12/09/2017 09:17 AM

This week's Book of the Week can be read safely only in a foil-lined room. 
Like everyone, Megan Dunn had a book inside her. In Dunn's case, that book happened to be Fahrenheit 451, which had already been written by Ray Bradbury. Tinderbox is about the hold of literature on our minds and about the mechanisms by which society attempts to destroy that hold. It is about hope and failure and retail and living in the twenty-first century and failure (it's strong on failure), and it's fun to read. 
>> Read Thomas's review below. 

>> Read an extract

>> Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

>> The 1966 film by Francis Truffaut

>> Megan's booklaunch speech

>> Megan's Julie Christie slide show

>> Megan Dunn's blog.

>> Some films by Megan Dunn

>> The Galley Beggar Press website

>> Megan Dunn loves merchandise

>> A brief biography of the author, former bookseller and former dynamo of Booksellers NZ.

>> And she's written for The Pantographic Punch

Tinderbox by Megan Dunn   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
If there had been any rain he would have opened his mouth and tasted the drops but it wasn’t raining and it hadn’t rained for some time. The vegetation everywhere was dry, what they call tinder dry because to be useful tinder needs to be dry, suggesting that dryness is a requisite quality of tinder, though what then to call it when it is wet, he wondered, wandering from the task at hand. It would take only a spark struck from a flint, he thought, trying to climb back aboard his earlier train of thought, to set the whole thing off. But even this wasn’t the thought he had started with. He had been thinking of tasting the raindrops, a sort of conceit for opening a review of the book Tinderbox by Megan Dunn, the raindrops, or rather the tasting of them, an awkward motif isolated by Dunn from the book Fahrenheit 451 and Truffaut's film based on the book upon which her book is based. What was he thinking? Perhaps he would write a story in which a character, call that character Miss Ingram for reasons outlined in Tinderbox, he won’t go into that now, writes, or attempts to write and fails, due to fatigue perhaps, or insufficient time or focus, or perhaps brain-power, a review of Tinderbox by Megan Dunn, which is an account of Dunn trying, and failing, for reasons other than those just listed, to write a novel based on the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, in one iteration a novel of Fahrenheit 451 from the point of view of its female characters, which iteration, when completed, made the Bradbury estate uncomfortable, in a legal sense, leading directly to the non-publication of this iteration and thence to the writing and subsequent publication of Tinderbox, a book about someone writing a book about a book, or, more often, a book about someone writing a book about a film about a book, or about the Spark Notes about that book, or, sometimes, about the actors who play the characters in the film of the book, in other words a metametametametametanovel, but so much fun, with each wheel within the other wheels turning and picking up, in its treads, if that’s the right extension of the metaphor, who wants it, all sorts of stuff in the life of the author-character, the putative Megan Dunn, the outer wheel, so to call it, or the outer wheel at least until the story about the pseudonymous Miss Ingram, or, indeed, the account of the writing of the story about Miss Ingram, who tries and fails to write a review of the book about the putative Megan Dunn, which includes Dunn’s employment as a bookseller in the failing Borders chain, the evanescence of a relationship, her writing of a book based on Fahrenheit 451, the failure to bring this book to readers, the writing of a novel on the NaNoWriMo scheme, a sort of reverse Alcoholics Anonymous programme for writers, and Tinderbox itself, the book about all this, and all that mentioned above, and other things, such as merchandising, that you will need to read the book to find out about, each part or layer or vector or whatever contaminating the others and yet handled so deftly by Dunn, with equal measure of attachment and detachment, to build a subtle depiction of the mutable but enduring force of literature in individual and collective lives and of the forces arrayed against it, not least of them failure, the book is strong on failure, and what could be more compassionate, even to Miss Ingram, who has failed to establish herself as a character in someone's story about failing to write a review of Tinderbox, not that the fault is hers, perhaps that conceit should be abandoned, than treating to failure in all its guises and agencies, failure being an essential quality of anything worth doing. Could writing about failure ever be anything but a success? Dunn knows what temperature books burn at. Half price. Such weighty matters should always be this lightly held. 


12/02/2017 08:02 AM

Our Book of the Week this week is Mr Lear: A life of art and nonsense by Jenny Uglow         
A man of deep ambivalences, contradictions and vulnerabilities, Edward Lear was unable to act on his deepest feelings but produced some of the oddest poetry of his time, as well as a body of art both serious and comic. Jenny Uglow, who could almost be said to specialise in biographies of odd characters who both exemplify and stand apart from their times, is Lear's perfect biographer, forensic yet sensitive to the most hidden corners of his psyche, his playfulness and his melancholy. 
"Jenny Uglow has written a great life about an artist with half a life, a biography that might break your heart." - Robert McCrum, Guardian

>> David Attenborough examines some of Lear's ornithological art

>> Some limericks written and illustrated by Lear.

>> The fine line between joy and melancholy

>> An Exile in Paradise

>> Lear's works have inspired many other illustrators

>> Uglow has written a string of exemplary biographies and histories

11/25/2017 11:30 AM

Gordon Walters: New Vision is this week's stunning Book of the Week. Best known for his positive/negative koru stacks, Walters, as this book demonstrates, was a remarkably diverse and accomplished abstract artist. 
The book, and the exhibition it accompanies, are curated by  Lucy Hammonds, Julia Waite and Laurence Simmons. There are essays by these curators, and by Deidre Brown, Peter Brunt, Rex Butler, A.D.S. Donaldson, Luke Smythe and Thomas Crow. Walters is considered as a modernist innovator straddling New Zealand and transnational concerns, and opening a pathway between his influences and the artists that came after him. He is notable for his adoption of precedents and motifs from traditional and contemporary Maori art. 

>> "The most important dialogue in the last century of New Zealand art, if not the only important one."

>> Curators on the radio

>> The exhibition shows first at the Auckland Art Gallery and then at the Dunedin Art Gallery

>> A press release

>> Walters in Art New Zealand

>> The book has just been long-listed for the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

>> We'll be posting images from the book in our instagram gallery every day this week. 

11/18/2017 06:47 AM

This week's Book of the Week is The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey.
This fascinating (and funny) new novel from the author of The Wish Child (winner of the 2017 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize) is sieved and assembled from the great flood of words that washed over Chidgey in 2016. Both an experiment in form and an exercise in documentary rigour, this novel is revelatory of the actual texture of life and an interrogation of the processes of memory. 

{"Review" by THOMAS}:

What are you looking at?
Nothing. I’m not looking at anything.
Up there in the corner?
No, I’m concentrating. Trying to.
What on?
I’m writing a review of the new Catherine Chidgey book.
You’re writing a review on a Wednesday? But the deadline’s Saturday. You’ve never written reviews before Saturday before. I like the cover.
It’s by Fiona Pardington. The photograph.
What is it?
A moth’s wing, or a butterfly’s. It’s probably some reference to Nabokov. He was a lepidopterist. I don’t know what, though. Nabokov not being a writer I particularly appreciate.
Why is it called The Beat of the Pendulum?
That’s a reference to Proust. Something he wrote about writing novels. It’s in the epigraph. The writer as the manipulator of the reader’s experience of time. The writer as able to make the reader experience time as such, by speeding it up. Or by slowing it down, I suppose. Proust might be mistaken on this, though.
I am interested in the differential of the reader’s and the characters’ experience of time. The writer’s inclusion or exclusion of detail controls the reader’s awareness and makes the book move at a varying pace, that’s what detail is for, slowing down, speeding up, leaping over swathes of time that would have been experienced by the characters, if they weren’t fictional, a kind of hypothetical time, so to call it, but inaccessible to the reader because those moments are one step deeper into fiction than the text reaches.
Sounds more like a concertina than a pendulum.
Yes. The book should be called The Squeeze of the Concertina. I’m not sure readers are necessarily aware, consciously, of the difference between text time and narrative time, notwithstanding Proust, though they might well be.
What has this got to do with the book? It’s just a transcript of all the conversations the author overheard or that she was involved in. Is it even a novel?
Just? Have you read this book?
No. But [N.] read it. Or read some of it. Or a review. Or talked to someone who had read it.
Or some of it. Or a review.
And said?
That it was self-indulgent.
I don’t agree with that. At least, it is less self-indulgent than most novels. I mean, what kind of person, other than a novelist, would be so presumptuous as to expect others to spend hours of their time witnessing their make-believe?
But people like doing that.
That’s beside the point.
And the point is?
The point is that this book turns the tables on the author, subjects her to the very kinds of scrutiny that most novels are constructed to deflect, if I can damn all writers with one blow, or at least the kinds of writers that write the kind of make-believe that the ‘people’ you referred to earlier like to indulge in.
There are other kinds?
So in a way this novel is a kind of literary gutting inflicted upon the author by the rigours of the constraint she has chosen, Knausgaard without the interiority.
It’s like Knausgaard?
No. It’s more a kind of extension of the Nouveau roman project outlined by Robbe-Grillet: a turning-away from the tired novelistic props of plot, character, meaning, a verbal ‘inner life’, inside-out, and all that.
Robbe-Grillet wanted a novel made only of objects, surfaces, objective description. This book doesn’t have any of those.
Hmm. Yes. This book has cast off all those. It’s even more rigorous. There are only words, spoken by people about whom we know nothing but what the words tell us, or imply. We are immersed in language, it is our medium, or the medium of one strand of our consciousness. Our sensory awareness and our verbal awareness are very different things.
Are you giving a lecture here?
I suppose this book, by removing both the referents for language and the matrix of interpretation, or context, the conceptual plinths that weigh down novels, is testing to what extent speech is any good at conveying anything by itself.
Conceptual plinths?
There aren’t any. The book reminds me, a little, of Nathalie Sarraute, The Planetarium perhaps, where the novel is comprised only of voices. In this book the reader does the same sort of work to ‘build’ the novel around the words.
Is that fun?
Fun? Well, actually, yes, this book is very enjoyable to read. I thought I would read a bit, get the idea, and then take some pretty large running stitches through it, so to speak, but, even though nothing much happens in the way of plot, it is just an ordinary life, after all, the book is hugely enjoyable, and frequently very funny, you want to read every bit, because it so perfectly captures the way people say things, the way thought and language stutter on through time. The book is takes place entirely in the present moment, a present moment regulated by language. By the beat of the sentence. What is said is unimportant. Relatively unimportant.
It doesn’t matter what happens?
Why should anyone care about that? Apart from the characters, so to call them.
She spent a year spying on people and writing down whatever they said, whether she was in the conversation, probably quite private conversations, or things she overheard people saying? How could she do that?
How could she not do that? A novelist is always spying on other people, not to overhear what people say but how they say it, not to find out information but to find out how people approach or are affected by or transfer information.
You don’t think a novelist is predatory of plot, then? Or scavenging for plot?
You can’t hear or see plot. There’s no such thing, objectively. So I suppose you can’t steal one, only impose one. The realist novel, or the so-called realist novel, as a form, makes the most outrageous of its fantasies, its fallacies, in the area of plot. I think that’s unjustified.
But people like plot.
Yes, I suppose plot has little to do with objective reality.
So to call it. Yes. In fact, coming back to what you said before about objectivity. Dialogue is the only objective form of writing. Description is prone to error, to the interposition of the viewer to the viewed, and no-one would pretend that interiority was anything but an unreliable guide to the actual…
No-one as in not even you?
…which is its richness, I suppose. But no-one would dispute the saying of what is said.
No-one as in not even you?
Verbatim is actuality, or, I mean, resembles actuality, at least structurally. Verbatim creates an indubitable immediacy for the reader, which is very seductive, and clocks time against speech.
Why write conversation?
Conversation is propulsion. It is rocket fuel for a stuck writer, for any writer. It gets the writer out of the way of the text and lets the characters take responsibility for its progression. Conversation gives at least the illusion of objectivity. Conversation draws the reader into the illusion of ‘real time’.
Even if it’s not.
No. Irrelevant, though.
But this novel, The Beat of the Pendulum, purports to be a record of things actually said, in the real world.
Yes, I believe it.
How is that a novel?
All novels are a kind of edited actuality, some more swingeingly edited than others. Otherwise they wouldn’t be believable.
She’s edited this?
Well, obviously there’s been some sort of selecting process going on, some choosing. A year’s worth of “I’m putting on some washing. Is there anything you want to add to the load”/”There are some socks on the floor in the bedroom, if you wouldn’t mind.” might get a bit tedious.
But is not out of keeping with the project.
Well, no. I suppose not. But then it wouldn’t be a novel. Literature is potentised by exclusion rather than by inclusion. What makes this book a novel is the rigour of its form. It is an experiment in form. A laboratory experiment, if you like.
Is Chidgey a literary pioneer?
I can see The Beat of the Pendulum shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize.
You said this book is funny. I don’t remember The Wish Child being funny. Where does the humour come from?
Scientific rigour is indistinguishable from humour.
The world is a relentless funfair?
If you look at it dispassionately. And a relentless tragedy. There are some very memorable and enjoyable passages, revelatory I would call some of them.
Such as?
There is a long passage, maybe a dozen pages, which just records the sales pitch of a sales assistant showing Catherine and her husband a carpet shampooing machine. The use, or misuse, of language is just so well observed, it’s hilarious and tragic. Likewise the patter used by Fiona Pardington when taking Chidgey’s portrait, or there’s the compound pretension and insecurity of the conversations in the creative writing classes Chidgey tutors, or the attempt to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to an inattentive child. Humour often comes from the simultaneous impact of multiple contexts upon language.
I thought humour comes from noticing the world as it actually is. That’s why humour is often cruel.
Or all the medical appointments, or the woman overheard in a waiting room talking about her jewellery. “I’m a silver person but my three daughters are gold people,” or something like that. Chidgey reveals the distortions, the structural flaws and inconsistent texture of the verbal topographies we wander through.
Hark at him.
And the way words act as hooks or burrs that accrete details to entities in ways sufficiently idiosyncratic to make them specific.
So you get to know the characters in this book? Even though nobody’s named.
No, not really. At least, not closely. Surprisingly, perhaps. But then an overdefined personality, or ‘character’ is a definite flaw that fiction, even - sometimes - good fiction, but certainly - always - bad fiction, is prone to fall into. What we call identity is really just a grab-bag or accretion of impressions and tendencies, and multiple voices, including incompatible impressions and contradictory tendencies and conflicting voices. We are much less ourselves than we pretend we are.
Speak for yourself.
Attachment to what we, for convenience, call persons, is something imposed upon actuality and is not something inherent in it. Chidgey’s book is not involving in the way we sometimes expect novels to be involving, there’s no story, or any of those other appurtenances, but there is both a fascination and a shared poignancy that comes with this cumulative evidence of the feeling that actual life is slipping away, with each beat of the pendulum, its loss measured out in words.
Each squeeze of the concertina.
The moments whose residue is on these pages will never return. The words both immortalise them and mark their evanescence. It’s both an anxiety and a release from anxiety.
So our anxiety about our vulnerability magnifies our vulnerability?
That’s a fairly accurate observation. That’s what we use words for.
Ha. The book is arranged on a day-by-day basis through the year.
You’re supposed to read only what’s on today’s date, then, for a year.
Haha. That would be a bit religious. Yes, you could.
That would be an experiment in reading.
It’s been done.
But not in a novel.
I don’t know.
What are you doing?
I’m putting my computer away.
You’re not going to write the review?
All this talking has used up the time I was going to write it in.
You can always write it on Saturday. Deadline day.
I suppose. I was hoping to at least make a start.
Don’t say that.
It’s ironic, isn’t it, our situation, two fictional characters engaged in a fictional conversation about an objective novel comprising only actual, ‘real-life’, material.
What are you saying?
We’re both fictional, authorial conceits if you like. Mind you, you are rather more fictional than I am. Someone might mistake me for an actual person.
But you’re not?
Not on the evidence of our conversation.


>> Discussing the "found novel" on Radio NZ National

>> Cervical smears, surrogacy and dementia

>> A year found.

>> Chidgey and the passing of time

>> The cover of the book features a photograph by Fiona Pardington from her series 'Nabokov's Blues: The Charmed Circle'

>> Chidgey's five odd-eyed (heterochromic) white cats have their own FaceBook page (and they feature in the book (explaining our cat Lucy's presence in the picture above)).

11/11/2017 06:56 AM

This week's Book of the Week is Driving to Treblinka (published by Awa Press), Diana Wichtel's remarkable account of her search for her father, both within her own memories and in the parts of the world that made her father (and by extension herself) who he was (and by extension who she is). Wichtel's father survived the Warsaw ghetto, escaped from a train bound to the extermination camp at Treblinka, and survived the rest of World War 2 with a Jewish resistance group hiding in the Polish forest. He died in a Canadian psychiatric institution. 

>> Read Thomas's review below.

>> Read an extract

>> Another extract (and a cheesecake recipe)

>> Hear Wichtel talk with Kim Hill.

>> Wichtel writes about her Jewishness

>> "A book should be an axe for the frozen sea within us." (Franz Kafka)

>> An interview with Wichtel

>> Our stock selection of books on Jewishness includes many on the history imposed upon Jews (and others) by the Nazis in the form of the Holocaust. 

>> A brief history of the Warsaw ghetto

>> More detail

>> Treblinka

>> A little about Jewish partisans in Nazi-occupied Poland.

>> Thomas's review: 
Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father by Diana Wichtel
“It is not you who will speak; let the disaster speak in you, even if it be by your forgetfulness or silence,” wrote Maurice Blanchot in The Writing of the Disaster. When Diana Wichtel was twelve she moved from Canada to New Zealand with her mother and sister and brother, leaving her increasingly erratic and temperamental father behind. He never followed them and they lost contact. Many years later, Wichtel learned that her father had died in a Canadian psychiatric institution. Trauma expresses itself most eloquently through trauma. Ben Wichtel had survived confinement in the Warsaw ghetto, where he several times woke up next to someone who had died in the night. He jumped from a tiny window in the railway carriage that was transporting him to the Treblinka extermination camp and survived the rest of the war hiding in the forests of Poland with a Jewish resistance group. Almost everyone in his family was killed at Treblinka. Ben Wichtel could not choose not to be damaged by these experiences, and the harm of the Holocaust continues to be passed down through the generations, both within a family and in wider society. “I was always looking for my father,” writes Diana Wichtel, “even when he was still there,” but “you get so used to nothing making any sense that you stop asking questions.” Upon arrival in New Zealand, Diana’s mother set their lives in a new direction and closed down the part of their lives that contained the children’s father. “When parents run from their history they also obliterate the history of their children," writes Wichtel. My mother didn’t know that the things she needed to leave behind in order to survive were precisely the things I needed to hold on to.” Many years later, unable to silence the clamourings of her memories of her father, Diana set out to find out more about him, travelling both to North America and to Poland, where she met and received information from relatives, visited the site of an underground hideout in a Polish forest that might have been where her father hid, and eventually found her father’s grave (with his name misspelled). Her search for the memory of her father involved both a search within herself and a search in the outer world, for memory is most effectively resolved by place. Wichtel’s writing is for the most part forensic and spare, effectively drawing emotional response from the reader rather than imposing it upon them. Although Wichtel finds probably as much about her father as it is possible to find, there is a sense that he is more absent than ever, if anything her father is almost overwritten by what she learns about him (but maybe that is what memory is for). The family provide a new headstone for his grave, one that acknowledges his story, but what happens to the recipient of a gift when they have died long before the giving of that gift? Memory and story are ways of externalising memory and loosening its unspeakable hold (which makes memory a form of forgetting). But, Wichtel insists, “there is no closure”. The Holocaust cannot make people better people. There is only unhealable trauma. “There is no personal growth to be had in that fathomless void.”

11/04/2017 07:35 AM

Elmet by Fiona Mozley, a novel at once both subtly beautiful and compellingly brutal, is this week's Book of the Week. 

>> Stella and Thomas have each reviewed this book.

>> On coffee and procrastination

>> Did Mozley really write this novel on her phone? 

>> Elmet was a Brittonic kingdom in sixth-century Yorkshire

>> The writing of Ted Hughes, like that of Mozley, is rich with imagery of their native Yorkshire and its history

>> Catapulted into fame

>> What are Mozley's favourite books?

10/28/2017 08:52 AM

Our Book of the Week this week is La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman, the first book of 'The Book of Dust', the eagerly awaited new series set in the same universe as 'His Dark Materials'. 

>> Read Stella's review below.

>> Two other books from Lyra's world: Lyra's Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North

>> Daemon Voices (Pullman on storytelling).

>> La Belle Sauvage is also available in hardback. 

>> "The philosophical underpinning of this book is deeply concerned with how authoritarian regimes take power."

>> Pullman: "'The Book of Dust' is about Dust. ... 'The Book of Dust' is not a sequel or a prequel but an equel."

>> 5 minutes with Philip Pullman

>> The Golden Compass film was based on Northern Lights. 

>> On Dust

>> He's already finished writing the sequel! 

>> Some other books by Pullman

Review by STELLA: 
The first in 'The Book of Dust' trilogy is a triumph. I sat down and read it in one sitting and there was no way anything was going to interrupt me (you have been warned!). It’s been almost 20 years since The Amber Spyglass, the third book in 'His Dark Materials' series, and leaving the world of Lyra was difficult for many. La Belle Sauvage is set 10 years before Northern Lights, Lyra is a baby in the care of the nuns at Godstow near Oxford. We are back in the world of daemons, the struggle between the religious order and scientific learning, and the mysterious questions about Dust. The Magisterium’s power is growing in Brytain and there is an increasing sense of unease in the populace. Here we meet Malcolm, an eleven-year-old boy - curious, inventive and good. He helps out at his parent’s pub, clearing glasses and scrubbing pots, he lends a hand to the nuns across the river and it is here he comes across Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon. While 'His Dark Materials' references Milton’s Paradise Lost, this series belongs to Spenser’s Faerie Queen, with touches of the Biblical Great Flood and Gothic storytelling. It feels like all the questions you still had as a reader after completing the previous trilogy are now going to be visited again, amplified - and maybe some answers might be forthcoming. While many of the characters are familiar, we learn more about them and their ambitions. Lyra’s mother, Mrs Coulter, is ever more daunting and compelling and Lord Asriel, her father, maddening and heroic. We are introduced to the fledgling secret organisation formed to resist the fascist and fanatical power-keepers, and the wonderful Hannah Reif, a reader of the wonderful Alethiometer, as well as the strange and dangerously obsessive former scientist who haunts Malcolm. Malcolm is drawn into a world which becomes increasingly dangerous and complex, and his loyalty toward the child is undaunting. As tensions rise, so do the rivers. It rains and rains, and Malcolm, tipped off by a Gyptian, readies his boat, the beautiful canoe, La Belle Sauvage, keeping an eye on the welfare of the child, Lyra. He rescues her as the walls of the nunnery collapse, and, along with the tough and mealy-mouthed Alice, who works at the pub, they start a journey down the Thames, across a flooded Brytain, in swift and dangerous currents. It’s a perilous journey physically, emotionally and mentally, stretching the youths to the edges of their capabilities. Pullman pulls no punches with La Belle Sauvage, with its allegorical layers and deliberations on science, religion and the psyche. It's dark, compelling and incredibly intriguing. Complex, intelligent writing for children, teens and adults alike. 

10/21/2017 10:00 AM

Our Book of the Week this week is Egyptomania by Emma Giuliani and Carole Saturno. This lovingly produced large-format lift-the-flap book is the perfect introduction to life in Ancient Egypt.

>> This is how the book works

>> Enter the pyramid of Cheops

>> Meet some gods

>> The real life of Ancient Egypt

>> Listen to some Ancient Egyptian music

10/14/2017 11:25 AM

Our Book of the Week this week is Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. 

What could be better than a new cookbook entirely devoted to baking and desserts from the author of several of the best cookbooks on your shelves? Ottolenghi and his long-time collaborator Goh present recipes that combine flavours and ingredients in interesting ways and yet are achievable, either easily or with a small amount of pleasurable effort. Delicious, beautifully presented and absolutely recommended for everyone from children to accomplished bakers. 
>> Would you eat this? 

>> Ottolenghi introduces the book

>> Don't burn your fingers

>> What motivates Yotam and his team to push the frontiers of flavour? 

>> All Ottolenghi's cookbooks are superb

>> Some free recipes!

10/07/2017 01:18 PM

Our Book of the Week this week is Out of the Woods: A journey through depression and anxiety by Brent Williams and Korkut Öztekin      $40

When he was in his late 40s, anxiety and depression overwhelmed Wellingtonian Brent Williams and he walked away from his partner, four children and job. He tells the story of his journey back to the world in this outstanding graphic memoir illustrated by Turkish artist Korkut 

>> Sample pages and information on the book's own excellent website

>> How did the book come about? 

>> Williams speaks with Kim Hill
                         >> Images from the RNZ gallery.

>> Depression just said, "You've got to face this."

>> The dark secret of Wellington philanthropist Sir Arthur Williams

>> New Zealand help lines for depression and anxiety:
Lifeline New Zealand: 0800 543 354 (Help anyone - 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (Help anyone - 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 (Help young people & their families - 24/7)
Find a list of specialist NZ helplines here 
The Lowdown – Help young New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety – Help New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

09/30/2017 11:09 AM

This week's Book of the Week is Sara Baume's A Line Made by Walking, a novel of an artist's attempt to regain her mental footing by retreating from (or into) the world. 

>> Read Stella's review

>> There are no answers

>> "I always wanted to be an art monster."

>> "I actually hate writing."

>> A Line Made by Walking, as well as concerning itself with art (both as process and result), contains photographs taken by the character. Hear Baume discussing what illustrations can contribute to a novel.

>> Baume's previous book, Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither

>> She reads from this

>> A Line Made by Walking has just been shortlisted for the 2017 Goldsmiths Prize (awarded for "fiction at its most novel"). >> Hear the judges talk about the shortlisted books here
>> Find out more about the books on our website
Previous winners of the Goldsmiths Prize: 
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (2013)
How To Be Both by Ali Smith (2014)
Beatlebone by Kevin Barry (2015)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (2016)

>> Baume's books were originally published by the tiny, wonderful Irish publisher Tramp Press (who also brought us Solar Bones). BTW: >> No Dear sirs, please

>> 'A Line Made by Walking' by Richard Long (1967 (>> recreated by children, 2011))

09/23/2017 04:14 AM

Our Book of the Week this week is the new edition of the definitive guide to the plethora of beers produced in New Zealand. BREWED by Jules van Costello (published by Potton & Burton) is full of information and is enjoyable to read, both for beer novices and aficionados. 

{STELLA's review}:
The craft beer industry in New Zealand has been on the up and up since the 1980s. Nelson has more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the country: there are several dedicated craft beer bars - The Freehouse and the Craft Beer Depot; and a combination of established brewers (some with a long family history - the Duncans at Founders and the McCashin family of Stoke) as well as more recent additions (Hop Federation in Riwaka and contract brewer Phil McArdle of Horsebox). We grow hops in Motueka (a crop that has once again flourished post-kiwifruit-mass-plantings): these are highly regarded and keenly sought after, and new varieties have been developed including the Nelson Sauvin. While I knew a little of this, I’m gleaning most of my information from Jules Van Costello’s new edition of Brewed: A Guide to the Beer of New Zealand. Now in its second edition, there are more breweries (166 in all) and more tasting notes (over 450), and the book isn’t solely the domain of craft beer producers, with the inclusion of the likes of DB and Lion. The first few chapters of Brewed give an overview of the beer industry now, looking at everyone from the larger commercial players to the more specialist boutique brewers; there’s a brief history of beer in New Zealand, a simple explanation about how beer is made and its ingredients, and notes on cellaring and how to drink your beer (drinking temperatures, glass types). Of particular note is the comprehensive description of beer styles. The main part of the book is an A-Z of breweries with a quick rundown on their history and a spotlight on their signature beers. The Mussel Inn’s Captain Cooker raises its head, along with their eco principles, and brewer Andrew Dixon’s solution to demand for his beer internationally. Emerson’s Bookbinder has long been a favourite of mine (I have to admit that the name drew me), so I’m pleased to discover another book-related beer connection in Oamaru’s Craftwork - owned by Michael O’Brien (bookbinder) and Lee-Ann Scotti - which specialises in traditional Belgian ales. Van Costello has added a star rating system (similar to the Michelin style - he quickly points out that all the brewers are good, that some of them make excellent specialist beers, but others excel on several fronts earning them a star or two.) Of the 166, there are only eight that get the 3-star rating, and from the many listed Nelson breweries three take out 2-star honours: Hop Federation, Sprig & Fern, and Townshend Brewery. The tasting notes list the best from the brewers, with a few tagged 'Must-Tries'! Next time you’re eyeing up the range at the supermarket this will come in handy. Or you could come along and ask Jules Van Costello about his favourites:

>> Come along and hear Jules talk about beer (AND taste some beer!): 1 PM, Monday 25th September @ VOLUME. See you then. 

>> Jules introduces the new edition

09/16/2017 12:11 PM

edited by Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris and packed full of stories, illustrations and amusements from top New Zealand writers and illustrators is this week's BOOK OF THE WEEK

“We channelled our younger selves: curious, discerning, up for anything. We tried to make a book we wish we’d be given. All the content is commissioned. This meant we were able to achieve a good balance of gender, ethnicity, and rural/urban experiences. We wanted to reach as many kinds of readers as possible.” - the editors

>> Find out who's included

>> Lots of teasers on the AnnualAnnual FaceBook page

>> Appreciation from The Sapling

>> Last year's Annual was hugely popular with children, critics and gift-givers. It is still just as fresh as the day it was published. 

>> Visit the Annual website.

>> Children's annuals have a long history. Here is a short history

>> Some amusements you can download

>> On creating the first Annual

We can gift-wrap and send this book to wherever and whoever you would like. 

09/09/2017 12:19 PM

Our Book of the Week for Maori Language Week is Sleeps Standing / Moetu by Witi Ihimaera, with parallel text in Maori by Hemi Kelly. 
The three-day siege of the Battle of Orakau in 1864, in which 1700 Imperial troops laid siege to a hastily constructed pa sheltering 300 Maori men, women and children, marked the effective end of the Waikato War. Ihimaera tells the history from the point of view of a Moetu, a boy on the side that refused to submit and fought to the end. First-hand accounts and documentary illustrations are included in this book. 

>> Read Stella's review

>> Rewi's Last Stand

>> Remembering the Tuhoe and Ngati Maniapoto who defended Orakau

>> A strange computer-generated simulation of the fortifications

>> Commemorative haka, 150 years later

>> Hemi Kelly on Radio New Zealand

>> "Ka whawhai tonu matou, Ake! Ake! Ake!"  Rewi Maniapoto continues to fight for Maori land

>> Vincent O'Malley's The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato, 1800-2000 gives excellent analysis of the wider Waikato War and its contexts. 

09/02/2017 11:58 AM

Our Book of the Week this week will takes you places that you have never been and to which you are unlikely ever to go (except by opening this book). Judith Schalansky's ATLAS OF REMOTE ISLANDS: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will is a beautifully produced volume that does everything an atlas can do to engage the imagination: the maps of each island are spare and mysterious and beautifully drawn, the text accompanying each delineates fact but, largely due to the incompletely resolved nature of the histories, there is plenty of room for the reader to activate their imagination to occupy the spaces, and the whole book is well and subtly made. The stories of travellers to or inhabitants of these remote spots of land surrounded by vast oceans are stories of loneliness, refuge and utopianism, of human dreams washed up on rocky shores, of the oddities of nature or society that can flourish only away from the masses, either of land or of people. This is a completely absorbing book. 

>> Keep an eye on our FaceBook page this week, for our daily Remote Island of the Day.

>> "You can tell world history by islands. That is why I call them footnotes to the mainland."

>> "Books are not a form of fetishism."

>> Is the appearance of a book as important as its content? 

>> "I don't even trust my own memory."

>> Schalansky goes to an island.

>> And how many bones are there in a giraffe's neck? 

08/26/2017 11:21 AM

This week's Book of the Week is Olga Tokarczuk's remarkable sort-of-novel, FLIGHTS, published by Text Publishing.

When something is at rest it is only conceptually differentiated from the physical continuum of its location, but when moving its differentiation is confirmed by the changes in its relations with the actual. Likewise, humans have in them a restlessness, a will to change, a fluidity of identity and belonging that Olga Tokarczuk in her fine and interesting book Flights would see as our essential vitality, an indicator of civilisation so far as it is acknowledged and encouraged, otherwise a casualty of repression or of fear. “Barbarians stay put, or go to destinations to raid them. They do not travel.” Flights is an encyclopedic sort-of-novel, a great compendium of stories, fragments, historical anecdotes, description and essays on every possible aspect of travel, in its literal and metaphorical senses, and on the stagnation, mummification and bodily degradation of stasis. The book bristles with ideas, memorable images and playful treatments, for instance when Tokarczuk reframes the world as an array of airports, to which cities and countries are but service satellites and through which the world’s population is constantly streaming, democratised by movement, no preparation either right or wrong in this zone of civilised indeterminacy. To create a border, to restrict a movement is to suppress life, to preserve a corpse. Tokarczuk’s fragments are of various registers and head in different directions, but several strands reappear through the book, such as the story of a father and young son searching for a mother who disappears on holiday on a small Croatian island. Historical imaginings include an account of the journey of Chopin’s heart from Paris to Poland following his death, the ‘biography’ of the ‘discoverer’ of the achilles tendon, and an account of the peripatetic sect constantly on the move to elude the Devil. For Tokarczuk, we find ourselves, if we find ourselves at all, somewhere in the interplay between impulse and constraint. {Review by THOMAS}

>> Read an excerpt

>> Read another excerpt. (The Fitzcarraldo Editions edition is also available).

>> "Flights has echoes of WG Sebald, Milan Kundera, Danilo Kiš and Dubravka Ugrešić, but Tokarczuk inhabits a rebellious, playful register very much her own." - Guardian

>> Visit Olga Tokarczuk's library (and learn Polish incidentally). 

08/18/2017 03:29 AM

Our Book of the Week this week is only 60mm x 75mm large (or small). 
Minicry is a microscopic 24-page minizine illustrated by Kate Depree, featuring mini-things like haiku, jokes, tweets, poems, lists and more by Zarah Butcher McGunnigle, Courtney Sina Meredith, Uther Dean, Ashleigh Young, Guy Montgomery, Ruby Mae Hinepuni Solly, Alice May Connolly, Kirsten McDougall and Henry Cooke. 

>> Brought to you by the people who bring you Mimicry

>> Visit the Mimicry FaceBook page and like it.

>> Twittering tweets

>> New voices in poetry are sought

>> Are you hungry now?

We have full-size books from some of the contributors to Minicry:
Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young
Tess by Kirsten McDougall
Tail of the Taniwha and Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick by Courtney Sina Meredith
and several of them are into Sport

>> Holly Hunter was inspired to make Minicry by Peach Spell

Now make your own minizine and come and show us. 

08/12/2017 06:50 AM

TOUGH GUYS (have feelings too)!

It's not always easy being a tough guy... You might not think it, but tough guys have feelings too. Even when they're with their best friends, or when they're on top of the world, not everything works out. This can be very frustrating. 

Our book of the week with week is Keith Negley's wonderful picture book Tough Guys (Have feelings too)

Feeling bad or feeling sad or feeling uncertain or feeling not-very-confident are feelings that everyone has (even tough guys). 

Everyone has feelings (well, almost everyone). 

>> Tough guys can read this book too

>> Are boys more likely to show their feelings these days than in the 1970s

>> The Cure.

And also:

My Dad Used to Be So Cool by Keith Negley       $28
Why doesn't Dad do all those cool things he used to do? Why did he stop? (Could it be because having a child was somehow cooler?) 

08/05/2017 02:31 PM

The earth moves according to its geological time, while upon it the lives and times of humans move by different rhythms. One house is the place where these forces interact. Fiona Farrell's new novel Decline and Fall on Savage Street, tracing the lives in one house through the twentieth century to the Christchurch earthquakes, is this week's Book of the Week

>> Read Stella's review

>> Extracts

>> Fiona Farrell on 'Standing Room Only': Sunday 6.8.17, 1:45

>> The author on writing the book

>> "Writing big" (whatever that means). 

>> A white-hot response

>> What makes a city a city? 

>> Fiona's writing day

>> Naughty reading secrets

07/29/2017 12:22 PM

"How to tell a shattered story? By slowly becoming everybody. No. By slowly becoming everything."
This week's Book of the Week is Arundhati Roy's long-anticipated second novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

>> Read an extract

>> And another extract

>> A strange and frightening dream

>> Fiction and politics. 

>> Roy returns to fiction, in fury

>> Interviewed on Democracy Now

>> "Black ants, pink crumbs."

>> The God of Small Things won the Booker Prize in 1997.

>> Can she win it again this year? 

>> Chatting with Rushdie (1997).

>> Other books by Roy

>> Why Roy thinks India is a corporate upper-caste state

07/22/2017 12:14 PM

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

>> On RNZ National last Sunday

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

>> Is there such a thing as society?

>> An inspiring voice

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

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

>> Anne Salmond interviewed by an invisible man

>> Salmond will be speaking in Nelson in August

07/15/2017 08:36 AM

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

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

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

>> Read Stella's review

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

>> Read an extract

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

>> How does Alderman describe her novel?

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

07/08/2017 11:14 AM

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

>> Read Stella's review

>> An interview with the editor.

>> An article about the book. 

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

07/08/2017 11:12 AM

Review by STELLA

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

07/01/2017 01:11 PM

Our Book of the Week this week is Black Marks on the White Page, a diverse selection of some of the most interesting twenty-first century prose by Maori and Pasifika writers, both well-known and emerging, edited by Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti. 

Writers represented: 
Anahera Gildea - Patricia Grace - Nic Low - Mary Rokonadravu - Tusiata Avia - Witi Ihimaera - Alexis Wright - Gina Cole - David Geary - Kelly Joseph - Cassandra Barnett - Jione Havea - Serie Barford - Dewe Gorode - Victor Rodger - Tina Makereti - Michael Puleloa - Courtney Sina Meredith - Kelly Ana Morey - Sia Figiel - Anya Ngawhare - Paula Morris - Selina Tusitala Marsh - Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada - Albert Wendt

Fiona Pardington - Pati Solomonia Tyrell - Shane Hansen - Rosanna Raymond - Robert Jahnke - Cerisse Palalagi - Lisa ReihanaYuki Kihara

>> Paula Morris: "The most subversive coffee table book of the year."

>> Stories can save your life

>> Should we be worried about the ethic representation in New Zealand publishing?

>> Expanding perceptions of the Pacific world

>> Makereti's five favourite Maori and Pasifika books

>> The marginalisation and pigeonholing of ethnic minorities in UK publishing

>> The whiteness of the publishing industry in the US.