A weekly bulletin from VOLUME. 11.5.18
The New Ships by Kate Duignan $30
Acting and not acting each have their consequences, shunting lives onto quite different tracks. This long-awaited new novel from Duigan stretches the web of consequences from post-Twin Towers Wellington across time and space as far as a houseboat in Amsterdam in the 1970s. How do Peter and Moira respond to the new roles fate casts upon them?
"The New Ships is a gripping novel about lost children and a very fine portrait of family life in all its beauty and betrayal. Intricate, compelling, and deeply moving." —Anna Smaill
"Beautifully fluid, elegant, assured and calm, intellectually right and morally true." —Emily Perkins
Not to Read by Alejandro Zambra $32
A lively, fluid and iconoclastic theory of reading emerges from Zambras essays and observations of literature, its production and its consumption. Zambra is always good company: playful, irreverent and thoughtful
"When I read Zambra I feel like someone's shooting fireworks inside my head. His prose is as compact as a grain of gunpowder, but its allusions and ramifications branch out and illuminate even the most remote corners of our minds." - Valeria Luiselli
>> Alejandro Zambra is also against poets.
>> Read Thomas's reviews of Zambra's excellent Multiple Choice and My Documents.
Motherhood by Sheila Heti $40
"I've never seen anyone write about the relationship between childlessness, writing, and mother's sadnesses the way Sheila Heti does. I know Motherhood is going to mean a lot to many different people - fully as much so as if it was a human that Sheila gave birth to - though in a different and in fact incommensurate way. That's just one of many paradoxes that are not shied away from in this courageous, necessary, visionary book." - Elif Batuman
"With each of her novels, Sheila Heti invents a new novel form. Motherhood is a riveting story of love and fate, a powerful inspiration to reflect, and a subtle depiction of the lives of contemporary women and men, by an exceptional artist in the prime of her powers. Motherhood constitutes its own genre within the many-faceted novel of ideas. Heti is like no one else." - Mark Greif
>> On failures of the word 'mother' and other failures.
Often I Am Happy by Jens Christian Grøndahl $20
“We, who are no longer being loved, must chose between revenge and understanding.” A short, thoughtful, beautifully written novel about the reassessment of personal history in the wake of loss, and the liberation this can provide. When Elinor's husband dies, she writes a series of letters to his long-dead first wife, the woman whose children she has raised.
"A compassionate and often edifying commentary on the elasticity of love, the strength it takes to move forward after a death, and the power of forgiveness." - Publishers Weekly
Dawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith $18
Like many 13-year-old girls, Sofia’s main worries are how to get some groovy go-go boots, and how not to die of embarrassment giving a speech at school. But when her older brother starts talking about protests and overstayers, and how Pacific Islanders are being bullied by the police, a shadow is cast over Sofia’s teenage days. Through diary entries, this book describes the terror of being dawn-raided and provides an insight into the courageous and tireless work of the Polynesian Panthers in the 1970s as they encourage immigrant families across NZ to stand up for their rights.
>> Find out more about the Polynesian Panthers.
Exactly: How precision engineers created the modern world by Simon Winchester $37
Technological progress, though it may be fuelled by mixes of quite unspecific impulses, cannot proceed through vague gesture. Without absolute precision, mechanisms will not work or will soon wear and break. This book, by the author of The Surgeon of Crowthorne, Pacific and Krakatoa, introduces us to key engineers whose struggle with and mastery of the finer points of making have underlaid the scientific and industrial revolutions and made possible all those everyday things we take for granted (cameras, computers, watches, telephones, washing machines, cars). Winchester has the remarkable ability to give a vivid immediacy to the moments he describes and give depth to bits of pivotal history that are usually passed over too quickly. It is this ability to give a third dimension to overlooked pieces of fact that makes Winchester’s books always completely absorbing.
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje $35
Two teenagers, left by their parents in London after World War 2 under the protection of a man called The Moth and his mysterious companions, only realise much later the significance of what happened in this time and the truth about what they thought was their mother's betrayal.
"His best novel since The English Patient." - New York Times
"A miraculous achievement." - David Herkt
Summer by Karl Ove Knausgaard $38
Typically completely out of synch, at least with us, Knausgaard finishes his seasonal quartet of assembled short prose, diaries and letters to his newborn daughter. No writer has striven harder than Knausgaard to make the mundane and the profound seem so similar.
>> A man for all seasons.
>> Meet Knausgaard in Auckland next weekend.
>> "Contemporary fiction is overrated."
Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe's winds from the Pennines to Provence by Nick Hunt $28
Hunt set out to experience the named winds of Europe, from the Helm to the Bore to the Foehn to the Mistral. Along the way he met meteorologists, storm chasers, mountain men, eccentric wind enthusiasts, sailors and shepherds. Interesting.
"Travel writing in excelsis." - Jan Morris
"A thrilling and gorgeous tale, packed with meteorological wonder." -Amy Liptrot, author of The Outrun
What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper $37
A beautifully illustrated novel of a teen Holocaust survivor who struggles to come to terms with her history and her Jewishness, and to rediscover her love of music, which she though she had lost for ever.
>> Book trailer.
An introduction to Māori culture (including tikanga on and off the marae and key rituals like pōwhiri and tangihanga), Māori history (from the beginning of the world and the waka migration through to Māori protest and urbanisation in the twentieth century), and Māori society today (including twenty-first century issues like education, health, political economy and identity).
A Walk Through Paris: A radical exploration by Eric Hazan $27
On a walk from Ivry to Saint-Denis, roughly following the meridian that divides Paris into east and west, and passing such familiar landmarks as the Luxembourg Gardens, the Pompidou Centre, the Gare du Nord and Montmartre, as well as forgotten alleyways and arcades, Hazan interweaves historical anecdotes, geographical observations, and literary references to reveal the revolutionary history of the city of Robespierre, the Commune, Sartre, and the May '68 uprising. Many of these landmarks are generally unrecognised, and often threatened by development.
They Knew What They Wanted: Poems and collages by John Ashbery $70
The first-ever collection of Ashbery's collage work (interesting!), with a selection of related poetry.
>> All the kitsch.
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter $23
In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z's small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds. This is a story of new motherhood in a terrifying setting: a familiar world made dangerous and unstable, its people forced to become refugees.
"I can't remember ever having read a novel quite as sparing or as daring as The End We Start From, or one that delivers so mighty an impact from such delicate materials. " - Jim Crace
"An exceptional, alarming and beautiful book, which still echoes months after I finished reading it. Megan Hunter is a writer of unnerving power." - Evie Wyld
Work: The last 1,000 years by Andrea Komlosy $35
The transformation in the nineteenth century of the concept of 'work', in the West at least, into one of employment for wages made invisible other kinds of work, especially that done by women, subsistence farmers and in the third world. This book takes a revelatory global and cross-gender view on the whole complex and contradictory history of work, both paid and unpaid.
The Enigma of Reason: A new theory of human understanding by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber $28
If reason is useful for survival, why haven't animals other than humans evolved it? If reason is commensurate with reality, why does it produce so much nonsense? Reason seems to have developed from, and it reliant upon, a rich social environment and appears to be more of an interactive tool designed to persuade and justify rather than to produce anything we might call 'truth' about our world.
Cuba: The cookbook by Madelaine Vázquez Gálvez and Imogene Tondre $70
The definitive guide to Cuban cuisine and food culture, with 350 recipes suited for home cooking and representing the variety of influences, from Spanish to Chinese to Soviet.
The Timothy Leary Project: Inside the great counterculture experiment by Jennifer Ulrich $45
This collection of Timothy Leary's selected papers and correspondence opens a window on the ideas that inspired the counterculture of the 1960s and the fascination with LSD that continues to the present. The man who coined the phrase "turn on, tune in, drop out," Leary cultivated interests that ranged across experimentation with hallucinogens, social change and legal reform, and mysticism and spirituality. Includes much on Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Ken Kesey, Marshall McLuhan, Aldous Huxley, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and Carl Sagan.
>> A message to young people (1966).
Natural Causes: Life, death and the illusion of control by Barbara Ehrenreich $33
Is our constant fixation on postponing death stopping us from living?
Best Before: The evolution and future of processed food by Nicola Temple $27
From fermentation and smoking to test-tube steaks, irradiation and 3-D printed pizzas, the processes by which humans have preserved food beyond its natural arc of decay reveal deeper forces and changes in society.
Lampedusa: Gateway to Europe by Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta $28
It is common to think of the refugee crisis as a recent phenomenon, but Dr Pietro Bartolo, who runs the clinic on the Italian island of Lampedusa, has been caring for its victims - both the living and the dead - for a quarter of a century.
"An urgent, wrenching dispatch from the front line of the defining crisis of our times. Bartolo is at once the saviour and the coroner to boatload after boatload of migrants who risk everything to cross the deadly seas. It is also a damning indictment of the broader, collective indifference of humankind to both the drowned and the saved." - Philip Gourevitch
The Waikato: A history of New Zealand's greatest river by Paul Moon $70
Follows the river from its source on Mount Ruapehu, through Lake Taupo and into the Tasman Sea, a journey of 425 km and through centuries of vital history.
Left Bank: Art, passion and the rebirth of Paris, 1940-1950 by Agnès Poirier $43
"A tour de force. The book weaves together so many people, ideas, trends, occurrences, and above all Parisian places, into a tapestry of fascinations - a distillation of the essence of an amazing time. The best book of its kind I have ever read." - A.C. Grayling
"Poirier does not shy away from exposing the joy and pain of experimental living or from exploring with sensitivity the moral ambiguity of living through the Occupation. Compulsive reading." - Anne Sebba
Winter Eyes by Harry Ricketts $25
Poetry as comfort, poetry as confrontation.
Claiming my Place: Coming of age in the shadow of the Holocaust by Planaria Price with Helen Reichmann West $30
When the Nazis took over the town of Piotrkow in Poland and began to round up the Jewish population, Jewish teenager Gucia Gomolinska chose (and was able) to 'pass' as a Pole. Her journey through Germany and her experiences through and after the war make for compelling reading.
Consciousness and the Novel by David Lodge $28
Argues that it is literature, rather than science or philosophy, that provides the most accurate picture of the development and operaions of human conscious.
Rosie: Scenes from a vanished life by Rose Tremain $40
"The chilling description of cruel or absent parents is oddly exhilarating, and makes one see one’s own life anew. What a book this is, so much more alert and open and alive than so many slightly disappointing memoirs by otherwise great writers, with their plodding lists of relatives and schools and terraced homes and who had lunch or sex with whom. Much of Tremain’s canvas is heartsinkingly familiar — anyone with neglectful or absent parents will identify — but somehow the young Rosie Thomson never quite relinquishes either hope or joy. Perhaps that’s the nascent writer in the woman who would eventually become Rose Tremain. Again and again, she finds ‘wonder’ in the emotional and actual landscape around her, as she waits, sometimes with an almost excruciating trust and patience, to ‘find my place in the world’." - Spectator
Neither Devil Nor Child: How Western attitudes are harming Africa by Tom Young $33
Decades after the colonial powers withdrew Africa is still struggling to catch up with the rest of the world. When the same colonists withdrew from Asia there followed several decades of sustained and unprecedented growth throughout the continent. So what went wrong in Africa? Is the West helping Africa, or making matters worse?