Friday 22 March 2019

Lonely Asian Woman by Sharon Lam      $29
Paula is lazy young woman mired in a rut. In the shallows of the internet she is pushed to a moment of profound realisation: she, too, is but a lonely Asian woman looking for fun. The debut novel of Wellington author Sharon Lam (currently living in Hong Kong) is a wildly sentimental book about a life populated by doubles and transient friends, whirrs of off-kilter bathroom fans and divinatory whiffs of chlorine. Lonely Asian Woman is not the story of a young woman coming to her responsibilities in the world. Funny from the first sentence on. 
>> Interview with Sharon Lam
>> Lam on the radio
>> Read an excerpt
>> Listen to Lam reading 'Potluck'
Concrete by Thomas Bernhard      $23
In a single brilliant book-length hysterical paragraph, Rudolph, Bernhard’s narrator, a middle-aged invalid both incapacitated and sustained by his neuroses, obsessed with writing his great work on the composer Mendelssohn Bartholdy but of course incapable of even beginning to write, neurasthenically procrastinating and irritated, riven by every possible ambivalence, unable to write whilst his sister is visiting and unable to write unless she is present, hating his sister but dependent upon her, needing his home but stifled by it, rants about everything from making too many notes to the idiocy of keeping dogs. Bernhard’s delineation of an individual whose interiority and isolation has attained the highest degree is flawless, devastating and very funny, and shows how this interiority prevents the narrator from taking timely action, with disastrous consequences. Bernhard is one of the best writers of the twentieth century, and this is the first of a series to be reissued in jackets by Leanne Shapton
>> Read Thomas's review
Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin            $33
Schweblin manages to bury deep into the darkest recesses of her characters' and her readers' minds and find some small detail that inverts their reading of their situations. These superb stories demonstrate how unexpected events and situations bring to the fore aspects of their characters that the characters had hitherto been unaware. 
>> Read Thomas's review of Schweblin's Fever Dream

The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories edited by Jhumpa Lahiri       $55
An excellent, wide and thoughtful selection, beautifully presented. More than half the stories appear here in English for the first time. 
Extinction by Thomas Bernhard      $23
In the first of the two relentless paragraphs that comprise this wonderfully claustrophobic novel, the narrator, Murau, has received a telegram informing him that his parents and brother have been killed in a car accident. He addresses a rant to his absent student Gambetti, full of vitriol against his family and their home Wolfsegg. In the second part, Murau has returned to Wolfsegg for the funeral and the picture we have built is undermined in every way, eventually showing us the extent to which Murau's hatred springs from his family's complicity with the Nazis, some of whom found refuge there after the war (sorry: spoiler). This novel, Bernhard's last, is the only one in which the narrator can move, at the end, towards some sort of resolution for his predicament. 
>> Read Thomas's review.  

Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis         $37
17-year-old Luisa leaves Mexico City in the 1980s and runs away to the seaside town of Zipolite ('The Beach of the Dead') with Tomas, a young man she hardly knows (and doesn't want to). The two soon lose interest in each other, and Luisa wanders the beach, observing the various groups and becoming increasingly separated from what she had thought of as herself. 
"A mesmerising, revelatory novel, smart and funny and laced with a strangeness that is never facile but serves as a profound and poetic tool for navigating our shared world. Chloe Aridjis is one of the most brilliant novelists working in English today." - Garth Greenwell

Kitch: A fictional biography of a calypso icon by Anthony Joseph      $34

Combining factual biography with the imaginative structure of the novel, Anthony Joseph gets to the heart of the man behind the music and the myth, to present a holistic portrait of the calypso icon Lord Kitchener. Born into colonial Trinidad in 1922 as Aldwyn Roberts, 'Kitch' emerged in the 1950s, at the forefront of multicultural Britain, acting as an intermediary between the growing Caribbean community, the islands they had left behind, and the often hostile conditions of life in post-war Britain. Short-listed for the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells       $35
The effects of climate change are only beginning to be felt. Soon they will be impossible to ignore, and they will change the way we do everything. Why have we done next to nothing to avoid this? 
>>"Inaction will turn the Earth into a hell." (Radio NZ interview)

The Tempest by Steve Sem-Sandberg        $33
Andreas Lehman returns to the island off the coast of Norway on which he grew up, and starts to unravel the secrets of his past. What was the island's owner's connection with the Nazis via the wartime Quisling government? What horrendous experiments were made upon the island's inhabitants? Well and tightly written, disconcerting and complex. 
>> Hear Stella's review on Radio NZ
Godsend by John Wray       $33
What happens when a young American woman disguises herself as a man and goes to Pakistan to join the Taliban? A novel exploring issues of gender, faith and politics. Subtle and empathetic. 
Living Among the Northland Maori: Diary of Father Antoine Garin, 1844-1846 translated and edited by Peter Tremewan and Giselle Larcombe     $90
French Marist priest Father Antoine Garin was sent to run the remote Mangakahia mission station on the banks of the Wairoa River. His diary records his experiences from 1844 to 1846 as he got to know the Maori in the region. It provides accounts of contemporary events, as Garin came dangerously close to the action of the Northern War, and wrote of such prominent figures as Hone Heke and Kawiti as they opposed the new colonial authorities. Above all, the diary is an intimate record of life in a Maori community. Garin moved to Nelson in 1850 and died here 40 years later. Nelson's Garin College is named after him. 
The Gendered Brain: The new neuroscience that shatters the myth of the female brain by Gina Rippon        $38
Scientific information about brain plasticity shows that there is no such thing as a 'male' or 'female' brain other than what society makes them to be - there are only brains. We need to move beyond our binary thinking to fully understand the wondrous organ in our craniums. 

Unspeakable: The things we cannot say by Harriet Shawcross        $45
As a teenager, Harriet Shawcross stopped speaking for almost a year, retreating into herself and communicating only when absolutely necessary. As an adult, she became fascinated by the limits of language and in Unspeakable she asks what makes us silent. From the inexpressible trauma of trench warfare and the aftermath of natural disaster to the taboo of coming out, Shawcross explores how and why words fail us. 

The Missing Ingredient: The curious role of time in food and flavour by Jenny Linford     $30
Written through a series of encounters with ingredients, producers, cooks, shopkeepers and chefs, exploring everything from the brief period in which sugar caramelises, the days required in the crucial process of fermentation in so many foods we love, to the months of slow ripening and close attention that make a great cheddar, or the years needed for certain wines to reach their peak, Jenny Linford shows how, time and again, time itself is the invisible ingredient.
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken        $37
From the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the beginning of the twentieth century - nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin and fifteen pounds of gold on her person - Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. An epic family saga set against the backdrop of twentieth century America from one of America's sharpest pens. 
Maoism: A global history by Julia Lovell      $40
Mao's ideas became a driver for political change throughout the world and their continued influence today is often underappreciated. 

The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa         $38
Two women on a journey travel to the land of their fathers and mothers. They had no idea, when they arrived in Morocco, that their usual freedoms as young European women would not be available. So, when the spry Saleh presents himself as their guide and saviour, they embrace his offer. He extracts them from a tight space, only to lead them inexorably into an even tighter one: and from this far darker space there is no exit. Their tale of confinement and escape is as old as the landscapes and cultures so vividly depicted in this story of where Europe and Africa come closest to meeting, even if they never quite touch.
The Four Horsemen by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel C. Dennett and Sam Harris        $27
A record of the seminal discussion that launched 'new atheism' as a cultural phenomenon. 
Scarfie Flats of Dunedin by Sarah Gallagher and Ian Chapman     $50
A fascinating and thoroughly documented historical survey of the named student flats and the equally shambolic student culture that festered in them. 
>>Springing from the ongoing Flat Names Project.
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