Saturday 30 December 2017

BOOKS@VOLUME #55 (30.12.17)
Read our latest NEWSLETTER.
Find out what we've been reading, and our Books of the Year.
Find out the last new releases for 2017 (more to come in 2018).

Our Book of the Week this week is Gavin Bishop's hugely impressive pictorial history Aotearoa: The New Zealand story. Spanning our history from the Big Bang until tomorrow, this is a book that should be on every bookcase (whether there are children in the house or not). 

>> Bishop at The Sapling (includes page spreads).

>> Visit Gavin's website

>> RNZ interview with Gavin Bishop

>> Bishop's The House that Jack Built also tells a New Zealand story. 

{Review by STELLA}

Lauren James’s The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is a gripping teen read. What seems to be a teen romance via remote communication has complex psychological layers and a thrilling climax. Romy Silvers is sixteen and alone in space. The crew has died, her parents are long gone. Romy, born in space, on her way to Earth II, keeps in touch with NASA through a series of daily audio communications from Molly - messages that takes years to get to her. When she receives a message saying that Earth is at war and communications will have to cease, Romy’s link to any world outside the confines of The Infinity - her spaceship - are dashed. When another spaceship is launched, it seems like Romy won’t be quite as lonely as she feared. Romy strikes up a friendship with J via email. J’s spaceship, The Eternity, high-tech and faster than Romy’s, is due to reach her in a year. The novel opens with a countdown, 365 until The Eternity reaches The Infinity. As the days count down and J becomes a greater presence in her everyday life, Romy finds herself increasingly enamoured by J. Is it possible to fall in love with someone you’ve never met, who is travelling through light years to reach you? Romy is fascinated by Earth and keen to finally meet someone from Earth and to have someone to share the responsibility of the mission with. On The Infinity are hundreds of embryos in deep freeze ready for the new planet. Romy’s job, as the sole survivor, is to keep them safe until they reach Earth II. This is a fascinating read on several levels: the idea of being in deep space, isolated and bored - the days are scarily similar; the romance that is flourishing - is it real?: the psychological impact of what has happened; the reason why Romy is alone - you’ll have to read the book to find out -  raises questions about the pressure of responsibility. This is fast-paced, charming (Romy will be a hit with most readers), and quietly disturbing - the edgy climax moves the book from a space romance to a thriller of compelling motives. 

{Review by Stella}


A Swedish-New Zealand partnership between writers Arne Norlin and Sally Astridge has resulted in Time Twins. Published in Sweden in 2014, where it has been a runaway success, and in New Zealand this year by Makaro Press, Time Twins is a great read for children and younger teens. Norlin writes the voice of Astrid, and Astridge the boy Tamati. Born at the exact same moment, Astrid and Tamati are time twins - linked across distance. When Tamati is twelve, he starts appearing in Astrid’s room in the middle of the night. He’s been trying to make contact for ages, taking himself to the beach to meditate and focus and let his mind free. It’s a little like teleporting. His Koro, who has great ambitions for Tamati, has been giving him pointers. At first, Astrid is understandably confused by a boy turning up in the middle of the night, but, like Tamati, she feels the link between them. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Astrid’s life at home and school is a little fraught, and Tamati turns out to be a good listener and has some ideas up his sleeve. Life isn’t that rosy for Tamati either, who feels the pressure of being the oldest child in the family, the one who is expected to do well all the time. His Koro believes he is destined to be a great leader and won’t let up on his plans. This is also a story about bullying and doing the right thing. Both Astrid and Tamati are bystanders who find themselves in tricky situations, ones they could avoid or walk away from, but both feel compelled to behave differently. The tie that binds them, being time twins, helps them overcome difficulties and dangers, making them more resilient and stronger. Time Twins is reminiscent of Margaret Mahy’s work for older children, with its real-life problems, relationship development and supernatural elements. The story moves along at a great pace, with plenty of challenges, moments of humour, and two very compelling characters. The writing from both authors works well - it feels seamless - and the local content - Tamati lives in Nelson South and the authors both have local connections - is the icing on the cake. 

The Writing of the Disaster by Maurice Blanchot   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“The disaster ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact.”The Writing of the Disaster concerns the effect upon language, upon literature, so to call it, of what Blanchot, thinking particularly of the Holocaust, calls the disaster: something beyond the reach of language yet sucking language towards it to the ultimate nullification of the meaning that language is usually thought to bear. The disaster does not concern itself with content, the disaster possesses the writing and is not and cannot be the subject of the writing. The writing of the disaster is not so much writing about the disaster as writing in the force-field of the disaster: The Writing of the Disaster concerns itself with the ways in which trauma takes ownership of writing. The ‘of’ in the title signals possession in the same way, perhaps, that all objects possess their subjects and by this relationship contend with them for agency. The disaster is a grammatical phenomenon, a loss of agency through grammar, a relation between elements rather than an element itself. Blanchot is remarkable for identifying the shifts of agency that result from grammatical alteration. It is in grammar, perhaps, that our problems lie, and it is in grammar, perhaps, that we must agitate for their solution. But it is in the nature of the disaster to protect itself with our passivity. “We are passive with respect to the disaster, but the disaster is perhaps passivity.” The disaster robs the writer of agency, cauterises meaning, averts all gazes and renders the usual useless. As Blanchot demonstrates, writing in the ambit of the disaster can only proceed in fragments. Failure and incompletion are both results of and assaults upon the impossible. “It is not you who will speak; let the disaster speak in you, even if it be by your forgetfulness or silence.” When writing of the reading of the writing of the disaster, the semantic degeneration of the disaster exercises itself even through the intervening writer, rendering them transparent. To re-read a passage of Blanchot is to read without recognition, to entertain thoughts quite different from, and rightly quite different from, those entertained on the first reading, or prior readings, of that passage. Thinking about reading about Blanchot writing about how the disaster affects everything but cannot be perceived, I write, “The disaster is that no distinction can be made between disaster and the absence of disaster,” but I cannot determine where this sentence comes from. I cannot find it in Blanchot's text. Whose thoughts are those thoughts thought when reading? If the thoughts cannot be located in the text, are they then the thoughts of the reader? If the thoughts would not have been thought by the reader without the text, to what extent are they the writer’s thoughts? (Do not ask if these thoughts are in fact thoughts. Let us call thought that which does the work of thought, regardless.) Blanchot proceeds around, or towards, the disaster in a fragmentary style, aphoristic but without the sense of completion aphorisms provide, he writes koans, or antikoans, that do not prepare the mind for enlightenment so much as relieve the mind of the possibility of, and even the concept of, enlightenment. Taken in small doses Blanchot is full of meaning but as the dose increases the meaning becomes less, until at the point of his complete oeuvre, I extrapolate, Blanchot means nothing at all. This liberation from semantic burden is entirely in accord with Blanchot’s project, so to call it. 


Friday 29 December 2017


The last new books of 2017. More new books in 2018. 

H(A)PPY by Nicol(a) B(a)rker          $48
Winner of the 2017 Goldsmiths Prize for "fiction at its most novel".
“Nicola Barker’s H(A)PPY is a structural marvel to hold in the mind and in the hands. Line by line, colour by colour, this dystopic utopia is an ingenious closed loop of mass surveillance, technology, and personality-modifying psychopharmaceuticals. H(A)PPY is a fabulous demonstration of what the Goldsmiths Prize champions: innovation of form that only ever enriches the story. In Barker’s 3D-sculpture of a novel, H(A)PPY makes the case for the novel as a physical form and an object of art.” - Naomi Wood, Chair of Judges
The White Book by Han Kang        $28
What is this whiteness in the world? What does this whiteness mark the absence of? What does it provide the space for? Han Kang, who was awarded the Man Booker international Prize for the exquisite and harrowing The Vegetarian, and also wrote the astonishing Human Acts, pulls the emotional threads that connect her to her older sister, who died two hours after birth, and considers the impact of loss and absence on the world and those who continue to exist in it. Can language overcome pain? Can writing about death in some way provide new life? 

Tortot, The cold fish who lost his world and found his heart by Benny Lindelauf and Ludwig Volbeda       $28
A heartless field cook seems immune to the sufferings of war until he gives (without compassion) shelter to a boy who has lost not only his brothers but also his legs. Crazed, moving and wonderfully illustrated. 
In Search of Lost Books: The forgotten stories of eight mythical volumes by Giorgio van Straten          $28
Just because these books have been lost from history for one reason or another hasn't prevented them from being culturally important and the foci of intense speculation. What are we to make of the memoirs of Lord Byron, the magnum opus of Bruno Schulz, the Hemingway novel mislaid at the Gare de Lyon, the second part of Gogol's Dead Souls or the contents of Walter Benjamin's suitcase? 

Insomniac Dreams: Experiments with time by Vladimir Nabokov, edited by Gennady Barabtarlo         $50

For 80 days in 1964-65 Nabokov carefully recorded his dreams in order to test the theories of J.M. Dunne, explicated in the eccentric An Experiment in Time (1927), that time can be thought of as running backwards. The results give remarkable insight into Nabokov's concerns, thought-processes and inner life.

The Alarming Palsy of James Orr by Tom Lee      $28

As James Orr awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed by Bell's Palsy, leaving half his face paralysed. How does the sudden onset of an illness or disability affect the way we think of ourselves and the way others think of us, and the way we behave towards those close to us. A thoughtful and well written novella. 
Savage Theories by Pola Oloixarac         $35
A double-threaded narrative, each thread illuminating the other, concerning, on the one hand, a student pursuing a professor to demonstrate that she understands his Theory of Egoic Transmissions, and, on the other, a sort of sexual picaresque embedded in Argentina's Years of Lead in the 1970s. 
"A stunning vibrant maximalist whirlwind of a novel. Oloixarac's wit and ambition are evident on every page. By comparison, most other contemporary fiction seems a little dull and simple-minded." - Hari Kunzru
"An exuberant blend of political satire and sexual picaresque. This book rewards total immersion: come for the inevitable Borges allusions, stay for the wild ride." - The New York Times
Kai and Culture: Food stories from Aotearoa edited by Emma Johnson          $50
What does the food we eat tell us about who we are? What we eat is a manifestation of our cultural and personal identities and choices, and also an indication of who we are hoping or fearing to be. What ingredients make up our culture (and how long will it keep)? An interesting collection of illustrated essays. 
The Story of Looking by Mark Cousins     $55
What does it mean to look at something? Is looking passive or aggressive, expressive or empathetic? How are we bound to that at which we look? This book looks at the place of looking in our internal and communal lives, and helps us to think more about the visual world in which we find ourselves. 
The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLauchlan            $23
Teddy was raised by a poet and has an affinity with words, but only poets and children can hear a dog speak. Luckily, when two children are lost in the snow, they understand what Teddy says to them and they hold up in the cabin in which Teddy was raised. A quiet and beautiful story. 
A World Gone Mad: The wartime diaries of Astrid Lindgren, 1939-1945      $23
Provides insights into the Soviet invasion of Finland and the ambiguities of Swedish neutrality, and asks questions about the nature of evil, and our capacity, as individuals, to stand against malevolent forces, and of the everyday as resistance to the extraordinary. 
Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book: The life and times of a Civil War heroine by Lucy Moore        $45
How did the upheavals, uncertainties and reversals of the mid-seventeenth century affect the lives of women? The records left by this Royalist lady are illuminating. 
The Rise of Rome: From the Iron Age to the Punic Wars by Kathryn Lomas        $55
How and why did a small group of Iron Age huts develop the requisites to establish an empire that would subsume much of the Western world and the Middle East? 
"Lomas's clear narrative and up-to-date archaeological knowledge is just the right combination to illuminate the fascinating story of the emergence of Rome as a world power." - Christopher Smith, Director of the British School at Rome
Rome: A history in seven sackings by Matthew Kneale       $45
The puncturing of Rome by exterior forces, from Gauls to the Nazis, has transformed the city and its place in wider history. Kneale compares the city before and after each attack and shows how each assault has made the city more dynamic and resilient. 
Blood and Land: The story of Native North America by J.C.H. King        $28
An astounding work, eschewing generalisation and instead emphasising and contrasting the great variety of experiences and cultures that populated and populate the United States, Canada and high arctic, from first contact until the successes and challenges of Native American leadership today. 
Untypical Girls: Styles and sounds of the Transatlantic indie revolution by Sam Knee      $45
From punk to postpunk through grunge and beyond, women have been remaking the music scene and assailing male definition of the underground.  
>> Identity!

Building Art: The life and work of Frank Gehry by Paul Goldberger     $45
Gehry has had vast impact on architectural design and practice through his rethinking of the relationship between materials and form. This is his first full biography. 
>> 29 buildings designed by Gehry
In the Bonesetter's Waiting-Room: Travels through Indian medicine by Aarathi Prasad    $28
The story of medicine in India is rich and complex: shaped by unique challenges and opportunities, uniting cutting-edge technological developments with ancient cultural traditions, fuelled by political changes which transformed the lives of millions and moulded by the energy of forceful individuals.

Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura          $23
In a coastal village in medieval Japan, a young boy battles to keep his family alive against the odds. With his father gone, Isaku is forced to grow up well before his time. He must learn how to catch fish, how to distil salt, and about all the mysteries of the vast churning sea, not least the legend of O-fune-sama, of ships wrecked offshore providing the village with unexpected bounty.When a ship founders on the rocks, Isaku and the villagers rejoice. But the cargo is not at all the blessing they hoped for. At first mystifying, then terrifying, something dark is coming ashore and it's about to change their lives forever.

The Orchid Hunter: A young botanist's search for happiness by Leif Bersweden       $28
A quest to find and photograph the 52 species of orchid native to Britain and Ireland in the field in one summer. 

>> He's only 19
Railways and the Raj: How the Age of Steam transformed India by Christian Wolmar        $55
66000km of tracks were laid in India between 1842 and 1929, enabling the British to control the subcontinent and exploit its resources. The railways have remained integral to the functioning of modern India (transporting over 25 million passengers each day). Stripped of false nostalgia for the Raj and all its deceptions, India's railways still emerge as vital and enabling. 

The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963 by Ed Ward       $35
"Ward's writing is deeply researched, but conversational in tone. He nerds-out just the right amount, moving briskly from hit to hit and craze to craze, slowing down only to impart a few choice anecdotes. His faithful documentation of the genre's more obscure corners helps to point out that, early on, rock was weird. Ward underscores the vital point that rock was a music invented by people who knew better, but just couldn't help it." - The Washington Post
The Liszts by Kyo Maclear and Julie Sarda      $35
The Liszts (including their pets) make lists, which guide them through every aspect of their lives. What happens when a guest arrives who is not on anyone's list? Stunning illustrations. 
The Written World: How literature shaped history by Martin Puchner       $37
Stories coinciding with recording technologies have produced texts that are integral to wider history. 
"Lucid." - Kirkus

The King in Yellow by R.W. Chambers         $25
The four weird tales in this volume are all linked by a play, the second act of which reveals "truths so terrible and beautiful that it drives all who read it to despair". First published in 1895.
"Altogether one of the greatest weird tales ever written." - H.P. Lovecraft

Inside Out by J.R.         $119
In 2011 activist and artist J.R. embarked on a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work by pasting photographic portrait posters in diverse communities around the world (including Wellington). This remarkable book records the process and the results. 

Eat Me: A natural and unnatural history of cannibalism by Bill Schutt         $37
From the plot of Psycho to the ritual of the Eucharist, cannibalism is woven into our history, our culture and our medicine. And in the natural world, eating your own kind is everything from a survival strategy - practiced by polar bears and hamsters alike - to an evolutionary adaption. 

Against Everything: On dishonest times by Mark Greif       $24
"His generation's finest essayist. Taken as a whole the book is a powerful injunction to look, listen and reflect, our surest means of defiance against the encroaching dimness." - Richard Godwin, Evening Standard 
"Mark Greif writes a contrarian, skeptical prose that is at the same time never cynical: it opens out on to beauty and the possibility of change." - Zadie Smith 
"Mark Greif is the best essayist of my generation. No one is more modern or more classical - or more stylish. This has its alarming effects. When you read Against Everything, you will vow to change your life." - Adam Thirlwell
Now in paperback. 
The Happy Reader #10          $8
Includes an extended interview with bibliophile Jarvis Cocker, and an exploration of Yevgeny Zamyatin's early dystopian novel We.

Nemo's Almanac: A quiz for book lovers by Ian Patterson      $25
The 126th iteration of this annual literary quiz. How will you perform?
Diary Sale
30% off all diaries while stocks last (and the new year hasn't even started yet). Come in or click through to choose

Sunday 24 December 2017


Use the VOLUME GIFT SELECTOR to select books to give away, or to keep for yourself. Click to browse our recommendations.

>> Don't forget, you can always come and talk to us, or e-mail us, about your specific gift requirements. 

>> List #1: COOKBOOKS

>> List #2: POLITICS

>> List #3: BIOGRAPHY

>> List #4: SCIENCE

>> List #5: POETRY

>> List #6: FICTION

>> List #7: HISTORY




Friday 22 December 2017


Saturday 23rd: 8:30 - 5

Sunday 24th: 9 - 5

Monday 25th: Closed

Tuesday 26th: Closed

Wednesday 27th: 9 - 5

Thursday 28th: 9 - 7

Friday 29th: 9 - 6

Saturday 30th: 8:30 - 4

Sunday 31st: 10 - 2

Monday 1st: Closed

Tuesday 2nd: 9 - 5  

(Normal hours resume)

Sunday 17 December 2017

BOOKS @ VOLUME  #54 (16.12.17).

Find out what we've been reading and recommending.
Use the VOLUME GIFT SELECTOR and keep abreast of the latest new releases. 

Our Book of the Week this week is an outstanding piece of New Zealand social and artistic history, beautifully illustrated: Strangers arrive: Émigrés and the arts in New Zealand, 1930-1980 by Leonard Bell (published by Auckland University Press)From the 1930s to the 1950s, forced migrants - refugees from Nazism, displaced people after World War II and escapees from Communist countries - arrived in New Zealand from Europe. Among them were extraordinary artists and writers, photographers, designers and architects whose European Modernism radically reshaped the arts in this country. How were migrants received by New Zealanders? How did displacement and settlement in New Zealand transform their work? How did the arrival of European Modernists intersect with the burgeoning nationalist movement in the arts in New Zealand? This book introduces us to a group of `aliens' who were critical catalysts for change in New Zealand culture. 

>> Leonard Bell on Radio NZ National

>> Was this a lonely exile? (Sally Blundel in the NZ Listener)

>> Some sample pages

>> Click and collect from VOLUME.

“New Zealand is neither a country nor a culture, it’s a branch of the Salvation Army.” - Theo Schoon

December hours: Sunday 17th: 10 - 2;  Monday - Wednesday: 9 - 5;  Thursday - Friday: 9 - 7;  Saturday 23rd: 8:30 - 5.  Sunday 24th: 9 - 5.  25th/26th: closed.  27th: normal hours resume. 

{Review by STELLA}

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is a classic that is having a revival since the very successful TV series. When a very handsome volume arrived in the bookshop (red edged hardback with a stunning black cover) it seemed like a good time to re-read this novel. (In fact, I realised on beginning to read that I knew the story but hadn’t read the book). Offred is living in the era of Gilead. She has a choice: breed or be sent to the colonies to die slowly from toxic poisoning or overwork and starvation. As a fertile woman, she is in demand and can be a handmaid - a special class of woman (both cherished and despised) whose role it is to provide their commanders and their wives with offspring. Offred’s memoir takes us into a bizarre world where women’s rights have been obliterated and arcane rules keep everyone in line, where as a woman you are either a wife, a martha (servant) or a handmaid, unless you are outcast or a jezebel. As Offred attempts to navigate her life without her husband or child (who has been taken from her) she finds herself increasingly mystified by the behaviour of those around her, particularly her commander, who behaves in unorthodox ways. Meetings and sexual contact are tightly controlled and ritualistic, so the Commander’s insistence that she meet him in his library puts her in great danger. The longer she stays in the household, the more tenuous her links to the past. Is there an escape from this situation in which she is obliterated as a person? Can she trust her fellow handmaiden Ofglen, or Nick the chauffeur? And what is Mayday? Atwood explores ideas of patriarchy, power and control over reproduction in this tautly told tale. If you’ve read this already or seen the TV series, you should read excellentThe Power by Naomi Alderman, and for younger teen readers, Maresi is worth investigating. And if you're looking for more Atwood, there’s a stunning new edition of Alias Grace.

Insane by Rainald Goetz    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
"What do I have to think to really understand what I feel when I see what happens?" asks Rainald Goetz. Insane, first published in German in 1983 and only now appearing in English, in a translation by Adrian Nathan West published by the remarkable Fitzcarraldo Editions, interrogates the validity of the distinctions society makes between sanity and insanity, between the acceptable and the unacceptable, between what we call order and the rest of what we call chaos. If it is not the case that there is no such thing as insanity, as had been proposed by the antipsychiatry movement, it would be more reasonable to assert that there is no such thing as sanity, that in reality there is nothing but insanity, that distinctions between sanity and insanity are non-actual, an artifice wrought by the powerful privileging and ring-fencing a portion of the territory and calling it sanity, despite the irony. The border between one thing and its opposite, when laid across a continuous field, falls in the greyest area between the two, the zone of least distinction, and therefore these borders are constantly and often brutally defended. The more brutally and the more desperately they are defended the more they seem to exist, and the border is dotted with institutions which, by helping those who are held over the border, even though such distinctions are matters of scale rather than of kind, give validity to and guard that border. An institution dictates the currency of exchange within it and between it and its hinterland (or, rather, the currency of exchange dictates the institution and its relations with its hinterland), but the criteria of preference within that institution, however, are marked equally and completely upon all members of that institution, who are to some extent, because of this, interchangeable. Distinctions of scale are the most mutable distinctions. The first of the three sections that comprise Goetz’s novel contains a multitude of unattributed voices expressing metal states that would generally be classified as insane (or in any case dysfuntional) if classification were to be made, and notably in this section it is not, interspersed with others seemingly from doctors attached to a psychiatric hospital, one of the last in Germany in which electroconvulsive therapy is still practised, lecturers and theorists addressing madness and psychiatry. The classification regimes of psychiatry (“countless diagnoses but only five drugs”) are destabalised, the writing clinically precise but without presumptive diagnoses, Goetz dealing only particulars without generalities or labels, providing a sort of anti-DSMguide to psychological dysfunction. The second section follows the path to disillusionment of a young doctor, Raspe, who learns, with increasing despair, that he is in fact incapable of helping the patients. “You must constantly stifle the burning sorrow of your helplessness. Habit grows alongside weakness in the doctor and becomes his crutch. A man erased did the work of a doctor.” The third part applies the nondiagnostic approach beyond the institution to the narrator himself (though to call him Raspe or even the narrator by this stage is problematic). “After years of differentiation I had only just learned non-differentiation,” he says. Without the institution, without diagnoses, without the prescription of medication, without the divided roles of doctor and patient, the illusion of the sane society is dissolved. And without these in this novel there can be no first person, only a mutable third person, each individual observing themselves from without in the same way they observe other persons, like persons observed in a film, unable to make adequate distinction between themselves and other persons. The pace now becomes (even more) manic, the tone pugnacious and mocking, that of a frustrated joke approaching a punchline it will never attain. The introduction in this section of the ‘Rainald’ character, appearing either as the author himself or as a character narrated by Raspe, undercuts all we had previously presumed about Raspe and destabilises the momentum, so to call it, call it vibratory energy rather, of the later part of the novel. Raspe/Goetz left psychiatric medicine when he realised that his interests were inquisitive rather than therapeutic (that he was more a writer than a doctor). “Rainald no longer believed he was capable of helping the patients. They were interesting, though. Through them, he was trying to understand how we must learn to talk about ourselves again, without psychiatry.”