19/05/2018 08:46 PM

BOOKS @ VOLUME #75 (19.5.18)


19/05/2018 07:55 PM


Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“Who eats in a cage? Or with a caged mouth?” There is either writing or not-writing (even though not-writing may be as specific concerning what is not written and writing is concerning what is), and the dividing line between the two is not so much a wall as a cliff, an inequality more effective than a barrier. Anne Boyer’s collection of prose poems, Garments Against Women, is everywhere alert to the ways in which the world as experienced by those who live in it is riven by inequalities. Those who wield a power or who benefit from the wielding of that power have little perceptual overlap with those upon whom that power is wielded or who suffer from the wielding of that power, but, interestingly, the advantaged live in a world of more restricted truth, even though the disadvantaged may feel the effects of this restriction. This asymmetry acts as a constraint upon those to whom falls more heavily the burden of existing, “lives diminished by the arrangement of the world,” their time forced into objects and taken from them by what is termed an ‘economic system’. Boyer’s poems interrogate her relationship with objects, for instance the garments she sews or that she buys from thrift shops: “the fabric still contains the hours of the lives” - can these hours have their value restored? For whose benefit have these hours been put into objects? If “writing is the manufacture of impossible desires,” can we write of or read of objects without involving ourselves in the mechanisms by which time is taken asymmetrically from workers? Is it possible for an object to not exist except as a vicarious object, “an object which exists only as it might exist to another”? Are all objects more vicarious than not? “I am the dog who can never be happy because I am imagining the unhappiness of other dogs,” writes Boyer. How it is possible to write, even to imagine writing, even if one had the time to write, without writing ‘garments’ that are designed by and are to the benefit of those who have confined ‘writing’ in the narrow world of their advantage? Whose roles must be challenged and overhauled? “I will soon write a long, sad book called A Woman Shopping, writes Boyer, an self-described “addict of denial”, in the poem ‘A Woman Shopping’. “It will be a book about what we are required to do and also a book about what we are hated for doing.” Everyone is smothered by their role: “If a woman has no purse we will imagine one for her.” “Everyone tries to figure out how to overcome the embarrassment of existing,” but the real struggle is “not between actor and actor. It’s between actors and the stage.” Boyer’s poems provide subtle and often surprising insights into the relationships between individuals and their roles, desires and scripts, personal and societal misfortunes, struggle and survival, despair and surprising joy. Can writing effect real change? “I thought to have a name was to become an object,” writes Boyer. “I thought I was a charlatan. I was mistaken. I was not a charlatan, I was a search term.”


19/05/2018 07:54 PM

{STELLA}:  In the lead up to my interrogation of crime novelists Alan Carter and Paul Cleave, I’ve been delving into the world of nasty criminals, psychopaths, serial killers, crooked (just bad) cops and a whole host of no-gooders - along with shocked bystanders, good, yet compromised, cops, and a few ethically staunch good detectives. There are suspects and victims, crime scenes and murder weapons. The most recent criminal activities on record are Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (you can read my review here) and A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave. To begin  my investigation I went back to the first in Cleave’s Christchurch crime noir series, The Cleaner. The premise sounded good: Joe the Janitor working at the police station - a simple fellow who goes unnoticed in the tense and busy world of criminal investigations and unsolved murders. Yet Joe knows more than he’s letting on: he’s got information the police would love to have about the man who's been labelled ‘The Christchurch Carver’. He knows about his penchant for knives, that he is methodical and thorough. The detectives are slow to see the pattern of victims and, when they do, they are hardly working together to solve the crime. There are dirty cops intent on their own pleasures. The clock is ticking, the media are demanding answers and they are no closer to finding the carver. The Cleaner would have been a very good straight crime story about a serial killer if it hadn’t been for the other factors that blow it out of the mold. These are Cleave’s tight writing, wry, if somewhat startling humour - Joe’s Mum is extremely memorable - and a woman named Melissa. And believe me, you will never look at a pair of pliers in quite the same way again! All Cleave’s books are set in Christchurch - the gritty underbelly of the garden city. Raw, nasty and eerie, it’s the perfect backdrop for serial killers, revenge and the dark internal worlds of both the crims and the cops. A Killer Harvest is aptly named. Blind and robbed of his family, Joshua believes he is cursed - that there is a family curse. When Joshua’s father is killed on the job, an opportunity arises for the teen to see. His father has gifted him his eyes. A successful operation changes the teen’s life - but at what cost? What does Joshua know, and what is he sensing? His dreams are confusing - he sees his father falling but he’s also inside his head looking out. Can cellular memory have anything to do with the images he’s seeing? There are secrets that maybe no one wants to or should know. A darkness is rising - one worse than being blind. Added to this is a man on a rampage. His father’s killer is dead, but Simon Bower’s best mate Vincent  has tipped over the edge. And he’s out to set the record straight - to avenge his mate’s killing at the hands of the police. Cleave explores memory, secrets and motivations for good and evil in this taut thriller at the centre of which ordinary lives revolve and innocent people are in jeopardy.
The special public inquisition takes place this Thursday at Elma Turner Library. >> Invite your friends.  >> Do some preparatory reading

19/05/2018 10:53 AM

Use our Book of the Week to make new mythical beasts out of pre-existing mythical beasts. The pages of Myth Match: A fantastical flip-book of extraordinary beasts are split, providing endless permutations, both of the pictures and (cleverly) the descriptive text.

>> See how the book works

>> The book is designed by Good Wives and Warriors

>> How the book was made

>> Try it yourself

18/05/2018 05:07 PM

Newly released. 
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood          $28
In turns funny, angry and insightful, Lockwood's memoir of growing up with a father several times larger than life in a world several sizes too small for them both is not quite like anything else. Lockwood's Motherland, Fatherland, Homelandsexuals positioned her as an American approximation of Hera Lindsay Bird.  
"Lockwood's prose is cute and dirty and innocent and experienced, Betty Boop in a pas de deux with David Sedaris." - The New York Times

>> "Anything that happens from here is not my fault." (Lockwood in Wellington.)
Toolbox by Fabio Morábito       $36
What is it like to be a hammer, a screw, a file, a sponge? Why do different tools have different 'characters'? If tools are the extension of human capacities and intentions, what do they tell us about ourselves? Both witty and profound.
Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose        $28
On April 11, 1931, Virginia Woolf ended her entry in A Writer s Diary with the words "too much and not the mood". She was describing how tired she was of correcting her own writing, of the cramming in and the cutting out to please readers, wondering if she had anything at all that was truly worth saying. These issues underlie these essays by Chew-Bose: the contrapuntal forces of her external and internal worlds, the relationship between inner restlessness and creative production, the clash of identity and individuality. The work is informed by the sensibilities of MAggie Nelson, Lydia Davis and Vivian Gornick and quotidian frustration.
"Our generation has no-one else like Durga Chew-Bose: a cultural critic who isn't afraid to get personal, a romantic nostalgic with a lemony twist who applies her brilliance to life as it is currently lived. It's a profound and glorious relief to encounter this book." - Lena Dunham
>> The power of uncertainty
Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf       $30
"She thought that it was precisely when things get uncomfortable or can't be shown that something interesting comes to light. That is the point of no return, the point that must be reached, the point you reach after crossing the border of what has already been said, what has already been seen. It's cold out there." This hybrid novel - part research notes, part fictionalised diary, and part travelogue - uses the stories of polar exploration to make sense of the protagonist's own concerns as she comes of age as an artist, a daughter, and a sister to an autistic brother.  “It’s much easier to get to the Arctic than to reach certain areas of one’s self.”
The Shape of Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez        $38
A novel comprised of personal and formal investigations into the possible links between the assassination of Rafael Uribe Uribe in 1914, the man who inspired Garcia Marquez's General Buendia in One Hundred Years of Solitude, and of the charismatic Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, the man who might have been Colombia's J.F.K., gunned down on the brink of success in the presidential elections of 1948. 
"Absolutely hypnotic, a display of tense, agile, intelligent narrative, it takes conspiracy to a whole other level." - El Cultural 
"With utmost skill, Vasquez has us accompany him in his detective work, proposing a reflection on ghosts from the past and the inheritance of blame, doubt and fear." - El Pais 
"Juan Gabriel Vasquez has many gifts - intelligence, wit, energy, a deep vein of feeling - but he uses them so naturally that soon enough one forgets one's amazement at his talents, and then the strange, beautiful sorcery of his tale takes hold." - Nicole Krauss
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi           $33
Ada has always been unusual. As an infant in southern Nigeria, she is a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents successfully prayed her into existence, but something must have gone awry, as the young Ada becomes a troubled child, prone to violent fits of anger and grief. But Ada turns out to be more than just volatile. Born “with one foot on the other side,” she begins to develop separate selves. When Ada travels to America for college, a traumatic event crystallises the selves into something more powerful. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these alters—now protective, now hedonistic—move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dangerous direction. 
>> Read an extract
>> What is an ogbanje? 
The Life of Stuff: A memoir about the mess we leave behind by Susannah Walker         $40
What is the relationship between a person and their possessions? What extra burden do these possessions bear when the person dies and what extra difficulty or comfort do they extend to those left behind? When her mother died, Walker was left to search through a dilapidated, cluttered house min search of someone she found she had never really known. 

Women Design: Pioneers in architecture, industrial, graphic and digital design from the twentieth century to the present day by Libby Sellers         $45
A good selection, well illustrated, from Eileen Gray, Lora Lamm and Lella Vignelli, to Kazuyo Sejima, Hella Jongerius and Neri Oxman.
Rebel Publisher: How Grove Press ended censorship of the written word in America by Loren Glass         $32
Grove Press, and its house journal The Evergreen Review, revolutionized the publishing industry and radicalized the reading habits of the "paperback generation." Barney Rossett founded the company on a shoestring in 1951 and it became an important conduit through which avant-garde and European literature, and the works of Beckett, Burroughs, Brecht and Malcolm X became available in the US. 
>> Rossett obituary (2012).
>> Much discussion in this institution
Listen to This by Alex Ross         $28
From the author of The Rest is Noise, this book collects some of his best writing on classical and popular music - everything from Brahms to Bjork.  
>> Ross will be appearing with soprano Bianca Ross and Stroma at the Nelson School of Music on 27 May

Bloom: A story of fashion designer Elsa Schiapparelli by Kyo Maclear and Julia Morstad          $30
A very nicely done picture book about a girl who became ill from planting seeds in her ears and nose went on to be a designer who would not be limited by tradition or rationality. 
Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley        $19
Following the death of his mother, Max Friedman comes to believe that he is sharing his brain with a tumour. As Max becomes focused on controlling the malignant tenant, he starts to lose touch with his friends and family, and with reality itself – so Max’s father sends him off to the artsy Baldwin School to regain his footing. Soon, Max has joined a group of theatre misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet. He befriends Fish, a gril with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, a boy who refuses to let go of the things he loves. Max starts to feel happy, and the ghosts of his past seem to be gone for ever. But the tumour is always lurking in the wings – until one night it knocks him down, and Max is forced to face the truth.
"Grief becomes something oddly beautiful – and beautifully odd." - Kirkus
Woman at Sea by Catherine Poulain          $37
"`It must be possible to find a balance,' I say, `between deathly boredom and a too-violent life.' `There isn't a balance,' he says. `It's always all or nothing.'" A novel based on the author's own experience of running away from a humdrum existence in France and finding the intensity she seeks on board a rough fishing boat operating from the Alaskan island of Kodiak. 
"An untamed successor to Conrad and Melville." - l'Obs [!]

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor           $25
Not only is this book a thriller that overturns the expectations of a thriller while still achieving the effects upon the reader of a thriller, it is a novel that overturns the expectations of a novel (plot, protagonists, ‘viewpoint’, shape, interiority, &c) while achieving the effects upon the reader of a novel. Written scrupulously in the flat, detached, austere tone of reportage, infinitely patient but with implacable momentum, a slow mill grinding detail out of circumstance, a forensic dossier on English rurality, the novel is comprised of detail after detail of the human, animal and vegetative life in a small rural community over thirteen years. New edition.
>> Read Thomas's review
The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson: The pioneering life of a forgotten English surgeon by Cherry Lewis         $25
In 1817 James Parkinson identified the disease since named after him. He was also a political radical and a fossil-hunter, and worked with Edward Jenner to set up smallpox vaccination clinics across London. He deserves to be better known.
Another History of the Children's Picture Book: From Soviet Lithuania to India by Giedre Jankeviciute and V. Geetha     $70
How did the period of Soviet cultural outreach affect the production of children's books in other countries? Apart from the interesting text, which shifts the focus of international children's book production, the book is packed with delightful examples of illustration and book design. 

Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz and Mirian Klein Stahl        $35

Artists, athletes, pirates, punks, and other revolutionaries. 

Under the Canopy: Trees around the world by Iris Volant and Cynthia Alonso         $30

From the olive trees of Athens to the Eucalyptus trees of Australia, discover the place of trees in history and mythology across the world. Every climate, every nation has its tales of trees, true or legendary, that help us understand ourselves and the natural world around us.
Heke Tangata: Māori in markets and cities by Brian Easton         $40

This book describes, both analytically and statistically, the migration of Maori into cities since 1945 and the changes in Maori position and participation in the New Zealand economy. 

Policing the Black Man: Arrest, prosecution and imprisonment edited by Angela Davis       $38
Essays range from an explication of the historical roots of racism in the US criminal justice system to an examination of modern-day police killings of unarmed black men. The authors discuss and explain racial profiling, the power and discretion of police and prosecutors, the role of implicit bias, the racial impact of police and prosecutorial decisions, the disproportionate imprisonment of black men, the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, and the Supreme Court's failure to provide meaningful remedies for the injustices in the criminal justice system. 
"Somewhere among the anger, mourning and malice that Policing the Black Man documents lies the pursuit of justice. This powerful book demands our fierce attention." - Toni Morrison
Origin Story: A big history of everything from the Big Bang to the first stars, to our solar system, life on Earth, dinosaurs, homo sapiens, agriculture, an ice age, empires, fossil fuels, a Moon landing and mass globalisation, and what happens next... by David Christian      $40
Any questions?
The Infinite Game by Niki Harré      $30
Can we live a better and more fulfilling life if we thought of it as a game? Playing is more rewarding than winning. Also available: Psychology for a Better World
>> Harre talks about the book on Radio NZ National

Take Heart: My journey with cardiomyopathy and heart failure by Adrienne Frater          $30
Well written, insightful, medically accurate, emotionally helpful. Local author. 

AutoBioPhilosophy by Robert Rowland Smith        $40
What does it mean to be human?  Love triangles, office politics, police raids, illegal drugs, academic elites and near-death experiences can offer insights, if Rowland Smith's experiences of these are anything to go by. Can Shakespeare and Freud (and Rowland Smith) help us build new models of psychology? Yes, possibly. 
Dear Zealots: Letters from a divided land by Amoz  Oz      $30
Essays on Israel/Palestine from this outspoken advocate of the two-state solution and opponent of Israeli settlement in the Occupied Territories. Oz appeals to the deep tradition of Jewish humanism to seek a way forward from impasse. "No idea has ever been defeated by force. To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one."
Badly Wolf: A furry tale by Lindsay Pope, illustrated by Jo Tyson          $20
"He lived alone in his rustic lair, / A toothless wolf with silver hair." Is a wolf-in-human-clothing a threat to nursery rhymes? Yes, on the evidence of this book from "the scratchy cardigan of New Zealand poetry", very likely. Huge fun. 

15/05/2018 10:55 PM

The 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
Winners (+ judges' comments)

The New Animals by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press)        $30
The New Animals is a strange, confrontational, revelatory novel that holds a mirror up to contemporary New Zealand culture. Adam handles a large ensemble of unrooted characters with skill. She gets beneath the skin of her characters in ways that make the reader blink, double-take, and ultimately reassess their sense of the capabilities of fiction. A transition late in the novel is both wholly unexpected and utterly satisfying. It’s stylistically raw and reveals a good deal in a modest way. The New Animals is so vivid in imagery and imagination that the judges haven’t stopped thinking about it since. In this category in 2018 it’s the book with the most blood on the page. It will give you an electric shock. It will bring readers back from the dead.

Night Horse by Elizabeth Smither (Auckland University Press)      $25
The 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Poetry Award is for a book by an esteemed and celebrated poet who contributes greatly to the New Zealand writing community. Night Horse delights in animals, reflects on the well-being and the passing of friends and family, and the minutiae of care, such as the poem about ironing a friend’s shirts in return for hospitality, or the friend whose swollen feet will only fit slippers despite racks and racks of shoes, or the sublime answer of Pope Francis to a child who asked how Jesus walked on water — ‘He walked as we walk’ — or the car lights focused on a horse at night entranced by moonlight, or lovers holding hands. These poems are gentle, uplifting, tender, humorous, well-crafted and luminous.

Tuai: A traveller in two worlds by Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins (Bridget Williams Books)          $40
Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds presents an evocative picture of young Māori travelling to England; their encounters with people, illness and industry there, and their return home. Tuai is empathetically written, providing the reader a window into a contested time of meeting, conversion and enterprise. The text and illustrations work in concert, presenting a rounded and rich experience for the reader, enhancing the breadth and depth of the research explored within.Key moments are presented so richly that they envelop and captivate the imagination. The care the authors have given these histories, acknowledging the autonomy that mātauranga Māori has in wider Aotearoa historical narratives, is striking, and we need more of it.

Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father by Diana Wichtel (Awa Press)       $45
The toughest task of any book, whatever the form, is to make a sentence so good that you just have to read the next one, and the next one, and then wish it could just about go on forever. So it is with Driving to Treblinka. From the first page, Diana Wichtel’s memoir draws you into a fascinating ancestry: the story of a girl growing up in Canada, her mum a kiwi, her dad a Polish Jew, a man who leapt in desperation from a concentration-camp-bound train, a moment around which everything in this book orbits. Wichtel’s curiosity, alternately upsetting and uplifting, turns invisibly into a kind of mission. At its heart this is a family story, but one which cannot but shine a light on the vestiges of anti-Semitism that linger in Europe today. It is not just a beautifully written book, but an important book, too.

Baby by Annaleese Jochems  (Victoria University Press)       $30
A novel that shimmers with feverish, fatalistic intensity, Baby is a strange and strangely moving love story built on obsession, narcissism and damage. It is a much deserved recipient of the Best First Book Award for Fiction. Guest international judge, Alan Taylor, says of Baby: ‘Baby is the kind of novel that lingers in the memory long after you put it down. It is raw, bleak, blackly funny, unpredictable and unsentimental, with shafts of sunny lyricism and passages of clean prose that are veined with menace. It is by any standard a remarkable debut novel by a young writer who has set a very high bar for herself. Where Annaleese Jochems goes from here is anyone’s guess but wherever it is, the truly curious will want to follow her.

Fully Clothed and So Forgetful by Hannah Mettner (Victoria University Press)         $25
In Fully Clothed and So Forgetful Hannah Mettner opens doorways into thought and meanings that lie beneath the surface. Adept at ‘making strange’ — dislocating the ordinary and the familiar —­­ she stretches the imagination of both writer and reader. Mettner has something to say beyond massing detailed description and merely reporting back. Fully Clothed and So Forgetful reveals a writer who knows how to turn a poem into something else — the mark of poems of discovery and not mere invention. The collection’s opening poem, 'Higher Ground,' is an example of the mobile possibilities in this poetic approach. It combines the referential list poem with the oomph of slam and the reticent praises of psalms. These poems of poise and deceptive complexity demonstrate Mettner’s considerable talent.


Caves: Exploring New Zealand's subterranean wilderness by Marcus Thomas and Neil Silverwood (Whio Publishing)      $80 
The photographs in Caves are undeniably exquisite. They depict moments of wonder, an otherworldliness that a dedicated few access. Through the marriage of photographs and infographics this book provides a more general readership the privilege of seeing the subterranean parts of New Zealand’s environment that remain comparatively unknown. At times, the images and the narrative can be unnerving as we read of the deaths that come with discovery and view seemingly bottomless caverns, but the overarching feeling is one of awe at the immense beauty of our islands and the courage of the tightknit community of people that traverse them.


Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father by Diana Wichtel (Awa Press)       $45 
Powerful, poignant, and not infrequently profound, Driving to Treblinka is an outrageously assured example of a first book. Diana Wichtel’s story goes way beyond the usual family memoir. In search of her father’s history Wichtel travels by memory and aeroplane and time to Poland, to the Jewish ghetto and a miraculous escape from execution at the Nazi death camp in Treblinka to a new life in Canada – and to another heart-wrenching, years-long unexplained family fissure. As uplifting as it is upsetting, Driving to Treblinka delivers an engrossing account of a life, and the indelible legacy of the Holocaust through generations.

13/05/2018 02:03 AM

BOOKS @ VOLUME #74 (12.5.18)

Our latest newsletter of reviews, events, news and new releases. 

13/05/2018 12:39 AM

We are pleased to announce the results of the VOLUME OCKHAMETER (and Acornometer). We invited you to vote for your favourite short-listed books in the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, books selected for their excellence. The winners will be announced on Tuesday 15th May. How similar will the results be to those generated by our Ockhameter? The VOLUME Ockhameter category winners: Poetry: The Yield by Sue Wootton (Otago University Press); Fiction (Acornometer): Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence & Gibson); Illustrated Non-Fiction: Tuai: A traveller in two worlds by Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins (Bridget Williams Books); General Non-Fiction: Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father by Diana Wichtel (Awa Press). Click here for the full Ockhameter results. The winner of the copy of each of the four eventual category winners is Mary Mottram. Many thanks to all entrants, and many thanks to all the publishers for supporting the Ockhameter.

13/05/2018 12:30 AM

"This will be a classic of New Zealand literature," says The New Zealand Listener of this week's Book of the Week this week, All This by Chance by Vincent O'Sullivan (published by Victoria University Press). This thoughtfully written novel traces the trauma of the Holocaust and of unspoken secrets through three generations of a family, crossing between Britain and New Zealand. 

>> Read Stella's review

>> O'Sullivan reads and talks

>> "The best New Zealand novel of 2018." (The Spinoff)

>> O'Sullivan has a long and rich career as a poet and writer of short stories

>> The cover is by Keely O'Shannessy.

>> Focus! (a book trailer for O'Sullivan's poetry collection Us, Then)

>> O'Sullivan will be at the Marlborough Book Festival in July (recommended). 

13/05/2018 12:29 AM

Review by STELLA

All This by Chance is Vincent O'Sullivan's third novel, over a decade in the making. It follows a family over several generations from post-war England 1947 to Europe mid-2000s. Stephen escapes the full employment, good food and unbearable dullness of rural New Zealand for a grim post-war London. Here he meets Eva, a striking young woman of Eastern European descent. Eva, whose real name eludes her, was sent as a young child from the ever-increasing chaos of Germany to the safety of her adoptive parents, a caring and educated Quaker family. Life is surprising and happy for our young pharmacist, in love with Eva, surrounded by empathetic elders who present positive role models for a young man with a fraught relationship with his father. Yet, on a chilly London day, a letter and news of the past change the nature of the couple’s relationship to each other and the past that they attempt to keep at a distance. Eva’s great-aunt Ruth has arrived in London, a survivor from Poland awash in her own mind - the doors firmly shut to the memories that torment. O’Sullivan writes deftly, introducing us to these characters, engaging us with the joys and sorrows of their respective lives without sentiment, with rich descriptions of place and brief encounters and conversations that allow snippets of information, piquing our curiosity yet never hammering a ‘message’ home. Religion and faith, science and rationality play out across these pages with both ease and tension as the various family members exercise their love, frustrations, confusions and anger. In Stephen and Eva’s children, we glimpse the impact of the Holocaust on the next generation: David, obsessed with his family past and a desire to find his place, his Jewishness, vents against his father and is frustrated by his inability to track down the answers he so desperately craves. His sister Lisa, rational and pragmatic, seems to be untouched by the impact of her family’s past, yet the death of her mother and great aunt and their buried histories have life-changing repercussions: her closest relationships are shaped by the past that she carries with her willingly or not. This generation is unable to capture a past too raw, too close to contemplate the depth of damage: the secrets - lost in burnt papers, buried in denial and swallowed by those who have knowledge but do not wish to burden others - will not reveal themselves. Esther, David’s daughter, wanting to understand the burdens her family carry, is the secret-hunter, never setting out to resolve the mysteries of her family but drawn and compelled to understand, spurred by her father’s unhappiness, her aunt’s life and her own eagerness to bring history out from the closest. On many levels this is a novel about the intergenerational relationships of family - the humour and the drama that binds people together, about the impact of the past on the present, while also presenting a humane and prescient analysis of the world we live in now: its borders, prejudices and ambitions. All This By Chance reminds us that our history is not chance but of our making, even when encounters and actions may seem coincidental. O’Sullivan’s taut writing, compelling settings over time and place, and memorable characters make All This By Chance a compelling and thoughtful novel. 

13/05/2018 12:25 AM

Murmur by Will Eaves  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
No algorithm can entertain a proposition as being both true and not true at the same time. This necessary computational allergy to contradiction enabled Alan Turing during his time at Bletchley Park in World War 2 to significantly decrease the time it took to break the German codes (“from a contradiction you can deduce everything,” he wrote), thus saving many lives. It would also provide a good test for ‘thought’ as opposed to ‘computation’ in artificial intelligence, and have implications for the eventual ‘personhood’ or otherwise of machines. “Machines do nothing by halves,” writes Will Eaves in Murmur, a beautifully written, sad and thoughtful novel based on Turing. Machines cannot but incline towards explication, whereas it is our inability to access the mind of another that verifies its existence as a mind.* “It isn’t knowing what another person thinks or feels that makes us who we are. It’s the respect for not knowing,” writes Eaves. In 1952 an English court found Alan Turing guilty of ‘Gross Indecency’ for admitted homosexual activity (then a crime in Britain), and he submitted to a year-long regime of chemical castration via weekly injections of Stilboestrol rather than imprisonment. Turing’s chemical reprogramming, speculates Eaves, struck at the core of his identity, his mind at first barricading itself within the changing body and then seemingly inhabiting it once more, but resourceless and compliant. Is personhood always thus imposed from without, or does personhood lie in the resistance to such an imposition? What conformity to expectations must be achieved or eschewed to accomplish personhood? The murmur inMurmur is an insistent voice that rises from Alec Prior’s (i.e. Alan Turing’s) sub-computational mind as it reacts to, and reconfigures itself on the basis of, its chemical reorientation. A narrator in the third person, waiting in ambush in mirrors and other reflective surfaces, Prior’s reflection, assails and supplants Prior’s first-person narrative, breaches the functional boundaries of his identity, describes Prior as “a man in distress, a prisoner of some description?”, unpicking his autonomy, and acting as a catalyst for the emergence of material (memories, voices, impulses) from the deep strata of Prior’s mind, much of it foundational (such as Prior’s formative relationship with a fellow student at high school), atemporal or, increasingly, counterfactual (a series of imagined letters between Prior and his friend and colleague June, with whom he was briefly engaged (parallelling Turing’s relationship with Joan Clarke, June was unconcerned by Prior’s homosexuality but he decided not to go through with the marriage) veers towards a confused and non-existent future in which a child of theirs remarks to Prior, “You’re changing. You’re lots of different people, lots of things, and all at once.”). What is the relationship between memory and fantasy, and what is the pivot or fulcrum between the two? When the first-person narration restabilises it is a new first person, one constructed from without (“There was another me, speaking for me.”). Consciousness is detached from what it contains, but made of it. “I am the body in the bed. I’m what sees him. I am the room.” But it is consciousness’s detachment from its object, its resistance to connection (a machine cannot help but connect), its yearning for what it is not and what is not (“yearning is a sort of proof of liberty”), its inaccessibility, its ability to see itself from the couch of its exclusion (“a shared mind has no self-knowledge,” writes Eaves-as-Prior-as-Turing), its cognisance of the limitations of narrative, its capacity to suspend disbelief in fictions, its ability to use a contradiction as a stimulant to thought rather than a nullification, its fragility and tentativeness that distinguishes thinking from computation. Artificial intelligence will not achieve personhood through mimesis, learning or algorithmic excellence, but only, if ever, through qualities that eschew such virtues: “We won’t know what machines are thinking once they start to think.”

* “As soon as one can see cause and effect working themselves out in the brain, one regards it as not being thinking, but a sort of unimaginative donkeywork. From this point of view one might be tempted to define thinking as consisting of ‘those mental processes that we don’t understand’. If this is right, then to make a thinking machine is to make one that does interesting things without our understanding quite how it is done.” - A.M. Turing (‘Can Automatic Calculating Machines Be Said to Think?’ (1952))

11/05/2018 03:37 PM


A weekly bulletin from VOLUME. 11.5.18
The New Ships by Kate Duignan           $30
Acting and not acting each have their consequences, shunting lives onto quite different tracks. This long-awaited new novel from Duigan stretches the web of consequences from post-Twin Towers Wellington across time and space as far as a houseboat in Amsterdam in the 1970s. How do Peter and Moira respond to the new roles fate casts upon them? 
"The New Ships is a gripping novel about lost children and a very fine portrait of family life in all its beauty and betrayal. Intricate, compelling, and deeply moving." —Anna Smaill
"Beautifully fluid, elegant, assured and calm, intellectually right and morally true." —Emily Perkins
Not to Read by Alejandro Zambra           $32
A lively, fluid and iconoclastic theory of reading emerges from Zambras essays and observations of literature, its production and its consumption. Zambra is always good company: playful, irreverent and thoughtful 
"When I read Zambra I feel like someone's shooting fireworks inside my head. His prose is as compact as a grain of gunpowder, but its allusions and ramifications branch out and illuminate even the most remote corners of our minds." - Valeria Luiselli
>> Alejandro Zambra is also against poets
>> Read Thomas's reviews of Zambra's excellent Multiple Choice and My Documents
Motherhood by Sheila Heti          $40
"I've never seen anyone write about the relationship between childlessness, writing, and mother's sadnesses the way Sheila Heti does. I know Motherhood is going to mean a lot to many different people - fully as much so as if it was a human that Sheila gave birth to - though in a different and in fact incommensurate way. That's just one of many paradoxes that are not shied away from in this courageous, necessary, visionary book." - Elif Batuman 
"With each of her novels, Sheila Heti invents a new novel form. Motherhood is a riveting story of love and fate, a powerful inspiration to reflect, and a subtle depiction of the lives of contemporary women and men, by an exceptional artist in the prime of her powers. Motherhood constitutes its own genre within the many-faceted novel of ideas. Heti is like no one else." - Mark Greif 
>> On failures of the word 'mother' and other failures
Often I Am Happy by Jens Christian Grøndahl    $20
“We, who are no longer being loved, must chose between revenge and understanding.” A short, thoughtful, beautifully written novel about the reassessment of personal history in the wake of loss, and the liberation this can provide. When Elinor's husband dies, she writes a series of letters to his long-dead first wife, the woman whose children she has raised. 
"A compassionate and often edifying commentary on the elasticity of love, the strength it takes to move forward after a death, and the power of forgiveness." - Publishers Weekly

Dawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith      $18
Like many 13-year-old girls, Sofia’s main worries are how to get some groovy go-go boots, and how not to die of embarrassment giving a speech at school. But when her older brother starts talking about protests and overstayers, and how Pacific Islanders are being bullied by the police, a shadow is cast over Sofia’s teenage days. Through diary entries, this book describes the terror of being dawn-raided and provides an insight into the courageous and tireless work of the Polynesian Panthers in the 1970s as they encourage immigrant families across NZ to stand up for their rights.
>> Find out more about the Polynesian Panthers
Exactly: How precision engineers created the modern world by Simon Winchester        $37
Technological progress, though it may be fuelled by mixes of quite unspecific impulses, cannot proceed through vague gesture. Without absolute precision, mechanisms will not work or will soon wear and break. This book, by the author of The Surgeon of Crowthorne, Pacific and Krakatoa, introduces us to key engineers whose struggle with and mastery of the finer points of making have underlaid the scientific and industrial revolutions and made possible all those everyday things we take for granted (cameras, computers, watches, telephones, washing machines, cars). Winchester has the remarkable ability to give a vivid immediacy to the moments he describes and give depth to bits of pivotal history that are usually passed over too quickly. It is this ability to give a third dimension to overlooked pieces of fact that makes Winchester’s books always completely absorbing. 
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje        $35
Two teenagers, left by their parents in London after World War 2 under the protection of a man called The Moth and his mysterious companions, only realise much later the significance of what happened in this time and the truth about what they thought was their mother's betrayal. 
"His best novel since The English Patient." - New York Times
"A miraculous achievement." - David Herkt 
Summer by Karl Ove Knausgaard         $38
Typically completely out of synch, at least with us, Knausgaard finishes his seasonal quartet of assembled short prose, diaries and letters to his newborn daughter. No writer has striven harder than Knausgaard to make the mundane and the profound seem so similar. 
>> A man for all seasons
>> Meet Knausgaard in Auckland next weekend
>> "Contemporary fiction is overrated.
Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe's winds from the Pennines to Provence by Nick Hunt         $28
Hunt set out to experience the named winds of Europe, from the Helm to the Bore to the Foehn to the Mistral. Along the way he met meteorologists, storm chasers, mountain men, eccentric wind enthusiasts, sailors and shepherds. Interesting. 
"Travel writing in excelsis." - Jan Morris
"A thrilling and gorgeous tale, packed with meteorological wonder." -Amy Liptrot, author of The Outrun

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper          $37
A beautifully illustrated novel of a teen Holocaust survivor who struggles to come to terms with her history and her Jewishness, and to rediscover her love of music, which she though she had lost for ever. 
>> Book trailer

Te Kōparapara: An introduction to the Māori world edited by Michael Reilly,  Suzanne Duncan, Gianna Leoni, Lachy Paterson, Matiu Ratima and Poia Rewi       $70
An introduction to Māori culture (including tikanga on and off the marae and key rituals like pōwhiri and tangihanga), Māori history (from the beginning of the world and the waka migration through to Māori protest and urbanisation in the twentieth century), and Māori society today (including twenty-first century issues like education, health, political economy and identity). 
A Walk Through Paris: A radical exploration by Eric Hazan        $27
On a walk from Ivry to Saint-Denis, roughly following the meridian that divides Paris into east and west, and passing such familiar landmarks as the Luxembourg Gardens, the Pompidou Centre, the Gare du Nord and Montmartre, as well as forgotten alleyways and arcades, Hazan interweaves historical anecdotes, geographical observations, and literary references to reveal the revolutionary history of the city of Robespierre, the Commune, Sartre, and the May '68 uprising. Many of these landmarks are generally unrecognised, and often threatened by development. 
They Knew What They Wanted: Poems and collages by John Ashbery         $70
The first-ever collection of Ashbery's collage work (interesting!), with a selection of related poetry. 
>> All the kitsch

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter       $23
In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z's small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds. This is a story of new motherhood in a terrifying setting: a familiar world made dangerous and unstable, its people forced to become refugees. 
"I can't remember ever having read a novel quite as sparing or as daring as The End We Start From, or one that delivers so mighty an impact from such delicate materials. " - Jim Crace
"An exceptional, alarming and beautiful book, which still echoes months after I finished reading it. Megan Hunter is a writer of unnerving power." - Evie Wyld
Work: The last 1,000 years by Andrea Komlosy          $35
The transformation in the nineteenth century of the concept of 'work', in the West at least, into one of employment for wages made invisible other kinds of work, especially that done by women, subsistence farmers and in the third world. This book takes a revelatory global and cross-gender view on the whole complex and contradictory history of work, both paid and unpaid. 

The Enigma of Reason: A new theory of human understanding by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber        $28

If reason is useful for survival, why haven't animals other than humans evolved it? If reason is commensurate with reality, why does it produce so much nonsense? Reason seems to have developed from, and it reliant upon, a rich social environment and appears to be more of an interactive tool designed to persuade and justify rather than to produce anything we might call 'truth' about our world. 
Cuba: The cookbook by Madelaine Vázquez Gálvez and Imogene Tondre      $70
The definitive guide to Cuban cuisine and food culture, with 350 recipes suited for home cooking and representing the variety of influences, from Spanish to Chinese to Soviet. 
The Timothy Leary Project: Inside the great counterculture experiment by Jennifer Ulrich       $45
This collection of Timothy Leary's selected papers and correspondence opens a window on the ideas that inspired the counterculture of the 1960s and the fascination with LSD that continues to the present. The man who coined the phrase "turn on, tune in, drop out," Leary cultivated interests that ranged across experimentation with hallucinogens, social change and legal reform, and mysticism and spirituality. Includes much on Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Ken Kesey, Marshall McLuhan, Aldous Huxley, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and Carl Sagan. 
>> A message to young people (1966). 
Natural Causes: Life, death and the illusion of control by Barbara Ehrenreich       $33
Is our constant fixation on postponing death stopping us from living? 
Best Before: The evolution and future of processed food by Nicola Temple        $27
From fermentation and smoking to test-tube steaks, irradiation and 3-D printed pizzas, the processes by which humans have preserved food beyond its natural arc of decay reveal deeper forces and changes in society. 
Lampedusa: Gateway to Europe by Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta        $28
It is common to think of the refugee crisis as a recent phenomenon, but Dr Pietro Bartolo, who runs the clinic on the Italian island of Lampedusa, has been caring for its victims - both the living and the dead - for a quarter of a century.
"An urgent, wrenching dispatch from the front line of the defining crisis of our times. Bartolo is at once the saviour and the coroner to boatload after boatload of migrants who risk everything to cross the deadly seas. It is also a damning indictment of the broader, collective indifference of humankind to both the drowned and the saved." - Philip Gourevitch
The Waikato: A history of New Zealand's greatest river by Paul Moon         $70
Follows the river from its source on Mount Ruapehu, through Lake Taupo and into the Tasman Sea, a journey of 425 km and through centuries of vital history. 
Left Bank: Art, passion and the rebirth of Paris, 1940-1950 by Agnès Poirier      $43
"A tour de force. The book weaves together so many people, ideas, trends, occurrences, and above all Parisian places, into a tapestry of fascinations - a distillation of the essence of an amazing time. The best book of its kind I have ever read." - A.C. Grayling
"Poirier does not shy away from exposing the joy and pain of experimental living or from exploring with sensitivity the moral ambiguity of living through the Occupation. Compulsive reading." - Anne Sebba
Winter Eyes by Harry Ricketts           $25
Poetry as comfort, poetry as confrontation. 

Claiming my Place: Coming of age in the shadow of the Holocaust by Planaria Price with Helen Reichmann West         $30
When the Nazis took over the town of Piotrkow in Poland and began to round up the Jewish population, Jewish teenager Gucia Gomolinska chose (and was able) to 'pass' as a Pole. Her journey through Germany and her experiences through and after the war make for compelling reading. 

Consciousness and the Novel by David Lodge         $28
Argues that it is literature, rather than science or philosophy, that provides the most accurate picture of the development and operaions of human conscious. 

Rosie: Scenes from a vanished life by Rose Tremain       $40
"The chilling description of cruel or absent parents is oddly exhilarating, and makes one see one’s own life anew. What a book this is, so much more alert and open and alive than so many slightly disappointing memoirs by otherwise great writers, with their plodding lists of relatives and schools and terraced homes and who had lunch or sex with whom. Much of Tremain’s canvas is heartsinkingly familiar — anyone with neglectful or absent parents will identify — but somehow the young Rosie Thomson never quite relinquishes either hope or joy. Perhaps that’s the nascent writer in the woman who would eventually become Rose Tremain. Again and again, she finds ‘wonder’ in the emotional and actual landscape around her, as she waits, sometimes with an almost excruciating trust and patience, to ‘find my place in the world’." - Spectator
Neither Devil Nor Child: How Western attitudes are harming Africa by Tom Young        $33
Decades after the colonial powers withdrew Africa is still struggling to catch up with the rest of the world. When the same colonists withdrew from Asia there followed several decades of sustained and unprecedented growth throughout the continent. So what went wrong in Africa? Is the West helping Africa, or making matters worse?

05/05/2018 10:47 PM

BOOKS @ VOLUME #73 (5.5.18)

News, reviews, awards, links, opportunities, new releases, recommended reading: our latest NEWSLETTER

05/05/2018 10:40 PM

Gosh. We have found ourselves on the short list of Retail NZ's 'Retail Hotlist' awards for 'Best Provincial Retailer'. If you like, you can vote for us here (voting closes on Tuesday 8 May). They say: "There’s something about independent bookstores that inspires intense passion in their customers. Many of New Zealand’s best-loved indies are venerable instutitions that have served their shoppers for decades, but at a little over one year old, Volume is the upstart little sister to this kind of bookstore. Co-founders Stella Chrysostomou and Thomas Koed haven’t let their combined 35 years of experience in the book trade stop them from moving fast and taking risks." We say: Everything VOLUME does is made possible by all of you. Thank you. 

05/05/2018 10:39 PM


The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer  {Reviewed by STELLA}
Meg Wolitzer delivers a cutting analysis of the feminism of ‘our time’. InFemale Persuasion, we meet Greer Kadetsky: young, idealistic and yearning for attention; and Faith Frank: ageing, dynamic, pragmatic and fearful of irrelevance. While the novel is set in the world of ‘new feminism’, and Wolitzer references feminist movements and philosophies, and floats these concepts through the guise of her characters’ actions and their words, The Female Persuasion is much more about the relationship between these two women and their relationships with others. Greer Kadetsky arrives at university, sans her childhood boyfriend, Cory, the only strong relationship she possesses, as an awkward, geeky and naive student intent on getting through. From the first days, she is thrown together with the more outrageous and politicised Zee, who drags her along to a lecture by the celebrated 70s feminist Faith Frank. From here an admiration is born and Faith Frank, for whatever reason, takes an interest in Greer. Years on, university complete and stranded in her small hometown of Macopee with her ex-hippie parents, Greer gets up the nerve to approach Faith for a job on the fem magazine, Bloomer. All a little too late, Greer arrives for an interview on the day the magazine folds, no longer relevant or appealing to the new wave of feminism. Yet Greer’s luck holds when Faith Frank invites her to apply for an assistant role in a new women’s foundation, LOCI, backed by Emmett Shrader, a corporate billionaire of some dodgy dealings. Ironically, she never seriously questions the locus of power, too enamoured with Faith Frank and all she stands for. She will do anything for Faith. It’s hard to wholeheartedly like Greer or Faith, and you shouldn’t, yet you can understand the idealism of the younger and the pragmatism of the older. Wolitzer shows up organisations and their power structures for what they are: mechanisms to get things done, yet also mechanisms which place power in the hands of a few, with willing acolytes ready to jump. After reading a few reviews of this book, I was surprised that many had missed Wolitzer’s irony and wit that plays out throughout the book. Wolitzer is similar to Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides in style: dramatic relationship plots are layered over popular culture, and her social commentary often cuts to the quick. It often had me laughing out loud (those unforgettable moments when the team are at the summer house and Greer goes along with the pack tucking into her rare steak even though she’s a vegetarian). In Female Persuasion the all-white liberal female world of privilege of the LOCI foundation will make you wonder who this sanitised feminism is for. How will our classic good girl, Greer, respond when she is confronted with the truth? Added to this mix are the compelling voices and stories of Cory and Zee. Both have epiphanies driven by dramatic events or hard choices that help them develop from cardboard cut-outs of what they think they should be in their early 20s to the people they become a decade on, and this keeps you engaged with this novel at a deeper and fundamentally more human level.  

05/05/2018 10:39 PM


The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
"How often it pains me not to be some other banal individual, whose life, because it is not mine, fills me with longing. I envy in everyone the fact that they are not me," wrote Fernando Pessoa as Vicente Guedes in what is now considered the ‘first phase’ of The Book of Disquiet, a vast assortment of passages found unedited on variously sized pieces of paper in a trunk after Pessoa’s death in 1935 and variously selected, assembled and translated and made into books by various persons presuming the intentions of Pessoa (though what his intentions were for this material is far from clear). This new and first complete edition assembles the fragments in chronological order for the first time (so far as this can be determined), allowing us to take a cast of Pessoa’s thinking in the two ‘phases’ of the book (or, rather, ‘book’). The first phase contains material written by Pessoa as Vicente Guedes from 1913 to 1920, and the second phase contains material written as Bernardo Soares in the early 1930s, possibly intended to subsume the material previously written as Guedes (the Soares material being more descriptive, lighter in tone than the first section, almost glibber, Pessoa-as-Soares writing almost as someone who has read Pessoa-as-Guedes and seeking to make Guedes’s ideas his own). Pessoa contributed to Portuguese literature under 81 identified heteronyms, pseudonyms and personae (see the list here), each with a distinct style and intellectual life. The first ‘phase’ of The book of Disquiet as it now stands is a sustained if dissipated assault on identity, especially as thought of by a person when thinking of themselves. “Your real life, your human life, does not belong to you but to others. In all your real-life actions, you do not live, you are being lived,” writes Guedes. The constraints of identity are imposed from without, are socially determined, are a trap for the spirit. True liberation, for Pessoa (if any opinion can be attributed to Pessoa himself, beyond that of the heteronyms), is only achieved by withdrawal of the actual self from the world (if such a self can be said to exist) so completely as to allow the construction of personae to do the living for them, leaving their author in immaculate isolation and absolute indifference. “I myself don’t know if the ‘I’ I am setting before you really exists. I live aesthetically in another being. I have sculpted my life like a statue made of a material alien to myself. Sometimes I don’t even recognise me, so alien to myself have I become,” writes Guedes. One rather sketchy passage describes the requisite method of progressive isolation, disengagement and intensification of the imaginative faculties (through a stage in which imagining a battle produces “actual bruises”), becomes logically fraught, peters out with the note “Certain difficulties,” and then gathers luminously into the object of the thread of thought, the creation of new selves: “We will be able to create at second hand. We will imagine ourselves a poet writing, and he will write in one style, while another [imagined] poet might write in another, and so on, all of them original,” each creating or accessing a private reality otherwise unachievable.“In the presence of ourselves we are never alone, we are witness to ourselves, and it is therefore important to act always as we would before a stranger. We can never be at ease.” Pessoa writes as another person about the inauthenticity of their identity, of the clinamen of personality, of the heteronyms' creation of further heteronyms that presumably could not have been created by Pessoa himself (and so forth). The outsourcing of the business of living to fictional persons does not come without its “dangers to the spirit”: lassitude, loneliness, boredom, emptiness. A protective ‘mist’ drifts through the book (in ‘real life’, Pessoa supplemented this mist with alcohol). “If the mist dissipates, all hard surfaces bruise the part of me that knows them to be hard. It is as if someone were using my life to beat me with.” But in the absence of authenticity, every fiction is valid, every speculation true, every reality virtual. “I lie recumbent in my life, and I do not even know how to dream the gesture of getting up.” 

05/05/2018 12:41 PM

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Ostensibly a memoir of sixteen years living with their dog, Rosie, Afterglow by Eileen Myles is a beautifully written contemplation of everything that has touched on Myles's life in that time (and a lively experiment in the memoir form).

>> I Must Be Living Twice: New and selected poems, 1975-2014

>> Chelsea Girls, Myles's autobiographical novel of surviving as a poet in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, assailed the 'wall' between memoir and fiction. 

>> Merk

>> Myles would have made a good US President

>> The story behind the presidential bid

>> Myles will be NO LONGER appearing next week at the Auckland Writers Festival as their event has been CANCELLED

>> Myles will be judging this year's Sarah Broom Poetry Prize.

>> Meet Myles at her home page.

04/05/2018 04:57 PM


Ready to read.
Girl at End by Richard Brammer        $32
"Obscure soul records and obscure pap smear specimens. Fluid, fluidity and inflammation at 45 revolutions per minute. Equal parts autobiography and soap-opera, Girl at End is a work of hypervigilant minor literature featuring only hypomanic minor characters. Girl at End is quality TV, gynaecological cytolology and Northern Soul at 45rpm, at 78rpm, at 7200rpm. Girl at End is a dentist's drill, it's a leaf found pressed inside a book about Javascript. Girl at End is drum machine presets and pressure of speech, forgotten current affairs, nitrile times and above all NO MOUTH PIPETTING!"
"UK literary subculture at its best." - Isabel Waidner, author of Gaudy Bauble
>> Read an extract (recommended!).
>> There's an 'Official Trailer'!
The Emissary by Yoko Tawada          $33
An ecological disaster has contaminated the soil of Japan. Children are born frail but wise, and the elderly are new creatures, full of vitality. Yoshiro frets about the declining health of his grandson Mumei, but Mumei is a beacon of hope, guiding his grandfather towards "the beauty of the time that is yet to come" (but which was does time run?).
"Persistent mystery is what is so enchanting about Tawada's writing. Her penetrating irony and deadpan surrealism fray our notions of home and combine to deliver another offbeat tale. An absorbing work from a fascinating mind." - Kirkus

Patient X: The Case-Book of Ryunosuke Akutagawa by David Peace         $33
A compelling and original novel exploring the imaginative territory surrounding the life and works of one of Japan's outstanding modern writers (author of 'Rashōmon' and 'In a Bamboo Grove'), who was active during the turbulent Taishō period (1912-1926 (including the 1923 earthquake)), and who killed himself at the age of 35 in 1927. 
"David Peace not only lays bare the psyche of an era in which Japan came of age as a modern nation, he gives us a stunning, intense, profound and moving portrait of the life and death of a great writer." - Japan Times
"David Peace writes the boldest and most original British fiction of his generation." - New York Times
>> David Mitchell talks with David Peace.
Property: A collection by Lionel Shriver        $33
Ten stories and two novellas displaying Shriver's sharp eye for the dynamics of power relations, here all hinging upon the ownership of property as real estate and property as stuff. What does it mean to own? What does it mean to be owned?
"A phenomenal collection, assured and entertaining." - The Guardian

Free Woman: Life, liberation and Doris Lessing by Lara Feigel         $37
Re-reading The Golden Notebook in her thirties, shortly after Doris Lessing's death, Lara Feigel discovered that Lessing spoke directly to her as a woman, a writer, and a mother in a way that no other novelist had done. At a time when she was dissatisfied with the conventions of her own life, Feigel was enticed by Lessing's vision of freedom. Studying Lessing further helped her to change her own life and to write this dazzling book of forensic intensity. 
"The most intriguing and certainly the bravest work of literary scholarship I have ever read." - Deborah Levy
The Second Location by Bronwyn Lloyd        $29
A collection of surreal stories, springing from the author's research into the doomed love affair bertween painter Rita Angus and composer Douglas Lilburn. 

Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer         $36
Beautifully written (and devastatingly funny) lyric essays, largely concerning the conditions that make literature (the writing of it and the reading of it) impossible (or nearly so), especially the conditions that apply to the particular woman living in a Kansas City apartment and writing these confessions. 
"In this textual hybrid of rhythmic lyric prose and essayistic verse, visual artist and poet Boyer faces the material and philosophical problems of writing—and by extension, living—in the contemporary world. Boyer attempts to abandon literature in the same moments that she forms it, turning to sources as diverse as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the acts of sewing and garment production, and a book on happiness that she finds in a thrift store. Her book, then, becomes filled with other books, imagined and resisted.” - Publishers' Weekly
"Some of the most wonderful writing I’ve read on happiness occurs in these pages." - 3AM
>> Read an extract
Workers by Sebastião Salgado         $165
A stunning vast set of large-format images recording instances of skilled and unskilled labour around the world, and of the men, women and children who are responsible for the production of the goods upon which a consumer society depends. Moving, exquisite and inherently political.  
A Line in the River: Khartoum, City of memory by Jamal Mahjoub       $30
In 1956, Sudan gained Independence from Britain. On the brink of a promising future, it instead descended into civil war and conflict, including the crisis in Darfur that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and driven many more from their homes. When the 1989 coup brought a hard-line Islamist regime to power, Jamal Mahjoub's family were among those who fled. Almost twenty years later, he returned to a country on the brink of rupture. 

Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park     $33
"I am entering the frozen land, although to which country it belongs I cannot say." A middle-aged man must drive alone from Belfast to Sunderland to collect his sick son from university. The world is clogged in snow as he makes his way not only towards his son but towards the tragedy that lies, almost unfaceable, in the past. 
"The Belfast Turgenev. One of the truest observers of life." - Big Issue

"The voice of a middle-aged everyman reflecting on his wife and children recalls that of Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones. Park takes this emotional terrain of parenthood as both his setting and his subject, and creates something exhilaratingly brave and powerful from its jagged peaks and troughs." - Guardian
Plantopedia: Welcome to the greatest show on earth by Adrienne Barman       $33
Full of colour and fun facts, this book is the ideal way to introduce children to the world of plants. Matches Creaturepedia.

Things I Don't Want to Know by Deborah Levy          $28
In 1946 George Orwell wrote an essay ‘Why I Write’, in which he described some events that marked his development towards becoming a writer and outlined what he saw were the four main motives for writing: ‘Sheer egoism’, ‘Aesthetic enthusiasm’, ‘Historical impulse’ and ‘Political purpose’. He explained that he would not naturally have become a political writer had circumstances not demanded it. Responding to this essay but contrasting the bluntness of its assertions with a subtler and less direct approach, Deborah Levy, who re-emerged from undeserved obscurity when she was shortlisted for the 2011 Booker Prize for Swimming Home, takes Orwell’s four ‘motives’ as titles for pieces of memoir: of her childhood in South Africa (where her father was imprisoned for five years as a member of the ANC); of her teenage years in England, wishing to ‘belong’; and of a time she spent in the off-season at a small mountain hotel in Majorca, despondent, wondering how to deal with things she didn’t want to think about and doubting her ability to get her writing out into the world. As she talks with a Chinese shopkeeper, another displaced character, over dinner, she comes to some resolve: “To become a writer I had to learn to interrupt, to speak up, to speak a little louder, and then louder, and then to just speak in my own voice which is not loud at all”. New edition. 
Brother by David Chariandy         $29
Two boys grow up in a poor neighbourhood of Toronto, sons of a Trinidadian immigrant, assailed from all sides by many sorts of hopelessness. 
"A brilliant, powerful elegy from a living brother to a lost one, yet pulsing with rhythm, and beating with life." - Marlon James
"I love this novel. Riveting, composed, charged with feeling, Brother surrounds us with music and aspiration, fidelity and beauty." - Madeleine Thien
In Defence of History by Richard J. Evans       $28
A passionate case for the study of history and for importance of historical fact in a 'post-truth' world.  
The Fire This Time: A new generation speaks about race edited by Jesmyn Ward         $27
An impassioned collection of essays and poetry from Claudia Rankine, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Jericho Brown, Carol Anderson, Edwidge Denticat and others responding to James Baldwin's pivotal 1963 The Fire Next Time. What has been achieved? Why is there so far still to go? 

The Big Book of the Blue by Yuval Zommer      $30

Everything a young oceanographer needs to know: what lives where in the ocean and why. Attractively presented, full of detail, and a companion volume to The Big Book of Bugs and The Big Book of Beasts

Tokyo Romance by Ian Buruma         $33
What happens to a young film student when he finds himself immersed in the depths of the Japanese avant-garde arts scene in the 1970s? How does he re-examine his cultural, aesthetic and social preconceptions when faced with what at first seem contradictions? What is it like to perform butoh? Interesting and unexpected.
>> Find out more

>> Buruma performed with the Dairakudakan butoh company.

Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader       $37

A novel giving insight in the world of women in the fourteenth century from the author of The AnchoressLondon, 1321. In a small stationer's shop in Paternoster Row, three people are drawn together around the creation of a magnificent illuminated book, a Book of Hours. Even though the commission seems to answer the aspirations of each one of them, their own desires and ambitions threaten its completion. As each struggles to see the book come into being, it will change everything they have understood about their place in the world. 

Orchid Summer: In search of the wildest flowers of the British Isles by Jon Dunn           $37
Dunn set off to the remotest corners of the British Isles to find all the native species of orchid. He succeeded, but he found out a lot about other orchid hunters and about the flowers themselves on the way. 
"A wonderful book." - Robert Macfarlane
Swell: A waterbiography by Jenny Landreth        $22
 In the 19th century, swimming was exclusively the domain of men, and access to pools was a luxury limited by class. Women were allowed to swim in the sea, as long as no men were around, but even into the 20th century they could be arrested and fined if they dared dive into a lake. It wasn't until the 1930s that women were finally granted equal access. Part social history, part memoir, Swell uncovers a world of secret swimming in the face of these exclusions and shines a light on the `swimming suffragettes' who made equal access possible. It is also the story of her own realisation of the importance and meaning of swimming for herself.

>> A selection of books exploring the relationship between swimming and thought
God of Money by Karl Marx and Maguma          $30
Key concepts on capital's role in the creation of false needs from Marx's chapter on money in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844) have been illustrated in the form of an unsetlling concertinaed double-sided freize drawing inspiration from Bosch. 
>> How the book came about
Boats are Busy by Sara Gillingham       $20
Meet 15 boats and ships and learn what keeps them so busy. Also learn what those flags mean. An appealing board book. 

The Kitchen Science Cookbook by Michelle Dickinson       $50
Edible science! If you can follow a recipe you can learn about science. Ideal for children (and other people too). 

>> Nanogirl is a good name for a superhero.

Ponti by Sharlene Teo          $35
A novel of many stories, running from the late 1960s into the near future and capturing the accumulating pressures of life in Singapore, mother-daughter rifts, teenage angst and cult movies. 

"Remarkable. Teo's characters glow with life and humour and minutely observed desperation." - Ian McEwan
Miles Franklin: Feminist, activist, literary legend by Jill Roe        $35
An interesting account of the life and concerns of the woman after whom is named Australia's premier literary award. 

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: An art book by Reinhard Kleist       $55
A graphic distillation of the man and the band by the artist responsible for Nick Cave: Mercy on me
"A complex, chilling and completely bizarre journey into Cave World." - Nick Cave
>> Get down, get down. 

Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen        $28
When Circle thinks that Square's blocks are sculptures, she asks him to make a sculpture of her. He doesn't know how. Is he a genius? 
>> Trailer
>> Square has also met Triangle

01/05/2018 01:30 PM

A selection of books exploring the relationship between swimming and thought. 

Pondlife: A swimmer's journal by Al Alvarez         $25
Throughout his long life as a poet, critic, editor, novelist and poker player, Alvarez (now 88) has swum almost daily in the ponds of Hamstead Heath. How does this irrepressible person confront his aging, how does he recover from a stroke, and how do these facts of his life affect his outlook (if at all)? Thoughtful, fierce and funny. 
Swell: A waterbiography by Jenny Landreth        $22
 In the 19th century, swimming was exclusively the domain of men, and access to pools was a luxury limited by class. Women were allowed to swim in the sea, as long as no men were around, but even into the 20th century they could be arrested and fined if they dared dive into a lake. It wasn't until the 1930s that women were finally granted equal access. Part social history, part memoir, Swell uncovers a world of secret swimming in the face of these exclusions and shines a light on the `swimming suffragettes' who made equal access possible. It is also the story of her own realisation of the importance and meaning of swimming for herself.
Turning: A swimming memoir by Jessica Lee        $28
"I long for the ice. The sharp cut of freezing water on my feet. The immeasurable black of the lake at its coldest. Swimming then means cold, and pain, and elation." Seeking to overcome depression, Lee undertakes to swim 52 German lakes in 52 weeks.
"A lovely, poetic, sensuous and melancholy book." - Irish Examiner
"Turning is many things: a snapshot of Berlin seen through the prism of its lakes; the story of a broken and healing heart; a contemplation of identity; a coming-of-age story." - Guardian

Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton         $34
A collection of thoughtful autobiographical sketches that explore the worlds of competitive and recreational swimming. From her training for the Olympic trials as a teenager, to meditative swims in pools and oceans as an adult, Leanne Shapton contemplates the sport that has shaped her life, and her practice as an artist and a writer. Illustrations include watercolours of her experience of pools, and a catalogue of her collection of swimming costumes. 
Haunts of the Black Masseur: The swimmer as hero by Charles Sprawson         $28
What meanings do we attach to water? What correlation is there between the physical act of inserting a body into a liquid medium and the depths of human psychology? What is the relationship between swimming and creativity? This interesting book surveys the swimmer as cultural hero.
"This splendid and wholly original book is as zestful as a plunge in champagne." - Iris Murdoch
Oxygen by William Trubridge          $40
Freediving tests the limits of psychology and physiology, and exposes the links between the two. What is it like to be so far from the surface? 

28/04/2018 09:27 PM

BOOKS @ VOLUME #72 (28.4.18)

Click through to read our NEWSLETTER

28/04/2018 09:20 PM

{Review by STELLA}

Nell Zink is an author who keeps you guessing and convinces you that anything is possible in the strange, yet oh-so-normal, world of a Zink novel. In Mislaid, a gay professor and a young lesbian student form a relationship, get married and have two children. When Peggy, the wife, runs away with her daughter to a remote part of Virginia, she assumes a new identity and gives herself an African-American heritage despite her and her daughter being white. This is Nell Zink writing the ‘great American family saga’ her way. Nicotine is a novel about Penny - an unemployed grad student, the daughter of a Jewish shaman named Norm and successful corporate banker step-mom Amalia, a Kogi native rescued from poverty in South America - tasked to remove squatters from a property the family own. Nicotine is a hilarious send-up of slacker privilege and modern spirituality with a nicotine-fueled hedonism. The postmodern fictionPrivate Novelist is the latest in my Zink reads and this takes a step further into the uncertain world of Nellness. Apparently written prior to her first published work, it has its roots in the written exchanges between two authors, Nell Zink (or an author called 'Nell Zink') and Israeli author, Anver Shats, who the author claims to have met in Tel Aviv in 1997.  Avner Shats mostly wrote in Hebrew, a language Zink could not read, yet she ‘translated’ his novella, and in Private Novelist this appears as the work entitled ‘Sailing Towards the Sunset by Avner Shats’. The other story, 'European Story for Avner Shats', is written by Zink. Playing with the concept of the novel, the ‘conversation’ between two writers, and the idea of translation, Zink keeps you in limbo. Is Shats real? - I can hardly believe he is, although a Wikipedia search pops him up with a brief resume and links to universities and prizes (deeper searches wend their way to the unknown - the unsure). This playful interaction with her reader is pure Zink and Private Novelist is extremely funny and satisfyingly puzzling. It’s also a razor-sharp analysis of the novel and the tools we use as a reader (and writer) to interpret our texts. Nell Zink, championed by Jonathan Franzen, had her first novel, Wallcreeper, published by independent press Dorothy, and received considerable attention for that and for Mislaid, which was long-listed for the National Book Award.  

28/04/2018 09:18 PM


The Old Child and The Book of Words by Jenny Erpenbeck  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
The idea we have of the world is inextricable from the words which could either be said to describe it or to comprise it. As children, our knowledge of objects, actions and expectations is gained concurrently with the words and phrases that, at the moment of their learning, both separate these objects, actions and expectations from the undifferentiated mass of the Unknown and incorporate them into the networked mass of social constructs we think of as our world. In the novella ‘The Book of Words’, we are presented with what at first it seems a series of childhood memories presented in relation to the words that describe them, and it is not not this. As well as being a tender reminiscence of a young girl’s life, presented in crystalline present tense with all the quirks and facets of a child’s view, increasingly we find, in the same language, the trace of something horrible, something that has erased the words that could be used to describe it. People who have featured in the narrative begin to be absent from it. Awful details appear and are, initially, quickly brushed aside or overwritten by other memories. Hints of wrongness in the world beyond the family start to insert themselves into the girl’s memories, despite her resistance to them or because of her innocence about their significance. The particles of wrongness in this novella are all the more horribly wrong for having such weights of benign quotidian detail levered upon them. Language, which builds as a child learns, cracks, distorts and fragments under trauma, as does the concept of reality that it bears. As the narrative continues, it becomes increasingly horrific, increasingly hysterical, increasingly divorced from rational sense, the language distorted and abused by the horrors that it conceals. The motto “Silence is health,” innocently mentioned early on, becomes an uncomfortable call to turn the head away from that which cannot be faced. Towards the end of the novella, as the girl is given an early birthday party (and she is much older, therefore more mentally stunted, than we had imagined) and the family flee the country after what we surmise has been a political reversal, we learn that that father has been a torturer in the old regime, his activities being described in the same tone, the child’s tone, as the innocent details of the child’s life, all the more horrific for being so described: “Once you’ve connected a body to an electrical circuit the truth comes out of it like a worm.” Although not specified, details in the text suggest the complicity of the father, apparently a Nazi post-war immigrant, in Argentina’s CIA-backed ‘Dirty War’, and in the disposal of the bodies of the ‘disappeared’. “What is sick will die out. The future belongs to us,” the father declares, in ultimate futility. What future is there, though, for the narrator, whose world of words has been so malformed by the circumstances of her upbringing?
In ‘The Old Child’, the other novella in this volume, a large and ungainly girl is brought to an orphanage carrying only a bucket, seemingly unable to remember anything of her past, a tabula rasa, it seems, upon which the orphanage and school, the other girls, the supervisors and teachers will write themselves. “In the girl’s head, at the spot which in the others is occupied by an opinion, there is only emptiness.” At first the girl is shunned by her schoolmates, finding a place only at the bottom of the pecking order. Although she seems to understand more than she displays, “school is the place where errors must occur to give it meaning.” What is the inner life of the girl? If she has one, it is completely disconnected from the world she shares with her peers. She obeys instructions and is assiduous in keeping her belongings in order, which the others feel as a threat: “Among slaves nothing is deadlier than for one of their number to voluntarily assume a slave’s role. But while the girl’s desire for order happens to correspond to the standards imposed by the pedagogical staff, its origins are quite different. The girls sees her stack of clothes, which is comprehensible to her, in relation to all that appears incomprehensible to her and thus hostile. Disorder of every sort is hostile, this begins with those objects that, precisely because they weren’t stacked neatly in a cupboard, fall out when you open the door, but it ends in putrefaction, death and confusion, the things the girl refuses to think about.” When she is taken ill and receiving treatment at the orphanage infirmary, the girl finds it reassuring that in receiving treatment she receives the treatment that others would receive, making her like them, and also likes being relieved of having to direct her own actions. As the narrative progresses, the girl becomes more formed by her peers and by her situation, no longer a blank slate but bearer of a degree of personhood, though entirely formulated from without, a reflection of her circumstances. This begins with the necessity of eating, a basic requisite for existence and thus the beginning of personality: “Whereas generally she is colourless, nearly to the point of invisibility, the concentration she brings to the activity of eating gives her the appearance of having character.” The girl becomes increasinly a part of the group, but also grows inexplicably tired. She is taken first to the infirmary and then leaves the orphanage for a hospital where she is revealed to be a full-grown woman with a memory and personality different from and incompatible with that of which she was becoming the bearer in the orphanage. “The girl’s life left no traces where it was being spent.” In the orphanage, “no-one would be able to say what it is the girl has done to make everyone erase her with their silence, but within them blossoms a great monstrous hope: that she might never return.” As well as being a study of the societal generation of so-called personality, the novella feels like it might be an allegory, perhaps of the political fate of Erpenbeck’s East Germany, a corollary, perhaps with Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum, though it was interesting to learn that, before writing the book, Erpenbeck pretended to be a teenager and attended a school incognito to learn about the conformative group dynamics of students.

28/04/2018 01:58 PM

Our Book of the Week this week is Jesmyn Ward's novel Sing, Unburied, Sing. As 13-year-old Jojo approaches adulthood, how can he find his way in the U.S. South when he and his family race rural poverty, drug addiction, the penal system, the justice system, racism and illness? 

>> Read Stella's review

>> "A ghost story about the real struggles of living." 

>> Ghost whisperers.

>> In conversation with Edwidge Dendicat

>> Sing, Unburied, Sing has just been short-listed for the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction. Find out what else is on the list

>> Jesmyn Ward at VOLUME

27/04/2018 05:46 PM


Here they are. 
West by Carys Davies        $20
When widowed mule breeder Cy Bellman reads in the newspaper that colossal ancient bones have been discovered in the salty Kentucky mud, he sets out from his small Pennsylvania farm to see for himself if the rumours are true: that the giant monsters are still alive and roam the uncharted wilderness beyond the Mississippi River. Promising to write and to return in two years, he leaves behind his only daughter, Bess, to the tender mercies of his taciturn sister and heads west. Bess must approach adulthood in her father's absence. 
"To read Carys Davies's West is to encounter a myth, or potent dream - a narrative at once new and timeless." - Claire Messud
"Carys Davies is a deft, audacious visionary." - Téa Obreht
>> Beasts beyond the frontier
>> Over the frontier in search of monsters
Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss        $38
Notes from No Man's Land begins with a series of lynchings, ends with a list of apologies, and in an unsettling coda revisits a litany of murders that no one seems capable of solving. Biss explores race in America through the experiences chronicled in these essays: teaching in a Harlem school on the morning of 9/11, reporting from an African American newspaper in San Diego, watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from a college town in Iowa, and rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. She reveals how families, schools, communities, and civic institutions participate in preserving white privilege. 
"I can't think of an American writer at work today who matches Eula Biss's combination of lyrical precision, exhaustive research, timely provocation, and fiercely examined conscience." - Maggie Nelson
The Music: A novel through sound by Matthew Herbert        $40
Instead of making another record of his music assembled from sounds, Matthew Herbert has written a description of that record, assembling descriptions of sounds into chapters rather than tracks, creating a book that is both a manifesto for sound, or, rather, for listening, and an unusual novel.
>> Anything can be music
>> Matthew Herbert's website

American Innovations by Rivka Galchen         $23
Stories told from the perspective of a woman attuned to and under attack by the small ironies and psychological perversities of everyday life. What happens when a woman's furniture walks out on her, when another woman starts to grow a third breast, when the cheese won't stay put? 
"Rivka Galchen is one of the best things going. She writes for the joy of it and so artfully, and conforms to no-one else's standards." - Rachel Kushner
"The pinball wizard of American letters, with a narrative voice that can ricochet from wonder to terror to hilarity. The delicacy and brilliance of what Galchen is doing doesn't yet have a name." - Karen Russell
Fast by Jorie Graham       $30
An eagerly anticipated new collection from this innovative and exhilarating poet. 
"In Fast the feel-good myth of American democracy explodes. Graham has studied grief and tracked its symptoms to their sources. A body can indeed tell the story of the world." - The New York Times

When I Hit You, Or, A portrait of the writer as a young wife by Meena Kandasamy         $22
Caught in the hook of love, a young woman marries a dashing university professor. She moves to a rain-washed coastal town to be with him, but behind closed doors she discovers that her perfect husband is a perfect monster. As he sets about battering her into obedience and as her family pressures her to stay in the marriage, she swears to fight back - a resistance that will either kill her or set her free. Short-listed for the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction. Now in paperback. 
"Explosive." - Guardian 

"Urgent." - Financial Times
Dictionary Stories: Short fictions and other findings by Jez Burrows      $33
When Burrows opened his dictionary and read, under the entry for 'study', the exemplary sentence, "He perched on the edge of the bed, a study in confusion and misery," he realised he had stumbled upon a treasure trove of fiction. Could these sentences be assembled into more extended (but still quite short) fictional works? This book bears the wonderful results of his experiments. 
"Dictionary Stories isn't just a book for word nerds, but for anyone for whom language and story matter. Everybody will find themselves thoroughly in love with this book." - Kory Stamper, editor for Merriam-Webster
"Dictionary Stories is a giddy celebration of the wild, elastic potential of language." - McSweeny's 
>> Visit the Dictionary Stories blog

You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld          $35
Curtis Sittenfeld has established a reputation as a sharp chronicler of the modern age who humanizes her subjects even as she skewers them. These ten stories upend assumptions about class, relationships, and gender roles in a nation that feels both adrift and viscerally divided.
“Every bit as smart, sensitive, funny, and genuine as her phenomenally popular novels.” - Booklist

Brazen: Rebel ladies who rocked the world by Pénélope Bagieu      $40
Fascinating graphic biographies of thirty remarkable women, most of whom have been largely 'forgotten' by history. Includes Tove Jansson, Josephine Baker, Temple Grandin, Wu Zetian and Peggy Guggenheim. 
"A modern classic." - Guardian
>> See some spreads.
Skybound: A journey into flight by Rebecca Loncraine       $35
When Loncraine was diagnosed with breast cancer she determined to take to the air and took up gliding. This book is a memoir of unpowered flights around the world (including New Zealand), a history of gliding and a piece of thoughtful nature writing from an unusual perspective. 
>> FYA (For Your Amusement): Sport gliding in the 1920s.
The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli         $35
If there is no such thing as the past or the future, why do we have this concept of time? How can a useful construct also hamper our understanding of the nature of the universe? If we rethink our notions of time, are we able to build some sort of model of reality that takes cognisance of but overcomes the shortcomings of general relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory? Beautifully written and deeply thoughtful. 
>> Is spacetime granular? 

The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal         $37
The dolls that Mona makes each have a special significance for different periods of her life. This novel is a story told through the relationship between memory and objects. 
Long-listed for the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin, translated by Michael Hofmann    $38
Franz Biberkopf returns to Alexanderplatz, fresh from prison. When his friend murders the prostitute on whom Biberkopf has been relying, he realises that he will be unable to extricate himself from the underworld into which he has sunk. He must deal with misery, lack of opportunities, crime and proto-Nazism. A new translation of this 1929 modernist classic.
>> Scandalous velocity
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer         $37
How is the feminist torch passed between generations? Who fumbles in the exchange? 
“Uncannily timely, a prescient marriage of subject and moment that addresses a great question of the day: how feminism passes down, or not, from one generation to the next.” — The New York Times
“Meg Wolitzer is the novelist we need right now. The Female Persuasion is the sort of book that comes along in too few authors’ careers—one that makes the writer’s intellectual project snap into sharp focus, and with it, the case that their artistry is not merely enjoyable but truly important.” —The Washington Post
“Equal parts cotton candy and red meat.” – People 
Flames by Robbie Arnott       $37
After their mother's death Levi McAlliester builds a coffin for his sister, who promptly runs for her life. As they cross inhospitable country they also traverse the grief, love and history that both bond and divide them. 
"A strange and joyous marvel." - Richard Flanagan
Finding by David Hill     $20
The fortunes of an immigrant family and a tangata whenua family are intertwined in this story of seven generations and 130 years of fast-flowing change. 

Unexceptional Politics: On obstruction, impasses and the impolitic by Emily Apter        $35
Can a new mode of political thought and action be constructed that evades the net of scams, imbroglios, information trafficking, brinkmanship, and parliamentary procedures that obstruct and block progressive politics. The book proposes a new mode of dialectical resistance, countering notions of the "state of exception" embedded in theories of the "Political" from Thomas Hobbes to Carl Schmitt. 
"Unexceptional Politics is a book that teaches walking the walk by exposing the talk talked. Very few academic books of this intellectual quality can serve as a guide for activism in the interest of social justice. A text for careful reading." - Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
All That Remains: A life in death by Sue Black       $38
From the grieving process after losing a loved one, to violence, murder, criminal dismemberment, missing persons, war, natural disasters, unidentified bodies, historical remains, and working with investigative agencies, lawyers, justice, criminal sentences, and always sadness and pain, Black takes us on a scientific and reflective journey explaining the genetic DNA traits that develop before our birth, and those traits and features we gather through life, all of which add up to an identity that reveals itself in death.
"No scientist communicates better than Professor Sue Black. All That Remains is a unique blend of memoir and monograph that admits us into the remarkable world of forensic anthropology." - Val McDermid
Spineless: The science of jellyfish and the art of growing a backbone by Juli Gerwald         $38
We know so little about these most ancient of sea creatures, 95% water, highly venomous and barely distinguishable from their habitat. 
>> "I thought you had a spinal column."
A Tribute to Flowers: Plants under pressure photographed by Richard Fischer        $90
Fifty percent of the world's flower species are threatened with extinction. To highlight this, flower ambassador Fischer has photographed dozens of threatened flowers. Each glows on the page in this astounding book. 
>> Some of the photographs can be seen here, but the book is ten times more stunning

To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine         $33
At the launch party for her memoir Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys in 2014, musician Viv Albertine received news that her mother was dying, and spent a few final hours with the woman who was, in a sense, the love of her life. In the turbulent weeks after the funeral, Viv made a series of discoveries that revealed the role of family conflicts in propelling her towards the uncompromising world of punk. 
>> The Slits in London, 1979
>> Peel sessions
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust       $20
A retelling of 'Snow White' from the point of view of both the stepmother, a young woman with a glass heart who wants to know love, and the stepdaughter, a young woman made of snow who seeks solidity. 
"In Girls Made of Snow and Glass, Melissa Bashardoust has given us exquisite displays of magic, complex mother-daughter relationships, and gloriously powerful women triumphing in a world that does not want them to be powerful. A gorgeous, feminist fairy tale." - Traci Chee

The Feather Thief: Beauty, obsession and the natural history heist of the century by Kirk Wallace Johnson        $38
One summer evening in 2009, twenty-year-old musical prodigy Edwin Rist broke into the British Museum of Natural History. Hours later, he slipped away with a suitcase full of rare bird specimens collected over the centuries from across the world, all featuring a dazzling array of priceless feathers. When Kirk Wallace Johnson discovered that the thief evaded prison, and that half the birds were never recovered, he embarked upon an investigation which led him deep into the  secretive underground community obsessed with the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Bizarre. 
A Sister in My House by Linda Olsson        $35
Two sisters end up sharing a rented house in Spain and having to come to terms with their personal tragedies. From the author of The Kindness of Your Nature
Whisper by Lynette Noni       $23
“'Lengard is a secret government facility for extraordinary people,' they told me. 'It's for people just like you.' I believed them. That was my mistake. There isn't anyone else in the world like me. I'm different.I'm an anomaly. I'm a monster." For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes, 'Jane Doe' has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word. Life at Lengard follows a strict, torturous routine that has never changed. When Jane is assigned a new-and unexpectedly kind-evaluator, her resolve begins to crack, despite her best efforts. One wrong word could change the world. A gripping YA novel. 

Hyper-Capitalism: The modern economy, its values, and how to change them by Larry Gonick and Tom Kasser      $40
A graphic novel showing how global, privatising, market-worshipping hyper-capitalism is threatening human well-being, social justice, and the planet, and exploring different ways in which this model has been or can be assailed. 
The List: A week-by-week reckoning of Trump's first year by Amy Siskind          $38
Siskind has undertaken to document the grain-by-grain destruction of democracy in the US, publishing it in her blog The Weekly List, and now in this book. Beware: this is how democracy ends.  
War on Peace: The end of diplomacy and the decline of American influence by Ronan Farrow      $32
Is the military taking over from the diplomats? 

A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith     $30
Two children enter an abandoned house and find plenty to capture their imagination. Did a family once live here? 
Weird Maths: At the edge of infinity and beyond by David Darling and Agnijo Banerjee          $27
Is anything truly random? Does infinity actually exist? Could we ever see into other dimensions?
 Miss Ex-Yugoslavia by Sofija Stefanovic        $40

Stefanovic was born into a country about to tear itself apart. Her family moved back and forth between Yugoslavia and Australia several times, unable to feel fully at home in either place, and Sofija came to embody cultural contradictions that made her feel a perpetual outsider. 
The Siege and Fall of Troy by Robert Graves        $30
A beautifully presented and well-told version for younger readers. 
Forever Words: The unknown poems by Johnny Cash      $23
A collection of lyrics that didn't become songs. Includes facsimiles of the scraps of paper upon which they were found. 
>> 'God's Gonna Cut You Down'.
Hamster #2
Hamster is a journal of literature, art, 'literature', 'art', literary polemic, art polemic, other polemic, and also other things (including limited edition and unique art works and work made with adhesive lettering), published by The Physics Room. Hamster is free. Issues #1 and #2 are available digitally at

24/04/2018 04:51 PM

2018 short list
(The winner will be announced on 6 June)

The Idiot by Elif Batuman         $37
"I'm not Turkish, I don't have a Serbian best friend, I'm not in love with a Hungarian, I don't go to Harvard. Or do I? For one wonderful week, I got to be this worldly and brilliant, this young and clumsy and in love. The Idiot is a hilariously mundane immersion into a world that has never before received the 19th Century Novel treatment. An addictive, sprawling epic; I wolfed it down." - Miranda July
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar         $37
“What trapped creature does not strike out?” One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid. As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer their lives on a dangerous new course. What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?
"Historical fiction at its finest." - Irish Times
"A brilliantly plotted story of mermaids, madams and intrigue in 1780s London and I wouldn't be surprised to see it become the Essex Serpent of 2018." - The Pool
Sight by Jessie Greengrass         $38
An accomplished, thoughtful and somewhat melancholy novel, tracking the thoughts of an expectant mother whose own mother has just died, whose ruminations on the mind, the body, living and dying encompass swathes of science and philosophy (as well as her own life). 
"The writing is poised – but as if on the edge of a precipice. Hovering between the novel and the essay, unfolding through long, languorous sentences, Sight builds meaning through juxtaposition, through surprising mirrorings and parallels. - Guardian
When I Hit You, Or, A portrait of the writer as a young wife by Meena Kandasamy         $22
Caught in the hook of love, a young woman marries a dashing university professor. She moves to a rain-washed coastal town to be with him, but behind closed doors she discovers that her perfect husband is a perfect monster. As he sets about battering her into obedience and as her family pressures her to stay in the marriage, she swears to fight back - a resistance that will either kill her or set her free.
"Explosive." - Guardian 
"Urgent." - Financial Times
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie         $27
Family, society, love and religion clash in this modern reworking of the themes of Antigone. Long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. 
"Home Fire left me awestruck, shaken, on the edge of my chair, filled with admiration for her courage and ambition. Recommended reading for prime ministers and presidents everywhere." - Peter Carey 
"Shamsie's simple, lucid prose plays in perfect harmony with the heartbeat of modern times. Home Fire deftly reveals all the ways in which the political is as personal as the personal is political. No novel could be as timely." - Aminatta Forna

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward         $27
As 13-year-old Jojo approaches adulthood, how can he find his way in the U.S. South when all seems set for him and his family to fall foul of rural poverty, drug addiction, the penal system, the justice system, racism and illness? From the author of Salvage the Bones. 
"This wrenching new novel by Jesmyn Ward digs deep into the not-buried heart of the American nightmare. A must." - Margaret Atwood 
"A powerfully alive novel haunted by ghosts; a road trip where people can go but they can never leave; a visceral and intimate drama that plays out like a grand epic, Sing, Unburied, Sing is staggering." - Marlon James
>> Read Stella's review.

>> Visit the Women's Prize for Fiction website for news, interviews, &c