz under the section Writers in Residence.
Applications may be sent by post or email to:
the Manager
Michael King Writers’ Centre
PO Box 32-629
Auckland 0744
Email: administrator@writerscentre.org.nz
Ph: 09 445 8451

The £50, 000 Warwick Prize for Writing Announces colourful longlist

• International fiction and non-fiction titles battle to win £50,000 prize

• Professors and scientists compete against six novelists and two poets

The Warwick Prize for Writing, a unique prize launched in 2009, today announces a longlist which includes anthropologists and chemists challenging novelists and poets for the coveted prize of £50,000.

This biennial prize, run by the University of Warwick, stands out as an international cross-disciplinary award open to substantial pieces of writing in the English language, in any genre or form. The theme for the 2011 prize is ‘Colour’.

The eleven longlisted titles comprise six non-fiction, three fiction and two poetry books. From ancient Rome and apartheid South Africa to the aftermath of civil war in Sierra Leone and the cultural history of London, the entries highlight the prize’s diversity and international scope.

Nominees include a 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature winner (Derek Walcott), a Samuel Johnson Prize runner-up (Aminatta Forna) and a winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (Iain Sinclair).

Encompassing a comprehensive list of titles, the fiction submissions include Shades of Grey, British novelist Jasper Fforde’s depiction of a faintly recognisable, post-apocalyptic Britain and The Wasted Vigil, Nadeem Aslam’s lyrically written novel about contemporary Afghanistan and its recent conflicts. Non-fiction works range from Canadian poet Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip, through Australian-born anthropologist Michael Taussig’s What Color is the Sacred? to historian Peter D. MacDonald’s The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences.

The judging panel for the prize is chaired by Michael Rosen, broadcaster, children's novelist, poet and the author of 140 books. He is joined on the panel by The Times Literary Editor Erica Wagner; Crossbench peer Lola Young; Author and Editorial Director of Chatto & Windus Jenny Uglow and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick Professor Nigel Thrift.

Michael Rosen comments: "This is a wide-ranging, fascinating list of books covering the genres of poetry, non-fiction and fiction with a hybrid or two thrown in all of which can be viewed through the lens of the word 'colour'. This makes the Warwick Prize unique in the world of literary prizes in that inevitably the award is not directly about, say, good stories or original research but about that intangible quality: great writing. Looking across this list, we have a group of top-notch contenders. And that's the challenge for us!”

A shortlist of six titles will be announced early in 2011 and the winner will be announced in London on 22 March 2011.

To find out more visit www.warwick.ac.uk/go/prizeforwriting

The longlist of eleven titles is as follows:

The Wasted Vigil Nadeem Aslam Faber & Faber Fiction

Color and Meaning in Ancient Rome Mark Bradley Cambridge University Press Non-fiction

Shades of Grey Jasper Fforde Hodder & Stoughton Fiction

Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage Peter Forbes Yale University Press Non-fiction

The Memory of Love Aminatta Forna Bloomsbury Fiction

The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences Peter D MacDonald Oxford University Press Non-fiction

Molotov’s Magic Lantern Rachel Polonsky Faber & Faber Non-fiction

Magenta Soul Whip Lisa Robertson Coach House Books Poetry

Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire Iain Sinclair Hamish Hamilton Non-fiction

What Colour is the Sacred? Michael Taussig Chicago Non-fiction

White Egrets Derek Walcott Faber & Faber Poetry

Rachael King talks to Kelly Ana Morey

Read this interesting conversation between two "lady novelists" on Rachael's blog.
Kelly Ana, right, Rachael, left, Rachael's photo by Sharon Blance.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

Now a major film the cover says and it is to be released NZ-wide on Boxing Day. Last evening though I was privileged to be among a number of Allen & Unwin's book trade guests who were treated to a preview of the movie at Newmarket's classy Rialto complex. I can tell you that it is every bit as entertaining as the previous two films, and again is absolutely true to the book. The superb casting I have enthused about before but every aspect of this film is outstanding -  the dialogue, the acting, the cinematography. This is Swedish movie-making at its very best and I can't help but wonder and worry about what Hollywood might do to Stieg Larrson's phenomenally successful Millenium trilogy when they start making their movie versions next year.
Don't miss this movie, and of course if you are one of the few people left in the world who haven't yet read the books then treat yourself to some outstanding holiday reading.

Tuesday Poem: Brian Turner and the stuff of grief

Award-winning NZ Poet Brian Turner is at the Tuesday Poem hub this week with his poem Fisherman.
It is selected by Emma McCleary of NZ Booksellers who writes of the grief Turner so economically and movingly describes - hers and the families of the Pike River Miners.
And there are many more poems besides in the live blog roll including a mining poem on Catherine Fitchett's blog, and poems by Michele Amas on losing adult parents, Janis Freegard on not doing the housework and John Keats in a post entitled 'Foot Fetish'.
More poems as the day winds on.

New children's book list Nosy Crow to launch in Australia and New Zealand

29 November 2010

Allen & Unwin is delighted to announce it has been appointed as the representative/distributor for Nosy Crow print books in Australia and New Zealand.

Allen & Unwin represents several other UK publishers in Australia and New Zealand, including Bloomsbury, Faber, Atlantic and others.

Nosy Crow is a new, independent publisher, publishing children’s books and children’s apps for iPads, iPhones and similar devices. Nosy Crow’s first books will be published in the UK in January 2011, and in May in Australia
and New Zealand.

Kate Wilson, MD of Nosy Crow, says:
“We’ve taken our time to investigate our options carefully. Though I hadn’t had any experience of working with Allen & Unwin before, their excellent reputation preceded them, and I feel very proud that they chose to include
Nosy Crow in their portfolio of clients. In all these things - and particularly for Nosy Crow given our scale and culture – a sense of affinity is important: I felt confident that everyone I met at Allen & Unwin understood Nosy Crow and our goals.”


Wendyl Nissen heads south

A High Tea with Wendyl Nissen
2.00-4.00pm, Monday 13 December
Warwick House, Nelson

Join Wendyl Nissen for an elegant high tea to celebrate the release of A Home Companion. Wendyl will be speaking and demonstrating her favourite cleaning and beauty recipes.

Tickets $35 (includes goody bag). Available from Page & Blackmore, 254 Trafalgar St, Nelson

T: 548 9992 Email: info@pageandblackmore.co.nz

Tickets are strictly limited, so be in quick. Books will be available for purchase and signing.

An Evening with Wendyl Nissen
6.00-7.00pm Tuesday 14 December
Grace Vineyard church, 114 Seaview Rd, New Brighton

Join Wendyl Nissen to celebrate the release of A Home Companion. Wendyl will be speaking and demonstrating her favourite cleaning and beauty recipes.

Tickets $2 (the ticket price was kept low as possible, due to the recent events in Christchurch). Available from Bin Inn New Brighton, Surfside Mall, 68 Hawke St, New Brighton.

T: 03 388 7214 Email: newbrighton@bininn.co.nz

Door sales available. Books will be available for purchase and signing.

Without libraries, we will lose a mark of our civilisation

250 libraries are earmarked to be closed, yet the government ignores this huge loss to the community

Catherine Bennett The Observer, Sunday 28 November 2010 

How happy does it make you when you hear your library will be closed to save money? Very happy, because iPads have made it completely redundant? Moderately satisfied, because you prefer Waterstone's and a nice cup of coffee? Or indifferent, because, let's face it, something's got to go and does anyone really still use them?
Soon, Mr Cameron's happiness project may help councils to establish whether libraries do, as philanthropists once believed, have something important to offer communities or whether, as many authorities have concluded, the contribution of this service to general well-being is so negligible as to make it a prime candidate for cuts.

Of course, for the almost 250 libraries already earmarked for closure, their role in the happiness supply chain is probably irrelevant. By the time experts have established that, where the alleviation of ignorance, illiteracy, isolation, helplessness, unemployment, infirmity, boredom, neglect and poverty are concerned, libraries do, after all, offer something culturally irreplaceable, they will be gone. It is becoming clear that Mr Cameron's government will do nothing to protect them.

Instead, in a triumph of decentralisation, the scale of library cuts will depend upon local levels of councillor-philistinism. Or local engagement. In his Hugo Young lecture last week, Nick Clegg objected to the way "opponents of localism brandish the phrase 'postcode lottery' to dramatise differences in provision between areas. But it is not a lottery when decisions about provision are made by people who can be held to democratic account. That is not a postcode lottery – it is a postcode democracy."

Thus, readers in Oxfordshire are to lose almost half their libraries next year, while Cambridgeshire cuts its service by a quarter. In Leeds, where I once spent every Saturday morning in the library, there are democratically accountable plans to axe 20 out of 53, with closures including areas with high unemployment. In North Yorkshire, the council wants to close 24. London is likely to lose one third, with Lewisham going for five out of 12, while all of Hillingdon's survive.

In Gloucestershire, where a scattered population depends heavily on small libraries, the Conservative leader, Mark Hawthorne, has constructed a model of democratic destruction. Rural taxpayers will lose all seven mobile libraries at the same time that the council, using one ruse or another, condemns a further 18 libraries out of the existing 43; this amounts to 43% cuts in libraries, against a general, council target of 28%. One compensation, the council tells residents, will be a "24/7 virtual library service" – a boon to all the regular users who, like huge numbers nationally, rely on libraries and their staff to get online.

Full story at The Observer

And another report, from The Bookseller

12 Ways To Create A Mailing List That Will Sell Books

Book2Book - Friday 26 Nov 2010

The key to a good newsletter list is simple really and the biggest piece of this is you've got to have something useful to say. While your friends and family might enjoy hearing about your latest book signing, people who happened onto your site and subscribed to your ezine might become bored with this information and unsubscribe. If you have a list or are considering starting one, consider these tips to get you going and help you maximize your newsletter.

Huffington Post

Reference Tree to offer e-textbooks by the chapter

The Bookseller - 29.11.10 - Graeme Neill

A new digital service has launched offering students the ability to download reference books by the chapter.

Reference Tree went live today [Monday] in beta and offers titles from the likes of Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Sage, Hodder Education, McGraw Hill and Cambridge University Press. Students are able to annotate and highlight text and the company behind the site is planning to introduce a feature where students can share notes and comments on the text with others. Pricing for the chapters has yet to be confirmed.

Amil Tolia, the founder of the site, said: "Reference Tree enables students to gain access to information in a concise and relevant manner, whilst focussing their spend on exactly the material they need. Having started this business alone, I now have a team of people helping to build and maintain an efficient and resourceful online tool. Our goal is to deliver a "smarter" way of learning."

Rude awakening for the risqué writers

Why do so many great authors struggle with sex scenes? John Walsh looks forward to the award no one wants to win
The Independent,Monday, 29 November 2010

Hot under the collar: 'Freedom' by Jonathan Franzen is on the short list

And they're off. Another surging flood is heading our way, a flood of mixed metaphors, embarrassing similes, bathetic descriptions, throbbing members, secret petals, nipples that resemble musical instruments, tiny cries of rapture, flames licking someone's very core, the distant call of exotic birds, the twitching of orgasmo-seismographs and the image of two bodies splashing helplessly, like mackerel, on the shore of a great ocean...

The Bad Sex in Fiction Award is upon us once more, like an over-insistent erotophile in a billowing black cloak, seizing innocent members of the public in the street, and bellowing brief but pungent tirades of smut in their ears. For 17 years, since Melvyn Bragg won the prize for his sexed-up, anorak-ripping, Cumbrian romance, A Time to Dance, the prize has brought to our startled attention just how difficult it is to write about sex in a work of fiction. Previous winners and shortlistees include distinguished writers such as Norman Mailer, John Updike, Tom Wolfe, Sebastian Faulks, Will Self and Wendy Perriam.

Tonight, a crowd of writers, journalists, media types and sufferers from chronic satyriasis will gather at the In and Out Club in St James's Square, London for the prizegiving, hosted by Alexander Waugh, editor of the Literary Review and son of the prize's founder, Auberon. Mr Waugh, grandson of Evelyn (who was no slouch at inept sex writing himself) will remind the crowd that the prize exists, "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it," and will muse on how successful his discouragement has been over the previous year.

It will be interesting to see who shows up this year. Last year's winner, Jonathan Littell, whose enormous Holocaust novel, The Kindly Ones, was awarded the Prix Goncourt earlier in the year, didn't come. Winners are traditionally expected to show up to receive their prize, or be considered bad sports. Will Alastair Campbell, the feral spin doctor turned novelist, be there? His second novel, Maya – about an A-list film actress – is hotly tipped to win. But he has strong competition from Jonathan Franzen (for a passage in Freedom concerning coprophagy and an eight-inch clitoris,) Christos Tsiolkas, author of the bestseller The Slap (whose erotic style can be conveyed in four words: "They fucked for ages") and Craig Raine, the poet and Oxford don, whose debut novel Heartbreak was published last summer, to mixed and mocking reviews.

Full report at The Independent.
Report from The Guardian.

Athill to edit "Today" programme

The Bookseller - 29.11.10 - Katie Allen

Author and literary editor Diana Athill (pic left, David Levene, The Guardian), is to helm one of BBC Radio 4’s "Today” programmes over the Christmas period.
As is traditional, five celebrities take over a slot during the week between Christmas and New Year.

Nonegarian writer Athill, who won a Costa for her memoir Somewhere Towards the End (Granta), will discuss the subject of faith with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Also in the line-up is actor and campaigner Colin Firth, whose guests will include Dame Edna Everage; artist Sam Taylor-Wood, artist and film-maker Richard Ingrams, and journalist and co-founder of Private Eye Clara Furse.

"Today" editor Ceri Thomas said: "The guest editors have established themselves as firm Christmas favourites on Today and we're delighted with this year's list. They will doubtless bring their own expertise, enthusiasm and new – often surprising – ideas to the editorial process."

Previous guest editors include Zadie Smith, P D James and Stephen Hawking. It was rumoured this week that Katie Price was on the list for this year.

The Shortlist for the 2010 University of Wales Dylan Thomas Prize

This year’s long list was very strong, and we congratulate those who have been selected for the short list as well as all the authors who have been recognised on the long list. The final winner will be announced at the final awards ceremony in Swansea, Wales on December 1st, 2010 at Brangwyn Hall; details regarding this event will be posted shortly.

Caroline Bird, 23 - Watering Can (Carcanet)

Elyse Fenton, 29 - Clamor (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)

Eleanor Catton, 24 - The Rehearsal (Portobello Books)

Emilie Mackie, 27 - And This is True (Sceptre)

Karan Mahajan, 26 - Family Planning (Harper Perennial)

Nadifa Mohamed, 28 - Black Mamba Boy (Harper Collins)

2006 Shortlist
Winner: Rachel Trezise – Fresh Apples

Lucy Caldwell - Where They Were Missed
Ian Holding - Unfeeling
Nick Laird - Utterly Monkey and To a Fault (Two entries)
James Scudamore - The Amnesia Clinic
Liza Ward - Outside Valentine

2008 Shortlist
Winner: Nam Le – The Boat

Caroline Bird, Trouble Came to the Turnip
Ross Raisin, God’s Own Country
Ceridwen Dovey, Blood Kin
Edward Hogan, Blackmoor
Dinaw Mengestu, Children of the Revolution

Book Buzz: Kinney's 'Ugly Truth' beats two presidents

USA Today
By Bob Minzesheimer and Craig Wilson,

The Wimpy Kid balloon made its debut in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The kids' book is No. 1 again, over George W. Bush's memoir at No. 2 and President Obama's first kids' book at No. 14.

All puffed up:The fifth book in Jeff Kinney's popular series for kids, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth, edges George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, for the top spot on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list for the second consecutive week.

If that's not enough, Greg Heffley, the middle-schooler created by Kinney, will appear as a 60-foot-long, 56-foot-tall balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Kinney says he's thrilled by the balloon but adds, "I have no place left to go — but down."
He faces new competition on next week's list from Sarah Palin, whose America by Heart hit stores Tuesday. "Palin is coming," he says, "but she doesn't have a balloon."

TOP 150: Peruse the Best-Selling Books list

President Obama is no stranger to USA TODAY's list. After his 2009 inaugural, his memoir, Dreams From My Father, originally published in 1995, was No. 7; The Audacity of Hope, his 2006 book, was No. 8. Now his children's book, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, illustrated by Loren Long, lands on the list at No. 14.
The 31-page book celebrates the qualities of 13 Americans, from Georgia O'Keeffe to George Washington. Obama is the first president to write a kids' book while in office.
Theodore Roosevelt co-wrote Hero Tales From American History with Henry Cabot Lodge six years before becoming president. Jimmy Carter's The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer, illustrated by his daughter, Amy, was released 14 years after they left the White House.

Monday, November 29, 2010

When a Skinny Singer Crooned to Knock Your Bobby Socks Off

By Stephen Holden

New York Times, November 28, 2010

 In “Frank: The Voice,” James Kaplan’s riveting 786-page biography of Frank Sinatra’s early years, the author pinpoints the moment in 1943 when the crooner’s new publicist, George B. Evans, came up with his first defining sobriquet.

Fourth billed at the Paramount Theater in New York, below Benny Goodman and His Famous Orchestra, and two comedy duos — the Radio Rogues and Moke and Poke — Sinatra’s name was accompanied by a slogan, “The Voice That Has Thrilled Millions.” The creakiness and sexlessness of those words made Evans cringe.

Certain he could come up with something better, Evans closed his eyes and imagined what drove Sinatra’s fans in bobby socks into a frenzy and suddenly realized he didn’t have to add anything. “All he had to do was subtract. Frank was just ... the Voice.”

If “the Voice” was later superseded by “the Chairman of the Board” and “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” it was the only major nickname to focus on the indispensable ingredient of Sinatra’s success. “Chairman” connotes power and “Ol’ Blue Eyes” longevity; “the Voice” evokes the intangible, mystical alchemy of sound, technique and emotion that fused when the skinny young Sinatra murmured tender endearments into a microphone.

The biography offers an almost day-by-day account of Sinatra’s volatile life and times from his difficult birth in 1915 to the evening in 1954 when his comeback from a severe career downturn was secured, and he was handed an Oscar for best supporting actor in “From Here to Eternity.”
Full review at New York Times.

The world-famous-in-Auckland Local Publishers Forum Christmas drinks are being held on Thursday 2 December, 5.30p.m.

 at One 2 One, 121 Ponsonby Road.


Just come along. You’ve earned it!

* * *

$10 entry includes light finger food and your first drink of Christmas cheer.

$15 entry includes the above and 3 × raffle tickets . . . (to win a box of delightful books!)

* * *

ALL WELCOME – editors, designers, publicists, photographers, proofreaders, booksellers, freelancers, manuscript assessors, packagers, publishers, sales reps . . .

To help us plan this event, please RSVP to mail@lpf.org.nz.


Virgin - RRP: $42.99

Hip-hop’s undisputed king’ shares his story, his lyrics and his inspiration.

This is the intimate, first-person chronicle of the life and work of Jay-Z, born Shawn Carter in Brooklyn’s notorious Marcy Projects, now known to many as the greatest rapper alive.  And of course he has been in New Zealand this past week, (with his wife Beyonce), as a support act with U-2.
His resume is remarkable. It includes passing Elvis Presley’s record with 11 No. 1 album, grabbing ten Grammy’s and to date, selling close to 50 million albums.

Told through lyrics, images and personal narrative, Decoded shares the story of Jay-Z’s life through the 10 codes that define him, giving an unparalleled insight into his background, influences and the artistic process that shapes his work. Each chapter features a highly personal narrative section followed by a visually captivating selection of his most famous and provocative lyrics underlining the chapter’s themes, along with Jay-Z’s own ‘decoding’ of each lyric, uncovering the wordplay and stories behind the song.

This is a brilliant insight into the art and poetry of hip-hop, as well as the life of one of the genre’s greatest artists.
When I first started working on this book, I told my editor that I wanted it to do three important things. The first was to make the case that hip-hop lyrics—not just my lyrics, but those of every great MC—are poetry if you look at them closely enough. The second was I wanted the book to tell a little bit of the story of my generation, to show the context for the choices we made at a violent and chaotic crossroads in recent history. And the third piece was that I wanted the book to show how hip-hop created a way to take a very specific and powerful experience and turn it into a story that everyone in the world could feel and relate to.” – JAY-Z

The cover for Decoded, features Andy Warhol’s Rorschach. This beautifully designed, fully-illustrated book decodes 36 songs from JAY-Z’s extensive catalogue to offer an intimate, first-hand account of one of the most prolific artists of our time.

Annabelle White’s Best Recipes

Simple and Easy Favourites
By Annabelle White
Photography by Kieran Scott.
New Holland  - $29.99

Out of print for five years, ‘Annabelle White’s Best Recipes’ is now back by popular demand and has been reissued for Christmas 2010 with a fresh new cover.
Best Recipes is Annabelle White’s first book, and she invites you into her home to share the best recipes she has encountered in her years as a food writer. This beautifully illustrated collection is divided up into chapters relating to different times in the day, starting with breakfast in bed and finishing with supper in the cook’s library. The recipes are simple, no-nonsense, family favourites. There are no over-processed foods or complicated procedures; just great flavours with minimum fuss.

An immediate bestseller when it was first published, Best Recipes has reprinted several times and sold over 30,000 copies. Despite nine other titles under her belt, this, her first book, remains the one Annabelle is most often asked about at her many public appearances and classes around the country.

About the Author:
Annabelle White, our Cuddly Cook, is a popular television cook (TVNZ Breakfast), radio presenter (Easy-Mix, Classic Hits) and long-time food columnist and Food Detective for the Sunday Star-Times. Her other books include Simply the Best, Barbecue Fun, Annabelle White Cooks Healthy and Best-Ever Christmas Cookbook.

New Holland are one of the biggies in NZ when it comes to publishing cookbooks, along with Random House and Penguin, so I asked them for a list of their NZ cookbooks currently in print.

Here it is for your interest:

Annabelle White's Best Recipes - White Annabelle -  $29.99

Baking for Blokes -  Joll Steve -  $29.99

Beach Bach Boat Barbecue 2 -  Oliver Penny & Batchelor - $39.99

Beach Bach Boat Barbecue -  Oliver Penny - $39.99

Best of Alison  - Holst Holst Alison  - $59.99

Coastal Kitchen  - Batchelor Ian -  $39.99

Country New Zealand:a Culinary Journey -  Baker Ian -  $39.99

Dine In  - Newell Adam -  $39.99

Divine Cupcakes: A book of temptation -  Jane Tamara - $29.99

Eat -  McVinnie Ray -  $39.99

Fresh  - Biuso Julie -  $39.99

Hot Nights Cool Days - Biuso Julie  - $39.99

It's My Turn to Cook -  Brooker Margaret - $24.99

Julie Biuso's Never-ending Summer -  Biuso Julie -  $45.00

Julie Biuso Trilogy - slipcase -  Biuso Julie $59.99

Kai Time: Tasty Modern Maori Food -  Peeti Peter -  $34.99

New Zealand Cooks Dictionary -  Haddad Sara & Greig Denis -  $34.99

Party Cakes for Kiwi Kids - Hislop A & Ross L -  $24.99

Real Fresh Food: Healthy meals for busy people - Wilde Anna & Roger $39.99

Savour -  Zecchini Alessandra & Cat - $34.99

Scent of the Monsoon Winds -  Haines M & Blanchard J - $49.99

Shop Local, Eat Well  - Hawkins K/Faire Laura -  $29.99

Sizzle: Sensational Barbecue Food -  Biuso Julie & McLean Aaron  -$39.99

Take a Vine-Ripened Tomato -  Biuso Julie - $39.99

Very Easy Vegetarian -  Holst Alison & Simon - $29.99

Viva l'italia -  Biuso Julie -  $39.99

World Kitchen: Bringing great chicken recipes back home to New Zealand Wickes Nici -  $39.99

Success: Publishers in a class of their own

Making teachers' lives easier is the mantra for Invercargill company.
By Yoke Har lee  26 November, 2010 - New Zealand Herald
Even in the beginning, says Nicola Smith, she and her partner had no doubts that they could achieve their goals. know you have a grip on the market when customers ring you before your next product is out.
The managing director of educational publisher Essential Resources, fondly recalls the first intimation of success.
"We were publishing our No Nonsense Number learning resources for young children in stages. By the time we got to Stage Six, we had teachers who would ring for the book because they couldn't go on without our resource - that was an incredible high for us, people ... waiting for us to publish."

The No Nonsense Number resource series remain one of the company's most popular products.

Smith started the Invercargill-based company more than 10 years ago in the laundry room of her family home, with business partner Geraldine Sloan. Today it is a multi-million dollar publishing business with a strong presence in New Zealand and an expanding Australian and global toehold.
"We literally live, eat, breathe, sleep and dream about making teachers' working lives easier," Smith says.

The company uses some 85 authors to help produce its string of publications, which cover topics including science, maths, English, social studies, health, information technology and resources to teach the gifted.

Smith confesses that her bossy attitude and business savvy, coupled with Sloan's illustration talent, has made them a great combination. "Geraldine is an incredibly talented illustrator. That's why our books are so attractive. She is happy to put up with me. We are also surrounded by a brilliant team of designers whom we have complete faith in."
Full story at New Zealand Herald.

Margaret Atwood interview: 'Go three days without water and you don't have any human rights. Why? Because you're dead'

With almost 50 books to her name, the formidably intelligent Margaret Atwood is a force to be reckoned with. But one year on from the Copenhagen Summit, not even her dark imagination could have predicted the bleak situation the world now faces. Here, she talks about cowardly politicians, her love of birds and why she's joined the Twitterati

  • The Observer,

  • 'I don't like being an icon': Margaret Atwood at the Royal Over-Seas League in London earlier this month. Photograph: Henry Bourne for the Observer

    It's 25 years since the publication of The Handmaid's Tale, her dystopic masterpiece, but Margaret Atwood firmly resists the suggestion that she might be an icon of Canadian literature. "What does that mean?" she counters in her distinctive prairie monotone, somewhere between a drone and a drawl. "I don't like being an icon." A thin ironic smile. "It invites iconoclasm. Canada is a balloon-puncturing country. You are not really allowed to be an icon unless you also make an idiot of yourself."

    Now no one has ever dared suggest that Margaret Atwood, a famously scary and prodigiously gifted Canadian intellectual with nearly 50 books to her name – poetry, fiction, critical essays, books for children, radio and film scripts, anthologies and collections of short stories – would ever willingly make an idiot of herself in public. But here's the big surprise: lately she's become game for a laugh. "If you want to see me make an idiot of myself in public," she goes on in that inimitably dry timbre, "you can look it up. Margaret Atwood + goalie + Rick Mercer."

    It turns out Mercer is an entertainer who performed this national service when he insisted that the author of The Edible Woman, Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin (which won the Booker Prize in 2000) should get kitted up as an ice-hockey goalie for television in an item entitled "How to Stop a Puck". At first Ms Atwood demurred. No, said Mercer. You've got to be a goalie. Why, she asked. Because it will be funny, he said. Repeating this story against herself, Atwood whispers an aside: "He's from Newfoundland", as if this explains everything.

    Mercer was right. It is funny. Not hilarious, but weird. And here's the kicker, which seems to give Atwood a surprising amount of satisfaction. "So I was a goalie," she concludes. "And it went viral on the internet." Cyberspace, it seems, is where she is most at home these days.

    A long time ago, in fact less than a year – "but time goes all stretchy in the Twittersphere, just as it does in those folk songs in which the hero spends a night with the queen of the faeries and then returns to find that 100 years have passed and all his friends are dead" – Atwood was advised by the people who were building the website to promote her new novel, The Year of the Flood (2009), that it should include a Twitterfeed. "'A what?' I said, innocent as an egg unboiled. Should I know of Twitter? I thought it was for kiddies."

    She can come across as humourless and severe, but I think her deadpan manner is just the shell with which she protects her fierce, inquisitive intelligence. "So I plunged in and set up a Twitter account." Her first problem was that there were already two Margaret Atwoods, one of them with her picture. Eventually these impostors "disappeared". She's the kind of woman who you imagine generally gets her own way like that.

    Next she was told she should collect "followers". No problem. There's something contagious about Atwood's imagination: her tweets went viral, too. A few months back she had 33,500 followers. Now she has 97,500, a community of literati, techno geeks, greens, gawkers and thrill seekers, ie pretty much anyone who might pick up an Atwood novel. "There's a whole world out there of which we know nothing," she says. If ever there was an incitement to her imagination, it is the mystery of the world wide web. "You could not make it up," she concludes.
    McCrum's full pice at The Observer.

    Writing Past Each Other? Literary translation conference, Wellington 11-13 December

    Poetry, Robert Frost is supposed to have claimed, is what gets lost in translation.
    If translators of literature took that for gospel, they would walk away for good from their computers, dictionaries and pens. Instead, they confront the challenges, determined to bring interesting writing to new audiences who deserve to know the wider horizons of world literature.

    In a southern hemisphere first, nearly one hundred literary translators will meet in Wellington, NZ from December 11-13. A stunning line-up of keynote speakers leads the way, all of them practising translators: acclaimed Brazilian poet Paulo Britto; possibly the world’s most quoted theorist Lawrence Venuti; and postcolonial and cultural studies superstar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Poetry translation discussions, workshops and readings sit alongside presentations covering over 20 languages and national literatures.

    Underlying it all, one central question: how does what we translate, and the way we choose to translate, build literary communities? What do we learn when we read translated literature from other cultures? What is the translator’s role in interpreting these cultures? Because it’s not just a matter of trading word for word: every choice a translator makes shapes the final text in a particular way, different from the choices someone else might make.

    Full information and programme available at


    Herald on Sunday, 29 November, 2010

    Julie Le Clerc is a cook, food writer, stylist and photographer.

    The book I love most is...Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
    The images in this exquisitely written novel are profound. Fragments of the multi-layered narrative have lingered in my mind for many years now. This compelling story, so carefully told, serves to remind me to never take life for granted.

    The book I'm reading right now is... People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. This is a fascinating story of a book conservator responsible for restoring the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the oldest surviving Jewish illuminated texts. Even though it’s a work of fiction, the author has meticulously researched the text’s true history and weaves detailed facts cleverly throughout.

    The book I want to read next is... The Road from Damascus by Scott C. Davis. The story of one man’s remarkable travels through Syria and the people he meets along the way. Having discovered my long-lost relatives on a trip to Syria in June of this year, I’m now keen to read as much as possible about this part of the world, as it’s my ancestral homeland.

    The book that changed me is... The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher. A great read for food lovers and Francophiles, of which I’m both - this is Fisher's personal and often witty account of the food and travel experiences that shaped her into one of the most noted food writers of the 20th century. This is not a standard biography but a literary sketchbook of vignettes, combining memoir with culinary musings, astute research and fascinating food trivia. An experienced cook and eater, Fisher wrote with unabashed honesty and a mischievous appetite for life. She had an incisive sense of prose. Her descriptions of food and eating experiences are so artful and vivid that I felt my perspective altered when I first read this book.

    The book I wish I'd never read is..... I haven’t read a book I wish I’d never read, yet. Mostly because, if I’m not liking a book then I give up on it and put it aside. And I tend to avoid books I know I’d hate (like murder stories and thrillers).

    Julie Le Clerc’s latest book Made By Hand (Penguin) is out now.

    Mary Ann In Autumn: A Tales of the City Novel

    By Armistead Maupin
    Random House, $38.99
    Reviewed by Nicky Pellegrino

    Way back in the 1980s I was addicted to Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City novels. The soapy goings-on at number 28 Barbery Lane, San Francisco distilled an era: a memorable time when a free-wheeling gay lifestyle was brought up short by HIV.

    Maupin’s characters: naïve Mary Ann Singleton, sweet, gay boy Michael Tolliver and their eccentric landlady Anna Madrigal felt like friends. But like the rest of us they’ve grown older and so I opened Mary Ann In Autumn rather reluctantly to meet them again, knowing they’d be grey, creaky and perhaps looking back on life rather than forward.

    I didn’t expect to enjoy this eighth book in the series and yet – like tracking down an old boyfriend on Facebook – couldn’t resist finding out what had happened to the characters I remembered.

    Maupin picks up the story with Mary Ann’s return to San Francisco. She is 57, facing a messy divorce and major surgery, and so needs the support of her old friend Michael. He is happily married to a far younger, far more handsome man – just like Maupin himself in real-life - and this fictional relationship is obviously, and sometimes uncomfortably, very biographical.

    The Tales Of The City stories were always utterly of their moment and so in 2010 Maupin is obliged to weave in the Internet and its impact on his characters’ lives. Settled in Michael’s backyard cottage Mary Ann starts looking up old friends on Facebook with potentially disastrous results. Maupin seems also to have felt the need to tie up most loose ends and visit with most old friends and, as a result, the plot feels frailer than I remember those earlier ones being.

    Still Maupin won me over in the end with the friendliness, compassion and the sheer readability of his writing. This is a book about becoming older and wiser that also looks towards the new generation and the issues they face. There are some fantastic comedic moments along the way – in particular a Sound Of Music vignette far too saucy to repeat here. And I was thrilled to discover a new word – horriblize – that I’ve already had occasion to use several times.

    If you’ve never read a Tales of the City book this most definitely isn’t the place to start. But for fans of the series Mary Ann In Autumn feels like a good place to say a last goodbye. I liked it Armistead….but please don’t write anymore…


    Nicky Pellegrino, a succcesful Auckland-based author of popular fiction, (The Italian Wedding was published in May 2009 while her latest, Recipe for Life was published by Orion in April, 2010), is also the Books Editor of the Herald on Sunday where the above review was first published on 28 November, 2010.

    Total recall of tales etched in memory

    Books can leave a lasting impression, as these famous readers can attest.
    Sydney Morning Herald, 28 November 2010

    Kristina Keneally, NSW Premier
    The Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank
     I was about 11 when I read The Diary of Anne Frank , so just a bit younger than Anne herself when she wrote it. The experience of discrimination and war as told through the eyes of a girl much the same age as me helped me understand, as a child, what destructive forces hatred and bigotry can become and how devastating an impact they can have. However, it is also a story of hope. As a child reading it, I understood that goodness ultimately triumphs over evil and even the diary of a young girl can change the world.

    Matt Cooper, St George Illawarra Dragons The Riddle of the Trumpalar, by Judy Bernard-Waite
    My favourite childhood book was The Riddle of the Trumpalar. I really enjoy Australian history and I especially love stories about Old Sydney Town. The story is set in the early days of the convicts in Sydney around The Rocks area. I remember reading it in year 6.

    As a child I lacked confidence with my reading and I was very shy. It was my year 6 teacher who switched me on and gave me confidence with my reading. I recommend the book to all students. Some may enjoy having it read to them by their teacher or parents, whereas other students may enjoy reading this novel curled up on their lounge. The key is to find a book which hooks you – I believe this is one of those books.

    Libby Gleeson, author and NSW Premier's Reading Challenge ambassador
    A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton-Porter
    When I was in year 6 I found A Girl of the Limberlost in the school library and it was like no other book I had ever read.

    Elnora, the main character, wants to go to high school, her mother wants to keep her at home. They fight bitterly, Elnora wins and pays for her tuition by catching butterflies and moths in the Limberlost Swamp. Elnora is fiercely independent, intelligent and strong and had red hair like me.
    It is a richly gothic literary work and I'd recommend it to a young reader ready to fly.

    More at SMH.

    Christopher Hitchens 1-0 Tony Blair - Staunch atheist wins over audience in debate with Catholic convert over whether religion is a force for good in the world

    Paul Harris in Toronto guardian.co.uk, Saturday 27 November 2010

    Former British prime minister Tony Blair (left) and author Christopher Hitchens before their debate on religion. Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters

    In theory it was not an event that should have created a stir: a philosophical debate on the moral merits of religion. In an age of reality TV drama and Hollywood blockbusters loaded with special effects it would seem hard to get the masses to flock to witness such an old-fashioned, high brow spectacle.

    But when the two debaters are the world's most famous recent Roman Catholic convert in the shape of Tony Blair and the charismatic yet cancer-stricken sceptic Christopher Hitchens suddenly it becomes easier to sell tickets.

    Two thousand seven hundred tickets to be precise. For that was the size of the crowd that packed the space age-looking Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto late last night to watch the two ideological foes – when it comes to religion – spar and trade verbal blows.

    The occasion was part of the Munk Debate series, organised by the Aurea Foundation group, and the motion was simply: "Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world".

    Both men were unabashedly stalwart in their positions. Hitchens, one of the leading "new atheists" and author of the hit book God Is Not Great, slammed religion as nothing more than supernatural gobbledegook that caused untold misery throughout human history. "Once you assume a creator and a plan it make us subjects in a cruel experiment," Hitchens said before causing widespread laughter by comparing God to "a kind of divine North Korea".

    Blair, perhaps not surprisingly, was a little less forthright. On the backfoot for much of the debate he kept returning to his theme that many religious people all over the world were engaged in great and good works. They did that because of their faith, he argued, and to slam all religious people as ignorant or evil was plain wrong. "The proposition that religion is unadulterated poison is unsustainable," he said. Blair called religion at its best "a benign progressive framework by which to live our lives".

    Throughout the 90-minute debate Hitchens seemed to have the crowd's sympathy. That might have been to do with his ill appearance due to cancer, but was far more likely to be down to the sharpness of his verbal barbs and the fact that 57% of the audience already agreed with his sceptical position according to a pre-debate poll, while just 22% agreed with Blair's side. The rest were undecided.

    But the true winner of the debate was most likely the organisers. The high-profile debaters and controversial subject matter ensured not only a packed hall but an overflow location where people who could not get tickets were able to watch it on TV monitors. Tickets sold out weeks ago and were selling on eBay for several times their cover price. The debate was also trailed on the front pages of some Canadian newspapers and covered by local television.

    It even attracted a small but vocal knot of anti-Iraq war protestors accusing Blair of war crimes. Demonstrators unveiled placards that read "Arrest Blair" and "War criminals not welcome here", proving that, as with the merits of religion, some arguments are unlikely to ever be settled with a single night's debate.


    The Australian, 27 November 2010

    I HAVE written a few pieces in this newspaper, and on my blog, about David Foster's surprising attack on J. M. Coetzee.

    For anyone coming in late, Foster (pic left Anthony Johnson) accused Coetzee of having "no class" because he continued to contest literary awards despite having won the Nobel and two Bookers. That Foster made the comments while accepting the Patrick White Award was eccentric timing, even if he did describe that prize (worth $18,000) as "a form of literary losers' compo".

    That's an amusing line, and it's worth remembering that Foster is a funny writer, a breed that isn't thick on the ground. And while Foster's criticism of Coetzee was ill-judged and misguided, it's a shame it overshadowed his achievement in winning the award established by the great writer with whom he has been compared.
    A self-inflicted shame, of course. So I'd like to say here that I am among those readers who consider Foster's 1997 Miles Franklin winner, The Glade Within the Grove, to be some sort of masterpiece, a novel that belongs in the first rank of Australian writing. It's also worth remembering that the book was shortlisted for the (lucrative) IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and lauded by critics here and overseas.

    E. Annie Proulx, as she was known then, called it "an important and stunningly original novel". The TLS confided that Foster "tempts us to feel that here the work of the novel is done so well that there can be no achievement beyond it". Closer to home, Geoffrey Dutton wrote: "The Glade Within the Grove asks the deepest questions, of love and life and where the gods have gone. It is a novel of great importance, by any standards." So, David Foster, congratulations on winning the Patrick White Award. You deserve it.

    * * *
    I WANT to add that in the occasional dealings I've had with Coetzee through the years he has been unfailingly courteous and helpful. I also admire his involvement with Sydney-based animal welfare group Voiceless, of which he is patron.

    * * *

    SPEAKING of the IMPAC award, which at E100,000 ($138,000) is the world's richest fiction prize, 10 Australians have made the long list, including Coetzee for Summertime (one of my favourite books of the past few years).

    The others are: Kalinda Ashton (The Danger Game), Peter Carey (Parrot and Olivier in America), Nick Cave (The Death of Bunny Munro), Marion Halligan (Valley of Grace), M. J. Hyland (This is How), David Malouf (Ransom), Alex Miller (Lovesong), Craig Silvey (Jasper Jones) and Evie Wyld (After the Fire, a Still Small Voice).

    Throw in New Zealander Alison Wong (As the Earth Turns Silver) and we have an Antipodean XI. I know Hyland and Wyld are as much English as Australian but we'll claim them. We haven't had an IMPAC win since Malouf took home the inaugural prize in 1996 for Remembering Babylon. The shortlist is due in April.


    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Our Unlettered Landscape - The Lost Art of Reading

    by Christopher R, Beha, New Yorkk Times Sunday Book review, November 28, 2010


    Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time
    By David L. Ulin
    151 pp. Sasquatch Books. $12.95

    Illustration by Javier Jaén

    “We come to books,” David L. Ulin writes in “The Lost Art of Reading,” “to be challenged and confounded, made to question our assumptions.” With this principle in mind, here is the news that Ulin brings in this slim, meandering book: that reading is “an act of contemplation”; that such an act becomes more difficult in “our overnetworked society, where every buzz and rumor is instantly blogged and tweeted, and it is not contemplation we desire but an odd sort of distraction”; that the analphabetic anger of anonymous Internet comment threads is emblematic of a “degraded cultural conversation” in which “the ability to carry out a logical argument” has been lost; that technology brings a boon but also a burden: “We are never disconnected, never out of touch”; and lastly, coming full circle, that in this “landscape of distraction,” reading becomes not just an act of contemplation but one of “resistance.”

    All of which is true enough, but that’s precisely the problem. While I occasionally disagreed with Ulin’s book, I wasn’t once challenged or confounded or even surprised by it. In fairness to Ulin, one could object that I’m not the book’s intended audience, convinced as I already am of “why books matter in a distracted time.” But this objection deepens the problem. If a friend who has fallen away from the habit of reading for pleasure (or else never acquired it) should ask me what to read, I can choose from a nearly endless shelf, tailoring my recommendation to her particular interests and tastes. If — less likely — she should ask me how to read, my options are fewer but still plenty. James Wood’s “How Fiction Works” is as good a primer on engaging with literary fiction as one could want; Zadie Smith’s recent “Changing My Mind” and similar collections of essays and reviews by Cynthia Ozick and Daniel Mendelsohn offer the opportunity to listen in while a great reader goes about the task. But if my friend should ask me why to read — whether to read — it would only beg the question to respond by handing her a book. If those of us who already take most of Ulin’s conclusions as articles of faith are not his intended audience, who exactly is?

    Ulin is a critic for The Los Angeles Times and formerly the newspaper’s book editor, and “The Lost Art of Reading” began life last year as a brief essay in that paper. The essay was widely circulated and discussed, mostly by way of e-mail and blog referrals — a fact that might have made Ulin question his assumptions (though apparently it did not). Now Ulin has spun his essay out to book length, mostly by way of autobiographical material about his life as a reader and his relationship with his reading-­resistant son, Noah. There are also political observations, largely of a piece with the rest of the book. Thus, we are told that the primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — “without a white man in sight” — was “truly revolutionary.” During the general election that followed, we are told, Sarah Palin rather than John McCain “came to represent the anti-Barack Obama.” We are told that politicians now regurgitate talking points on “The View” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” And Ulin suggests this might all be otherwise if only more people practiced the lost art.

    Full review at New York Times

    Three literary gems in my mail box Friday

    Some days the mail is richer in content than others but look what arrived Friday:

    THE BOX by Gunter Grass - Harvill Secker - Hardback - $49.99

    This is an uncorrected proof copy for me to read ahead of its NZ release date on 7 January 2011 (only 7 weeks away!)
    This is the sequel to Peeling the Onion about which the New Yorker said "a memoir of rare literary beauty.


    This is the journal of the Katherine Mansfield Society and is published by the Edinburgh University Press.
    Copies are sent free to members of the Katherine Mansfield Society.
    The theme for this volume is: Katherine Mansfield and Modernism
    Foreword by C. K. Stead: Honorary Vice-President, Katherine Mansfield Society

    Copies are also available to purchase in their website shop, along with other items of interest on Katherine Mansfield, such as our Christmas card for 2010:

    LANDFALL 220
    Open House
    Edited by David Eggleton (prose) and Richard Reeve (poetry)
    Otago University Press - $29.95

    "new voices, an eclectic range of poetry, a bunch of "first-person fictions", reviews of dozens of recent NZ books, and terrific artwork by Max Oettli and Andrew Ross".