Thursday, June 30, 2011

Censorship, alive and well in New Zealand?

When a group of would-be-censors get together to use Facebook and other social media to attempt to stop the sale of a book (which none of them have read) and that results in a number of major book retailers – Paper Plus and the Warehouse so far – bowing to that pressure then we have a sorry situation on our hands.

There is of course a great irony in the title of this book, Breaking Silence. The mother of the murdered Kahui twins has finally spoken out on the subject to controversial journalist/author/publisher Ian Wishart when I’m sure most New Zealanders will consider she should have spoken out back in 2006. The story of the Kahui twins is a hideous one and reading newspaper reports from the coroner’s court makes one feel totally disgusted.

But however appalling a story may be, and this one is truly horrific, it doesn’t mean to say that people should be prevented from writing about it, publishing about it or reading about it. If they are prevented then that is censorship. And after all there are dozens of books published containing graphic details of horrific crimes, and conjecture about unsolved cases, most of which go by unnoticed. Booksellers everywhere make decisions on a daily basis as to which titles they will stock. There are several hundred thousand titles published every year in the English language and even the largest of booksellers can only carry s small percentage of those titles. However they are free to pick and choose what they will stock and this freedom should not be interfered with. 
We do not want a return to the days of the Indecent Publications Act when books were often banned, many of the now rated as classics and readily available everywhere. UBS Canterbury’s Philip King reminded me of the time in the early 90’s when he sold American Psycho shrink-wrapped while at the same time Whitcoulls initially refused to stock it.

Another irony in this story is that those people who set out to stop the sale of this book have almost certainly turned it into a huge best-seller providing publisher Ian Wishart with undreamed of enormous free publicity. He’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Other viewpoints:
Doris Mousdale of Arcadia Bookshop is considers the book to be in bad taste."I don't like it, I don't like her, I don't like what's happened and I think it's still out there to be resolved by the law courts and the police and it's not for people to read as a gossipy book." She says the wider population of New Zealand think child abuse has gone too far and this is where it stops.  ."I think people have reached rock bottom in reality television and reporting and this possibly is as low as you can go, people have just said enough's enough, let's have some common sense about it."  Ms Mousdale doubts people will fork out $40 for the book.
Lincoln Gould, CEO of Booksellers NZ, said booksellers make decisions all the time about what books they will sell and those decisions are very often related to their perception of consumer demand. We are of course totally opposed to any notion that a book should be banned - there is an issue of freedom of speech and the right of an individual to choose.

Carole Beu, The Women’s Bookshop, Ponsonby had this to say:
In my opinion, no publisher should be touching a subject as sensitive as the death of the Kahui twins, particularly at this time.  I do not believe that any publisher with integrity should exploit any situation that arouses such intense public interest and controversy. It feels rather like the behaviour of some of our most cynical politicians – preying on people’s prejudices for personal gain. And, of course, getting a book into the media for free is a brilliant and inexpensive marketing campaign.

And two comments  posted on my blog:

Kiwicraig has left a new comment on your post "Boycott of Kahui book 'death of free speech'":

It annoys me when people like Wishart bandy about phrases like 'death of free speech' - this situation is not that at all.
Freedom of speech is the right to be able to voice your opinion without the government throwing you in jail (or worse) because they don't like it.
It's not the right to say whatever you want with no consequences whatsoever.
Wishart is free to write whatever he wants, and self-publish it. He doesn't have any intrinsic right to have bookstores stock his book, just as no writer has an absolute right for anything they write to be stocked and sold by a bookstore.
It's all about choice. He can choose to write it. Other people can choose to read it or not - and voice their opinions about it. Bookstores can choose to stock it, or not. If they choose to stock it, then they accept that other people are free to choose to not buy it, boycott it, or change their opinion of the bookstore because of the decision they made.
Personally, I have no interest in reading King's 'side of the story', or anything written by Wishart in general. But I also haven't joined the FB group opposing the book.

Craig Ranapia has left a new comment on your post "Boycott of Kahui book 'death of free speech'":

'The death of free speech' is rather hyperbolic. As you (I think) pointed out on Nine to Noon today, no bookseller can possibly stock every one of the hundreds of thousands of books published every year. Selections are made, and I support the right of retailers to decline to stock titles for whatever reason they see fit - even if I find that reasoning unconvincing, to put it mildly.

However, I do think it's in order to point out the double standards of booksellers who decline to "profit from human misery" by stocking 'Breaking Silence' while they are perfectly happy to do precisely that. It's not exactly hard to find in Paper Plus and The Warehouse dozens of "true crime" books containing graphic details of horrific crimes (and/or rank speculation about unsolved cases), memoirs by convicted sociopathic thugs and novels/DVDs containing excruciatingly graphic depictions of violent abuse of women.

And on the BookieMonster blog - Breaking the Silence" and silencing others.

I am sure there will be more comments in the days ahead.
Here is Ian Wishart's advertisement for the book from his magazine's website.

Refusal to sell Kahui book 'dangerous precendent'

Updated at 12:29 pm today

A former publisher says the decision by some leading retailers not to sell a book about the mother of the Kahui twins sets a dangerous precedent.
The Warehouse and Paper Plus have refused to stock the book which gives Macsyna King's version of the events surrounding the deaths of the three-month-old boys in 2006.
Some independent stores have followed suit, including Unity Books which has stores in Auckland and Wellington.
Auckland owner Jo McColl says she had ordered three copies of the book but will now probably bin them.
Ms McColl says she has been disturbed by coverage of this week's inquest into the twins' deaths and thinks no one should profit from the situation.
The refusal to stock the book comes after a 38,000 members on a Facebook page called for a boycott.
Former publisher Graham Beattie says he is surprised by the retailers' reaction.
Mr Beattie says giving into pressure groups sets a dangerous precedent, especially when it comes to other books about contentious subjects.
New Zealand Booksellers Association chief executive Lincoln Gould says retailers make choices all the time about what books to stock and they have the right to choose not to sell one.
But he worries that some people who have not even read the book are threatening to boycott any store that sells it.
An inquest into the unexplained deaths of babies Cru and Chris Kahui is expected to finish in Auckland on Thursday.

Boycott of Kahui book 'death of free speech'

By Vaimoana Tapaleao, New Zealand Herald , Thursday Jun 30, 2011

Macsyna King. Photo / Dean Purcell
Macsyna King. Photo / Dean Purcell

Some leading stores plan to boycott a book by the Kahui twins' mother, Macsyna King, after a public outcry - a move the writer has slammed as the "death of free speech".
The Paper Plus group and The Warehouse yesterday said they would not stock Breaking Silence: The Kahui Case because of an overwhelming outcry from the public.
Last night, 30,000 people had joined the Boycott the Macsyna King Book Facebook page.
Whitcoulls is expected today to make an announcement on whether it will join the boycott.
Author Ian Wishart defended the book, saying the stores had given in to unfair public pressure.
"I am saddened that New Zealand booksellers, who have been going through a hard time in recent months, have fallen victim to a Facebook lynch mob campaign.
"It's a sad day for the New Zealand media because if we can't tell stories by going to both sides and getting people to speak up because it offends various groups in the community, then freedom of speech is being seriously threatened.
And also the rights of New Zealanders to buy books."

Full story at New Zealand Herald.

This story raises serious issues about which The Bookman will be commenting later today.

Bath Festival Of Children's Literature 2011

Cressida Cowell, who sold her book 'How To Train Your Dragon' to Dreamworks, will be appearing at the 2011 Bath Festival Of Children's Literature, which is sponsored by the Telegraph
Cressida Cowell, who sold her book 'How To Train Your Dragon' to Dreamworks, will be appearing at the 2011 Bath Festival Of Children's Literature, which is sponsored by the Telegraph Photo: Andrew Crowley

The Telegraph Bath Festival Of Children's Literature has become one of the most important events for children's literature in the world.

The Telegraph has been the proud media and title sponsor since the inaugural event in 2007 - and this year's festival in Bath features some of the biggest names in children's fiction.

Roddy Doyle, Jeremy Strong, Judith Kerr, Cressida Cowell, Andy Stanton, David McKee and Bath-born Jacquelin Wilson (who was at the first festival) are just a few of the brilliant authors who will be taking part in 90 events over 10 days in a wide variety of venues around the city.
The Festival runs from Friday 23rd September 2011 until Sunday 2nd October

Nick Laird on poetry online

'I got an iPad last week and spent this morning exploring a few of the 718 applications returned when you search for "poetry" 

SHOWBIZ Blackadder
At Word World Lite you can make like Baldrick in Blackadder and try to create your own dictionary. Photograph: PA

The screen on my laptop only appears, like some wayward genie, if it's gently rubbed a certain way, and my red Nokia mobile's so antiquated that last week a teenage waitress picked it off the table and said: "Wow, cool, retro." When I receive a picture message I have to go to a computer and type in a code to see it. In an effort to upgrade, I got an iPad last week and, having finished Angry Birds, spent this morning exploring a few of the 718 applications returned when you search for "poetry".

Wattpad, a free site where people share their work, claims to have 1.5m stories. The poem "Hatred" (which has 26,386 reads, about 10 times as many copies as the usual TS Eliot prizewinner sells) begins

hatred feeling in my heart
it was you that cause this all
with that hatred stinking deep down in me
why does this happen so often
with that hatred in my heart
I am the one who evil inside
and you are the angel sent from heaven . . .

Like almost all the work I've found online, punctuation's forgone entirely, but at least it's free and, I'm assuming, adolescent, so let's give the kid a break. Still, a poet should spend longer writing a poem than the time it takes to read it, and a problem with the internet is it demands profusion: you have to post something or you might as well be off-line. That's how you get 100,000 books and nothing worth reading. A good poem takes time, years in some cases, and while immediacy is a virtue when it comes to social media, it's a curse when it comes to verse.

Read the full piece at The Guardian

America’s Strangest Novel

The Daily Beast

Jonathan Franzen (pic left Rex Features) sings the praises of the brilliant, funny, and admittedly strange genius of Donald Antrim’s 'The Hundred Brothers,' which has just been reissued.

The Hundred Brothers  is possibly the strangest novel ever published by an American. Its author, Donald Antrim, is arguably more unlike any other living writer than any other living writer. And yet, paradoxically—in much the same way that the novel’s narrator, Doug, is at once the most singular of his father’s hundred sons and the one who most profoundly expresses the sorrows and desires and neuroses of the other ninety-nine—The Hundred Brothers is also the most representative of novels. It speaks like none of us for all of us

Midway through his narrative, Doug spells out the fundamental fact that drives it: “I love my brothers and I hate their guts.” The beauty of the novel is that Antrim has created a narrator who reproduces, in the reader, the same volatile mixture of feelings regarding the narrator himself: Doug is at once irresistibly lovable and unbearably frustrating. The genius of the novel is that it maps these contradictory feelings onto the archetypal figure of the scapegoat: the exemplary sufferer who recurs throughout human history, most notably in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, as an object of both love and homicidal rage, and who must be ritually killed in order for the rest of us to go on living with the contradictions in our lesser hearts.

Full review at The Daily Beast

Title: The Hundred Brothers
Author: Donald Antrim
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-0-312-66219-6
Price: US$15.00

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Prize: Hans Christian Andersen Litteraturpris

The Hans Christian Andersen Litteraturpris -- the 'Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award', not to be confused with the children's-book award, the Hans Christian Andersen Awards (though more seeds of confusion were sown by the award being given to J.K.Rowling last time 'round ... -- really: worst choice for name of new literary award ever) -- has been awarded to Isabel Allende (though, last I checked: no word at the official site ...); see, for example, the report at Monster & Critics.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)

Unity Books invite you to book launch

The Plight of Black African Refugees
by Yilma Tafere Tasew

Thursday the 14th of July, 5.30-7.30pm
Methodist Church, 75 Taranaki Street, Wellington

Mamut completes Waterstone's takeover

The Bookseller29.06.11 | Lisa Campbell and Graeme Neill

Waterstone’s today begins its first day under the ownership of Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut’s A&NN Group as previous m.d Dominic Myers officially leaves the bookseller.

The HMV Group announced this morning (29th June) its disposal of Waterstone’s had officially completed following a vote by shareholders at a general meeting held last Thursday. James Daunt, owner of independent London book chain Daunts, will now take over as m.d. of the bookseller. Mamut paid £53m for the bookseller, £40m of which has been paid with the remainder being paid on 31st October 2011.
Daunt said: “While we would not want to comment on the specifics of our strategy prior to a comprehensive review of the business, our central aim will be to work with Waterstone’s booksellers to develop the bookshops as engaging places that reflect the distinct tastes of their customers. I am thrilled that the acquisition has been finalised and look forward to getting to work on this important project.”

In an email to staff, he said: "Waterstone's is a great company with a rich heritage and believe that it has an exciting future. You will know that I am a bookseller and have been one for 21 years. Like many of you I believe we are at our best when focused on books and bookselling. It is my intention to put these elements back at every level of the business and I hope that you will join me to realise this ambition.

"I know that the past few months have been difficult, and that the company has seen many changes in direction and focus in recent times. It is my absolute intention that from now on we will have one clear shared goal - to make our bookshops excellent and inspirational places in which to browse, shop and work."
Mamut said: “We are delighted to have received shareholder approval from HMV which has allowed us to complete the acquisition of Waterstone’s and its unique brand. Waterstone’s enjoys an excellent bookselling heritage which we will seek to develop in repositioning the business towards an approach which is progressively tailored to the particular demands of local communities."

The reinvention of the book


BBC News

Will bookshelves simply become shelves?

Video never did kill the radio star. But it might cause a lot of books to be pulped. Re-written by machine and new technology, paperbacks could become ancient history. Oh-a-aho no.

Oh-a-aho yes, according to John Makinson: chairman and chief executive of the Penguin Group. The likable, ebullient publishing boss - a Tigger in the CEO jungle - foresees a new age where books become electronic gateways to trivia and chat:
"I don't expect that readers will open Jane Austen on page one and read through to page 300 and then put the book down.
"I think they will go on little journeys into other media and other conversations and they will want to do research into the dance moves or recipes of the period or look up info about Jane Austen online or talk to their friends on social networks about the experience of reading the book."
Good golly. Are books as a linear entity over? You'd expect to hear that from Steve Jobs while peddling iPads, but not perhaps from Penguin.
The publishing house was founded in 1935 by Allen Lane whose big idea was to mass-produce huge quantities of well-written, well-designed paperbacks that would be affordable to every household in the country.
Penguin was to be the peoples' publisher: their books read by those attending the universities of life and Oxbridge; available in bookshops and tobacconists. Within 12 months he'd sold three million copies. Visionary is in Penguin's DNA.
So maybe John Makinson's prediction is correct. E-books are all the rage.
Sales increased by 318% in 2010 and continue to motor. Most predict that at least 50% of all books sold within ten years will be digital downloads.
Apple has already sold over 25 million iPads, Amazon is also doing brisk trade in Kindles and then there's Sony's e-reader and so on.

Philip Roth? He makes me want to chuck a bucket of water over my head, says judge

When an author wins a prestigious literary prize, the awards ceremony is an occasion for backslapping and abundant praise.

When an author wins a prestigious literary prize, the awards ceremony is an occasion for backslapping and abundant praise.
In a rare interview, Roth was dismissive of Callil and other critics who accuse him of misogyny Photo: AP

It is not usual for a judge to admit that he wants the author to shut up or that his work makes readers want to throw a bucket of water over their own heads.
Yet that was how the chairman of last night's Man Booker International Prize panel described the work of Philip Roth, the US writer who has proved to be the most divisive winner in the history of the £60,000 award.
The ceremony marked the end of a calamitous period that saw John Le Carré withdraw his book from the shortlist and one of the three judges, Carmen Callil, resign in protest at Roth's win for his latest book, Nemesis.
Callil did not attend the prize-giving and nor did Roth, 78, who pleaded ill health and remained at home in Connecticut.
Rick Gekoski, the writer and book dealer who chaired the judging panel, spoke about Roth's work, which includes Goodbye, Columbus, The Human Stain and the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Pastoral.
Yet Gekoski insisted that Nemesis, which explored the effects of a polio epidemic in a 1944 North American community, was a "masterpiece" and that his deliberately provocative style makes the reader "positively anxious to come out for the next round".
He also acknowledged the drama that surrounded the prize when Callil, founder of the feminist Virago press, resigned. She dismissed Roth's work as "Emperor's new clothes" and complained that he "goes on and on and on about the same subject... as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe".

Full story at The Telegraph.
Related Articles

Why “World Rights, One Cover” Is Not the Best Idea

Publishing Perspectives
There’s been a lot of talk about the end of territorial rights, but experience suggests that wouldn’t be a good thing for authors or books, writes literary agent Ginger Clark.
The idea of selling all territorial rights to one publisher is a good one in some cases. Sometimes, an offer is made that is so high that it makes sense. Sometimes, a publisher has a strong presence in all the major English language markets, and it makes sense to sell World English. Sometimes, the publisher refuses to offer for anything but World; and your client really wants to have his book published. So you grant the publisher World Rights, much to your chagrin, and smile through clenched teeth.
But in other cases (and I would argue that in a majority of cases), the author benefits much more if they have a publisher on the ground in that country, doing their own homegrown promotion and creating a market-appropriate cover.


Literary Stamp Collecting

There's been oodles of authors on stamps. Flavorwire collects some of them, here.

10 years on and New Zealand is still ‘Middle-earth’ to thousands of moviegoers and Tolkien fans . . .

It’s no secret that since the first screening of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, New Zealand has become the embodiment of Middle-earth to millions of movie-goers and JRR Tolkien readers the world over.

Ten years on, the interest in the Lord of the Rings movie locations shows no signs of decline. Ian Brodie, Media and Communications Manager for the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, reports that over 200,000 visitors have been through Hobbiton alone since its opening and close to 45,000 people are expected to visit this year.
Ian Brodie is also the author of The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook, first published in 2002 and the beautifully produced keepsake, The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook Extended Edition, published in 2004. Sales across both titles now exceed a staggering 357,000 copies, placing them amongst the biggest-selling official Lord of the Rings movie tie-ins.
‘The visitor numbers for Hobbiton and the sales for these two books prove the longevity The Lord of the Rings,’ says Brodie. ‘These figures alone cement in place that New Zealand is now well and truly Middle-earth.’

Both editions of the guide have now been completely revised and updated, and include more of Ian Brodie’s stunning on-site photography for a new generation of Lord of the Rings tourists and collectors.

The guides showcase the principal movie-set locations around New Zealand as seen in the movie trilogy. The two books share valuable background information and exclusive anecdotes about the filming of the trilogy, new maps and location directions, GPS references, useful Internet addresses and up-to-date information on accommodation and restaurants handy to the sites. Included in both guides are quotes from the cast and crew, a foreword by Peter Jackson and location notes by Alan Lee.

There are also explanatory notes on geographical and historical features of ‘Middle-earth’ that will help the novice who has not read The Lord of the Rings trilogy to understand events in the film more fully.

What research did Ian Brodie do for all this? Here are the facts and figures:
·       He’s read the Lord of the Rings trilogy 39 times over the past 30 years.
·       He’s watched the three movies at least 40 times (at the cinema and on DVD).
·       He’s talked to local tourist organizations.
·       He’s travelled New Zealand visiting all the locations sites (and he revisited many sites for the new editions).
·       He’s visited New Line Cinema in Los Angeles to obtain extra film images.
·       He’s spent time with the film crew in Wellington reading scripts and call-sheets.
·       He appeared as an extra in The Return of the King.

Ian Brodie is also the author of a number of other photographic and film-related titles, including Cameras in Narnia, which was a finalist in the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards and runner-up for the Children’s Choice Award.  Ian loves travel and for many years worked in the travel industry. In 1992 he took the post of inaugural Director for the NZ Fighter Pilots Museum in Wanaka, which he held until moving to Matamata and Hobbiton in 2009.

Ian Brodie | RRP $27.99 | new edition to be published early August 2011

Ian Brodie | RRP $44.99 | new edition to be published early August 2011
Harper Collins

Google+ takes on Facebook - Search giant Google has begun its most serious challenge to social network Facebook with the launch of Google+

Google has launched a range of new products that introduce social elements and will see it take on Facebook.
The company’s new plan is built around four separate features called Circles, Sparks, Hangout and Huddle. Google is keen to stress that the new products do not form a new, single social network that rivals Facebook, but it is the search giant’s most serious attempt to incorporate social elements into its products to date.
Writing on the Google blog, senior vice president of engineering Vic Goduntra said that “Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools. In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.”
Initially, Google is conducting a ‘field trial’, inviting select journalists, bloggers and other organisations, and it has not said when the products will launch more widely.
Circles is the closest product to Facebook; it allows users to drag in contacts to individual groups. The aim is to allow people to share different things with different groups of people more easily. Google users will be able to add their contacts, or import them from Yahoo or Microsoft. Facebook does not permit the export of contact information to Google.
Full story at The Telegraph.

2011 Cultural Icons & Vernacular Lounge Non-fiction Writing Competition

Judged by
: Graham Beattie, Federico Monsalve, Linda Blincko
Prizes include:
 Creative Hub Writing Course, Random House book package, publication in MORPH magazine, recorded on Jam Radio.

Iconic Encounters of a Vernacular Kind

“Vernacular:  Belonging in place, knowing your own stories, realising your own potential. Being yourself rather than trying to be someone else”
Tony Watkins
“In the imported soil of language and tradition, but in new sunshine, wind, and rain, we must grow our own prose and poetry”
Alan Mulgan
“What is ‘New Zealand identity’? How do we express ourselves through these particular cultural activities which are after all, universal?” 
Ian Wedde

Cultural Icons & the Vernacular Lounge are accepting entries for ‘Iconic Encounters of a Vernacular Kind’ a non-fiction narrative competition on the topic of New Zealand’s distinctive local culture through its everyday icons.
Whether you write from Ponsonby, Mt Victoria, Lyttleton or the Bluff there are entities and phenomena unique to your community.  The focus of your entry could be an iconic person, building, event, activity, object or feature of the landscape or built environment, which embodies or elicits a sense of place or identity.
The aims are to gain an insight into the characteristics that contribute to a local vernacular* and to unearth some of its many tales.

The winning entries will be judged on quality and originality of the writing, clarity of expression, uniqueness of the subject, and most of all, on how your subject depicts identity or community.

For more information please visit: or
Deadline: 4pm 1st of September 2011

Cape Catley invites you to join Kevin Ireland to launch Jo Emeney’s first collection of poems 6pm, Wednesday 6 July Devonport Library Victoria Road, Devonport

‘Johanna Emeney’s poems always contain a surprise. They look courageously at difficult subjects, allow abstract and particular to co-exist and balance reality with desire.’ Elizabeth Smither
‘Jo Emeney’s poems are the genuine article ... when they are just about to relax, they stand on tiptoe.’ Kevin Ireland

A runner-up in the prestigious British 2011 Hippocrates Prize for poetry and medicine, Jo Emeney lives on the North Shore after a number of years in the UK. She is an English teacher currently doing a doctoral thesis. Jo tutors writing workshops, including the Young Writers’ Workshops on behalf of the Michael King Writers’ Centre.
Her work has appeared in Metro, North & South, Poetry NZ and other NZ publications as well as in the Guardian (UK).

For catering purposes please RSVP to Devonport Library, Ph 4868529

Penguin Classics iPhone App Launches with Annotations for 1,500 Titles

By Dianna Dilworth on Galley Cat, June 28, 2011 

To celebrate is 65th anniversary, Penguin has launched a new iPhone app, the Penguin Classics Complete Annotated Listing–an app with annotations for 1,500 Penguin Classics and quizzes for 65 books from the series.
The app also has a recommendations tool that aims to be what Urbanspoon is for foodies. The “Discover the Classics” feature recommends classics to read based on a user’s profile interests. Users can shake the phone to get a book recommendation.

Below, we’ve collected a selection of five classics recommended by the iPhone app
1. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
2. Inferno by Dante Alighieri
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4. Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka
5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Philip Roth - The Man Booker International Prize 2011 winner honoured at awards dinner

Philip Roth was honoured last night in London as the winner of The Man Booker International Prize 2011 at an awards dinner held at Banqueting House, Whitehall.  Roth was unable to attend and the prize was accepted on his behalf by author and academic Hermione Lee. 

Dr Rick Gekoski, the chair of the 2011 judges, delivered a speech in honour of Philip Roth. 
His comments included:
“In revisiting him over these last months, I’ve been struck by how various his work is, how styles and topics and themes appear, work themselves out, and morph into something quite different. It is remarkable, to use a boxing metaphor, how full of ringcraft his mature fiction is.

As a reader you cannot but respond, and you have a choice. You can decide that you are being bullied, hectored, asked too much for too little, and walk away. Or you may believe, as I do, that the fierceness of the demands of a Roth novel is so potent, the quality of the intelligence and narrative gift so percipient, and the issues of such importance, that you are positively anxious to come out for the next round.”

In accepting the award Hermione Lee (above with Rick Gekoski) said:
"Philip Roth is the great literary adventurer, performer, and self-transformer of this and the last century. He has been one of the giants of American fiction for over fifty years, with a following across the world, and the award of the International Man Booker for his life's work is a welcome recognition of his audacity, energy, imaginative courage, comic bravura and historical seriousness."

Philip Roth, in a brief film played to the guests, acknowledged receipt of the “esteemed award” by “reading a few pages from my 2010 book Nemesis.” He said that he chose the reading because “coming where they do, they are the pages I like best in Nemesis.  They constitute the last pages of the last work of fiction I’ve published, the end of the line after 31 books.”

The award was presented by Jonathan Taylor, Chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, and Peter Clarke, Chief Executive of the Man Group plc, sponsors of the prize.

The judging panel for the Man Booker International Prize 2011 was: writer, academic and rare-book dealer, Dr Rick Gekoski (Chair); publisher, writer and critic, Carmen Callil; and award-winning novelist, Justin Cartwright.

The Man Booker International Prize, worth £60,000, is awarded for an achievement in fiction on the world stage.  It is presented once every two years to a living author for a body of work published either originally in English or widely available in translation in the English language. It has previously been awarded to Ismail Kadaré in 2005, Chinua Achebe in 2007 and Alice Munro in 2009.

A Personal Memoir of David Mitchell by Michael O’Leary

And Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain's tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fisherman hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

This quote from Bob Dylan’s famous epic anthem to ‘Bohemian’ high life and low life serves as a good lead in to the time I first met David Mitchell in the Auckland of the early 1970s. At the time I was living in a run down hovel with fellow poet, David Eggleton and a rag-tag gaggle of other artistes, including Tony Fomison, ‘Mad’ Mike Brosnan, our own version of Desolation Row at Number 8 Margaret Street, Ponsonby, and the Dylan song got played over and over as if we were trying to convince ourselves we were part of the song, ‘sniffing dream pipes/and reciting the alphabet’ no less. I was at art school at the time and was involved in DADA and Surrealism in thought, word and deed.
          However, before I begin my own memoir proper I will call on fellow writer David McGill to fill in some earlier memories of David Mitchell and the Beat Generation:

David Mitchell was the most glamorous guy around Wellington coffee bars in 1960. He was the local Jack Kerouac, talking incessantly about the need to experience everything before you wrote about it. I was a young trainee teacher and university student who sat at the coffee tables where us groupies of both sexes listened to Dave rave. He was as full of juice as his mate James K Baxter, and way more attractive. He inspired me to write poetry, he critiqued my fledgling efforts . . . why not say 'money' instead of 'mammon'? I was proud that year to be in the Teachers College poetry publication 'Matika', right alongside David Mitchell, Baxter above us. The next year I edited the poetry magazine and David contributed magnificently. He created a character called Croup Botec we were all sure was destined to be world famous, this beatnik adventurer. David loved the American Beat poets, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, but most of all perhaps e e cummings, who I think inspired his love of word and sentence experimentation. He wrote poems that were like modern music, chopped up in crazy ways we could only gasp at. We knew he had the gift, not just of the gab, the gift of putting words memorably on paper. I played centre outside his second five-eight on the Kelburn footy ground. David was even then almost blind, he would pass the ball behind me. Yet he was a graceful and brilliant athlete, and the same poise he brought to rugby and cricket . . . New Zealand cricket captain John Reid picked him as one of the promising five players of the year . . . that poise and grace and gravitas alongside a wild and risk-taking libertine, a Byronic figure, it made David Mitchell the most charismatic person of my student years.  – David McGill, Paekakariki, 2011

          Now, from the Beat Generation to the Beatles Generation. I, of course, knew of Mitchell through his poetry readings and his newly published and highly influential volume of poetry, Pipe Dreams in Ponsonby. I had attended a reading at the Barry Lett Gallery in Victoria Street whence people had gone to the Kiwi Hotel and then on to Barry’s Mount Eden house to continue what was one of the frequent and never ending parties in the artists’ scene of the time. By this time we were all reasonably or unreasonably ‘out of it’ and David and myself and a few others were discussing our experiences with James K Baxter who had died a year or two earlier and who had influenced all of us in varying degrees, both as poets and in our lifestyles. I remember getting ready to leave and going to give David a ‘Baxter bear hug’ by way of farewell, when I felt myself being flung across the room, nearly exiting through an open window, followed by Mitchell’s menacing growl: ‘Don’t give me any of that fucking hippie bulshit!’
          This event, plus reading David’s ‘Pipe Dreams’ gave me an insight into him as a man, but also affected my own thinking as a poet. Since then, like Mitchell’s own work, nothing I have written has been overtly political or faux revolutionary a la Brunton et al, although everything I write is highly charged with meaning or is symbolic of what I really mean. Unlike the academic poets (the Ezra Pounds and T.S. Eliots, the Imagists and the Modernists, to wit) of the day, Haley, Edmond, Horrocks, Curnow (Wystan), and later Manhire, who sought to deliberately deprive their work of meaning in the search for what would become known as ‘language poetry’ as a kind of side-stepping the issues, also possibly rebelling against the ‘meaning’ in Baxter’s overwhelming weltanshauung, Mitchell, and later myself, came at social and political interests obliquely, as in his ponsonby/remuera/my lai, and much later my own anti-Gulf War poem, Make Love and War.

          Fast forward a decade to the early 1980s and I am back in Auckland after spending the last six years wavering between being a working class hero in Otago, working on the track-gang of New Zealand Railways laying rails and sleepers, and following my ‘bohemian’ dreams again with fellow poets and artists Peter Olds, Sandra Bell, Bryan Harold and Robin Swanney-McPherson, among others. John Lennon is dead, ‘the dream is over’, or so we thought. But, no! David Mitchell is running ‘Poetry Live’ at the Globe Tavern every Tuesday night, and the engines of poetry are charging forth anew. Once a week everything else in life is put on hold and the great driving force of the word, freed or otherwise, is set in motion by the Master of Ceremonies himself, Mitchell the Marvel. And those nights were magic!

          Anybody who was anybody and/or nobody was encouraged to out-do, out-wit, out-drink, out-pun each other, and when it was time to finish it was time to begin the party, wherever it was. Iain Sharp, Grant Duncan, Bob Orr, John Pule – a whole new group of us were off into the night . . . one thing David always used to have me on about was the night I got up to read a rather long poem written in Spenserian Stanzas. I began with a serious grin, saying: ‘have we got time for an epic?’ David loved this, and often greeted me with some allusion to it thereafter. As a keen cricketer he also enjoyed the fact that I had written a novel about the game called Out of It in the 1980s.
          One thing always puzzled me in relation to the Globe Readings. When I studied English One at Auckland University in the early 1970s the likes of Roger Horrocks and Wystan Curnow would return from overseas, San Francisco or New York usually, enthusing over the poetry ‘scene’, how actual poets read their work in bookshops, bars and the like. Now, here in the 1980s, it was happening in Auckland and not an academic poet to be seen. Perhaps they followed Murray Edmond who, in Big Smoke stated that New Zealand in the 1960s had ‘no cities’. Bur even Hamilton, where he grew up, was a city, and those of us who grew up in Auckland in the 1950s certainly considered that we lived a city life, as I’m sure did those from Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, for example. To further the thoughts that occasioned Edmond’s derogatory assertion, that is Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘at dawn, armed with a burning patience, enter into the splendid cities’ I add a quote from my own 1988 poem Livin’ ina Aucklan’ thus: ‘Mount Albert is just as important as Montmarte/If you live there’.  
          In 1984 I set up my Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop publishing house, now well documented in a well researched tome, The Earl is in . . . 25 Years of the Earl of Seacliff, edited by poet Mark Pirie. When I established it I had in mind two previous 1960s institutions, Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory’, and The Beatles’ Apple record label, both of which enabled the creative artists to have control over their own output and to be as experimental as they wanted without being beholden to the whims of accountants and producers, or in my case publishers. In the mid-1980s I discussed with David the possibility of publishing some of the work I knew he had not previously published.
          He was always enthusiastic, up until the final commitment, then he would give some reason for not wanting to go ahead. At the time I just let it go, but I have since found out that this was the experience of several other publishers also. Maybe they were not all poems that had ‘been read aloud in public?’ I remember one conversation with David that we had in a coffee bar in Auckland in the 1980s. We were discussing writing poems and he said that it was often the length of a page determined the length of a poem. Since then I have thought about this when writing a poem, and also how it must have affected David’s own writing.  

          The last few times I saw David Mitchell was in the early years of the new millennium and it was quite distressing to see the state he was in. It was tragic to see this vigorous, intelligent, inventive man become prey to a wasting disease that would in June 2011 claim his life. It was a great thing that last year, 2010, his friends Martin Edmond and Nigel Roberts put together a book of David’s selected poems, Steal Away Boy. David Mitchell leaves a legacy to New Zealand literature of, not only his own innovative style of writing and personality, but also a feeling of comradeship, generosity and aroha towards his fellow poets, something which is often lacking in today’s literary climate. I will finish with a sonnet that I wrote for David after seeing him walking dazed and confused along Wellington’s Oriental Parade in 2002:

The Mind of ‘My Lai’ Revisits Da Kapital

So this is what happens to our poets, neat
Soft-shoe shuffling along Oriental Parade
The internal massacre is about complete
As a handshake equals a kind of charade

“David’, I say, and then repeat my own name
Over and over in an attempt to get through
But your semi-toothless grin and the insane
Grimace, you are not here at all, but it is you

Like a sad combination reminiscent of Groucho
And Harpo in one, without the humour, your spirit
Seems to have deserted you. But, ouch, I know
Donna Awatere becomes yr remeura hsfrau, is it?

Achtung, Baby, Babi Yr an’ all aside
p.s. the ships look beautiful as they glide . . .

Nō reira, haere ra, e rangatira ō ngā kupu
Haere, haere, haere . . .

Book stand or sculpture?

The Livroche by Umbra

When you Google "book stand" or "book holder," the results are - diverse. (For a brief tour in bewildering design, click here, here, and here. Oh dear.)
 I'm not a fan of much that's out there. And then I came across the Livroche by Umbra. At first glance, it's the least likely book holder I've ever seen. Apparently, that's all part of the plan. 

Designed by David Fleishman, the Livroche is meant to be loved as either a book stand or a stand-alone sculpture - form or function as the customer pleases. Made completely of stone, this modernist stand weighs in at 10 pounds, with dimensions of 8.5"x7"x6". Luckily, Umbra's shipping isn't based on weight, although, as it's based on retail price, this puppy might still run you a few dollars in postage - it's a cool $94.50. You can visit Umbra's site here for more info about it.