Friday 31 August 2018


New books for a new month
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker         $37
In this remarkable feminist version of The IliadBarker gives a voice to Briseis, the queen enslaved by Achilles after he killed her husband during the Trojan war. Trapped in a world defined by men and traumatised by war, can she become the author of her own story? 
"Brilliant. This is an important, powerful, memorable book that invites us to look differently not only at The Iliad but at our own ways of telling stories about the past and the present, and at how anger and hatred play out in our societies." - Emily Wilson, The Guardian
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari           $38
Having cast his consideration back over human history in Sapiens, and forward into the human future in Homo Deus, Harari turns his attention to what he considers the most pressing issues facing humans at present, the moment at which the future is being made into the past. Why is liberal democracy in crisis? Is God back? Is a new world war coming? What does the rise of Donald Trump signify? What can we do about the epidemic of fake news? Which civilisation dominates the world – the West, China, Islam? Should Europe keep its doors open to immigrants? Can nationalism solve the problems of inequality and climate change? What should we do about terrorism? What should we teach our kids? What should we teach our children? Intelligent, passionate, thought-provoking, discussable. 
>> Listen to Harari talk about the book
The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke by Tina Makereti        $38
The long-awaited new novel from the author of Where the Rekohu Bone Sings follows the experiences of the orphaned son of a Maori chief who, while being exhibited as a curiosity in Victorian London, turns his own gaze upon the multilayered deceptions and pretensions of an alien society. 
And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Rovina Cai          $28
"Call me Bathsheba." A remarkable inversion of and futuristic riff on Moby-Dick for older children and young teens, told from the point of view of the whale and no less a portrayal of the damaging effects of obsession and brutality. Beautifully illustrated and produced. 
>> Ness talks about the book
Metamorphica by Zachary Mason     $40
“Faces are drawn in water, and names written in dust. Even persons are ephemeral—in the end, there’s only pattern.” A stunning modern spin on Ovid's Metamorphoses, in which the characters have interior lives, doubts and previously unexplored motives. 
>> Read an extract.

People in the Room by Norah Lange         $34
A woman becomes obsessed with the women who live across the street. The stories she projects upon them become more and more extreme, creating a fascinating portrait of desire, voyeurism and isolation. The first novel of this significant Argentine author (and associate of Borges) to be translated into English. Why has it taken so long?.
"A deathly scene from a wax museum come to life." - Cesar Aira
>> "Not a novel to be read for pleasure." 
>> Read an extract.

Tatau: A cultural history of Samoan tattooing by Sean Mallon and Sebastien Galliot        $75
This first history of Samoan tatau explores the people, encounters, events and external forces that have defined Samoan tattooing over many centuries. The Samoan Islands are unusual in that tattooing has been continuously practised for 3000 years with indigenous techniques. Beautifully produced and illustrated.
Another Kyoto by Alex Kerr and Kathy Arlyn Sokol          $28
An insider's meditation on the hidden wonders of Japan's most enigmatic city. Drawing on decades living in Kyoto, and on lore gleaned from artists, Zen monks and Shinto priests, Alex Kerr illuminates the simplest things - a temple gate, a wall, a sliding door - in a new way. 
"A rich book of intimate proportions. In Kyoto, facts and meaning are often hidden in plain sight. Kerr's gift is to make us stop and cast our eyes upward to a temple plaque, or to squint into the gloom of an abbot's chamber." - Japan Times
The Raven's Children by Yulia Yakovleva          $18
Leningrad, 1939. When Shura and Tanya's parents and baby brother suddenly disappear, it's rumoured that they have been kidnapped by the mysterious Black Raven - and that their parents were spies. Determined to find his family, Shura decides to hand himself in to the Raven. Flagging down a KGB car, he is taken to the Grey House, where everyone is given a new name and a set of grey clothes, and everyone seems to forget their families and who they really are. Now Shura must do everything he can to cling to his memories, and to escape...

French Exit by Patrick deWitt         $33
A compulsively readable 'tragedy of manners' from the author of the hopelessly funny The Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor. When a wealth widow and her son flee scandal in New York and move to Paris, they encounter a sequence of singular characters and situations for which they are totally unprepared. 

Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale         $38
Drawing on Gale's own experience as a young person coming to terms with a strictured world and finding a sense of belonging in musical performance, his 16th novel is a sensitive portrayal of self-discovery.
"Elegiac and contemplative." - The Guardian

Dotter of Her Father's Eyes by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot       $38
Two graphic-novel coming-of-age narratives: that of Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, and that of author Mary Talbot, daughter of the eminent Joycean scholar James S. Atherton. Intelligent, funny and sad. 
"Lucia Joyce's tragic descent from creativity into fragmentation is brilliantly brought home by the writing and art of the Talbot team." - Irish Times
>> See also the excellent Lucia by Alex Pheby
>> The lost story of Lucia Joyce as a Parisian avant-garde dancer.
Future Popes of Ireland by Darragh Martin          $33
"Darragh Martin’s bulging, big-hearted novel charts the hugely altered landscape of Ireland from Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979 up to the Icelandic volcano eruption of 2010. Epic in scale and a pleasure to read, the Dublin author’s ability to write with heart, humour and recognition make for an engrossing novel that tackles everything from religion to abortion, contraception to gay rights, the Fianna Fáil tent to the recession. That Martin manages to do this without ever sounding preachy shows his immense skill as a storyteller." - Irish Times
The Milk of Paradise: A history of opium by Lucy Inglis         $38
The ultimate assuager of pain, the ultimate underminer of predetermined concepts of reality, the ultimate commodity, opium has affected our history and culture in surprising ways. 
Eco Home: Smart ideas for sustainable New Zealand homes by Melinda Williams        $45
Considers every room and detail. Includes floor plans and endless ideas. 

That F Word: Growing up feminist in Aotearoa by Lizzie Marvelly         $35

A wake-up call. A battle cry. A history. A stock take. A plan of action. 
Women, Equality, Power by Helen Clark          $45
Speeches spanning Clark's career, from entering parliament, through her Prime Ministership and into her developmental role at the United Nations, articulating a consistent and precise vision for the bettering of the lives of all in society, particularly those disadvantaged by the status quo. 
The Village. by Matt and Lentil Purbrick       $50
Good food, gardening and nourishing traditions to feed your village (however small). 
>> Visit Grown & Gathered. 
A History of Pictures for Children by David Hockney and Martin Gayford        $35
Hockney and Gayford turn the conversational approach so successful in A History of Pictures to this thoughtful and companionable book introducing children to interesting art. 
Journeys to the Other Side of the World by David Attenborough      $38
Continues Attenborough's memoirs on from where he left off in the late 1950s in Adventures of a Young Naturalist

Ko Wai e Huna Ana? by Satoru Onishi         $20
Who is Hiding? in te Reo. 

He Raiona i Roto o nga Otaota by Margaret Mahy and Jenny Williams        $20

A Lion in the Meadow in te Reo. 

Friday 24 August 2018

BOOKS @ VOLUME #89 (24.8.18)

Read our latest NEWSLETTER to find out what we've been reading, what new books have arrived (well, some of the new books), and the results of our poetry competition. 

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne   {Review by STELLA}
Maurice Swift - good-looking, charming, both sharp and silver-tongued, is looking for success. Success at any cost - that’s the cost to others rather than himself. In John Boyne’s most recent novel, A Ladder to the Sky, he has created a ruthless and ambitious young writer who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. However, he has a problem: he’s not very imaginative. Yes, he can write, can turn a good phrase and spice up another’s work, but he struggles with ‘the story’. While waiting tables in Berlin, he meets critically acclaimed and recent winner of ‘The Prize’, author Erich Ackermann. Erich, who long has forsaken any hope of a romantic relationship, is entranced by the young Swift and quickly falls under his spell, despite realising he is behaving foolishly. Maurice, making the most of the obsession, working his charm, flatters the older man and finds himself invited (employed, in fact) to be Erich’s assistant on an international publicity tour - all this to Maurice’s advantage and Erich’s eventual dismissal. What Maurice wants is a story, and in Erich he finds one of Berlin on the brink of war, of young love (an unrequited love) and passionate anger. An anger that leads to a terrible outcome and a guilt that Erich has buried until now as he confides in Maurice. Erich is the first of several victims of the ‘crimes’ of Maurice Swift. As the novel follows the highs and lows of Swift’s writing career over several decades, we meet the people central to his life, all in some way unwitting players in his game and none more so than his wife of six years, fellow writer Edith Camberley. In all but the last section of the book, Maurice’s life is told through the voices of others, starting with Erich Ackermann until Maurice departs his life (dumps him cold). From here there is a sweet crisp interlude with Gore Vidal at his Amalfi residence, when Maurice arrives with his new mentor Hardy Dash - a middling American writer of some commercial success, a longtime friend of the Gore & Howard circle. This is sharp, witty writing - cleverly Goresque - and it will have you laughing out loud and cheering for at least one who does not fall under Maurice’s spell, being a dab hand at manipulation and subterfuge himself, yet less vicious than our antihero. Part 2 is told by Edith and follows the writer couple (yes, Edith has recently found success with her debut and a promising writing future seems assured) to Norwich where Edith has taken up a teaching position at the university. While Edith teaches and works on her second novel, she tries to support Maurice who is struggling on his third book and becoming increasingly testy. In this section of the novel, through Edith’s eyes, you begin to see the truly callous lows Maurice will stoop to get the story. He’s a parasite and you find yourself wanting to scream to Edith, "Get out of the room!”  before it’s too late. Several years later we find ourselves in New York with Maurice and his son. Now we are squarely in Maurice’s head, which is slightly unpleasant to say the least. Yet we are intrigued, drawn in and seduced by his story. He’s working, ironically, on his new novel, tentatively entitled ‘Other People’s Stories’. A Ladder to the Sky is a viciously witty portrayal of writers and writing and to what lengths one man will go to achieve his ambition.  Boyne will make you laugh, cry and cringe all in equal measures. Excellent and highly enjoyable, a novel of sharp observations and spoonfuls of unease.


The Years by Annie Ernaux   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“She will go within herself only to retrieve the world,” writes Annie Ernaux in this astounding work of what she terms “impersonal autobiography”. Conspicuously not a memoir, unless it is a memoir of time itself, the book takes the form of a ‘flat’, rigorous and unsentimental serial accumulation of moments that would otherwise be lost from human experience, moments shorn of interpretation or context, impressions that the author has resisted the expectation to turn into a narrative. Thus preserved in the nearest possible state to experience, the memories retain the power of memories without being condensed into fact, they retain the power to resonate in the reader in the way in which the reader's own memories resonate. Although the memories are often very personal and specific, covering every detail of Ernaux’s life from childhood to old age, Ernaux never presents them as belonging to an ‘I’, always to a ‘she’ or a ‘we’. She does not presume a continuity of self other than the self that exists in the moment of experience, a moment that will continue until that memory is extinguished. The distancing of the memory from the ‘I’, the clipping free of the experience from its subject, the creation of a text that is at once impersonal and personal, becomes a machine for the conversion of the particular into the universal, or, rather, for erasing the distinction between the two. “By retrieving the collective memory in an individual memory, she will capture the lived dimension of History.” At the moment that Ernaux severs her attachment from the memories that she records, she saves them from plausible extinction, she makes them the memories of others. When such responses are awakened in the reader, the reader becomes the rememberer (the rememberer in this case of living in France between 1941 and 2006). Any emotional response comes from the reader’s experience, not the author’s, or, rather, from the collective human experience that includes both reader and author. There are separate narratives, or separate modes, for what one remembers and what one knows to have happened. What is the relationship between these two kinds of memory? “Between what happens in the world and what happens to her, there is no point of convergence. They are two parallel series: one abstract, all information no sooner received than forgotten, the other all static shots,” she writes. As Ernaux reaches old age, witnessing a series of “burials that foreshadow her own,” she casts back from an imperative somewhere beyond her death, recording the rush of memory towards its ultimate forgetting. “All the images will disappear. They will vanish all at the same time, like the images that lay hidden behind the foreheads of the grandparents, dead for half a century, and of the parents, also dead. Thousands of words will suddenly be deleted the ones that were used to name things, faces, acts and feelings, to put the world in order. Everything will be erased in a second, the dictionary of words amassed between cradle and deathbed, eliminated.” But it is not only death that can extinguish memory: “The future is replaced by a sense of urgency that torments her. She is afraid that her memory will become cloudy and silent. Maybe one day all things and their names will slip out of alignment and she’ll no longer be able to put names to reality. All that will remain is the reality that cannot be spoken. Now’s the time to give form to her future absence through writing.” Her book is an attempt to “save something from the time where we will never be again.” By her method of conjuring and recording the raw material of her life, Ernaux “finds something that the image from her personal memory doesn’t give her on its own: a kind of vast collective sensation that takes her consciousness, her entire being, into itself.” The passage of time is made tangible, subjects are dissolved in their experiences, the intimate is revealed as the universal, moments are, in the act of writing, both held and relinquished.

Book of the Week: Dictator Literature: A history of despots through their writing by Daniel Kalder
The crimes of tyrants against their people have been well documented, but what of their crimes against literature? Theoretical works, spiritual manifestos, poetry collections, memoirs and even romance novels - what relationship do these books have to their despotic authors' other spheres of action? 

>> How did Kalder come to write this book? 

>> Tradition and the individual tyrant.

>> Why dictators write

>> Can Saddam Hussein be considered a novelist?

>> Is The Rukhnama Turkmenistan's holy book? 

>> Not every book gets its own statue

>> On translating Stalin, the poet

>> Moving closer to the dictators

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson           $40
Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn't seen her mother since the age of sixteen, and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature. A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel's isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water, swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.
“A hypnotic, mythic, unexpected story from a beguiling new voice. Everything Under is an exploration of family, gender, the ways we understand each other and the hands we hold out to each other – a story that’s like the waterways at its heart: you have to take the trip to understand what’s underneath.” - The judges' comment, on long-listing the book for the 2018 Man Booker Prize
In the Distance by Hernán Díaz      $23
A young Swedish immigrant finds himself penniless and alone in California. The boy travels east in search of his brother, moving on foot against the great current of emigrants pushing west. Driven back again and again, he meets naturalists, criminals, religious fanatics, swindlers, Indians, and lawmen, and his exploits turn him into a legend. Diaz defies the conventions of historical fiction and genre, offering a probing look at the stereotypes that populate our past and offers a portrait of radical foreignness.
"Diaz sends a shotgun blast through standard received notions of the Old West and who was causing trouble in it." - Laird Hunt
The Farewell Tourist by Alison Glenny         $28
Poems assailed by blankness, by ice, by erasure, by exhaustion, by the dissolution of form. 
"The work takes full advantage of the white pages on which the words appear. In particular it plays with ideas of erasure, as if all our words, like any evidence of human presence, can be extinguished by a fresh fall of snow." - Bill Manhire
Recipient of the 2017 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award.
Granta 144: Generic Love Story edited by Sigrid Rausing           $28
Devorah Baum reads Grace Paley to find out what women want, Stella Duffy looks for LGBT voices in the #MeToo debate, Fernanda Eberstadt remembers the 70s drag scene in New York, Debra Gwartney breaks her silence, Ottessa Moshfegh gets what she wants, TaraShea Nesbit revisits her lost childhood, Brittany Newell deconstructs Paris Hilton's sex tape, Lisa Wells on the process of revisiting trauma. Also: new fiction from: Tara Isabella Burton, Paul Dalla Rosa, Tommi Parrish, Sally Rooney, Miriam Toews, Zoe Whittall and Leni Zumas. Plus: poetry by Momtaza Mehri and Fiona Benson. And: photoessays by Sébastien Lifshitz and Tomoko Sawada, introduced by Andrew McMillan and Sayaka Murata.
Bonsai: Best small stories from New Zealand edited by Michelle Elvy, Frankie McMillan and James Norcliffe        $40
200 gems of flash fiction and associated forms, none exceeding 300 words, all exemplars of concision.

Rooms With a View: The secret life of grand hotels by Adrian Mourby      $25
Grand hotels are a world unto themselves, with their own customs and mores, their own restrictions and liberations. Salvador Dalí once asked room service at Le Meurice in Paris to send him up a flock of sheep. When they were brought to his room he pulled out a gun and fired blanks at them. George Bernard Shaw tried to learn the tango at Reid's Palace in Madeira, and the details of India's independence were worked out in the ballroom of the Imperial Hotel, Delhi. Mourby, who wrote the wonderfully personable Rooms of One's Own, here visits fifty of the world's grandest, including the Adlon in Berlin, the Hotel de Russie in Rome, the Continental in Saigon, Raffles in Singapore, the Dorchester in London, Pera Palace in Istanbul and New York's Plaza, as well as some lesser known grand hotels like the Bristol in Warsaw, the Londra Palace in Venice and the Midland in Morecambe Bay.
>> Visit the Grand Budapest Hotel
An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans       $23
A partisan fighting with the Red Army in Germany comes across a grand, abandoned house, seemingly untouched by the devastation sweeping the country. Exhausted, he falls asleep in the living room, but wakes to find a German patrol marching up the garden path. His only hope is to pose as the house’s owner, but how will he keep up the pretence when the real owner returns? A novel of the dehumanisation of war, consistent with Hermans's credo of “creative nihilism, aggressive pity, total misanthropy.” Introduction by Cees Nooteboom. 

There's No Place Like the Internet in the Springtime by Erik Kennedy        $25
"Layering comedy over insight over rue and pathos over comedy, mixing its flexible couplets with beautifully spiky free verse, Erik Kennedy's first collection should climb up all the right charts: his phrases can go anywhere, then come back, and he has figured out how to sound both trustworthy and nonplussed, both giddy and humble, in the same breath. Sometimes he impersonates spiny lobsters; sometimes he's a socialist chambered nautilus. Sometimes he's our best guide to the globe-trotting ridiculous. And sometimes (start with 'Mailing in a Form Because There's No Online Form') hes the un-flick-off-able, so-wrong-he's-just-right guide to the way we live now." - Stephanie Burt
The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada       $25
An ecological disaster has contaminated the soil of Japan. Children are born frail but wise, and the elderly are new creatures, full of vitality. Yoshiro frets about the declining health of his grandson Mumei, but Mumei is a beacon of hope, guiding his grandfather towards "the beauty of the time that is yet to come" (but which way does time run?).
"Both unsettling and enchanting, gentle and sharp-edged. Tawada writes beautifully about unbearable things" - Sara Baume

>>Also published as The Emissary.
Studio Dreams: NoBrow 10 edited by Alex Spiro and Sam Arthur (no.0679 of an edition of 1000)           $43
70 illustrators were given the brief to illustrated their "dream studios" - with such wonderful results. These are the centres of creative vortices, places where dreams cross between an illustrator's internal and external worlds by means of paper. 
Child I by Steve Tasane         $17
A group of undocumented children with letters for names are stuck living in a refugee camp, with stories to tell but no papers to prove them. As they try to forge a new family among themselves, they also long to keep memories of their old identities alive. Will they be heard and believed? And what will happen to them if they aren't? Excellent for 9+.

Whale in a Fishbowl by Troy Howell and Richard Jones       $35

When a girl in a paisley dress tells the whale in a fishbowl, "You belong in the sea," the whale starts to wonder. What is the sea? 
Poeta: Selected and new poems by Cilla McQueen           $40
A selection from 14 volumes spanning five decades, with new work and drawings. 

A Case for Buffy ('Detective Gordon' #4) by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee        $20
The most important case ever investigated in Detective Gordon's forest: Where is Buffy's mother? If you haven't read the other 'Detective Gordon' books, now is the time to start.
The Art of Lettering: Perfectly imperfect hand-crafted type design by Brooke Robinson          $95
A collection of new and established graphic designers at the forefront of hand lettering. 

What's the Difference? 40+ pairs of the seemingly similar by Guillaume Plantevin and Emma Strack        $35

What distinguishes a mandarin orange from a clementine, an iris from a pupil, a tornado from a cyclone, and a bee from a wasp? The difference is in the details. Beautifully illustrated throughout. 
Rough Spirits and High Society: The culture of drink by Ruth Ball     $55
Why is such a lot of socialising done with a drink in the hand? Why is alcohol seen as a social and cultural lubricant? Why were coffee houses the birthplace of so many of our institutions? A thoroughly illustrated and thoroughly browsable survey. 
Happiness by Jack Underwood         $25
What is happiness? What is poetry? How do happiness and poetry sustain themselves in the face of melancholy and mundanity? Can poetry be reached from the mundane, and happiness from a state of melancholy? 
"An unconventional talent." - The Guardian
>> Why should anyone care? 
Louder by Kerrin P. Sharpe         $25
A fourth collection of Sharpe's urgent and engaged poems.
Food Fights and Culture Wars: A secret history of taste by Tom Nealon         $60
Eclectic, peripatetic and sumptuously illustrated, this is a very enjoyable, browsable book on the history of food and its place in society. 

100 Poems by Seamus Heaney          $28

The most representative collection, in a nice hardback edition. 

 Where the Animals Go: Tracking wildlife with technology in 50 maps and graphics by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti         $40

New technology has made it possible to track the movements and migrations of animals as never before - and the results are often surprising. 
The Graphene Revolution: The weird science of the ultra-thin by Brian Clegg             $23
In 2003, Russian physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov found a way to produce graphene - the thinnest substance in the world - by using sticky tape to separate an atom-thick layer from a block of graphite. Their efforts would win the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics, and now the applications of graphene and other 'two-dimensional' substances form a worldwide industry. Graphene is far stronger than steel, a far better conductor than any metal, and able to act as a molecular sieve to purify water. Electronic components made from graphene are a fraction the size of silicon microchips and can be both flexible and transparent, making it possible to build electronics into clothing, produce solar cells to fit any surface, or even create invisible temporary tattoos that monitor your health.
Raising a Forest by Thibaud Herem        $22
Illustrator Thibaud Herem is nurturing a homegrown arboretum in his flat. With over 30 species of tree ranging from oak to Japanese maple to giant redwood, this is a documentation of his obsession as well as a visual exploration of the beautiful shapes and forms found in nature. Within a personal narrative, this little book includes fascinating information about the trees, the process of planting and cultivating them, and musings on society's relationship to the architecture of trees.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara      $33
McNamara became obsessed with finding the 'Golden State Killer', a serial rapist and muderer who terrorised California in the 1970s and 1980s. He was eventually caught this year (after McNamara's death). Compelling. 
Hāpata: Te kuri maia o te moana nā Robyn Belton      $20
At last: the beloved Herbert the Brave Sea Dog in te Reo. 

Paraweta by Stephanie Blake          $20
And at last: the wonderful Poo Bum in te Reo.