23/07/2017 12:57 AM

BOOKS @ VOLUME    #33 (22.7.17)
Our newsletter of reviews, news, reading suggestions, new releases and other things. 

23/07/2017 12:14 AM

Our Book of the Week this week is Anne Salmond's deeply thoughtful history Tears of Rangi: Experiments across worlds, published by Auckland University Press. 
Polynesian and then European settlers arrived in New Zealand bringing with them world views and modes of practice that they then began to apply and adapt to the new land. This remarkable book calibrates the varying approaches of the differing peoples who came to Aotearoa, and suggests that a deeper understanding of these mind-sets can lead towards approaches that are more harmonious, not just between cultures but towards the natural world too. 

>> Do traditional Maori attitudes to waterways hold a solution to New Zealand's fresh water crisis?

>> Is there such a thing as society?

>> An inspiring voice

>> "If you teach children that their ancestors were violent, abusive savages, after a while, they are likely to believe you."  

>> New Zealand needs to look to its own record on freedom of speech.

>> Anne Salmond interviewed by an invisible man

>> Salmond will be speaking in Nelson in August

23/07/2017 12:12 AM

{Reviewed by STELLA}

Catherine Lacey’s The Answers is a riveting observation on faith and love - the traps of devotion in all its many guises - set within an absurdist construct. Mary is out of money, in debt, estranged from her family, and her only friend has disappeared. Struck by a tidal wave of illness she finds solace from her pains with Ed, whose healing therapy - PAKing (Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia) - seems to be the only thing saving her from her physical and emotional trauma. Yet there’s a problem - it’s excessively expensive and her job doesn’t even get close to covering her bills let alone the therapy. Her answer lies in a second job: she gains employment as the Emotional Girlfriend, one of the roles in the Girlfriend Experiment (GX). Kurt, a wealthy, emotionally defective actor, wants to find the answers to love and the perfect girlfriend. He rallies together a team of scientists to help find the answers. Along with Mary, there’s Ashley the Angry Girlfriend, a pool of Intimate Girlfriends, and others to cover all the facets of the perfect girlfriend. Kurt thinks he’s in control, but jealousies and unexpected behaviour despite the team’s psychological and chemical interventions make you wonder who is playing who? As Mary becomes more involved with Kurt and goes along with the experiment, the lines between real and pretend blur. Can Mary decipher what she really thinks or has the persona demanded by the GX invaded her everyday world? Is the Angry Ashley obsessively performing or is her obsession a reality? Yet this isn’t just a story about a strange experiment of an egotistical control freak. As the repercussions of the experiment play out, Mary’s latent emotions and denials of her past life pull her back to her childhood and a realisation that her life has become a meaningless escape from hurt and abandonment. Lacey’s previous book, Nobody is Ever Missing, played with the ideas of escape, a woman on the run from responsibility and the dull existence of normality. In The Answers, Mary has been running unsuccessfully towards ‘normal’ all her life. Lacey’s observations of contemporary social constructs with their fascination with faith (albeit an emotional rather than spiritual one) in the guise of enlightenment and therapy, perfection in relationships and delusions of connectedness underpins her characters’ worlds and this wry novel.

23/07/2017 12:11 AM

{Reviewed by STELLA}

Esther Gerritsen’s second novel to be translated into English is Roxy. I recently read Craving and was so taken with this Dutch writer’s style, her succinct language, dark wit, beguiling scenarios and odd characters that I was pleased to be able to venture forth again. When Roxy is woken by police officers in the early hours of the morning she thinks the worse and is right. Her husband, Arthur, has died in a car accident. Not only is he dead, his young intern has been killed in the accident also, the pair found together, naked, the car on the shoulder of the road. Roxy is startlingly emotionally unresponsive - initially as the reader you feel that this is 'Roxy in shock' but, as she continues to make inappropriate comments, act in an alarming way and seems far from the grieving widow, you begin to wonder about her sanity. Her famous film-maker husband, the man she met as a teenager and ran away from home for, is suddenly someone she didn’t know as well as she thought - Roxy’s world begins to collapse in on itself. Roxy needs to attend to their three-year-old daughter, Louise. It is clear from the beginning that her abilities as a wife and mother have never been the most wonderful and the household has relied on the talents of Liza, the babysitter and Jane, Arthur’s very capable PA. Roxy’s answer to the mess of her life is to bed the undertaker, and, once the press gets wind of this, to run away. The answer to her problems is a road trip, in the guise of a holiday for Louise, with Liza and Jane in tow. For Roxy, this is the only logical thing to do. She’s been on the run for years from herself, even when she’s been hiding out in her marriage. We are introduced to Arthur through Roxy’s eyes and feel she is vindicated in her desire for revenge, but it’s hard to avenge yourself on a dead man. The more we find out about Roxy, her parents, and her childhood, and watch her act inappropriately and make odd comments, unable to articulate her feelings, the more we see an unhinged young woman heading towards a psychological crash, blatantly accelerating. Gerritsen's skillful writing creates tension with its forward-propelling relentless plot, a compelling awkward narrator and uncertain outcomes. The clever ironic conversations between the characters and zany happenings hit you like a slap, while what is unsaid, what is hinted at and implied between the words and lines on the page, jolts you awake. Like Craving, Roxy is a candid portrayal of damage and trauma, sometimes shocking, often blackly funny.

23/07/2017 12:10 AM

I am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“It is not clear just when we stopped being ourselves and became something else.” These stories do not take long to read but the images in them will be embedded in your mind for a long time, so precisely sharp are Jaeggy’s tiny burrs of observed detail. The stories typically begin in the fantastic but resolve in what may be the actual, the actual as experienced on many levels at once, the small made large and the large made small, perhaps as Jaeggy experiences the actual. Perhaps these stories are not fiction but memoir, perhaps Jaeggy’s brother committed suicide, perhaps her family’s veins ran with schmertz, certainly she knew Joseph Brodsky, Ingeborg Bachmann, Italo Calvino, was married to Roberto Calasso, met Oliver Sacks (her account of this, after noting that Sacks needed a very cold room, resolves into the narrator’s affinity with a fish in the restaurant tank, Sacks forgotten), perhaps she realised only by looking at a photograph long after her mother’s death that her mother had been depressed (“Like a flash of lightning, there is an instant that descends, wounds, and it gone.”), but this is of no consequence to us to whom it makes no difference whose experience this is save that it is an experience seemingly shared by reader and author (and what is real about reality other than the experience of it?). Jaeggy’s characters are isolated in the extreme, hypochondriac, melancholy to the point of elegant insanity. They find company in objects rather than in persons. Often, objects take on motive force at the rate at which is is surrendered by these characters, relieving them of will, leaving the stories suspended at that moment of relinquishment that comes immediately before actual dissipation. The characters’ surrender to what thenceforth can be considered, for all practical purposes, to be fate opens their eyes to a grand equivalence of detail, to a topography of experience in which the resonance between things is more powerful, or at least memorable, than the things themselves, in which nuance overwhelms the facts. Memory conflates time, the past flows into, and is confused with, or dissolved into, the present. The intensity of experience, or of nuance, continues to increase until, at the moment of greatest intensity, the character’s fated self-destruction comes as an epiphany of detachment. Relief comes as the first reaction to disaster. All passion removes its bearer from the possible. 


23/07/2017 12:09 AM


The Voice Imitator by Thomas Bernhard   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“The courtroom correspondent is the closest of all to human misery and its absurdity and can endure the experience only for a short time, and certainly not his whole life, without going crazy. The probable, the improbable, even the unbelievable, the most unbelievable are paraded before him every day in the courtroom, and, because he has to earn his bread by reporting on actual or alleged but in any case shameful crimes, he is no longer surprised by anything at all.” Bernhard’s brief spell as a crime reporter before becoming an author was the ideal preparation for the writing of these 104 one-page stories, which, in the perfect deadpan style of journalism or of jokes, record the miseries, cruelties and disasters that fester beneath the surfaces of human lives, surfaces that open from time to time to receive more hurt and then close over again until they can be contained no longer and make the news, so to speak, overwriting the lives with 'stories'. The book contains 26 murders, 18 suicides (Austria’s national pastimes, according to Bernhard, are committing suicide and resisting committing suicide (it could be said that much of Bernhard’s writing arises from a sublimation of his own inclination towards this pastime)) and six other painful deaths, but these only as the mechanisms by which the unresolved and unresolvable tragedies beneath the mundanity of lives manifest themselves and turn those lives inside out so that the tragedy is on the outside and the mundanity is revealed at the core. Accidents lead to tragedies, ill intentions lead to tragedies, good intentions also lead to tragedies. Nothing is made better or repaired or created in accidents. Although this book is structurally unlike any of his others, Bernhard’s perfect sentences, with their nested clauses-within-clauses, with their fugual repetitions, with their self-mocking pedantry, with their sudden shifts of tone as they respond to their terrain, explore in miniature the material more fully developed in his novels. Different facets of authenticity (‘authenticity’) arise from the plots and from the details, set against each other, as are the tragic and the quotidian, to comic effect. It is this ambivalence, this at-once-one-thing-and-its-opposite, this at-once-intimacy-and-distance, this at-once-sympathy-and-hatred that makes all Bernhard’s work so revelatory. Whether telling of the voice imitator incapable of imitating his own voice, ‘newspaper’ accounts of the attribution, misattribution, malattribution and nonattribution of guilt, first person plural anecdotes of persons met when travelling, second-hand reports of the statements of others, such as the dancer who cannot dance if thinking about dancing, the stories are free from narrators able to initiate either action or response. Many of the stories appear to have arisen from actual events (Bernhard was a devoted reader of newspapers in cafes), sometimes distorted or reshaped, reality both observed and denied, such as the account of the burns suffered by Bernhard’s here unnamed friend Ingeborg Bachmann, recognisable despite the ‘incorrect’ facts in the story. Part of the reason for this is the impossible relationship between reality and language, between experience and its representation, between proceedings and reportage. Each makes demands of its other but each moves too differently to conform. What is known and what is said are always in conflict in even the most seemingly straightforward account, even though their trajectories may be twinned. One story here tells of a playwright who, just like Bernhard, had great success “because he was honest enough to pretend [sic] that his comedies were always tragedies and his tragedies comedies,” because, at base, he hated the theatre altogether.

21/07/2017 05:35 PM

These books arrived this week and are already feeling their way towards your shelves. 

Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley          $28
It's not easy being a tough guy. Sometimes things just don't work out. Sometimes tough guys can be frustrated and disappointed. But it's OK to show your feelings, even for tough guys. 
CCCP Cook Book: True stories of Soviet cuisine by Olga and Pavel Syutkin         $45
Features 60 recipes, each with fascinating background text explaining the relationship between edible culture and its political, social economic and ethnic corollaries. The illustrations and the food are at once ugly and beautiful, attractive and repellent. A beautifully produced book that will possibly give you deeper insight into Soviet life than most histories. 
Animals of a Bygone Era: An illustrated compendium by Maja Säfström         $30
Animals that no longer exist are just as fascinating as animals that still do. This beautifully illustrated book introduces us to some you'll know and some you won't, and describes many of their surprising quirks. 
A companion volume to Amazing Animal Facts

Word by Word: The secret life of dictionaries by Kory Stamper           $50
The process of compiling a dictionary is as fraught and dynamic as language itself. Stamper reveals the rich and complex world of lexicography and shows how problematic even the most simple words and their actions can be. 
"As a writer, Kory Stamper can do anything with words: define them, split them, lump them, agglute them, and make them work for her every bit as ferociously and precisely as she works for them in her day job as a far from mild-mannered lexicographer at Merriam-Webster. You will never take a dictionary entry for granted again." -  Mary Norris, bestselling author of Between You & Me: Confessions of a comma queen
Fashion Victims: The dangers of dress, past and present by Alison Matthews David         $39
Clothing has caused illness, injury, madness and death ever since it was adopted, but in some eras more than others. This well-illustrated volume explores the hazards, both of substance and of design and ponders the social forces that have exposed humans to intimate hazards, both known and unknown. 
 Soviet Space Dogs by Olesya Turkina         $50
In the lead-up to Yuri Gagarin's first space flight, small robust stray dogs were plucked from the streets of Moscow and trained to endure gravitational pressure, low oxygen levels, a constipating diet, ungainly outfits and celebrity status before being launched into orbits from which some actually returned alive. This interesting book traces their history and also records the vast array of paraphernalia, from postcards to nightlights, designed to celebrate these remarkable dogs.  
>> Can you tolerate this? 
>> Was Ivan Ivanovich the model master? 
>> Chernushka today
Letters from Klara by Tove Jansson       $23
Another set of very fine short stories for adults, telling of discomfiting encounters, unlooked-for connections and moments of isolation that span generations and decades.
"Each new translation proves a revelation of Jansson's literary astuteness." - Ali Smith

Things Look Different in the Light, And other stories by Medardo Fraile        $23
"Masterfully muted, their insights impactful but delayed. Fraile's stories, tightly controlled and peopled with scrupulously-rendered characters, offer a fine deviation from the giddy desperation of much contemporary literature. English readers are lucky to finally have the opportunity to read the Spanish master's crystalline work." - Iowa Review 
"So little is said and so much is conveyed." - Ali Smith

Is That Kafka? 99 finds by Reiner Stach       $30
Franz Kafka was an exceptional writer, not just in quality but in his qualities. He was also an exception to much of what has been thought of him since, or, rather, both as a writer and a person, he is compounded from exceptions, both to his literary and social milieu and to his own psychology. Kafka never lied but he did cheat in an exam, he liked to drink beer, he followed a fitness regime, he made presents for children, he devised, with his friend Max Brod, a series of on-the-cheap travel guides, he loved slapstick and he liked to be called Frank. Stach also provides a couple of plausible Kafka sightings in contemporary crowd photographs. Is that Kafka? Quite possibly, yes. Now in paperback.
Frank Lloyd Wright Paper Models: 14 kirigami models to cut and fold by Marc Hagan-Guirey    $40
You will like these.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison         $35
Recovering from a plague that kills 90% of the world's female population and makes childbirth fatal for both infant and mother, an unnamed midwife sets out, disguised as a man, to find a place where she can live without fear. 
Death on Earth: Adventures in evolution and mortality by Jules Howard     $25
All life forms on the planet move, faster or more slowly, towards death. How has life evolved to orient itself around its own demise? How can death be an evolutionary advantage? Could immortality ever arise through natural selection? 
The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce           $40
"Western liberal democracy is not yet dead but it is far closer to collapse than we may wish to believe. It is facing its gravest challenge since the Second World War. This time, we have conjured up the enemy from within. At home and abroad, America's best liberal traditions are under assault from its own president. We have put arsonists in charge of the fire brigade."
Seeing Trump and Le Pen as symptoms rather than causes of current malaise, Luce traces the rise of populism to its economic and political roots." 
"Insightful and harrowing." - The New York Times 
Nanotecture: Tiny built things by Rebecca Roke         $37
"The most wide-ranging, comprehensive and inclusive book on small-scale architecture ever published." Over 300 exemplars.

Caves: Exploring New Zealand's subterranean wilderness by Marcus Thomas and Neil Silverwood      $80
A beautifully presented intimation of the exploration of the world beneath the surface of New Zealand, an exploration still in its infancy. 
Caravan: Dining all day by Chris Ammerman, Laura Harper-Hinton and Miles Kirby       $55
Three New Zealanders moved to London and ended up opening a string of restaurants and teaching the English to be more relaxed about what they ate when. You can try this at home. 
The Park Bench by Christophe Chabouté                $33
A touching graphic novel about a park bench and all the people who spend time upon it. 
Lisbon: Recipes from the heart of Portugal by Rebecca Seal      $45
Distill's Lisbon's culture and history into 80 authentic and achievable recipes for food and drink of all kinds. Nicely presented. 
The House of the Dead: Siberian exile under the Tsars by Daniel Beer       $35
The tsars looked on Siberia as creating the ultimate political quarantine from the contagions of revolution. Generations of rebels - republicans, nationalists and socialists - were condemned to oblivion thousands of kilometres from European Russia. Over the nineteenth century, however, these political exiles transformed Siberia's mines, prisons and remote settlements into an enormous laboratory of revolution.

Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine life of Steven Runciman by Minoo Dinshaw       $30
In his 97 years, Steven Runciman managed not just to be a great historian of the Crusades and Byzantium, but Grand Orator of the Orthodox Church, a member of the Order of Whirling Dervishes, Greek Astronomer Royal and Laird of Eigg. His friendships, curiosities and plottings entangled him in a huge array of different artistic movements, civil wars, Cold War betrayals and, above all, the rediscovery of the history of the Eastern Mediterranean. He was as happy living in a remote part of the Inner Hebrides as in the heart of Istanbul. He was obsessed with historical truth, but also with tarot, second sight, ghosts and the uncanny. 
"Very interesting person." - Orlando
The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam by Christopher Goscha         $30
"This is the finest single-volume history of Vietnam in English. It challenges myths, and raises questions about the republic’s political future." - Guardian

The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner by Franny Moyle         $30
"Fresh and lively. Turner's life is given a vivid colour and depth as Moyle deftly interweaves his professional career with his private life. Moyle writes with sensitivity about individual pictures and series, and is good at explaining the context." - Jenny Uglow
>> The artist paints
Mind Club: Who thinks, what feels, and why it matters by Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray         $37
What is it to think of not only of ourselves having a mind but postulating the mind of another? Why do we make the assumptions we do about minds and the entities we attribute them to? Who and what has feelings and who and what does not? 
Mischka's War: A European odyssey of the 1940s by Sheila Fitzpatrick         $40
Fitzpatrick tells her late husband's story: how he chanced upon a pit full of murdered Jews in the Latvian woods, avoided conscription into the Waffen-SS by going on a student exchange to Germany, survived the fire-bombing of Dresden, crossed into Denmark, became a member of the Heidelberg school of physics, moving to the US in the 1950s (which is where he met Fitzpatrick).

Big Pig, Little Pig: A tale of two pigs in France by Jacqueline Yallop        $40
The author moved to rural France and acquired two pigs to rear for slaughter. Of course, she fell in love with them and began to grow reluctant to eat her friends. 
Mozaa by Renske Solkesz      $33
An enjoyable and challenging strategic game. Maximise the size of your colour field while minimising those of your opponents. 

17/07/2017 02:48 PM

Cultivate your mind with these 10 GARDENING BOOKS. 
Lives of the Great Gardeners by Stephen Anderton         $70
Traces the development of thinking about the design, purpose and meaning of gardens from the 18th to the 21st century by focusing on such luminaries as Capability Brown, Le Notre, William Kent, Russell Page, Gertrude Jekyll and Christopher Bradley-Hole. Very nicely presented.
Practical Latin for Gardeners: More than 1500 essential plant names and the secrets they contain by James Armitage       $28
Attractively presented and full or revelations. 
The Thoughtful Gardener: An intelligent approach to garden design by Jinny Blom           $80
Blom is remarkable at being able to design very different gardens for very different situations. Each, though, shares Blom's sensitivity to both the plants and her clients. This book gives a deep insight into the workings of a garden designer's mind. 
The Rose: The history of the world's favourite flower in 40 captivating roses with classic texts and rare prints by Brent Elliott       $75
A solander box containing 40 frameable prints and a book exploring the cultural history of the 40 featured roses. 
Evergreen: Living with plants           $120
Meet city dwellers who are bringing nature to their urban habitats in appealing and often unexpected ways. Just dipping into this beautifully illustrated book will leave you inspired and feeling positive about renaturing your life. 
A Garden Eden: Masterpieces of botanical illustration by H. Walter Lack        $45
A stunning collection of botanical art from the collection of the National Library of Vienna. 
The Botanical Wall Chart: Art from the golden age of scientific discovery by Anna Laurent         $60
The late nineteenth century was both a period of intense and exciting discovery of plant species around the world and a period of significant advances in printing techniques. The books and wall charts produced in this period are both replete with information and hugely attractive. 
The Botanical Treasury: Celebrating 40 of the world's most fascinating plants with rare prints and classic texts by Christopher Mills       $75
A solander box containing frameable prints and a book providing facsimile texts concerning the featured plants. 

Plant: Exploring the botanical world        $95
A stupendous and stupendously beautiful collection of 300 botanical illustrations showing the diverse ways the plants have been depicted throughout history. 
Botanicum by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis         $42
A beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully selected collection in the large-format 'Welcome to the Museum' series. 
The Gardener's Companion to Medicinal Plants: An A-Z of healing plants and home remedies by Monique Simmonds, Melanie Jane Howes and Jason Irving        $33
Nicely presented, with clear instructions for preparations. 

>> Click through or come into the shop to browse our other gardening titles

15/07/2017 10:33 PM

BOOKS@VOLUME    #32  (15.7.17)

Our newsletter of reviews, events, new releases and other things.

15/07/2017 08:36 PM

"Electrifying! Shocking! Will knock your socks off! Then you'll think twice, about everything." - Margaret Atwood

The Power by Naomi Alderman is this week's Book of the Week at VOLUME. 

What if the power to hurt was suddenly manifest in women's hands (literally)? How would society change? Would gender imbalances we inverted? The Power is a gripping speculative fiction exploring the nature of gender and power.

>> Read Stella's review

>> The Power won the 2017 Baileys Prize for Women's Fiction

>> Read an extract

>> "If women were in the position to cause more pain than men, how would that change the world?"

>> How does Alderman describe her novel?

>> "An instant classic of speculative fiction." - The Guardian

15/07/2017 08:36 PM


Philip Pullman’s latest book is The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship, a graphic novel illustrated by Fred Fordham. Serena is sailing around the world with her family when a storm picks up and she is swept overboard. She’s rescued by the daring John Blake and finds herself on the mysterious ghost ship, the Mary Alice. Crewed by an assortment of sailors from different eras, souls rescued by the ship, they include a Roman engineer from 210, a slave of the Barbary pirates picked up in 1614, and Blake from an experimental expedition in 1939. And if adventures at sea and time travel aren’t enough there’s a present day villain, a wealthy tech mogul, who is out to find the Mary Alice and John Blake. What does Blake have that could be so important to a man who controls communications via his best-selling device, the Apparaptor? And he’s not the only person chasing the Mary Alice, awaiting sightings and news of a ship appearing in a strange fog and disappearing just as suddenly. Serena gets caught up in this high-stakes chase through time and across the seas. Can she help Blake and the crew of the Mary Alice overcome pirates, armed thugs and the crazed behaviour of a megalomaniac, and will she get back to her family? The Adventures of John Blake is a superb story filled with an exciting plot, conspiracy and mystery. Fordham's illustrations are excellent - with both nostalgic and modern elements, they fit the time-travel concept perfectly. Layered with intriguing characters, who we just get a glimpse of in this book, I’m sure there will be more John Blake adventures to come.     {Reviewed by STELLA}
> Click herehere and here for some spreads. 

15/07/2017 08:35 PM

Reviewed by STELLA 

Sheila Heti's How Should a Person Be? - in parts memoir, in turns fiction - is both a delightfully indulgent and a searingly cynical exploration of herself. Heti, in her late 20s, is struggling to write, has become disenchanted with her marriage and life in general, and keeps asking herself how she should be. It's almost as if around the next corner she expects to find the elusive 'answer'. As she records her best friend Margaux's thoughts and feelings, and their conversations, the book becomes a chaotic journey of self-discovery. There are some vicious portrayals here of friends, acquaintances and her social circle, and some delightful moments of honest and enduring relationships. This is strange, brave and hilarious novel. 

15/07/2017 08:34 PM

Panorama by Dušan Šarotar   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
Can peace be attained only in exile? If so, how many layers of exile are necessary to gain sufficient remove from harm? This novel begins with the Slovenian narrator (we might be forgiven, at least at first, for conflating him with the author) in the furthest west of Ireland, in other words at the furthest west of Europe. His guide is Gjini, a fellow Balkan who has lived in Ireland for 11 years, long enough for his foreignness to have been well established (all information about locations in the book, other than the immediately observable, is provided by foreigners to those locations, all knowledge is at a remove). Protected from others by a seemingly impenetrable cultural membrane, the two travel to one location after another in the rain and mud. Everything, even the descriptions themselves, has a soddenness, a heaviness, a peatiness about it, in which old forms are rotted and reduced to traces. The locations are described with great particularity and in great detail, but the people with generality, or indeed plurality, which bestows upon them a ghostly quality. Each location seems populated by the memories of the people who have lived there and who far outnumber the living. Sparsely populated places are thronged with cumulative ghosts, as if reinscribing their residues in a Sebaldean project to rescue those erased by the passage of time, but actually, it seems, doing the opposite, erasing their particularity through repetition in much the same way that memory and the memory of that memory (and so forth) anaesthetises us to the original experience (is this the reason for all literature and art: the replacement of the unassimilable actual by the assimilable ersatz?). Throughout the book, primacy is given to representation over the actual. A view is remarked upon as looking very like a picture of it on the wall, and all information is nested within multiple narratorial shells: the narrator tells us what Gjini tells us that his lost American friend Jane has told him that her mother told her about what had happened such-and-such place, and so forth. Later in the book, as it becomes more obvious that we are reading a novel rather than a memoir, these narratorial shells move from being spoken to being written (for example, the narrator tells (i.e. writes (this is a book)) about receiving a letter from Gjini which relates what Gjini has read in Jane’s journals about such-and-such). The closer to the narrative surface the characters are, the more displaced they are, both in place and in time. This is frequently a displacement of migration and exile, entailing a loss of past, of nationality, of identity, of motivity. It is only once we have reached the third degree of narrative distancing, Jane, that we encounter someone who seems capable of initiating even the slightest action. It is the act of leaving that changes people, that both protects and disempowers them, rather than anything that might happen to them after they leave. A person leaves and thereby changes, leaving only the memory of them describing their memory of something else. Many shells of memory stand in for the actual, acting as a baffle, but what is the unspoken trauma at the back of this novel? The book moves eastward, first to Belgium, where we learn (from Gjini from Jane) about an order of Belgian nuns who moved their convent to westernmost Ireland after the traumas of the first world war. The novel traces a sort of lymphatic route through Europe, gradually and hesitatingly and indirectly reaching back towards the narrator’s home ‘zone’ of the Balkans and the inhumanities suffered there in the Balkans War, the unfaceable reasons, perhaps, for the narrator’s exile. The novel invites comparisons with those of W.G. Sebald in its straddling of the trench between memoir and fiction and in its scatterings of photographs (by the author). Are these images illustrative of the text or stimulants of it? Once thought of, I could not escape the (probably unreasonable) suspicion that the entire text was constructed around a series of images, that the images themselves may be the only points in the novel that touch the ‘actual’. The writing style is also reminiscent of Sebald, with its somewhat old-fashioned style, with its passive verbs, with its too many adjectives subtracting from the impact of the nouns, leaving the nouns as mere adjuncts to their properties.

15/07/2017 08:32 PM


The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
For that about which all that can be said is that it exists, the imperative is to go on existing. There is a voice, desperate to go on (longing perhaps to cease but unable to cease) but conscious of the insufficiency of any attempt to go on. Terrified of each full stop and the cessation it threatens, the voice assumes one character after another, each with a ‘story’ or set of circumstances, but these characters and circumstances are quickly abraded and abandoned, unravelled as quickly as they are knitted, insufficient not through their imperfection but because Beckett refuses to let them conceal the essential nature of the fictive act. That which must speak in order to exist must dissemble in order to speak. In ‘successful’ fictions this desperate underlying impersonal subjectivity is obscured by the characters and circumstances it clads itself in and the reader is scintillated by the provisional ‘reality’ of the story, but in his wonderful stuttering attempts to force the mechanisms of fiction to run against their springs and ratchets, Beckett interrogates the workings of the novel and lays bare the usually unexamined assumptions and motivations that underlie the relationship between writer and reader.

14/07/2017 04:44 PM

Scroll to browse. Click to have. 
I am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy         $28
These short stories come up with one surreally gothic image after another: deeply resonant and affecting beyond the reach of reason. 
"This book is twisted and hypnotizing and downright lovely. Reading it is not unlike diving naked and headlong into a bramble of black rosebushes, so intrigued you are by their beauty: it's a swift, prickly undertaking and you emerge the other end bloodied all over." - The Paris Review
Tears of Rangi: Experiments across worlds by Anne Salmond         $65
Polynesian and then European settlers arrived in New Zealand bringing with them world views and modes of practice that they then began to apply and adapt to the new land. This remarkable book calibrates the varying approaches of the differing peoples who came to Aotearoa, and suggests that a deeper understanding of these mind-sets can lead towards approaches that are more harmonious, not just between cultures but towards the natural world too. 

A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee             $37
The striving for a different life is one of the markers of modern existence. Can these five characters in Mumbai make better lives for themselves, or can they only achieve dislocation? From the author of The Lives of Others
"This is a great hymn to poor, scabby humanity-a devastating portrait of poverty and the inhumanity of the rich to the poor. A masterpiece." - Edmund White 
"Fans of Neel Mukherjee expect that his books will be exceptional and once again he has produced just that. A State of Freedom is formally audacious, vividly observed, and deeply imagined. Unsentimental yet full of heart, grimly real yet mysteriously dreamlike, with characters who continue to live their complicated lives long after you've turned the last page. Just a beautiful, beautiful piece of work." - Karen Joy Fowler
News of the World by Paulette Jiles         $25
In the wake of the American Civil War, a septuagenarian who is content to be a reader of newspapers to the illiterate, is given the task of escorting a 10-year-old white girl, who has been a 'prisoner' of the Kiowa tribe for most of her life, back to her relatives. As they travel across the natural and social wilds of Texas they develop a bond across cultures, so that when it is obvious that the girl's relatives have no interest in her escort is faced with the option of becoming, in the eyes of the law, a kidnapper himself. 
"An exquisite book about the joys of freedom, the discovery of unexpected proprietary love between two people who have never experienced anything like it before, pure adventure in the wilds of an untamed Texas, and the reconciling of vastly different cultures." - New York Times
My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindström         $30
A lovely, sensitive picture book about a child's friendship with a very old dog. 

 Soda Pop by Barbro Lindgren, illustrated by Lisen Adbåge          $25
Soda Pop wears a tea cosy on his head and has brought his son Mazarin up on nothing but sweet buns and love. Every morning Dartanyong emerges from the woodshed with a new identity. This enchanting Swedish classic has made it into English at last. 
"There's a sublime sort of craziness to it. Neither Soda Pop nor Mazarin nor Dartanyong speaks a single word of sense, but they will be my friends for life." - Astrid Lindgren [no relation]

On Kawara: 1966           $90
1966 was a pivotal year in the career of one of contemporary art's most radical and rigorous practitioners: it was the year in which the Japanese artist began his series of date paintings, which depict nothing but the date upon which they were painted (the 'Today' series numbered over 3000 on Kawara's death in 2013). 
>> 'Today' discussed

Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 by Naoki Higashida         $35
Higashida's previous book The Reason I Jump, which he wrote by indicating letters on a cardboard 'keyboard', gave profound insight, not only into the autistic mind, but into human existence per se. This book continues this account into adulthood, and gives an autist's critique of family, society and education. Also included are a story written by Higashida and an introduction from David Mitchell, who has an autistic son. 
>> Writing with autism

Everybody's Son by Thrity Umrigar           $37
A 9-year-old black child from the Projects adopted by a powerful white family grows up to fulfill his potential only to confront a secret which will recast his entire sense of self.
"Jarring and beautiful, Umrigar’s novel examines complex social issues with brutal honesty, but also creates accessible characters with relatable motives, reminding us of the deep-seated racism that exists even in the places we don’t think to look." - Publishers' Weekly

Teenagers: The rise of youth culture in New Zealand by Chris Brickell        $50
The 1954 Mazengarb Report crested a wave of moral panic in New Zealand over the characteristics of its youth culture, and, for all its ludicrosity, at least marked the realisation that New Zealand had a youth culture at all. This interesting social history traces youth culture in New Zealand from the 1880s to the 1960s and considers changes in the transition from childhood to adulthood as conceptions of both childhood and adulthood were also changing.
Flow: Whanganui river poems by Airini Beautrais         $35
"This remarkable sequence winds and eddies like the Whanganui River, filtering the m=region's many histories into something rich and swimmable. Is verse the future of history?" - James Brown
Sugar: The world corrupted, from slavery to obesity by James Walvin     $38
The human craving for sweetness has been one of the engines of history, not only culturally and politically, but of our natural history too.

A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Bronte, Eliot and Woolf by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney       $45
Behind every great woman writer stands another woman writer, in these cases: Anne Sharpe (a playwright who was one of Austen's servants), Mary Taylor (the feminist writer who influenced Charlotte Bronte), Harriet Beecher Stowe (George Eliot) and Katherine Mansfield (who had a complex relationship with Virginia Woolf). This book shows how the personal and the literary are strongly entwined. 

The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! by Grayson Perry         $48
Perry explores populism in art and politics. What is the cultural link between taste and the Brexit vote? 
>> Grayson Perry: What Britain Wants
Radical Technologies by Adam Greenfield           $30
An insightful book on the ‘colonisation of everyday life by information processing’, calling for resistance to rule by the tech elite, who quickly appropriate innovations to their own ascendancy (often despite appearances).  
"Tremendously intelligent and stylish. A landmark primer and spur to informed and effective opposition." - Guardian

Exes by Max Winter          $35
Providence, Rhode Island, contains the only people who could give Clay the background to his brother's suicide. As he collects their stories he begins to piece together a rather bigger picture than he was seeking. 
“There is so much blunt beauty in Max Winter’s Exes, so much confidence in the prose and the pacing, that it is easy to miss the bomb he slips into each story until it detonates, taking with it any careful distance you’ve tried to maintain.” —Mira Jacob
"Brilliantly unique and incisive." - Publishers' Weekly 
Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming edited by Paul Hawken         $45
Solving the climate crisis will bring, not sacrifice, but “more security, more prosperity, more jobs, more well-being and better health.” 
Not One Day by Anne Garréta         $30
An intimate exploration of the delicate connection between memory, fantasy, lover and desire, written under strict OuLiPian constraints: a tour de force of experimental queer feminist writing. 
Winner of the Prix Médicis.
"For Garréta, it may just be possible that the body occupies the space of language so powerfully as its capacity to produce it." - BOMB

Colonial Gothic to Maori Renaissance: Essays in memory of Jonathan Mane-Wheoki edited by Conal McCarthy and Mark Stocker       $80
The contents of this book are as varied and interesting as the man himself: Victorian church architecture and liturgy, mysticism, the New Zealand International Exhibition of 1906, the Toi Te Papa exhibition of 2006, traditional and contemporary Maori art, and the artists Thomas Benjamin Kennington, Gottfried Lindauer, Colin McCahon, Tony Fomison, Philip Clairmont and Emily Karaka. Essays from leading curators and writers, including Peter Simpson, Lara Strongman and former Suter curator Anna-Marie White.
The Rise of the Outsiders: How mainstream politics lost its way by Steve Richards            $33
Recent world politics has been marked not only by a rejection of the establishment but also by a rejection of the established alternatives to the establishment. The results can either be hopeful or grotesque. Why is this happening? 
"Easily one of our best commentators." - David Aaronovitch
The Book of Monelle by Marcel Schwob              $30
Schwob was a pivot of the French Symbolist movement, and this book, based on his relationship with a woman known only as Louise, who died of tuberculosis, immediately became the de facto Bible of the Symbolist movement. Louise here is transformed into the innocent prophet of destruction, Monelle. Schwob tells the stories of her various sisters: women succumbing to disillusionment, caught between the misleading world of childlike fantasy and the bitter world of reality. 
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton       $18
It's 1969, and the Apollo 11 mission is getting ready to go to the moon. But for half-black, half-Japanese Mimi, moving to a predominantly white Vermont town is enough to make her feel alien. No matter what the obstacles, Mimi is determined to become an astronaut. A novel in verse.
"This novel stands out with its thoughtful portrayal of race and its embrace of girls in science and technical fields. The verse, though spare, is powerful and evocative, perfectly capturing Mimi's emotional journey." - School Library Journal
The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher        $23
A memoir of travel, love and loss, but above all hunger. 
"The greatest food writer who ever lived." - Simon Schama
"Poet of the appetites." - John Updike
"She is not just a great food writer. She is a great writer, full stop." - Rachel Cooke, Observer

The Plant Messiah: Adventures in search of the world's rarest species by Carlos Magdalena         $40
Magdalena and his team at Kew Gardens have been instrumental in saving a range of rare species from extinction. 
>> Meet Carlos Magdalena
Caesar's Last Breath: The epic story of the air around us by Sam Kean         $40
Around the world, across time, through the periodic table, there is nowhere Kean will not go to tell us all about the ever-present but invisible substance that has reshaped cultures, changed continents and kept us alive. Caesar's last breath? - You're breathing it. 

David Hockney by Chris Stephens and Andrew Wilson       $90
Lavishly illustrated across the full six decades of Hockney's career, and across the full spectrum of media. 
>> How do you paint memorable pictures? 
The Russian Revolution: A new history by Sean McMeekin          $55
Argues that the success of the Bolshevik revolution was dependent entirely upon the social and economic effects of war (and implies that perhaps things weren't so bad beforehand).
"Dynamic, compelling and revisionist." - Simon Sebag Montefiore
Some other histories of the revolution at VOLUME:
The History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky
October: The story of the Russian Revolution by China Mieville
A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes

Create Your Own Universe: How to invent stories, characters and ideas by the Brothers McLeod        $25
A crucible in which children can spark ideas for stories, books, animations, graphic novels, comics, or whatever narrative art takes their fancy. 
>> Miles rabbits on
>> The Brothers McLeod meet Pythagoras
The Last Holiday by Gil Scott-Heron          $25
An engrossing memoir from his poor beginnings in Tennessee through his rise through the music industry and his prominence in the civil rights movement in New York and elsewhere.
"A marvellous documentary of black America and life lived in the raw." - Spectator
>> The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Inferno [and] Pergatory [and] Paradise by Dante Alighieri, translated by J.G. Nichols
>> Someone has compared 15 translations.      
>> Someone has animated the Inferno.  

14/07/2017 10:30 AM

WHO IS WHO by Ann Braunsteiner and Dan Braulsh
The video work in the window of VOLUME as part of Illuminate 2017 (supported by Uniquely Nelson and Arts Council Nelson) is inspired by Dan Braulsh's Dissociative Identity Disorder with an early onset when he was at the age of seven.
"WHO IS WHO is a short prose animation, descriptive to a living in the shadows of Braulsh's dreams, fractures and surroundings. Braulsh is unable to interact or control his dissociative personalities, but has learned to be aware of their existence, their creative lives, even if for Braulsh himself it means to be absent, in a dream state, stand still or losing time.
With Braunsteiner involved in this collaboration the question deepened about WHO IS WHO and to whom belong the memories transcribed in the short prose/animation of a fractured, dystopian reality, where wolves, consuming the empty skins of a past existence, are protectors of a new order, where a landscape has forever changed its face and a child becomes the narrator of a bare new world."
Dan Braulsh & Ann Braunsteiner, 2017
>>Publication here (PDF).
Come and watch at night.

12/07/2017 12:03 PM

Junk poetry competition 
1. Choose one piece of spam or junk mail, an advertisement or other unsolicited words (either received by e-mail or printed).
2. Write a poem using only the vocabulary of the piece of spam or advertising you have chosen. (Hint: the more restricted the vocabulary, the better the results are likely to be.)
3. Send or deliver your poem and a copy of the originating spam or advertising to VOLUME by Friday 18 August.
4. Ensure that your name and contact details are included on a SEPARATE sheet.
5. There is no limit to the number of entries you may submit (just as there is no limit to the 
amount of spam you may receive).
The winner will be announced on National Poetry Day (25 August) and also in the VOLUME newsletter the following day. The winner will receive a trophy, a copy of the 2017 Poetry New Zealand Yearbook and US$1000000 in a bank account in a country with no reciprocal banking arrangement with New Zealand.* 

>> Download the full details.

*One of these prizes is a con.

10/07/2017 05:01 PM

The NELSON POETRY MAP records and shares connections between poetry and places. Contribute poems to this open-access map, tagging them to the locations you associate with those poems. Visit the locations and read all the poems on your mobile device (or take a virtual tour without leaving home). Wandering poetry readers on National Poetry Day (25 August) will no doubt encounter fellow poetry readers at various locations. Click through to use the map!

10/07/2017 04:45 PM

Featured publisher: LES FUGITIVES
Les Fugitives publishes only short books that have been written by award-winning, female, francophone writers who have previously not been translated into English. Founded in 2015, they have published three astoundingly good books so far.    {Reviews by Thomas}

Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger          $30
Léger was commissioned to write a short biographical entry on Barbara Loden for a film encyclopaedia but ended up writing a very interesting and quite unusual book. Loden directed one film, >>Wanda (1970), about a woman who leaves her husband and who, passively and therefore pretty much by chance, attaches herself to a man who is planning a bank robbery for which, following his death in a police shoot-out and despite her lack of initiative and her not even being present at the robbery (she took a wrong turn in what was supposed to be the getaway car), she will be sent to jail for twenty years. The book operates on many levels simultaneously: it is ‘about’ Léger’s attempts to excavate information about Loden, principally beneath the ways in which she has been recorded by others, notably her husband the Hollywood director Elia Kazan, who also wrote a novel in which Loden features, thinly disguised; it is ‘about’ Loden’s making of the film Wanda; it is ‘about’ the character of Wanda in that film, a character Loden played herself and with whom she strongly identified personally; it is ‘about’ the tension between the “passive and inert” Wanda character with whom Loden identifies and Loden as writer and director, and about the relationship between author and character more generally in both an literary/artistic and a quotidian sense; it is ‘about’ Léger’s search for and discovery of the true story that inspired Loden to make the film, a botched 1960 bank robbery after which the passive and inert Alma Malone politely thanked the judge for handing her a twenty-year sentence; it is ‘about’, therefore, the relationship between inspiration and execution, and between actuality and  fiction; it is ‘about’ portrayal and self-portrayal and ‘about’ who gets to define whom (“To sum up. A woman is pretending to be another, in a role she wrote herself, based on another (this, we find out later), playing something other than a straightforward role, playing not herself but a projection of herself onto another, played by her but based on another.”); it is ‘about’, cumulatively, the way in which, as she delved more deeply into the specifics of another whom she sought to understand, Léger come up more and more against the unresolved edges of herself so that the two archaeologies became one (she also ended up learning quite a lot about her mother and the imbalanced mechanics of her parents’ relationship). When Wanda was released in 1970, it was disparaged in many feminist circles for its portrayal of a passive woman. Léger shows the film to be a useful mirror in which to recognise passivity as not only an impulse for self-erasure on a personal level but as part of the wider social mechanisms by which women are erased and colonised by projections, and in which the feminist critique and frontline necessarily become internal and self-reflexive. There is also in this book a strong sense of the inescapability of subjectivity, that in all subject-object relationships the subject perceives only and acts only upon a sort of externalised version of itself (the object being passive and without feature (effectively absent, effectively unassailable)); and also that when attempting to be/conceive of/portray oneself one has no option but to use the template of that with which one identifies but which is not in essence (whatever that means) oneself (except to the extent that one’s ‘self’ perhaps exists only in the mysterious act of identification). Oh, and Léger‘s writing is exquisite. (>>Read an extract)

Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi         $30
Devi does an excellent job of inhabiting the heads and capturing the patterns of thought that occur just on the brink of consciousness of the four narrators of this account of young lives in the slums of Port Louis in Mauritius. Just as a plughole communicates its force at all times to the entire contents of a basin, even to the molecules that have not yet begun to circle or descend, there is throughout the book a sense that a hopeless future is pulling upon the characters, that their descent will be at first slow and then sudden, that the world for them is tilted and greased, that their voices are impermanent, that they will become those that now harm them and are caught by harm. “One day we wake up and the future has disappeared.” In a milieu where the energies of sex and violence already run in the same channels, where currency is extracted in rape, beatings and murder, how can the voices of individuals, and how can moments of happiness and beauty, be preserved as more than corruscations swallowed, first slowly and then suddenly, by future shadow? Is to fight against your fate a way of preserving your independence from it, for a short moment at least, or does fighting it draw it more tightly entangled upon you?

Blue Self-Portrait by Noémi Lefebvre         $30
It takes approximately an hour and a half to fly from Berlin to Paris. Upon that hour and a half, a human memory, especially one working at neurotically obsessive speed, can loop a very large amount of time indeed, an hour and a half is plenty of time to go over and go over the things, or several of the things, the unassimilable things, that happened in Berlin, in an attempt to assimilate those things, though they are not assimilable, in an attempt, rather, albeit an involuntary attempt, to damage oneself by the exercise of one’s memories, to draw self-blame and self-disgust from a situation the hopelessness of which cannot be attributed to anything worthy of self-blame or self-disgust but which is sufficiently involved to exercise the self-blame and self-disgust that seethe always beneath their veneer of not-caring, of niceness, the veneer that preserves self-blame and self-disgust from resolution into anything other than self-blame and self-disgust. Upon this hour and a half can be looped, such is the efficacy of human memory, not only, obsessively, the unassimilable things that happened in Berlin but also much else that happened even into the distant past, but, largely speaking, the more recent things that have bearing upon, or occupy the same memory-pocket, not the best metaphor, as the unassimilable things that happened in Berlin, for disappointment and failure seldom happen in a vacuum but resonate with, even if they are not the direct result of, disappointments and failures reaching back even into the distant past, self-blame and self-disgust having the benefit, or detriment, if a difference can be told between benefit and detriment, of binding experiences to form an identity, and, not only this, upon that hour and a half can be looped also an endless amount of speculation and projection as to what may be occurring in the minds of others, or in the mind of, in this case, a specific other, a German-American pianist and composer with whom the narrator, who has been visiting Berlin with her sister, has had some manner of romantic encounter, so to call it, the extent of which is unclear, both, seemingly, to the narrator and, certainly, to the reader, the reader being necessarily confined to the mental claustrophobia of the narrator, on account of the obsessive speculation and projection and also the inescapable escapist and self-abnegating fantasising on the part of the narrator, together with the comet-like attraction-and-avoidance of her endless mental orbit around the most unassimilable things that happened in Berlin, or that might have happened in Berlin, or that did not happen in Berlin but are extrapolative fantasies unavoidably attendant upon what happened in Berlin, untrue but just as real as truth, for all thoughts, regardless of actuality, do the same damage to the brain. Lefebvre’s exquisitely pedantic, fugue-like sentences, their structure perfectly indistinguishable from their content, bestow upon her the mantle of Thomas Bernhard, which, after all, does not fall upon just any hem-plucker but, in this case, fully upon someone who, not looking skyward, has crawled far enough into its shadow when looking for something else. Where Bernhard’s narrators tend to direct their loathing outwards until the reader realises that all loathing is in fact self-loathing, Lefebvre’s narrator acknowledges her self-loathing and self-disgust, abnegating herself rather for circumstances in which self-abnegation is neither appropriate nor inappropriate, her self-abnegation arising from the circumstances, from her connection with the circumstances, from her rather than from the circumstances, her self-abnegation not, despite her certainty, having, really, any effect upon the circumstances. Not at all not-funny, pitch-perfect in both voice and structure, full of sly commentary on history and modernity, and on the frailties of human personality and desire, providing for the reader simultaneous resistance and release, Lefebvre shares many of Bernhard’s strengths and qualities, and the book contains memorable and effective passages such as that in which the narrator recalls playing tennis with her mother-in-law, now her ex-mother-in-law, and finding she is not the type for ‘collective happiness’, or her hilariously scathing descriptions of Berlin’s Sony Centre or of Brecht’s house, now a restaurant, or of the narrator's inability to acknowledge the German-American pianist-composer's wife as anything but 'the accompaniment', or, indeed many other passages, but the excellence of the book is perhaps less in the passages than in the book as a whole. I will be surprised if I read a better book this year. 
>>Read an extract here.

Visit the publisher's website to find out more about Les Fugitives and about these books and authors. 

08/07/2017 11:18 PM

BOOKS@VOLUME    #31  (8.7.17)
Our latest newsletter of reviews, news, events and new releases. 

08/07/2017 11:14 PM

This week's Book of the Week is a very interesting selection of essays from excellent New Zealand writers, all treating aspects of the concept of home (in its widest sense).
Home: New writing is edited by Thom Conroy and published by Massey University Press
Selina Tusitala Marsh
Martin Edmond 
Ashleigh Young
Lloyd Jones
Laurence Fearnley
Sue Wootton
Elizabeth Knox
Nick Allen
Brian Turner
Tina Makereti
Bonnie Etherington
Paula Morris
Thom Conroy
Jill Sullivan
Sarah Jane Barnett
Ingrid Horrocks
Anna Gailani
Helen Lehndorf
James George
Ian Wedde

>> Read Stella's review

>> An interview with the editor.

>> An article about the book. 

>> Sarah Jane Barnett's essay, 'Suffering is Optional'. 

08/07/2017 11:12 PM

Review by STELLA

Home: New writing is an excellent collection of essays from New Zealand writers. Each essay chosen by editor Thom Conroy takes you on its own journey, personal yet universal. In his introduction, Conroy reflects on the concept of 'home' being at the forefronts of our minds, with increasing homelessness and a growing population of ‘stateless’ people. Several of the essays reflect on the precarious lives of refugees and the travails, as well as the hopes, of migration. Lloyd Jones in 'Proximity' blends his encounters with the homeless and with Syrian refugees in Europe with his childhood memories of what was an acceptable home, with humanity and care. Diane Comer’s reflections and regrets on moving, of crossing the Pacific several times in her lifetime, endlessly seeking ‘home’, planting gardens that will continue to bloom long after she has left, are honest and revealing it seems for both the reader and writer. And leaving, yet not looking back, resonates through Iraqi-born Anna Gailani’s 'A Token of Patience'. And arrival, whether it is actual or virtual, is a concept that creeps into many of these essays. Ingrid Horrocks in 'Oscillations' cleverly talks about those places between memory and the actual, past and present, and finding her ‘home’ – a place true to herself. Sarah Jane Barnett draws on the connection between running and the body, on a certain point of connection that centres and eclipses suffering, creating a sense of home in oneself at a physical and mental level. Other essays point to environment, both urban and natural. Paula Morris’s 'Greys Avenue' is a riff on the layers of her street, on its history and the wider story of the changing urban landscape. The essay is a matrix of her family history; Morris discovered that her great-grandfather had also lived on the street at some stage. In Laurence Fearnley’s essay, she explores her neighbourhood by scent, curious to discover how, by concentrating with this sense of smell, familiar places of home can be recorded and explored anew. 'Home Without Now and Then' takes us into Elizabeth Knox’s memory of her childhood homes, and the homes of her mother - places she can’t inhabit any longer at the right times – needing to use the phone in the Paremata house but finding herself in the Raumati one. This is just a taste of the twenty-two essays. They are honest, moving and thoughtful, various in style and content, all a delight to read. To contemplate what 'home' means to us in a physical, emotional and philosophical sense, Home: New writing is a marker of social and cultural history as well as of politics, on the grand and small scale. 

08/07/2017 10:14 PM

Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera     {Reviewed by STELLA}
I’ve been late to come to Herrera’s work, and now I’m surprised it’s taken me so long to get there. Herrera is a revelation. He has been feted as Mexico’s greatest living novelist and his third novel Signs Preceding the End of the World was awarded Best Translated Book Award in 2016, beating stiff and outstanding competition from Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard. The first novella in his ‘Border Trilogy’, Kingdom Cons has just been translated into English. Unusually, in the English translations, the last has come first and the first last. Loosely a trilogy, all the books (the second being The Transmigration of Bodies) deal with borders, physical, psychological and metaphysical. Kingdom Cons is fable-like in its construction, telling the story of the Artist, a wandering musician who sings songs for his supper, and the King, the Capo, the head of a palace, bejewelled and all powerful. The novella opens in the cantinas of Mexico where Lobo is singing popular ballads of humour and humility for a few coins. When a drunkard refuses to pay for his song, the King intervenes and the Artist finds himself taken into a powerful world of passion, violence and high-stakes jealousy. The world of the drug cartel is subtly played out in this tale; the story could as easily be any time or situation where inequalities thrive and those that play hardest and fastest climb to the top, only to watch with increasing paranoia for the knife to come. Lobo’s place in the palace is a lowly one, a place that protects him in its powerlessness but also leaves him vulnerable, yet he is increasingly intrigued by the machinations and power of the court. Accepted by the King initially as a harmless distraction, he later becomes an object of annoyance. His relationships with others in the power structure become increasingly complex, and his dangerous obsession with a beautiful, damaged young woman, the Commoner, compromise his former inconsequential existence. As defections occur and the King’s position becomes precarious, the tension mounts. When Lobo is sent on a mission to spy, he inadvertently makes a mistake, one that could crush him. Herrera’s ability to take you into this maelstrom of epic emotion and action is measured, holding you both aloft and completely compelled. His work deserves a second and close reading. In these slim volumes, he conjures up worlds and ideas that sideswipe you: dynamic and intelligent, they will hit you in both the gut and the mind. 

08/07/2017 09:20 PM

We are delighted to announce (in association with Bridget Williams Books) that Max Harris, author of The New Zealand Project, will be speaking in Church Street, at Kush,  on Thursday 17 August at 6 PM. Ink this into your diary now. Stella will be in the chair. Addressing the key challenges of climate change, the future of work and social justice, Max encourages us to look ahead with hope – and to develop a new political vision based on the values of care, community and creativity. Click here for full details and a printable poster

08/07/2017 09:19 PM


At the Lightning Field by Laura Raicovich    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
The Lightning Field’ is a one-mile-by-one-kilometer grid of 400 evenly spaced 4.5m-8m high stainless steel poles in the remote desert of New Mexico, constructed by Walter De Maria in 1977 such that it would support a regular hypothetical slab precisely on all points. As well as being an attractor for lightning, which is frequent in that area, the grid is an attractor for artists, scientists and other people who have an inclination to correlate the sphere of experience with the sphere of speculation (if such things may be thought of as spheres). Although the field can be circumambulated, to be within it is to experience it as of infinite (or non-finite) extent: the pattern of the grid resolves its regularity at the distance beyond which no effort is required to bring objects into focus, but is indistinguishable closer up. Within this implied infinity of regularity, of spaciotemporal generality, the irregular, the specific, is more noticeable, and, by implication, more measurable, as if the grid were a graph upon which to plot the curve of experience, the clinamen of the actual as opposed to the general, the phenomenon of perception in contrast to that which is perceived. This mathematics is the mathematics of subjectivity. The viewer, so to call a person entering the field, is thrown back upon their own intrusion, “the burden of response is placed not on the sculpture but on the spectator”, who thereby becomes aware primarily of themselves. The heightened awareness of oneself and of particular phenomena within the field is only mystical if by mystical we mean a separation of the particular from the general. “The Lightning Field is not a magical plane. Within the desert there are few distractions from the acts and implications of perception.” And yet the separation of the particular from the general allows us to study not only the particular but the general also. Synthesis is a problem resolved by scale; analysis is a problem resolved by shape. The search for patterns and symmetries, especially those that appear on both the infinitesimal and infinite scales, supersedes the study of divisible phenomena. Space and time reveal themselves as properties of phenomena that allow these phenomena to relate, rather than as a medium or media in which they occur. The grid is a framework within which the curve of experience can be more clearly perceived and also a framework for extrapolating that experience beyond the prescribed ground. It is a space for the study of the relationship between the particular and the general, between the actual and the theoretical, between the individual and the class of which it is both a representative and a promulgator. The Lightning Field is a mechanism for the “recalibration of time and space. … It presents measurement, space and time in combinations that alternately adhere to and confound regularity, suggesting something far less rational, like the inaccuracy of a memory or the way lightning sprawls across the desert sky.” The regularity of the arrangement is an attractor of the irregular force of lightning, the beautiful ‘natural disaster’ that the artist (the artist who made the field, or any artist who seeks, at least figuratively, to attract an electric strike to their grid of regular effort) so longs for, the most potent and least predictable of phenomena.