Sunday 30 April 2017

Books read and books to read.

Click through to read our latest bulletin of reviews, events and new releases.

BOOKS @ VOLUME #21 (29.4.17)

OCKHAM MELEE & KAHLUA LOUNGE. Thursday 11 May, 5PM. Come along and find out more about the finalists in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize (the winners will be announced on May 16th). Come armed with your preferences or with an open mind. Our OCKHAMETER will be open on the night (but, why wait?). Be in to win a copy of each of the winners! >> You might like to do some preparatory reading.  [The Kahlua Lounge is our answer to the Baileys Prize's 'Baileys Lounge'].

Come and pick up a copy of our latest NEW RELEASES bulletin, or click through to our website to scroll though it on-line. Find out about the latest titles at VOLUME, books either anticipated or surprising - just out of the carton. Books can be reserved or purchased via our website (and sent anywhere). 


Colm Toibin’s The House of Names is a retelling of the myth of Clytemnestra, a story of revenge, violence, pain and love. Agamemnon, her husband and king of Argos, is losing the Trojan campaign. When he calls on the gods for help, they insist that he needs to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia. By trickery, on the pretext of a marriage, he convinces Clytemnestra to bring their daughter to the coast, where the troops wait at the mercy of the gods for more favourable winds. There, Iphigenia is sacrificed, slaughtered along with heifers and other animals. Her mother is imprisoned below ground in a small cramped hole for several days. Pulled from this prison, ridiculed and grieving, she is sent back to the palace, where, unsurprisingly, she plots the revenge of her daughter’s death, cursing her husband and the gods who she casts aside. She releases the dangerous prisoner, Aegisthus, and takes him into her confidence and her bed. When Agamemnon returns victorious from the Trojan wars with the beautiful Cassandra in tow, he is blind to his wife’s desire for revenge. A poisoned net and a blade are his downfall - he is killed at his bath. A feast is held for the triumphant troops and Clytemnestra lays out the bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra, their throats slashed - she has avenged her daughter’s death and should not be crossed. Alas she rules only by fear and the brutal influence of Aegisthus, who is quickly gaining the upper hand in this twisted tale of revenge and rule. Yet there are other players here too, Orestes, the son - innocent, yet contaminated by the wrong-doing of his family; and Electra - spiteful, cunning and cold-hearted - playing a long game in the shadows. She despises her mother for murdering her father, is fearful of the hateful Aegisthus and his power over the palace, and is ever loyal to the King, her murdered father. So much drama, so many voices screaming for revenge and power cast across a panorama of violence and death. When we turn to Orestes’ story it is a relief to be sent into exile with him. As a child, Orestes witnesses Iphigenia’s death. He is kept in the dark about many things but bears witness, as the reader does, to the machinations of others.  Before his father returns from Troy, he is whisked away by Aegisthus on the pretense of safety - kidnapped and imprisoned with other boys of his age. Here he meets Leander. They escape and form a close bond over the many years that they are in exile. Both know they will return, one to seek answers, the other to lead a revolt. Not always aware of their motivations or knowing who to trust, Orestes pays a heavy price at the hands of those he is closest to. Toibin creates a beautiful relationship between the young men, one that will be tested by circumstance and ultimately derailed by the cycle of violence inherent in their lives. Gripping and dramatic like only a Greek myth can be, Toibin also creates serenity within this chaos. Written from the various viewpoints of Clytemnestra, Orestes, Electra and Iphigenia, he weaves a vivid tale that won’t disappoint.  

>This book will be released this week. Shall we put a copy aside for you?

We have had some excellent children’s illustrated non-fiction arrive recently. For those fascinated by outer space, there is a great new book from Martin Jenkins with excellent Stephen Biesty illustrations: Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond is informative and appealing. From Galileo's telescope and early astronomy to the birth of flight, the Space Race and life on the Space Shuttle, to what future space travel will look like, this book will spark the imagination and intrigue those that look towards the stars. The wonderful cross-section drawings of Biesty’s detailed illustrations add that magic touch. For those that would rather keep their feet on the ground, who are keen on the environment and nature, The Book of Bees! is a stunner. Author Piotr Socha is one of Poland’s most popular cartoonists. A graphic designer and illustrator, he is also the son of a beekeeper. The Book of Bees! is filled with excellent historical detail, delightful and informative facts about the humble, but ever necessary, bee; and all this is wrapped in wonderfully designed and illustrated package. A standout book that will delight children and adults alike. Also not to be missed for animal lovers: Dieter Braun's Wild Animals of the North and, available from June, Wild Animals of the South.
{Reviewed by STELLA}

Liquidation by Imre Kertész    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“Man, when reduced to nothing, or in other words a survivor, is not tragic but comic, because he has no fate. This is a paradox, which manifests in him, a writer, simply as a problem of style.” The absence in the heart of this novel is a supposed novel written by B, presumably concerning B’s childhood in Auschwitz (Kertesz himself was an Auschwitz survivor), but not able to be located amongst B’s papers by his friend, editor and literary executor, Kingbitter, after B’s suicide. Just as the absent novel dominates this novel, the absent B dominates the other characters and their relationships with each other: Kingbitter, reader at a publishing house about to close; Judit, his ex-wife and Kingbitter’s ex-lover; Sarah, his lover and wife of Kurti. The novel opens in the third person as Kingbitter reads a play found among B’s papers accurately describing conversations that happened after his suicide a decade ago. Kingbitter’s memory of the actual events and B’s work of literature depicting them (or predicting them) proceed in tandem until the novel switches into the first person as Kingbitter describes how he was subsumed by B to the extent that Kingbitter becomes the passive reporter on the events of B’s life and the circumstances of his suicide. Kingbitter surmises that B. kept contact with Judit, a doctor, who supplied him morphine, and confronts her. The novel switches first into third person again, and then to her narration as she addresses her new husband and explains how she burnt, unread, the novel B. sent her on his suicide with a letter requesting her to do so. Kingbitter is excluded from this narration and unaware of it, and the book eventually, after tarrying in B’s play version of the life that continued without him, returns to Kingbitter again in the third person. B’s Auschwitz novel, though absent, though destroyed, though impossible in any case, is still the animating force of this one, which, after all, is about the impact of Auschwitz upon B’s life and idea of life, and upon those who knew him. A suspicion develops in the reader, though it has of course been there right from the start, that B is in fact the author of this novel and that Kingbitter is merely a character, and that perhaps Liquidation is the novel B has left behind after his suicide after all, a novel projecting the impact of his death. “Only from our stories can we discover that our stories have come to an end, otherwise we would go on living as if there were still something to continue (our stories, for example); that is, we would go on living in error.”


How Should a Person Be? A novel from life by Sheila Heti   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
What is the relation between the real-life Sheila and the Sheila of this book, her real-life friend Margaux and the Margaux of this book, between Heti's other real-life friends and acquaintances and their counterparts in this book? These are not interesting questions (unless you happen to be Sheila’s demon-lover Israel (in which case, serve you right)). This book is at once an excoriating self-examination, a pitiless self-satire (although it may in fact not be as satirical as it seems to be) and an unforgivably self-indulgent exercise in self-exposure (and is these things all at once and not by turns). You will be irritated by Sheila, but she is irritating in pretty much the same way that you are irritating to yourself, and you will grow tired of Sheila, but in the same way that you grow tired of yourself. You will put the book aside, but, without really knowing why, you will keep coming back to it in pretty much the same way you keep coming back to vaguely important but imprecise and somewhat irritating aspects of your own life. Sheila nobly asks herself “How should a person be?”, and gets the same unsatisfactory, earnest and ridiculous answers as you would get if you asked yourself the same impossible question. The book contains passages of painful honesty and of vapid bullshit (both at the same time, mostly), and beautiful, sad and hilarious passages, too (again, beautiful, sad and hilarious all at once and not by turns). By asking big questions in a life that contains only small answers, Sheila holds herself up to show us that we don’t know how to be, or how to make our lives the way we want them, or even to know what we want with any sureness or consistency: “Most people live their entire lives with their clothes on, and even if they wanted to, couldn’t take them off. Then there are those who cannot put them on. They are the ones who live their lives not just as people but as examples of people. They are destined to expose every part of themselves, so the rest of us can know what it means to be human. Some of us have to be naked, so the rest can be exempted by fate.”
This week's Book of the Week is The New Zealand Project by Max Harris (published by Bridget Williams Books). Is this the book to transform political discussion in New Zealand into a tool fit for the social and environmental crises that lie ahead?

>> "Young, gifted and political."

>> On Universal Basic Income.

>> Rethinking prison.

>> "A visionary worth following."

>> With Kathryn Ryan on Radio NZ National.

>> Bringing values back to politics.

>> Would civics education result in better political participation from the young?

>> On the politics of love.

>> He blogged.

Friday 28 April 2017

Books either anticipated or surprising - just out of the carton.

Upright Beasts by Lincoln Michel          $34
Humans are the upright beasts in these stories, doing battle with our darker, weirder impulses as the world collapses around us. 
"Lincoln Michel is one of contemporary literary culture's greatest natural resources." - Vice
"Mighty surrealist wonders, mordantly funny and fiercely intelligent." - Lauren van den Berg
Calamities by Renee Gladman          $30
"I began the day.." begins each of these short, beautifully textured linked essays exploring Gladman's obsession with conceptual borderlines and the crossing of these. Using exquisite sentences, Gladman takes the most quotidian of tasks or events and uses them as stepping stools to get her head above the clouds. 
I am looking forward to reading this. -Thomas. 
>> A sample
>> Gladman reads something aloud.
Record of a Night Too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami         $23
A woman travels through an unending night with a porcelain girlfriend, a sister mourns her invisible brother, snakes inveigle themselves into people's personal lives. Three haunting, lyrical stories from the author of Strange Weather in Tokyo and The Nakano Gift Shop
One Hundred Twenty-One Days by Michèle Audin     $30
A literary mixtape of different styles and effects, Audin's novel focuses on the relationship of two mathematicians through two world wars. The constraints she applies to her text help us to think deeply about the nature of literature and the nature of war. Audin is a French mathematician and a member of OULIPO
"Polymorphous and fluid, the book considers how our lives find their shape, and which details are amenable to history's telling." - Scott Esposito, Times Literary Supplement 
"This is an unconventional novel that has many layers and makes you think about love, history, war, racism, rebellion, caring, and many other things but most of all about telling a story. Highly recommended." - European Mathematical Society 
The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes        $35
A reimagining of the Ancient Greek Oedipus and Antigone stories, told from the viewpoints of female characters usually overlooked in other tellings. The book also entails a rethinking of mythic and psychoanalytic tropes. Haynes combines her depth of knowledge as a classicist with her timing as a stand-up comic to good effect in this novel. 
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout      $35
"It's hard to believe that a year after the astonishing My Name Is Lucy Barton Elizabeth Strout could bring us another book that is by every measure its equal, but what Strout proves to us again and again is that where she's concerned, anything is possible. This book, this writer, are magnificent." - Ann Patchett
"The epic scope within seemingly modest confines recalls Strout's Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge, and her ability to discern vulnerabilities buried beneath bad behavior is as acute as ever. Another powerful examination of painfully human ambiguities and ambivalences-this gifted writer just keeps getting better." - Kirkus 
 Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals  by Patricia Lockwood       $26
"With its extended figures, its theme-and-variations structures, its spirals and twists away from (and sometimes back toward) ordinary speech, Lockwood's new book rewards rereading. She has written a book at once angrier, and more fun, more attuned to our time and more bizarre, than most poetry can ever get, a book easy to recommend for people who do read new poetry often - as well as for almost all the people who do." - Stephen Burt, New York Times
Raptor: A journey through birds by James Macdonald Lockhart       $30
Lockhart examines all fifteen species of birds of prey who breed in Britain - each in a different location. 
"Lockhart's prose is so intimate, urgent, and visceral as to make his darkly resonant ruminations almost unfailingly gripping." - Independent
>> The author reads am extract, a little nervously
I Must Be Living Twice: New and selected poems by Eileen Myles        $37
"A new generation of public feminists, including Beth Ditto, Lena Dunham and Tavi Gevinson, cite her as an inspiration, finding in her writing a ribald and ponderous succession to the New York School." - New York Times 
"She and her work are unsettled in the best sense: restless, disturbing, changeable. She is exemplary for more and more young writers precisely because she has gone her own way." - Ben Lerner 
"One of the richest and most conflicted human hearts you're likely to find." -New York Review of Books
>> She reads.
The Peregrine by J.A. Baker (50th anniversary edition, with an introduction by Robert Macfarlane)         $30
"Passionately fierce but also wonderfully tender." - Andrew Motion 
"An inspiring example to future writers, and a gift to lovers of nature." - The Times Literary Supplement 
"A literary masterpiece, one of the 20th century's outstanding examples of nature writing." - Independent
The Suicide Club by Sarah Quigley         $38
Three brilliant misfits, thrown together by chance and a will to self-destruction, travel together to Bavaria, where, in an experimental institution, their relationships and their fragile selves come under increased pressure. Another intense examination of humanity by the New Zealand author of The Conductor
Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic        $37
Fact and fiction, observation and representation start to blur when a young woman moves from England to New York and becomes fixated on a Japanese writer whose life has strange parallels to her own. 
"The best fictional account I have read of the way the internet has shaped our inner lives." - Observer
"A mind-bending novel that skilfully depicts the bizarre interplay of technology and intimacy with a story that is compassionate, funny, and incredibly alarming." - Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Pond

The Pleasures of Leisure by Robert Dessaix        $37
Dessaix is always lively and charming, so we might actually find his advice amenable as we try to relax and get on with the things we like to do.

Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan         $28
A successful writer befriends a woman who, little by little, begins to assume her appearance, identity and function. Insidious. 
"If Simone de Beauvoir had written Single White Female with nods to Marguerite Duras, the result might be something like this latest Gallic grip-lit sensation." - Guardian

"All writing is constructed on shifting sands, but I’ve never read a book that makes the complex relationship between reality and fiction both as visible, and at the same time so opaque, as here. I was captivated. Combining the allure of Gone Girl with the sophistication of literary fiction, Based on a True Story is a creepy but unapologetically clever psychological thriller that also aces the Bechdel test (at least two women in a work of fiction, talking to each other about something other than a man)." - Independent
The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerey       $37
Following the Baileys Prize-winning The Glorious HeresiesMcInerey traces her young protagonist's entry into the criminal underworld of Cork City, in 'the arse-end of Ireland'.
"This is as much a love letter to a cruel but curiously buzzing place as a lament. The great strength of this book is its amorality. If you can survive in this world, and learn to live without always watching over your shoulder for danger, it’s not a bad place to be." - Guardian
London: The cookbook by Cara Frost-Sharratt
From haute cuisine to greasy spoons - what makes the London food scene so vibrant? This book is an eatery crawl, with signature recipes.
Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell         $23
Kellen is moments away from facing his first mage's duel and the start of four trials that will make him a spellcaster. There's just one problem: his magic is gone. As his sixteenth birthday approaches, Kellen falls back on his cunning in a bid to avoid total disgrace. But when a daring stranger arrives in town, she challenges Kellen to take a different path.
The Wealth of Humans: Work and its absence in the twenty-first century by Ryan Avent          $30
The structure and meaning of work is changing rapidly, not only through the pressures of automation and dwindling resources, but for reasons that make modern political, practical and ethical contradictions difficult to resolve. Avent offers us an analysis and some idea of a path.
"Ryan Avent is a superb writer. Highly readable and lively." - Thomas Piketty
The Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol        $33
"Writing meant the possibility of embarking towards an elusive goal and fusing the outside world and that subterranean one that inhabits us." A multigenre literary memoir combining fiction and memory to profound effect. The first work by this Mexican luminary to be translated into English.
"Reading him, one has the impression of being before the greatest Spanish-language writer of our time." - Enrique Vila-Matas
Admissions: A life in brain surgery by Henry Marsh         $38
Why does a person to spend a lifetime handling other people's brains? No other part of the body is more integral to what makes us human and what makes life worthwhile. A thoughtful memoir from the author of Do No Harm
>> "Agonisingly human."
Built on Bones: 15000 years of urban life and death by Brenna Hassett       $33
When humans started living together in settled groups, they started living on top of where humans had lived before, on top of their figurative ad literal dead. How has this impacted upon our culture and our health? The author, a forensic archaeologist, is perfectly placed to guide us through the less pleasant consequences of urban living.
Gone: A girl, a violin, a life unstrung by Min Kym       $40
At 7 years old Min Kym was a prodigy, the youngest ever pupil at the Purcell School of Music. At 11 she won her first international prize. She worked with many violins, waiting for the day she would play 'the one'. At 21 she found it: a rare 1696 Stradivarius, perfectly suited to her build and temperament. Her career soared. She recorded the Brahms concerto and a world tour was planned. Then, in a train station cafe, her violin was stolen at a train station. In an instant her world collapsed.
>> They play
>> What happened when the violin was recovered? 
Refuge: Transforming the broken refugee system by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier       $55
How can the world provide acceptable solutions to the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. 

"Betts and Collier offer innovative insights into how to more effectively meet this challenge, with an important new focus on international solidarity and refugee empowerment." - Kofi Annan

Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli's lifelong quest for freedom by Erica Benner        $55
Argues that Machiavelli was not so Machiavellian after all. 
Saffron Soul: Healthy vegetarian heritage recipes from India by Mira Manek     $45
Approachable yet inspiring, and full of excellent food. 
>> Summer Salad could be made in an Indian summer

The Empire of Things: How we became consumers of things, from the fifteenth century to the twenty-first by Frank Trentmann         $38

How was the mechanism of modern society built, why and for whose benefit?

Pallets 3.0: Remodeled, reused, recycled: Architecture and design by Chris van Uffelen         $70
If not used for shipping they are anything but boring. Pallets are a universal symbol of the globalized world. The properties of this transport platform - standardization, stability, simplicity and internationality - are carried over into the work of architects and designers who use pallets as the material for their own creations.
>> Fast work.

Monday 24 April 2017

Usually the wolves turn up in the second week of the school holidays. Here are a few books to help you cope. 
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault       $30
When Vanessa's sister Virginia is feeling wolfish and frightens the visitors, Vanessa sets out to calm her. Will Vanessa's drawing skills and imagination do the trick? 

Wild Animals of the North by Dieter Braun      $45
A remarkably beautiful book, short-listed for the 2017 Kate Greenaway Medal
>> Just look at this!

(In case you were wondering, South will be available in June.)
The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill       $33
This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a wolf, Old Lobo, the wolf that no one could capture. In 1893, a respected naturalist and hunter, Ernest Thompson Seton, left New York in a bid to rid the ranchers of Old Lobo and his pack. This wasn’t as easy as Seton thought it would be and after many failed attempts he noticed another wolf, the beautiful she-wolf Blanca, and this ultimately led to the capturing of Old Lobo. This is a beautifully told story with stunning illustrations, which also reflects on the impact of Seton’s hunt for Lobo, his regret at his success and his growing awareness of wild places and the animals that belong in them. 

I am the Wolf... and Here I Come! by Benedicte Guettier      $20
The wolf is getting dressed. What's he going to do when he is ready? (Clue: he is very hungry). An enjoyable board book to share (clue: it closes with a snap like a wolf's jaws). 
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin       $20
It’s Germany, 1956, and Hitler has won the war. Yael, an eighteen-year-old woman, is part of the Resistance and she has a mission – a dangerous one – she is charged with assassinating Hitler. As a child, Yael was in a camp and experimented on – the experiment, which was successful, has given her a gift that can be used against her enemies. In 1956 a famous motorcycle race, for the creme de la creme of youths, crosses Hitler’s Europe. After years of training, Yael is ready to join this often-dangerous race, where allegiances are necessary to survive and to win is difficult. But win Yael must so she can get to the Victors’ Ball.  This novel draws you in slowly and then grips you with its teeth and doesn’t let up until the end. Followed by Blood for Blood
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell      $15
Beautifully written, exciting and unusual. Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans. When the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run.
Help! The Wolf is Coming! by Cedric Ramadier and Vincent Bourgeau      $20
The wolf is coming and (predictably) he wants to eat us. Perhaps if we tilted the book, he might have a hard job of catching us. With a bit of imagination there are quite a few ways we might make things hard for this wolf.
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk       $23
Annabelle has lived in Wolf Hollow all her life: a quiet place, still scarred by two world wars. But when cruel, manipulative Betty arrives in town, Annabelle's calm world is shattered, along with everything she's ever known about right and wrong. When Betty accuses gentle loner Toby - a traumatised ex-soldier - of a terrible act, Annabelle knows he's innocent. Then Betty disappears...Now Annabelle must protect Toby from the spiralling accusations and hysteria, until she can prove to Wolf Hollow what really happened to Betty. There are no wolves in this book. 
What Dog Knows by  Sylvia Vanden Heede and Marije Tolman    $20
Wolf and Dog are cousins. In some ways they are similar; in some ways very different. When Wolf finds a book of facts in the library, he thinks he can outsmart Dog. But can he?