Monday, 22 April 2019

We are delighted to announce the 2019 VOLUME MAPUA LITERARY FESTIVAL, a boutique literary festival featuring some of New Zealand’s most interesting writers will be held in Mapua on the weekend of 20-22 September. You will hear from authors whose books you have enjoyed and discover authors whose books you will go on to enjoy. The intimate scale of the festival will enable you to meet and talk with authors and other literary enthusiasts. Writers attending the festival this year will include LLOYD JONES, who was short-listed for the 2007 Booker Prize for Mister Pip, and whose novel The Cage is a finalist for the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize in the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book AwardsASHLEIGH YOUNG, whose essay collection Can You Tolerate This?won the prestigious 2017 Windham–Campbell Prize, will be appearing, along with CARL SHUKER, whose new novel, A Mistake, explores the impact of a medical misadventure on the life of a Wellington surgeon. Novelist and essayist PAULA MORRIS will return from her stint as the Katherine Mansfield fellow in Menton in time to attend the festival, andANNETTE LEES will speak about her book Swim, which records her year of daily wild swimming as well as being a history of New Zealand outdoor swimming. Renowned poet and art writer GREGORY O'BRIEN will be attending, along with poet JENNY BORNHOLDT, and THOMASIN SLEIGH will speak about her novel Women in the Field, One and Two, which looks at the Modernist moment in the establishment of the New Zealand National Art Gallery from a feminist perspective. LYNN JENNER will discuss the relationship between words and land, and EIRLYS HUNTER, whose adventure novel The Mapmaker’s Race has delighted many children, will hold a session, as well as participating in one of the community events organised around the festival by the Mapua Community Library. A 'literary' quiz evening will be held as a fundraiser for the library. The programme will be released in May. Save the Date: 20-22 September 2019.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

BOOKS @ VOLUME #124 (20.4.19)

Read our latest NEWSLETTER. 

This week's Book of the Week is Lonely Asian Woman by Sharon Lam (published by Lawrence & Gibson). Paula is lazy young woman mired in a rut. In the shallows of the internet she is pushed to a moment of profound realisation: she, too, is but a lonely Asian woman looking for fun. Lonely Asian Woman, the debut novel of Sharon Lam, is a wildly sentimental book about a life populated by doubles and transient friends, whirrs of off-kilter bathroom fans and divinatory whiffs of chlorine. Lonely Asian Woman is not the story of a young woman coming to her responsibilities in the world.
>>Lonely Asian woman seeks lonely Asian women
>> Exploding stereotypes
>>In conversation with Pip Adam
>> Publisher interviews writer
>>The thing about hobbies


Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina    {Reviewed by STELLA} 
Seen the documentarybeen to the performance - now read the book. Maria (Masha) Alyokhina’s Riot Days is a moving and searingly honest account of imprisonment in modern-day Russia. Pussy Riot started as an activist movement, one that was reasonably naive and chaotic: a group of young performers determined to make a difference, to call out corruption, political cronyism and draw attention to the structures of power that oppress the young and disadvantaged in this wealthy and powerful nation. In Russia the state, the church and the security forces are entrenched alongside wealthy oligarchs to decide the course of justice and ensure that all mechanisms of the state serve the interests of an elite group. In the opening lines of Riot Days, Alyokhina talks about the revolution - not the 1917 revolution, but the one that was happening right then (in 2011) - theSnow Revolution: “What will they write about it in history books? Will they mention it at all?....We were led by a belief in the possibility for change - a naive and childish hope that can awaken suddenly in adults. ... We went out into the streets. We wrote and, letter by letter, we became a revolutionary statement.” What started as a simple campaign to draw attention to the plight of Russians in Moscow, to draw attention to the Putin regime, its corruption and political machinations, through song and performance, soon became a name on everyone’s lips. Pussy Riot. A group of young women in balaclavas. Their initial actions were seen as a bit of silliness by the authorities and they were able in most cases to slip through the fingers of the authorities with a slap on the wrist, some false names and an indulgent sigh from the police. Yet their performance in a churchon the 21st February 2012, criticising the link and collusion between Putin, former KGB agent ‘Mikhalych’, and the head of the church, Patriarch of All Russia, former KGB agent ‘Mikhailov’, took the world by storm and embarrassed the church and the state. In the eyes of many, the Church’s approval of Putin was tantamount to giving him god-like status. Suddenly these young women, performing a-less-than-2-minute performance on the altar, were public enemy no.1. In Riot Days, Alyokhina tells her story of being part of this protest movement, the importance of the right to protest, her involvement in the now world-famous action, and the subsequent days on the run hiding in cafes, safe houses, abandoned warehouses, etc, avoiding their homes and watching the feet of those walking by (pointy shoes a clear warning signal of secret police). The film clip went viral and Pussy Riot was in demand by the international media. Hiding out in public toilets (while staff flicked lights off and yelled at them to leave), they communicated to the outside world via Skype and a crappy laptop, always on the move. As we know, Masha was arrested and judged to be guilty and sent to prison for two years. In prison, she was subjected to humiliation, torment from fellow prisoners (who saw ‘politics’ as troublesome), and to extra surveillance by guards and the authorities. Despite this, Masha didn’t waste her time in prison, and constantly fought for prisoners’ legal rights - having a lawyer helped (many of the prisoners didn’t have access to this luxury). Learning as much as she could about legal rights, she was able, through grit and determination (and several hunger strikes that became problematic for the penal colonies where she was sent), to make small changes that were significant ‘wins’ for the inmates. After a year of being in prison, she won her first case against the guards - no easy feat - and when she could have stopped, she carried on. Maria Alyokhina is plucky and stubborn, and if you had a chance to see her performance in Nelson recently you will know that the fight, alongside her colleagues, continues. Alyokhina’s writing style makes the book riveting and you are constantly aware of the cold, the humiliation and the miserable lives that women in Russia’s prisons endure. It’s also packed with great descriptions of prisoners and guards, and the humanity that both are capable of, as well as the fear and greed that drive others. 


Use the VOLUME OCKHAMETER (and Acornometer) to vote for the books your think should (or might) win at the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and go in the draw for a copy of each of the eventual category winners. >>Find out more about the finalists and use the OCKHAMETER (and Acornometer). >>A progress report on the 2019 OCKHAMETER. 


Extinction by Thomas Bernhard    {Reviewed by THOMAS}

“When I take Wolfsegg and my family apart, when I dissect, annihilate and extinguish them, I am actually taking myself apart, dissecting, annihilating and extinguishing myself. I have to admit that this idea of self-dissection and self-annihilation appeals to me, I told Gambetti. I’ll spend my life dissecting and extinguishing myself, Gambetti, and if I’m not mistaken I’ll succeed in this self-dissection and self-extinction. I actually do nothing but dissect and extinguish myself.” In the first of the two relentless paragraphs that comprise this wonderfully claustrophobic novel, the narrator, Murau, has received a telegram informing him that his parents and brother have been killed in a car accident. While looking at some photographs of them at his desk in Rome, he unleashes a 150-page stream of invective directed personally at the members of his family, both dead and living. Murau is alone, but he addresses his rant to his student Gambetti in Gambetti’s absence or recounts, however accurately or inaccurately, addressing Gambetti in person at some earlier time. Gambetti, in either case, is completely passive and non-contributive, and this passivity and non-contribution acts - along with Murau’s over-identification with his ‘black sheep’ Uncle Georg, an over-identification that sometimes confuses their identities - as a catalyst for Murau’s invective, as an anchor for the over-inflation of Murau’s hatred for, and difference from, his family. Without external contributions that might mitigate Murau’s opinions, his family appear as horrendous grotesques, exaggerations that here cannot be contradicted due to absence or death. Being dead puts an end to your contributions to the ideas people have of you: stories concerning you are henceforth the domain entirely of others and soon become largely expressions of their failings, impulses and inclinations.We can have no definite idea of ourselves, though: we exist only to others, unavoidably as misrepresentations, as caricatures. Murau states that he intends to write a book, to be titled Extinction: “The sole purpose of my account will be to extinguish what it describes, to extinguish anything that Wolfsegg means to me, everything that Wolfsegg is, everything. My work will be nothing other than an act of extinction.” Murau has not been able to even begin to write this account because his hatred gets in the way of beginning, or, rather, what we soon suspect to be the inauthenticity of his hatred gets in the way of beginning. There is no loathing without self-loathing. As Murau’s invective demonstrates, there can be no statement that is not an overstatement: every statement tends towards exaggeration as soon as it is expressed or thought. By exaggeration a statement exhausts its veracity and immediately begins to incline towards its opposite, just as every impulse, as soon as it is expressed, inclines towards its opposite. Only a passive witness, a witness who does not contradict but, by witnessing, in effect affirms, Gambetti in Murau’s case, allows an otherwise unsustainable idea to be sustained. In the second half of the book, Murau returns to Wolfsegg in Austria for the funeral of his parents and brother. Until this point, Murau’s ‘character’ has been defined entirely by his exaggerated opposition to, or identification with, his ideas of others, but when he is brought into situations in which others have a contributing role, Murau’s portrayal of others and of himself in the first section is undermined at every turn. Without the ‘Gambetti’ prop, he is responded to, and, in response to these responses, he overturns many of his opinions - about his parents, his brothers, his sisters, his mother’s lover, the nauseatingly perfectly false Spadolini that Murau had hitherto admired, and about himself - and reveals his fundamental ambivalence, an ambivalence that is fundamental to all existence but which is usually, for most of us, almost entirely suppressed by praxis, by the passive anchors, the Gambettis to which we affix our desperate attempts at character. We resist - through exaggeration - indifference and self-nullification. “We’re often led to exaggerate, I said later, to such an extent that we take our exaggeration to be the only logical fact, with the result that we don’t perceive the real facts at all, only the monstrous exaggeration. I’ve always found gratification in my fanatical faith in exaggeration, I told Gambetti. On occasion I transform this fanatical faith in exaggeration into an art, when it offers the only way out of my mental misery, my spiritual malaise. Exaggeration is the secret of great art, I said, and of great philosophy. The art of exaggeration is in fact the secret of all mental endeavour.” In this second part, Murau reveals his connection with Wolfsegg and his suppressed feelings of culpability in what it represents. “I had not in fact freed myself from Wolfsegg and made myself independent but maimed myself quite alarmingly.” Separation, or, rather, the illusion of separation, is only achieved by ‘art’, that is to say, by exaggeration, by the denial of ambivalence, by the denial of complicity, by suppression: a desperate negative act of self-invention. Once his hatred of his sisters, and of his parents and brothers, has been undermined by his presence and contact with others at Wolfsegg, and without a Gambetti or Georg in his mind to sustain this hatred, the underlying reason for his hatred, a fact that he has suppressed since his childhood as too uncomfortable, the fact that has made “a gaping void” of his childhood, of his whole past, the fact to which he was a passive witness, a complicit witness, namely that Wolfsegg hid and sheltered Nazi war criminals after the war (Gauleiters and members of the Blood Order, who now attend the funeral of Murau’s father) in the so-called ‘Children’s Villa’ (which “affords the most brutal evidence that childhood is no longer possible. All you see when you look back is this gaping void. You actually believed that your childhood could be repainted and redecorated, as it were, that it could be refurbished and reroofed like the Children’s Villa, and this in spite of hundreds of failed attempts at restoring your childhood.”), can now be faced, and, on the final page of the book, at last in some way addressed. Murau also attains the necessary degree of remove to write Extinction before his own death, either from illness or, more likely, suicide. This, his last, is the only Bernhard novel I can think of in which the protagonist makes anything that resembles an effective resolution.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan           $37
Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In this alternative 1980s London, Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. What happens when a love triangle develops between these three? 
"Intelligent mischief." - Guardian 
>> There's an algorithm for it
The Governesses by Anne Serre          $30
In a large country house, shut off from the world within a gated garden, three young women responsible for the education of a group of little boys are hanging paper lanterns for a party. Their desires, however, lie elsewhere.
"Every so often a different creature darts into view: a novel that is genuinely original - and, often, very quietly so. Call it the anglerfish of literature, after those solitary, crazy-looking lurkers in the sea's deepest trenches. The strangeness of such stories isn't just at the level of construction; it emerges from the writer's very perception of the world and seeps into the syntax. Prim and racy, seriously weird and seriously excellent, The Governesses is not a treatise but an aria, and one delivered with perfect pitch." - The New York Times
The New Me by Halle Butler         $25
30-year-old Millie is overwhelmed by her unexpressed feelings of rancour - to the extent that she cannot express or achieve anything.  "A skewering of the 21st-century American dream of self-betterment. Butler has already proven herself a master of writing about work and its discontents, the absurdity of cubicle life and office work in all of its dead ends. The New Me takes it to a new level." -The Millions
"A definitive work of millennial literature." - The New Yorker
“A dark comedy of female rage. Halle Butler is a first-rate satirist of the horror show being sold to us as Modern Femininity. She is Thomas Bernhard in a bad mood, showing us the futility of betterment in an increasingly paranoid era of self-improvement. Hilarious.” - Catherine Lacey
"Masterfully cringe-inducing. Makes the reader squirm and laugh out loud simultaneously.” —Chicago Tribune
>>Meet Halle Butler.
The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg       $35
In April 1988, Valerie Solanas - the writer, radical feminist and would-be assassin of Andy Warhol - was discovered dead in her hotel room, in a grimy corner of San Francisco. She was 52, alone, penniless and surrounded by the typed pages of her last writings. Through imagined conversations and monologues, reminiscences and rantings, Stridsberg reconstructs this most intriguing and enigmatic of women, articulating the thoughts and fears that she struggled to express in life and giving a voice to the writer of the SCUM Manifesto.
>>Meet Valerie Solanas

What Not by Rose Macaulay           $38
A speculative novel of post-First World War eugenics and newspaper manipulation that anticipated Aldous Huxley's Brave New World by 14 years. Published in 1918, it was hastily withdrawn due to a number of potentially libellous pages, and, when re-issued, it was overshadowed by Macaulay's next two novels and never gained the attention it deserved. What Not is a lost classic of feminist wit and protest at social engineering, now republished with the suppressed pages reinstated.
"Stirring, funny, uniquely imaginative." - Guardian
>>Find out more. 
The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers      $22
From his remote moorland home, David Hartley assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers to embark upon a criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history. They are the Cragg Vale Coiners and their business is 'clipping' - the forging of coins, a treasonous offence punishable by death. When an excise officer vows to bring them down and with the industrial age set to change the face of England forever, Hartley's empire begins to crumble. Forensically assembled, The Gallows Pole is a true story of resistance and a rarely told alternative history of the North of England.
The Heavens by Sandra Newman            $33
Kate meets Ben at a party in the year 2000. As she falls asleep she feels that her world is perfect. When she wakes up the next morning as Emilia in 1593, every decision she makes will affect the chances of realising that future with Ben. 
"I can't remember when I last read something so original or sophisticated or emotionally engaging or so breathtakingly ambitious." - Kate Atkinson
Pill by Robert Bennett         $22
Pill traces the uncanny presence of psychiatric pills through science, medicine, autobiography, television, cinema, literature, and popular music. Bennett reveals modern psychopharmacology to be a brave new world in which human identities - thoughts, emotions, personalities, and selves themselves - are increasingly determined by the extraordinary powers of seemingly ordinary pills.
It's Not About the Burqa: Muslim women on faith, feminism, sexuality and race edited by Miriam Khan       $25
Article 353 by Tanguy Viel        $30
Two men go out to sea in a boat to fish for lobster and crab. When they are five miles from shore, Martial Kermeur catches his companion off guard and throws him overboard. He then calmly takes the wheel and heads back to the harbor, the noisy wake behind him blotting out the drowning man’s screams. The account of the proceedings of the trial gives us access to the back story. Where does guilt lie? Can a punishment 'fit' a crime? Is there a difference between justice and the law? 
"Sharp and memorable." - Star Tribune
Woman of the Ashes by Mia Couto         $33
A novel set during the territorial power struggles of 1890s Mozambique, alternating between the voices of Imani, a 15-year-old living in the village of Nkokolani, and Portuguese sergeant Germano de Melo, who is sent to the village to protect Portugal’s conquest. Unfamiliar with his surroundings and the local language, de Melo hires Imani and her brother, Mwanatu, to work as his translator and guard. 
"With riveting prose and thorough research, Couto paints the village as a doomed magical space where blind people can see and sighted people are blind, where dreams about the dead guide the living, where fish fall from the sky and the earth spits up weapons. There is not one dull moment." - Guardian
Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen by Mary Norris         $35
Language! Love! The wine-dark sea! Norris travels to Greece and and into the English language in search of its Greek influences. 
19th-Century Fashion in Detail by Lucy Johnston      $65
A wonderful photographic archive of period details. See also 20th-Century Fashion in Detail
My Brother's Name is Jessica by John Boyne        $21
How does Sam's life change when his older brother changes gender?

A Reader on Reading by Alberto Manguel         $38
Reading is the faculty that defines our species, not just the reading of texts but our instinct to find narrative in everything. 
Virusphere by Frank Ryan           $37
From the Common Cold to Ebola - why we need viruses. 

Hark by Sam Lipsyte        $33
A standup comic turns monosyllabic messiah peddling spiritualism to tech bros. What begins as a joke becomes a new faith known as Harkism.
"A hilarious lament for our times." - Guardian
The Waning Age by S.E. Grove         $23
The world is filled with adults devoid of emotion and children on the cusp of losing their feelings - of "waning" - when they reach their teens. Natalia Pena has already waned. So why does she love her little brother with such ferocity that, when he's kidnapped by a Big Brother-esque corporation, she'll do anything to get him back?
Letters to the Lady Upstairs by Marcel Proust, translated by Lydia Davis       $23
Letters written between 1909 and 1919 to Madame Marie Williams, the upstairs neighbour to his elegant apartment at 102 Boulevard Haussmann, revealing his concerns with his health and with noise (that harp!), in a mix of elegance and haste, refinement and convolution, gravity and self-mockery. Now in paperback.
>> Lydia Davis on translating Proust's letters

Lot by Bryan Washington         $33
“Washington’s subtle, dynamic and flexible stories play out across Houston’s sprawling and multiethnic neighborhoods. An alert and often comic observer of the world, Washington cracks open a vibrant, polyglot side of Houston about which few outsiders are aware. An underthrob of emotion beats inside Washington's stories. He’s confident enough not to force the action. The stories feel loose, their cellular juices free to flow.” —New York Times
Rip It Up and Start Again: Post punk, 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds        $19
"A fantastic tribute to an amazingly creative musical period . . . An instant pop classic, worthy of a place on your shelves beside the handful of music books that really matter." - Scotland on Sunday

Going to Town: A love letter to New York by Roz Chast        $25
Who better than Roz Chast to provide a graphic novel portrait of what it is like to live in New York. 
>>Chast talks about the book and about New York

Saturday, 13 April 2019

BOOKS @ VOLUME #123 (13.4.19)
Read our reviews, find out about new and short-listed books and about our Book of the Week, use the Ockhameter (find out what it is), enter competitions, find out about upcoming events and book launches, save the date for the 2019 VOLUME Mapua Literary Festival. Just for starters.


Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza   
When Maria Gainza was a child, she suffered from diplopia, or double vision, and, to correct this, used an optical apparatus which required her to concentrate on the images and “use [her] eye muscles to bring them together, pulling them both into the middle so that one lay on top of the other.” Each chapter in Gainza’s book Optic Nerve operates similarly: a thematic strand from her own life, generally an aspect of it that troubles her, is presented in parallel with an account of aspects of the life of a painter, the two strands brought into alignment through Gainza’s viewing of a work of art which acts as an apparatus that enables her to achieve an emotional depth of field that had hitherto eluded her. The lives of the writer and the artists whose works she considers are ordinary lives, but this art-viewing, so to call it, correlates experience and enables something that could be called meaning. Effective art “reformulates the questionwhat is it about? to what am I about?” Looking at something is always more about the looking than the thing, is always more about the relation between the viewer and the thing than about the thing, the object whose passivity acts as a mirror for the active (or, ideally, activated) viewer. Gainza says, of viewing Courbet’s ‘Stormy Sea’, “When you stand before it, art disappears and something else rushes in: life, in all its tempestuousness,” the life of the viewer herself. Each chapter deals with an unsettled aspect of Gainza’s (or “Gainza”’s) life: her relationships with her parents, her brother, her daughter, her friends and not-so-friends, her health, her husband’s health. In two chapters she addresses herself in the second person, in the chapter about her fraught relationship with her mother and in the chapter in which she describes the occasion on which her anxiety about flying reached the point at which she was no longer able to fly, instances in which a first person narration would still be too uncomfortable for her. Finding herself limited to viewing art that can be found in Buenos Aires, where she lives, she realises that she is not in any case addicted to art-sensation. But “maybe,” she tells herself, “you’ve just convinced yourself, in line with your progressive and alarming tendency to limit your own means, that big planes and great art are unnecessary.” Change and understanding can only be achieved by indirect means, insight can only be gained by an indirect gaze, a gaze directed in Gainza’s case at a work of art. On viewing a work by Toulouse-Lautrec, she says, “There were horses in it. Even now, that is what strikes me first, and the first thing that drops away,” and it is perhaps this dropping away of sensation that allows connections to be made across elements between which sensation was a barrier as much as a means of access. Looking at a reproduction of a work by Rothko in her doctor’s waiting room, once the sensation drops away she finds the work “gives me a feeling of my singularity: a clear sense of the brutal solitude of this slab of sweating flesh that is me.” The final chapter reveals the anxiety that underlies and gives impetus to the whole project of Optic Nerve, the crisis prefigured by concerns and details in earlier sections, or at least resonating with these concerns and details, the crisis for which Gainza’s correlation of her own life with those of others through viewing art somehow provides her with the capacity to face and accept. “I suppose it’s probably always the way,” she writes. “You write one thing in order to talk about something else.”


What do grannies do? Is there anything they can't do? Why do grannies always tell us to speak up? Why do they have creases on their faces? What's inside a granny? Éric Veillé's very useful Encyclopedia of Grannies (published by Gecko Press) is this week's Book of the Week. 
>> Read Stella's review
>>All about the book (in French).
>> My Pictures After the Storm is also a large amount of fun. 
>> Le bureau des papas perdus
>> Les petits kiwis.
>> We have a copy of Encyclopedia of Grannies to give away, courtesy of Gecko Press. To go in the draw, e-mail us and tell us an anecdote about a grandmother. 


Encyclopedia of Grannies by Éric Veillé 
Here’s a book for every babushka, yaya, farmor, lola and kuia (respectively Russian, Greek, Danish, Filipino and Maori). Go to page five and you’ll find an assortment of other names for grandmothers. Touted as the first of its kind, Eric Veillé’s Encyclopedia of Grannies is a must for every discerning grandparent and grandchild (hint hint) - this would be a great present for “Grand” Mother’s Day! Quirky and full of great facts about grannies, this is sure to exercise the imagination, be a good talking point, and show the reader that grannies come in all varieties (shapes, sizes, ages, types) from the wildly leaping energetic gran on the cover (hold on kids!) to those who need a ‘throne’ for their weary bones. And their hair - well, its anything they wish it to be. “Most grannies do whatever they like with their hair. And quite right.” And one thing we are told, that they share in common, is time: time to be tempted by a cream bun, time to give cuddles, time to give the table a quick wipe, and time to get names muddled up. Grannies are wise, especially when they eating out in the treetops (Veillé’s text and illustrations create fun and hilarious juxtapositions), and grannies have their own special vocabulary (some of which is rather quaint). My favourite page is ‘Inside’: see a granny and her insides, with illustrations of the girl she was. “Inside every granny, there’s a small house, and in that house is that same granny when she was a little girl.” The book is dotted with questions from children: Why do grannies always tell us to speak up? Do grannies only ever knit cardigans? Do all grannies like nature walks? And where are those busloads of grannies going? All is revealed with the jaunty text and even more in the excellent and funky drawings. It’s not just fun and games, though: there’s also a page dedicated to moods and feelings. “Sometimes a granny feels like a lump of old mashed potato”. On this page, there are some hints about how you can cheer up a granny: draw her a chicken, put her hair in pigtails, give her drops of rain from a country where it doesn’t rain, or tell her a secret.  And of course, there is a whole spread dedicated to her travels and to sending her postcards! And there’s a cat on every page to show you the way and to make comment in the way only cats can. Plenty of fun for the young, as well for every granny, nana, nonna, abuela, nainai and jida. Enjoyable.

Friday, 12 April 2019


Constellations: Reflections from life by Sinéad Gleeson     $38
"I have come to think of all the metal in my body as artificial stars, glistening beneath the skin, a constellation of old and new metal. A map, a tracing of connections and a guide to looking at things from different angles. How do you tell the story of life that is no one thing? How do you tell the story of a life in a body, as it goes through sickness, health, motherhood? And how do you tell that story when you are not just a woman but a woman in Ireland?"
"Sinéad Gleeson has changed the Irish literary landscape, through her advocacy for the female voice. In Constellations, we finally hear her own voice, and it comes from the blood and bones of her body’s history. Sinéad Gleeson is an absolute force: if you want to know where passion and tenacity are born, read this book." - Anne Enright
Constellations is a glitteringly brilliant book; daring in its voice, beautiful in its forms, challenging in its subjects. It dazzled me with its adventure and ambition. These essays stand as radiant single entities but also, over the book’s course, constellate into a larger structure of thought about what Gleeson calls ‘the story of a life in a body’. Political, poetic, tender and angry, this is a remarkable book." - Robert MacFarlane
"Utterly magnificent. Raw, thought-provoking and galvanising; this is a book every woman should read." - Eimear McBride
>>"I have a mortality complex."
Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile by Alice Jolly         $40
As the nineteenth century draws towards a close, Mary Ann Sate, an elderly maidservant, sets out to write her truth. She writes of the Valleys that she loves, of the poisonous rivalry between her employer's two sons and of a terrible choice which tore her world apart. Her  story brings to life a period of strife and rapid social change, and evokes the struggles of those who lived in poverty and have been forgotten by history. In this fictional found memoir, novelist Alice Jolly uses the astonishing voice of Mary Ann to recreate history as seen from a woman's perspective and to give joyful, poetic voice to the silenced women of the past.
Long-listed for the 2019 Rathbones Folio Prize. 
>> Excerpt
One-Way Street by Walter Benjamin          $33

Presented here in a new edition with expanded notes, this genre-defying meditation on the semiotics of late-1920s Weimar culture offers a fresh opportunity to encounter Walter Benjamin at his most virtuosic and experimental, writing in a vein that anticipates later masterpieces such as 'On the Concept of History' and The Arcades Project. Composed of sixty short prose pieces that vary wildly in style and theme, One-Way Street evokes a dense cityscape of shops, cafes, and apartments, alive with the hubbub of social interactions and papered over with public inscriptions of all kinds: advertisements, signs, posters, slogans. Benjamin avoids all semblance of linear narrative, enticing readers with a seemingly random sequence of aphorisms, reminiscences, jokes, off-the-cuff observations, dreamlike fantasias, serious philosophical inquiries, apparently unserious philosophical parodies, and trenchant political commentaries. Providing remarkable insight into the occluded meanings of everyday things, Benjamin time and again proves himself the unrivalled interpreter of what he called "the soul of the commodity."
When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back by Naja Marie Aidt         $35
In March 2015, Naja Marie Aidt's 25-year-old son, Carl, died in an accident. This poetic and affecting book is about losing a child. It is about formulating a vocabulary to express the deepest kind of pain, and it's about finding a way to write about a reality invaded by grief, lessened by loss. Faced with the sudden emptiness of language, Aidt finds solace in the anguish of Joan Didion, Nick Cave, C.S. Lewis, Mallarmé, Plato, and other writers who have suffered the deadening impact of loss. Their torment suffuses with her own. This palimpsest of mourning enables Aidt to turn over the pathetic, precious transience of existence and articulates her greatest fear: to forget.
"Extraordinary. It is about death, but I can think of few books which have such life. It shows us what love is." - Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing With Feathers and Lanny
Time Song: Searching for Doggerland by Julia Blackburn         $65
5000 years ago, Britain was part of mainland Europe, connected from its east coast by an area of land referred to as Doggerland. Blackburn's remarkable book picks at threads leading back to prehistory, both via archaeology and deep cultural memory, and also at threads leading back through her own life and that of her deceased husband, a Dutch painter. 
So Much Longing in So Little Space: The art of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgård       $37
Why is Munch's work as powerful (if not more powerful) today as it was when it was painted? Knausgård prises open (or reconstructs (or constructs)) the painter and reflects on what it means to create, to be an artist, to be aware, to respond to place and situation. As co-curator of a major new exhibition of Munch's work in Oslo, Knausgård visits the landscapes that inspired him, and speaks with contemporary artists, including Vanessa Baird and Anselm Kiefer.
>>On spending too much money on an artwork and feeling filled with shame
>> An interview
The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus       $28
Ranging across history and continents, these poems operate in the spaces in between, their haunting lyrics creating new, hybrid territories. The Perseverance is a book of loss, contested language and praise, where elegies for the poet’s father sit alongside meditations on the d/Deaf experience.
Long-listed for the 2019 Rathbones Folio Prize.
>> Antrobus was in New Zealand for last year's LitCrawl
>> Read a sample
Islander by Lynn Davidson            $25
"The title poem of Islander is an essential definition: not rooted in landlocked blood and soil but connected by sea and distance, and the returning tides of Scotland, the archipelagos of New Zealand and the islands of Oceania. Here is a poet never given to the common gestures of banal defiance but simply slipping away from the traps of rigidity and subscription, attuned to the ancient laws of movement and sensitive to the uncertainties, the vulnerable truths. ‘Interislander’ takes a specific urgency, a man suffering a heart attack on the ferry between the North Island and the South Island: practicalities and actions demanded of the moment are deftly depicted but the human place in our unfinished history is there between the sea beneath and the enveloping sky above. ‘The Desert Road’ crosses the country, mapped by co-ordinate points, listening as the darkness falls and languages come out in constellations, leading through the wilderness to strange, ‘familiar places’. ‘The inbreath’ takes us to Ardbeg and another waterside with slipstreams and shipping lanes, snow in the mouth and Scotland as no more nor less than another harbour of perception. Lynn Davidson is a poet opening such perceptions and sensitivities, singular, sometimes wittily anecdotal, poised upon latent gravity, eluding both flippancy and weight in a collection that slows time and repays patience with tempered inductions to particular, opening perspectives." —Alan Riach, Professor of Scottish Literature, University of Glasgow
The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish by Katya Apekina       $38
After their mother Marianne is unwillingly admitted to a mental hospital, teenagers Edie and Mae are forced to move from their childhood home in Louisiana to New York to live with their estranged father, Dennis, a former civil rights activist and literary figure on the other side of success. The girls, grieving and homesick, are at first wary of their father's affection, but soon Mae and Edie's close relationship begins to fall apart - Edie remains fiercely loyal to Marianne, convinced that Dennis is responsible for her mother's downfall, while Mae, suffocated by her striking resemblances to her mother, feels pulled toward their father. The girls move in increasingly opposing and destructive directions as they struggle to cope with outsized pain, and as the history of Dennis and Marianne's romantic past clicks into focus, the family fractures further.
"Dark and unforgettable." - Kirkus
The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson         $30
Food is one of life's great joys. So why has eating become such a source of anxiety and confusion? Wilson shows that in two generations the world has undergone a massive shift from traditional, limited diets to more globalised ways of eating. Our diets are getting healthier and less healthy at the same time. 
Ordinary People by Diana Evans         $26
'Thoughtful and intelligently observed. Evans's delicate prose weaves issues of racial identity and politics into the narrative so that they never feel heavy-handed. A deftly observed, elegiac portrayal of modern marriage, and the private – often painful – quest for identity and fulfilment in all its various guises." – Observer 
"A novel that lays bare the normality of black family life in suburban London, while revealing its deepest psyche, its tragedies, its hopes and its magic. A wondrous book." - Afua Hirsch
Now in paperback. Listed for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction.  
>> The author on losing her twin
'Cherry' Ingram: The Englishman who saved Japan's blossoms by Naoko Abe        $38
Collingwood Ingram, known as 'Cherry' for his defining obsession, was born in 1880 and lived until he was a hundred, witnessing a fraught century of conflict and change. After visiting Japan in 1902 and 1907 and discovering two magnificent cherry trees in the garden of his family home in Kent in 1919, Ingram fell in love with cherry blossoms, or sakura, and dedicated much of his life to their cultivation and preservation. On a 1926 trip to Japan to search for new specimens, Ingram was shocked to see the loss of local cherry diversity, driven by modernisation, neglect and a dangerous and creeping ideology. A cloned cherry, the Somei-yoshino, was taking over the landscape and becoming the symbol of Japan's expansionist ambitions. The most striking absence from the Japanese cherry scene, for Ingram, was that of Taihaku, a brilliant 'great white' cherry tree. A proud example of this tree grew in his English garden and he swore to return it to its native home. Multiple attempts to send Taihaku scions back to Japan ended in failure, but Ingram persisted. Over decades, Ingram became one of the world's leading cherry experts and shared the joy of sakura internationally.
Night as Day by Nikki-Lee Birdsey        $25
Poems balancing artistic experimentation with frank expression and describing a New Zealand that is overlapped by the United States and the challenges and almost-joys of navigating between these places, identities and homecomings. 
>>Interview with NLB
Hunting the Truth: Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld          $28
For more than fifty years, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld have hunted, confronted, and exposed Nazi war criminals, tracking them down in places as far-flung as South America and the Middle East. They uncovered the notorious Klaus Barbie, "the Butcher of Lyon," in Bolivia. They outed Kurt Lischka as chief of the Gestapo in Paris, the man responsible for the largest deportation of French Jews. And, with the help of their son, Arno, they brought the Vichy police chief Maurice Papon to justice. They were born on opposite sides of the Second World War. Beate's father was in the Wehrmacht, while Serge's father was deported to Auschwitz because he was a Jew. 

Muscle by Alan Trotter          $25
In a hard-boiled city of crooks, grifts and rackets lurk a pair of toughs: Box and _____. They're the kind of men capable of extracting apologies and reparations, of teaching you a chilling lesson. They seldom think twice, and ask very few questions. Until one night over the poker table, they encounter a pulp writer with wild ideas and an unscrupulous private detective, leading them into what is either a classic mystery, a senseless maze of corpses, or an inextricable fever dream.
"Muscle unfolds like a series of Russian dolls, each more Beckettian, winding and wonderful than the one before. Compelling enough to read in one gulping go." - Daisy Johnson
"Rare and accomplished - it teases out classic noir riffs and set-ups but in a language sinuous enough, and with invention ripe enough, to make them feel new." - Kevin Barry
A Fabulous Creation: How LPs saved our lives by David Hepworth      $40
In 1967 Sergeant Pepper transformed the way recorded music was presented - no longer were records just a collection of songs but rather a shaped entity in itself. 
The Dark Stuff: Selected writings on rock music, 1972-1993 by Nick Kent         $19
Profiles twenty-two of the gifted and self-destructive talents in rock history. From Brian Wilson to Syd Barrett, the Rolling Stones to Neil Young, Iggy Pop to Lou Reed, this title offers portraits that are unimaginable in the world of market driven music business.
"A genius wordsmith, Kent is the man who has lived rock'n'roll to the full. The Dark Stuff contains some of the best music journalism ever written." - Spectator
The Parade by Dave Eggers     $37
An unnamed country is leaving the darkness of a decade at war, and to commemorate the armistice the government commissions a new road connecting two halves of the state. Two men, foreign contractors from the same company, are sent to finish the highway. While one is flighty and adventurous, wanting to experience the nightlife and people, the other wants only to do the work and go home. But both men must eventually face the absurdities of their positions, and the dire consequences of their presence.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite      $33
A blackly comic novel about lies, love, Lagos, and how blood is thicker - and more difficult to get out of the carpet - than water. 
When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This'll be the third boyfriend Ayoola's dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the fit doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede's long been in love with him, and isn't prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other.
Long-listed for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction
Fewer, Better Things: The hidden wisdom of objects by Glenn Adamson          $37
From the former director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, a timely and passionate case for the role of the well-designed object in the digital age. Fewer, Better Things explores the history of craft in its many forms, explaining how raw materials, tools, design, and technique come together to produce beauty and utility in handmade or manufactured items. Whether describing the implements used in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the use of woodworking tools, or the use of new fabrication technologies, Adamson writes expertly and lovingly about the aesthetics of objects, and the care and attention that goes into producing them.
Collected Poems by Carol Ann Duffy        $45
30 years' work. 400 pages.

Selected Poems by Brian Turner            $40
Represents the full arc of this outstanding Southern poet of place. 
 Can Medicine Be Cured? The corruption of a profession by Seamus O'Mahony       $50
Seamus O'Mahony writes about the illusion of progress, the notion that more and more diseases can be 'conquered' ad infinitum. He punctures the idiocy of consumerism, the idea that healthcare can be endlessly adapted to the wishes of individuals. He excoriates the claims of Big Science, the spending of vast sums on research follies like the Human Genome Project. And he highlights one of the most dangerous errors of industrialized medicine: an over-reliance on metrics, and a neglect of things that can't easily be measured, like compassion.
"This systemic perversion of science and its method might the most obvious instance of the corruption O'Mahoney describes, but he casts his net much wider. He also considers, inter alia, the invention of pseudo-diseases, the connivance of the editors of medical journals in increasing the volume of papers, an uncritical deference to the simplifications of statistically-derived knowledge, and the dishonesty of failing to acknowledge the limits of what medicine can reasonably be expected to achieve." - Literary Review 
The Boy by Marcus Malte             $45

The boy does not speak. The boy has no name. The boy, raised half-wild in the forests of southern France, sets out alone into the wilderness and the greater world beyond. Without experience of another person aside from his mother, the boy must learn what it is to be human, to exist among people, and to live beyond simple survival. As this wild and naive child attempts to join civilisation, he encounters earthquakes and car crashes, ogres and artists, and, eventually, all-encompassing love and an inescapable war.
Winner of the 2016 Prix Femina. 
The Braided River: Migration and the personal essay by Diane Comer        $35
Explores contemporary migration to New Zealand through an examination of 200 personal essays written by 37 migrants from 20 different countries, spanning all ages and life stages. The Braided River presents migration as a lifelong experience that affects everything from language, home, work, family and friendship to finances, citizenship and social benefits. 

The Garden Chef         $70
An exclusive glimpse into the gardens of the world's leading restaurants - and access to innovative recipes inspired by them.

Forest: Walking among trees by Matt Collins and Roo Lewis        $42 
Journeying across the continents, writer Matt Collins and photographer Roo Lewis tie together both the historical context and modern-day applications of some of the world's most fascinating and iconic trees. They explore the heritage of woodlands from around the world and meet those whose lives are inexplicably bound to them. The book is divided into 10 main chapters, each of which explores a tree from a particular genus - Pine, Juniper, Oak, Hornbeam, Cherry, Beech, Birch, Chestnut, Douglas-fir and Poplar. Beautifully presented. 

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li        $33
The popular Beijing Duck House in Rockville, Maryland has been serving devoted regulars for decades, but behind the staff’s professional masks simmer tensions, heartaches and grudges from decades of gruelling service work. When Duck House manager Jimmy Han tries to sell his father’s old restaurant to move to a more upscale location, these conflicts are set loose, testing the bonds of this working family and they must finally confront the conflicts and loyalties simmering beneath the red and gold lanterns.
Listed for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction
>> Read a sample