Friday, 18 May 2018
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood $28
In turns funny, angry and insightful, Lockwood's memoir of growing up with a father several times larger than life in a world several sizes too small for them both is not quite like anything else. Lockwood's Motherland, Fatherland, Homelandsexuals positioned her as an American approximation of Hera Lindsay Bird.
"Lockwood's prose is cute and dirty and innocent and experienced, Betty Boop in a pas de deux with David Sedaris." - The New York Times
>> "Anything that happens from here is not my fault." (Lockwood in Wellington.)
Toolbox by Fabio Morábito $36
What is it like to be a hammer, a screw, a file, a sponge? Why do different tools have different 'characters'? If tools are the extension of human capacities and intentions, what do they tell us about ourselves? Both witty and profound.
Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose $28
On April 11, 1931, Virginia Woolf ended her entry in A Writer s Diary with the words "too much and not the mood". She was describing how tired she was of correcting her own writing, of the cramming in and the cutting out to please readers, wondering if she had anything at all that was truly worth saying. These issues underlie these essays by Chew-Bose: the contrapuntal forces of her external and internal worlds, the relationship between inner restlessness and creative production, the clash of identity and individuality. The work is informed by the sensibilities of MAggie Nelson, Lydia Davis and Vivian Gornick and quotidian frustration.
"Our generation has no-one else like Durga Chew-Bose: a cultural critic who isn't afraid to get personal, a romantic nostalgic with a lemony twist who applies her brilliance to life as it is currently lived. It's a profound and glorious relief to encounter this book." - Lena Dunham
>> The power of uncertainty.
Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf $30
"She thought that it was precisely when things get uncomfortable or can't be shown that something interesting comes to light. That is the point of no return, the point that must be reached, the point you reach after crossing the border of what has already been said, what has already been seen. It's cold out there." This hybrid novel - part research notes, part fictionalised diary, and part travelogue - uses the stories of polar exploration to make sense of the protagonist's own concerns as she comes of age as an artist, a daughter, and a sister to an autistic brother. “It’s much easier to get to the Arctic than to reach certain areas of one’s self.”
The Shape of Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez $38
A novel comprised of personal and formal investigations into the possible links between the assassination of Rafael Uribe Uribe in 1914, the man who inspired Garcia Marquez's General Buendia in One Hundred Years of Solitude, and of the charismatic Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, the man who might have been Colombia's J.F.K., gunned down on the brink of success in the presidential elections of 1948.
"Absolutely hypnotic, a display of tense, agile, intelligent narrative, it takes conspiracy to a whole other level." - El Cultural
"With utmost skill, Vasquez has us accompany him in his detective work, proposing a reflection on ghosts from the past and the inheritance of blame, doubt and fear." - El Pais
"Juan Gabriel Vasquez has many gifts - intelligence, wit, energy, a deep vein of feeling - but he uses them so naturally that soon enough one forgets one's amazement at his talents, and then the strange, beautiful sorcery of his tale takes hold." - Nicole Krauss
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi $33
Ada has always been unusual. As an infant in southern Nigeria, she is a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents successfully prayed her into existence, but something must have gone awry, as the young Ada becomes a troubled child, prone to violent fits of anger and grief. But Ada turns out to be more than just volatile. Born “with one foot on the other side,” she begins to develop separate selves. When Ada travels to America for college, a traumatic event crystallises the selves into something more powerful. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these alters—now protective, now hedonistic—move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dangerous direction.
>> Read an extract.
>> What is an ogbanje?
The Life of Stuff: A memoir about the mess we leave behind by Susannah Walker $40
What is the relationship between a person and their possessions? What extra burden do these possessions bear when the person dies and what extra difficulty or comfort do they extend to those left behind? When her mother died, Walker was left to search through a dilapidated, cluttered house min search of someone she found she had never really known.
Women Design: Pioneers in architecture, industrial, graphic and digital design from the twentieth century to the present day by Libby Sellers $45
A good selection, well illustrated, from Eileen Gray, Lora Lamm and Lella Vignelli, to Kazuyo Sejima, Hella Jongerius and Neri Oxman.
Rebel Publisher: How Grove Press ended censorship of the written word in America by Loren Glass $32
Grove Press, and its house journal The Evergreen Review, revolutionized the publishing industry and radicalized the reading habits of the "paperback generation." Barney Rossett founded the company on a shoestring in 1951 and it became an important conduit through which avant-garde and European literature, and the works of Beckett, Burroughs, Brecht and Malcolm X became available in the US.
>> Rossett obituary (2012).
>> Much discussion in this institution.
Listen to This by Alex Ross $28
From the author of The Rest is Noise, this book collects some of his best writing on classical and popular music - everything from Brahms to Bjork.
>> Ross will be appearing with soprano Bianca Ross and Stroma at the Nelson School of Music on 27 May.
Bloom: A story of fashion designer Elsa Schiapparelli by Kyo Maclear and Julia Morstad $30
A very nicely done picture book about a girl who became ill from planting seeds in her ears and nose went on to be a designer who would not be limited by tradition or rationality.
Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley $19
Following the death of his mother, Max Friedman comes to believe that he is sharing his brain with a tumour. As Max becomes focused on controlling the malignant tenant, he starts to lose touch with his friends and family, and with reality itself – so Max’s father sends him off to the artsy Baldwin School to regain his footing. Soon, Max has joined a group of theatre misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet. He befriends Fish, a gril with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, a boy who refuses to let go of the things he loves. Max starts to feel happy, and the ghosts of his past seem to be gone for ever. But the tumour is always lurking in the wings – until one night it knocks him down, and Max is forced to face the truth.
"Grief becomes something oddly beautiful – and beautifully odd." - Kirkus
Woman at Sea by Catherine Poulain $37
"`It must be possible to find a balance,' I say, `between deathly boredom and a too-violent life.' `There isn't a balance,' he says. `It's always all or nothing.'" A novel based on the author's own experience of running away from a humdrum existence in France and finding the intensity she seeks on board a rough fishing boat operating from the Alaskan island of Kodiak.
"An untamed successor to Conrad and Melville." - l'Obs [!]
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor $25
Not only is this book a thriller that overturns the expectations of a thriller while still achieving the effects upon the reader of a thriller, it is a novel that overturns the expectations of a novel (plot, protagonists, ‘viewpoint’, shape, interiority, &c) while achieving the effects upon the reader of a novel. Written scrupulously in the flat, detached, austere tone of reportage, infinitely patient but with implacable momentum, a slow mill grinding detail out of circumstance, a forensic dossier on English rurality, the novel is comprised of detail after detail of the human, animal and vegetative life in a small rural community over thirteen years. New edition.
>> Read Thomas's review.
The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson: The pioneering life of a forgotten English surgeon by Cherry Lewis $25
In 1817 James Parkinson identified the disease since named after him. He was also a political radical and a fossil-hunter, and worked with Edward Jenner to set up smallpox vaccination clinics across London. He deserves to be better known.
Another History of the Children's Picture Book: From Soviet Lithuania to India by Giedre Jankeviciute and V. Geetha $70
How did the period of Soviet cultural outreach affect the production of children's books in other countries? Apart from the interesting text, which shifts the focus of international children's book production, the book is packed with delightful examples of illustration and book design.
Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz and Mirian Klein Stahl $35
Artists, athletes, pirates, punks, and other revolutionaries.
Under the Canopy: Trees around the world by Iris Volant and Cynthia Alonso $30
From the olive trees of Athens to the Eucalyptus trees of Australia, discover the place of trees in history and mythology across the world. Every climate, every nation has its tales of trees, true or legendary, that help us understand ourselves and the natural world around us.
Heke Tangata: Māori in markets and cities by Brian Easton $40
This book describes, both analytically and statistically, the migration of Maori into cities since 1945 and the changes in Maori position and participation in the New Zealand economy.
Policing the Black Man: Arrest, prosecution and imprisonment edited by Angela Davis $38
Essays range from an explication of the historical roots of racism in the US criminal justice system to an examination of modern-day police killings of unarmed black men. The authors discuss and explain racial profiling, the power and discretion of police and prosecutors, the role of implicit bias, the racial impact of police and prosecutorial decisions, the disproportionate imprisonment of black men, the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, and the Supreme Court's failure to provide meaningful remedies for the injustices in the criminal justice system.
"Somewhere among the anger, mourning and malice that Policing the Black Man documents lies the pursuit of justice. This powerful book demands our fierce attention." - Toni Morrison
Origin Story: A big history of everything from the Big Bang to the first stars, to our solar system, life on Earth, dinosaurs, homo sapiens, agriculture, an ice age, empires, fossil fuels, a Moon landing and mass globalisation, and what happens next... by David Christian $40
The Infinite Game by Niki Harré $30
Can we live a better and more fulfilling life if we thought of it as a game? Playing is more rewarding than winning. Also available: Psychology for a Better World.
>> Harre talks about the book on Radio NZ National.
Take Heart: My journey with cardiomyopathy and heart failure by Adrienne Frater $30
Well written, insightful, medically accurate, emotionally helpful. Local author.
AutoBioPhilosophy by Robert Rowland Smith $40
What does it mean to be human? Love triangles, office politics, police raids, illegal drugs, academic elites and near-death experiences can offer insights, if Rowland Smith's experiences of these are anything to go by. Can Shakespeare and Freud (and Rowland Smith) help us build new models of psychology? Yes, possibly.
Dear Zealots: Letters from a divided land by Amoz Oz $30
Essays on Israel/Palestine from this outspoken advocate of the two-state solution and opponent of Israeli settlement in the Occupied Territories. Oz appeals to the deep tradition of Jewish humanism to seek a way forward from impasse. "No idea has ever been defeated by force. To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one."
Badly Wolf: A furry tale by Lindsay Pope, illustrated by Jo Tyson $20
"He lived alone in his rustic lair, / A toothless wolf with silver hair." Is a wolf-in-human-clothing a threat to nursery rhymes? Yes, on the evidence of this book from "the scratchy cardigan of New Zealand poetry", very likely. Huge fun.