Tuesday 30 April 2019

We are delighted to announce the 2019 VOLUME MAPUA LITERARY FESTIVAL, a boutique literary festival featuring some of New Zealand’s most interesting writers will be held in Mapua on the weekend of 20-22 September. You will hear from authors whose books you have enjoyed and discover authors whose books you will go on to enjoy. The intimate scale of the festival will enable you to meet and talk with authors and other literary enthusiasts. Writers attending the festival this year will include LLOYD JONES, who was short-listed for the 2007 Booker Prize for Mister Pip, and whose novel The Cage is a finalist for the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize in the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book AwardsASHLEIGH YOUNG, whose essay collection Can You Tolerate This?won the prestigious 2017 Windham–Campbell Prize, will be appearing, along with CARL SHUKER, whose new novel, A Mistake, explores the impact of a medical misadventure on the life of a Wellington surgeon. Novelist and essayist PAULA MORRIS will return from her stint as the Katherine Mansfield fellow in Menton in time to attend the festival, andANNETTE LEES will speak about her book Swim, which records her year of daily wild swimming as well as being a history of New Zealand outdoor swimming. Renowned poet and art writer GREGORY O'BRIEN will be attending, along with poet JENNY BORNHOLDT, and THOMASIN SLEIGH will speak about her novel Women in the Field, One and Two, which looks at the Modernist moment in the establishment of the New Zealand National Art Gallery from a feminist perspective. LYNN JENNER will discuss the relationship between words and land, and EIRLYS HUNTER, whose adventure novel The Mapmaker’s Race has delighted many children, will hold a session, as well as participating in one of the community events organised around the festival by the Mapua Community Library. A 'literary' quiz evening will be held as a fundraiser for the library. The programme will be released in June. Save the Date: 20-22 September 2019.

Saturday 27 April 2019

BOOKS @ VOLUME #125  (27.4.19)

This week's newsletter.

Spring by Ali Smith is our Book of the Week this week at VOLUME. What unites Katherine Mansfield, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Rilke, Beethoven, Brexit, the present, the past, the north, the south, the east, the west, a man mourning lost times, a woman trapped in modern times? With an eye to the migrancy of story over time, Ali Smith tells the impossible tale of an impossible time: now. 
>> Read Stella's review
>> "We must look to ourselves for hope.
>> "Luminous and generous." - Guardian
>> "This young generation is showing us that we need to change and we can change.
>> How should authors approach the task of writing a novel today? 
>>On newness and the novel.
>>The book is also available as a lovely hardback.
>> Read Stella's reviews of the other books in the quartet published so far: Autumn and Winter
>> The covers feature paintings by David Hockney: 'Early November Tunnel', 'Winter Tunnel' and 'Late Spring Tunnel'.
>>Hockney at work on the series
>> Hockney's 'Four Seasons' video installation
>> Other books by Ali Smith.
>>'Once upon a life'.
>> The art of fiction
>>How much does Ali Smith speculate about the meeting of Rainer Maria Rilke and Katherine Mansfield in the Hôtel Château Bellevue in Sierre in 1921?
>>'Half an Apple.'


Spring by Ali Smith  {Reviewed by STELLA}
Beginning with a tirade of exclamatory statements, Spring opens with a hammering of words that are explosive and nonsensical, but, unfortunately, messages that have made sense to many and have swayed ordinary people into populist and damaging thinking - exclamations that play on fear, isolation and frustration. The third in Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, Spring brings us the promise of something even better than Autumn and Winter. At the end of Winter, I wondered where Ali Smith would take this quartet, and Spring does not disappoint. In each volume of the quartet, the protagonist is seeking something within themselves, as well as from their contemporary landscape of Brexit, while also drawing on their own and the collective history. In Spring, a man stands on the train platform of a remote Scottish town. Richard Lease, a film director, is mourning the death of his close friend and collaborator, scriptwriter Paddy Heal. Standing on the edge of the platform waiting for the train, he unravels his life and relationship with Paddy, their work and her humanity. The last project, which hadn't progressed beyond concept but now has a new (and in Richard’s eyes, an unworthy) scriptwriter, is a fictional account of the meeting of Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke at a hotel in France where Mansfield was convalescing. As Richard turns the earth of his past looking for solace and has on-going internal conversations with his ‘imaginary daughter’, we are shunted into the immediate reality of DCO (Detention Centre Officer) Brittany Hall, employed by private company SA4A. Brittany, a young woman trapped in the bureaucracy and brutality of the system, is difficult to empathise with. Educated but poor, she needs a job like anyone else and has been subsumed by the culture that permeates the refugee centre, one where fellow humans are seen as numbers and problems. Walking into this centre comes a school girl, a girl with a mythological story and seemingly mystical powers. How does she get through the layers of security to the office of the manager of this centre? Brittany’s introduction to the power of this unusual child is an announcement that the toilets have been cleaned - at a school girl's demand - in the centre to the disbelief of the workers and the refugees alike. Brittany is thrown into this girl's world in an unexpected, way with startling consequences. Ali Smith’s brilliance is even more evident here than in the two previous seasonal novels, Autumn and Winter. How she pulls together these strands - a film-maker who has given up, a security officer brutalised by a system, a child determined to make a difference, and several other intriguing strands, is a demanding feat in itself, but the other layers - references to Mansfield and Rilke, the impact of writers and artists to champion change and new thinking through their work, the politics of borders and fascism, nods to other literary scripts (Shakespeare, Keats, Dickens), and an accompanying artist (Hockney’s works decorate the covers of these books, and each book hooks into an artist of related period - in Spring this is Tacita Dean) - make this brilliant writing, with a highly intelligent analysis of contemporary Britain, and a book (a quartet) that demands your attention. Ferocious and tender.  

One-Way Street by Walter Benjamin   {Reviewed by THOMAS}What form would literature take if it was the expression of the organising principles of an urban street rather than those of literary tradition? Between 1923 and 1926, Walter Benjamin wrote a series of unconventional prose pieces in which “script - after having found, in the book, a refuge in which it can lead an autonomous existence - is pitilessly dragged out into the street by advertisement and subjected to the brutal heteronomies of economic chaos.” On the street, text, long used to being organised on the horizontal plane in a book, is hoisted upon the vertical plane, and, having been long used to a temporal arrangement like sediment, layer upon layer, page upon page, text is spread upon a single plane, requiring movement from instance to instance, walking or, ultimately, scrolling across a single temporal surface, a surface whose elements are contiguous or continuous or referential by leaps, footnotes perhaps to a text that does not exist, rather than a structure in three dimensions. Even though Benjamin did not live to see a scroll bar or a touch screen or a hyperlink he was acutely aware of the changes in the relationship between persons and texts that would arrive at these developments.“Without exception the great writers perform their combinations in a world that comes after them,” he wrote, not ostensibly of himself. As we move through a text, through time, along such one-way streets, our attention is drawn away from the horizontal, from the dirt (the dirt made by ourselves and others), away from where we stand and walk, and towards the vertical, the plane of desire, of advertising, towards the front (in all the meanings of that word), towards what is not yet. It is not for nothing that our eyes are near the top of our bodies and directed towards the front, and naturally see where we wish to be more easily than where we are (which would require us to bend our bodies forwards and undo our structural evolution). In the one-way street of urban text delineated by Benjamin, all detail has an equivalence of value, “all things, by an irreversible process of mingling and contamination, are losing their intrinsic character, while ambiguity displaces authenticity.” The elitism of ‘the artwork’ is supplanted by the vigour of ‘the document’: “Artworks are remote from each other in the perfection [but] all documents communicate through their subject matter. In the artwork, subject matter is ballast jettisoned by contemplation [but] the more one loses oneself in a document, the denser the subject matter grows. In the artwork, the formal law is central [but] forms are merely dispersed in documents.” What sort of document is Benjamin’s street? It is a place where detail overwhelms form, a place where the totality is subdued by the fragment, where the walker is drawn to detritus over the crafted, to the fumbled over the competent, to the ephemeral over the permanent. The street is the locus of the personalisation and privatisation of experience, its particularisation no longer communal or mediated by tradition but haphazard, aspirational, transitory, improvised. Each moment is a montage. Writing is assembled from the fragments of other writing. Residue finds new value, the stain records meaning, detritus becomes text. In the one-way street, particularities are grouped by type and by association, not by hierarchy or by value. The here and now of the street is filled with referents to other times and other places. The overlooked, the mislaid, the abandoned object is a point of access to overlooked or mislaid or abandoned mental material, often distant in both time and space, memories or dreams. Objects are hyperlinked to memories but are also representatives of the force that drives those experiences into the past, towards forgetting. But the street is the interface of detritus and commerce. Money, too, enables contact with objects and mediates their meaning. New objects promise the opportunity of connection but also, through multiplication, abrade the particularity of that connection. Benjamin’s sixty short texts are playful or mock-playful, ambivalent or mock-ambivalent, tentative or mock-tentative, analytic or mock-analytic, each springing from a sign or poster or inscription in the street, skidding or mock-skidding through the associations, mock-associations, responses and mock-responses they provoke, eschewing the false progress of narrative and other such novelistic artificialities, compiling a sort of archive of ways of reading a street as text (and of writing text as a street), a text describing the person who walks there. 


Friday 26 April 2019

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli        $37
A family from New York take a road trip into the parts of the US that used to be Mexico as a convoy of children approach the dangerous US border from the Mexican side, and an inhumane reception.
"Beautiful, pleasurable, engrossing, beguiling, brilliantly intricate and constantly surprising." - James Wood, New Yorker
"A mould-breaking new classic. The novel truly becomes novel again in Luiselli's hands - electric, elastic, alluring, new." - New York Times
"Valeria Luiselli offers a searing indictment of America's border policy in this roving and rather beautiful form-busting novel. Among the tale's many ruminative ideas about absences, vanished histories and bearing witness, it offers a powerful meditation on how best to tell a story when the subject of it is missing." - Daily Mail
"A novelist of a rare vitality." - Ali Smith
>> Writing as a vehicle for political rage
The Meaning of Trees: The history and use of New Zealand's native plants by Robert Vennell         $55
A well-illustrated survey of native flora and its significance in culture, history, medicine, craft and cuisine. 
Hotel Tito by Ivana Bodrožić      $30
When the Croatian War of Independence breaks out in her hometown of Vukovar in the summer of 1991 the narrator of The Hotel Tito is nine years old, nestled within the embrace of family with her father, her mother, and older brother. She is sent to a seaside vacation to be far from the hostilities. Meanwhile, her father has disappeared while fighting with the Croatian forces. By the time she returns at summer’s end everything has changed. Against the backdrop of genocide (the Vukovar hospital massacre) and the devastation of middle class society within the Yugoslav Federation, our young narrator, now with her mother and brother refugees among a sea of refugees, spends the next six years experiencing her own self-discovery and transformation amid unfamiliar surroundings as a displaced person. As she grows from a nine-year old into a sparkling and wonderfully complicated fifteen-year-old, it is as a stranger in her own land.
>>Read an extract.
>>Another extract
The Train Was On Time by Heinrich Böll      $26
First published in 1949, Böll's novel centres on the story of a German soldier, Andreas, taking a train from Paris (France) to Przemyśl (Poland). The story focuses on the experience of German soldiers during the Second World War on the Eastern Front where fighting was particularly vicious and unforgiving.
Darwin: An exceptional voyage by Fabien Grolleau and Jérémie Royer         $35
An exceptionally good graphic novel account of the voyage of the Beagle. From the creators of the equally wonderful Audubon: On the wings of the world
Genesis: The deep origins of societies by Edward O. Wilson          $48
The only way for us to fully understand human behaviour, Wilson argues, is to study the evolutionary histories of nonhuman species. Of these, he demonstrates that at least seventeen - from the African naked mole rat and the sponge-dwelling shrimp to one of the oldest species on earth, the termite - have been found to have advanced societies based on altruism, cooperation and the division of labour. These rare eusocial species form the prehistory to our human social patterns, even, according to Wilson, suggesting the possible biological benefits of homosexuality and elderly grandmothers.
Nits! by Stephanie Blake       $19
Simon is in love with Lou. He doesn't care that she has nits - or does he?

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo          $23
A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother's religion and her own relationship to the world.
"Poignant and real, beautiful and intense." - Kirkus
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor          $35
"The shape-shifting protagonist of this magic-realist novel, twenty-two-year-old Paul Polydoris, belongs to 'all the genders', able to change his body at will. Exploring the malleability of gender and desire, and paying homage to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, the book follows Paul—sometimes Polly—as s/he searches for love and the 'uncontaminated truest' self. The quest leads through New York City at the height of the AIDS crisis, Iowa City’s queer punk scene, off-season Provincetown, a womyn’s festival in Michigan, and, finally, San Francisco. Lawlor successfully mixes pop culture, gender theory, and smut, but the great achievement here is that Paul is no mere symbol but a vibrantly yearning being, 'like everybody else, only more so'." - The New Yorker
Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black by Marcus Sedgwick, Julian Sedgwick and Alexis Deacon            $30
A wonderful combination of prose, verse and illustration, telling the story of two brothers in conflict in London during World War 2. 

Tallest Tower, Smallest Star by Kate Baker      $33
Some things are very big, others very small. All are interesting.
Gravity's Pull ('Life on Earth' #2) by Marinaomi        $19
Claudia Jones was missing for months - possibly abducted, possibly by aliens. When she returns to Blithedale High School, questions still surround her disappearance, and her presence has a strange effect on the students around her. Follows Losing the Girl 
Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The search for what lies beyond the quantum by Lee Smolin           $38
While quantum mechanics is currently our best theory of nature at an atomic scale, it has many puzzling qualities - qualities that appear to preclude realism and therefore give an incomplete description of nature. Smolin is convinced that there must be a realist atomic theory that avoids these problems. 
Bazaar: Vibrant vegetarian recipes by Sabrina Ghayour          $45
Delicious Middle-Eastern food from the author of Persiana and Feasts
A World to Win: The life and works of Karl Marx by Sven-Eric Liedman     $33
Building on the work of previous biographers, Liedman creates a definitive portrait of Marx and the depth of his contribution to the way the world understands itself. He shines a light on Marx’s influences, explains his political and intellectual interventions, and builds on the legacy of his thought. Liedman shows how Marx’s Capital illuminates the essential logic of a system that drives dizzying wealth, grinding poverty, and awesome technological innovation to this day. Now in paperback. 
Everything In Its Place: First loves and last tales by Oliver Sacks     $40
Essays covering everything from his passion for ferns, swimming, and horsetails, to his final case histories exploring schizophrenia, dementia, and Alzheimer's. 

The Long '68: Radical protest and its enemies by Richard Vinen     $28
1968 saw an extraordinary range of protests across much of the western world. Some of these were genuinely revolutionary - around ten million French workers went on strike and the whole state teetered on the brink of collapse. Others were more easily contained, but had profound longer-term implications: terrorist groups, feminist collectives, gay rights activists.
>>Come and choose something from our ever-changing Read & Resist display
The Knife's Edge: The heart and mind of a cardiac surgeon by Stephen Westaby           $35
"Although Professor Stephen Westaby was born with the necessary coordination and manual dexterity, it was a head trauma sustained during university that gifted him the qualities of an exceptional heart surgeon: qualities that are frequently associated with psychopathy." 

Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka        $18
How do various animals jump? How do you jump?

Saturday 20 April 2019

BOOKS @ VOLUME #124 (20.4.19)

Read our latest NEWSLETTER. 

This week's Book of the Week is Lonely Asian Woman by Sharon Lam (published by Lawrence & Gibson). 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. Lonely Asian Woman, the debut novel of Sharon Lam, 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.
>>Lonely Asian woman seeks lonely Asian women
>> Exploding stereotypes
>>In conversation with Pip Adam
>> Publisher interviews writer
>>The thing about hobbies


Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina    {Reviewed by STELLA} 
Seen the documentarybeen to the performance - now read the book. Maria (Masha) Alyokhina’s Riot Days is a moving and searingly honest account of imprisonment in modern-day Russia. Pussy Riot started as an activist movement, one that was reasonably naive and chaotic: a group of young performers determined to make a difference, to call out corruption, political cronyism and draw attention to the structures of power that oppress the young and disadvantaged in this wealthy and powerful nation. In Russia the state, the church and the security forces are entrenched alongside wealthy oligarchs to decide the course of justice and ensure that all mechanisms of the state serve the interests of an elite group. In the opening lines of Riot Days, Alyokhina talks about the revolution - not the 1917 revolution, but the one that was happening right then (in 2011) - theSnow Revolution: “What will they write about it in history books? Will they mention it at all?....We were led by a belief in the possibility for change - a naive and childish hope that can awaken suddenly in adults. ... We went out into the streets. We wrote and, letter by letter, we became a revolutionary statement.” What started as a simple campaign to draw attention to the plight of Russians in Moscow, to draw attention to the Putin regime, its corruption and political machinations, through song and performance, soon became a name on everyone’s lips. Pussy Riot. A group of young women in balaclavas. Their initial actions were seen as a bit of silliness by the authorities and they were able in most cases to slip through the fingers of the authorities with a slap on the wrist, some false names and an indulgent sigh from the police. Yet their performance in a churchon the 21st February 2012, criticising the link and collusion between Putin, former KGB agent ‘Mikhalych’, and the head of the church, Patriarch of All Russia, former KGB agent ‘Mikhailov’, took the world by storm and embarrassed the church and the state. In the eyes of many, the Church’s approval of Putin was tantamount to giving him god-like status. Suddenly these young women, performing a-less-than-2-minute performance on the altar, were public enemy no.1. In Riot Days, Alyokhina tells her story of being part of this protest movement, the importance of the right to protest, her involvement in the now world-famous action, and the subsequent days on the run hiding in cafes, safe houses, abandoned warehouses, etc, avoiding their homes and watching the feet of those walking by (pointy shoes a clear warning signal of secret police). The film clip went viral and Pussy Riot was in demand by the international media. Hiding out in public toilets (while staff flicked lights off and yelled at them to leave), they communicated to the outside world via Skype and a crappy laptop, always on the move. As we know, Masha was arrested and judged to be guilty and sent to prison for two years. In prison, she was subjected to humiliation, torment from fellow prisoners (who saw ‘politics’ as troublesome), and to extra surveillance by guards and the authorities. Despite this, Masha didn’t waste her time in prison, and constantly fought for prisoners’ legal rights - having a lawyer helped (many of the prisoners didn’t have access to this luxury). Learning as much as she could about legal rights, she was able, through grit and determination (and several hunger strikes that became problematic for the penal colonies where she was sent), to make small changes that were significant ‘wins’ for the inmates. After a year of being in prison, she won her first case against the guards - no easy feat - and when she could have stopped, she carried on. Maria Alyokhina is plucky and stubborn, and if you had a chance to see her performance in Nelson recently you will know that the fight, alongside her colleagues, continues. Alyokhina’s writing style makes the book riveting and you are constantly aware of the cold, the humiliation and the miserable lives that women in Russia’s prisons endure. It’s also packed with great descriptions of prisoners and guards, and the humanity that both are capable of, as well as the fear and greed that drive others. 



Extinction by Thomas Bernhard    {Reviewed by THOMAS}

“When I take Wolfsegg and my family apart, when I dissect, annihilate and extinguish them, I am actually taking myself apart, dissecting, annihilating and extinguishing myself. I have to admit that this idea of self-dissection and self-annihilation appeals to me, I told Gambetti. I’ll spend my life dissecting and extinguishing myself, Gambetti, and if I’m not mistaken I’ll succeed in this self-dissection and self-extinction. I actually do nothing but dissect and extinguish myself.” 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. While looking at some photographs of them at his desk in Rome, he unleashes a 150-page stream of invective directed personally at the members of his family, both dead and living. Murau is alone, but he addresses his rant to his student Gambetti in Gambetti’s absence or recounts, however accurately or inaccurately, addressing Gambetti in person at some earlier time. Gambetti, in either case, is completely passive and non-contributive, and this passivity and non-contribution acts - along with Murau’s over-identification with his ‘black sheep’ Uncle Georg, an over-identification that sometimes confuses their identities - as a catalyst for Murau’s invective, as an anchor for the over-inflation of Murau’s hatred for, and difference from, his family. Without external contributions that might mitigate Murau’s opinions, his family appear as horrendous grotesques, exaggerations that here cannot be contradicted due to absence or death. Being dead puts an end to your contributions to the ideas people have of you: stories concerning you are henceforth the domain entirely of others and soon become largely expressions of their failings, impulses and inclinations.We can have no definite idea of ourselves, though: we exist only to others, unavoidably as misrepresentations, as caricatures. Murau states that he intends to write a book, to be titled Extinction: “The sole purpose of my account will be to extinguish what it describes, to extinguish anything that Wolfsegg means to me, everything that Wolfsegg is, everything. My work will be nothing other than an act of extinction.” Murau has not been able to even begin to write this account because his hatred gets in the way of beginning, or, rather, what we soon suspect to be the inauthenticity of his hatred gets in the way of beginning. There is no loathing without self-loathing. As Murau’s invective demonstrates, there can be no statement that is not an overstatement: every statement tends towards exaggeration as soon as it is expressed or thought. By exaggeration a statement exhausts its veracity and immediately begins to incline towards its opposite, just as every impulse, as soon as it is expressed, inclines towards its opposite. Only a passive witness, a witness who does not contradict but, by witnessing, in effect affirms, Gambetti in Murau’s case, allows an otherwise unsustainable idea to be sustained. In the second half of the book, Murau returns to Wolfsegg in Austria for the funeral of his parents and brother. Until this point, Murau’s ‘character’ has been defined entirely by his exaggerated opposition to, or identification with, his ideas of others, but when he is brought into situations in which others have a contributing role, Murau’s portrayal of others and of himself in the first section is undermined at every turn. Without the ‘Gambetti’ prop, he is responded to, and, in response to these responses, he overturns many of his opinions - about his parents, his brothers, his sisters, his mother’s lover, the nauseatingly perfectly false Spadolini that Murau had hitherto admired, and about himself - and reveals his fundamental ambivalence, an ambivalence that is fundamental to all existence but which is usually, for most of us, almost entirely suppressed by praxis, by the passive anchors, the Gambettis to which we affix our desperate attempts at character. We resist - through exaggeration - indifference and self-nullification. “We’re often led to exaggerate, I said later, to such an extent that we take our exaggeration to be the only logical fact, with the result that we don’t perceive the real facts at all, only the monstrous exaggeration. I’ve always found gratification in my fanatical faith in exaggeration, I told Gambetti. On occasion I transform this fanatical faith in exaggeration into an art, when it offers the only way out of my mental misery, my spiritual malaise. Exaggeration is the secret of great art, I said, and of great philosophy. The art of exaggeration is in fact the secret of all mental endeavour.” In this second part, Murau reveals his connection with Wolfsegg and his suppressed feelings of culpability in what it represents. “I had not in fact freed myself from Wolfsegg and made myself independent but maimed myself quite alarmingly.” Separation, or, rather, the illusion of separation, is only achieved by ‘art’, that is to say, by exaggeration, by the denial of ambivalence, by the denial of complicity, by suppression: a desperate negative act of self-invention. Once his hatred of his sisters, and of his parents and brothers, has been undermined by his presence and contact with others at Wolfsegg, and without a Gambetti or Georg in his mind to sustain this hatred, the underlying reason for his hatred, a fact that he has suppressed since his childhood as too uncomfortable, the fact that has made “a gaping void” of his childhood, of his whole past, the fact to which he was a passive witness, a complicit witness, namely that Wolfsegg hid and sheltered Nazi war criminals after the war (Gauleiters and members of the Blood Order, who now attend the funeral of Murau’s father) in the so-called ‘Children’s Villa’ (which “affords the most brutal evidence that childhood is no longer possible. All you see when you look back is this gaping void. You actually believed that your childhood could be repainted and redecorated, as it were, that it could be refurbished and reroofed like the Children’s Villa, and this in spite of hundreds of failed attempts at restoring your childhood.”), can now be faced, and, on the final page of the book, at last in some way addressed. Murau also attains the necessary degree of remove to write Extinction before his own death, either from illness or, more likely, suicide. This, his last, is the only Bernhard novel I can think of in which the protagonist makes anything that resembles an effective resolution.

Thursday 18 April 2019

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan           $37
Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In this alternative 1980s London, Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. What happens when a love triangle develops between these three? 
"Intelligent mischief." - Guardian 
>> There's an algorithm for it
The Governesses by Anne Serre          $30
In a large country house, shut off from the world within a gated garden, three young women responsible for the education of a group of little boys are hanging paper lanterns for a party. Their desires, however, lie elsewhere.
"Every so often a different creature darts into view: a novel that is genuinely original - and, often, very quietly so. Call it the anglerfish of literature, after those solitary, crazy-looking lurkers in the sea's deepest trenches. The strangeness of such stories isn't just at the level of construction; it emerges from the writer's very perception of the world and seeps into the syntax. Prim and racy, seriously weird and seriously excellent, The Governesses is not a treatise but an aria, and one delivered with perfect pitch." - The New York Times
The New Me by Halle Butler         $25
30-year-old Millie is overwhelmed by her unexpressed feelings of rancour - to the extent that she cannot express or achieve anything.  "A skewering of the 21st-century American dream of self-betterment. Butler has already proven herself a master of writing about work and its discontents, the absurdity of cubicle life and office work in all of its dead ends. The New Me takes it to a new level." -The Millions
"A definitive work of millennial literature." - The New Yorker
“A dark comedy of female rage. Halle Butler is a first-rate satirist of the horror show being sold to us as Modern Femininity. She is Thomas Bernhard in a bad mood, showing us the futility of betterment in an increasingly paranoid era of self-improvement. Hilarious.” - Catherine Lacey
"Masterfully cringe-inducing. Makes the reader squirm and laugh out loud simultaneously.” —Chicago Tribune
>>Meet Halle Butler.
The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg       $35
In April 1988, Valerie Solanas - the writer, radical feminist and would-be assassin of Andy Warhol - was discovered dead in her hotel room, in a grimy corner of San Francisco. She was 52, alone, penniless and surrounded by the typed pages of her last writings. Through imagined conversations and monologues, reminiscences and rantings, Stridsberg reconstructs this most intriguing and enigmatic of women, articulating the thoughts and fears that she struggled to express in life and giving a voice to the writer of the SCUM Manifesto.
>>Meet Valerie Solanas

What Not by Rose Macaulay           $38
A speculative novel of post-First World War eugenics and newspaper manipulation that anticipated Aldous Huxley's Brave New World by 14 years. Published in 1918, it was hastily withdrawn due to a number of potentially libellous pages, and, when re-issued, it was overshadowed by Macaulay's next two novels and never gained the attention it deserved. What Not is a lost classic of feminist wit and protest at social engineering, now republished with the suppressed pages reinstated.
"Stirring, funny, uniquely imaginative." - Guardian
>>Find out more. 
The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers      $22
From his remote moorland home, David Hartley assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers to embark upon a criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history. They are the Cragg Vale Coiners and their business is 'clipping' - the forging of coins, a treasonous offence punishable by death. When an excise officer vows to bring them down and with the industrial age set to change the face of England forever, Hartley's empire begins to crumble. Forensically assembled, The Gallows Pole is a true story of resistance and a rarely told alternative history of the North of England.
The Heavens by Sandra Newman            $33
Kate meets Ben at a party in the year 2000. As she falls asleep she feels that her world is perfect. When she wakes up the next morning as Emilia in 1593, every decision she makes will affect the chances of realising that future with Ben. 
"I can't remember when I last read something so original or sophisticated or emotionally engaging or so breathtakingly ambitious." - Kate Atkinson
Pill by Robert Bennett         $22
Pill traces the uncanny presence of psychiatric pills through science, medicine, autobiography, television, cinema, literature, and popular music. Bennett reveals modern psychopharmacology to be a brave new world in which human identities - thoughts, emotions, personalities, and selves themselves - are increasingly determined by the extraordinary powers of seemingly ordinary pills.
It's Not About the Burqa: Muslim women on faith, feminism, sexuality and race edited by Miriam Khan       $25
Article 353 by Tanguy Viel        $30
Two men go out to sea in a boat to fish for lobster and crab. When they are five miles from shore, Martial Kermeur catches his companion off guard and throws him overboard. He then calmly takes the wheel and heads back to the harbor, the noisy wake behind him blotting out the drowning man’s screams. The account of the proceedings of the trial gives us access to the back story. Where does guilt lie? Can a punishment 'fit' a crime? Is there a difference between justice and the law? 
"Sharp and memorable." - Star Tribune
Woman of the Ashes by Mia Couto         $33
A novel set during the territorial power struggles of 1890s Mozambique, alternating between the voices of Imani, a 15-year-old living in the village of Nkokolani, and Portuguese sergeant Germano de Melo, who is sent to the village to protect Portugal’s conquest. Unfamiliar with his surroundings and the local language, de Melo hires Imani and her brother, Mwanatu, to work as his translator and guard. 
"With riveting prose and thorough research, Couto paints the village as a doomed magical space where blind people can see and sighted people are blind, where dreams about the dead guide the living, where fish fall from the sky and the earth spits up weapons. There is not one dull moment." - Guardian
Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen by Mary Norris         $35
Language! Love! The wine-dark sea! Norris travels to Greece and and into the English language in search of its Greek influences. 
19th-Century Fashion in Detail by Lucy Johnston      $65
A wonderful photographic archive of period details. See also 20th-Century Fashion in Detail
My Brother's Name is Jessica by John Boyne        $21
How does Sam's life change when his older brother changes gender?

A Reader on Reading by Alberto Manguel         $38
Reading is the faculty that defines our species, not just the reading of texts but our instinct to find narrative in everything. 
Virusphere by Frank Ryan           $37
From the Common Cold to Ebola - why we need viruses. 

Hark by Sam Lipsyte        $33
A standup comic turns monosyllabic messiah peddling spiritualism to tech bros. What begins as a joke becomes a new faith known as Harkism.
"A hilarious lament for our times." - Guardian
The Waning Age by S.E. Grove         $23
The world is filled with adults devoid of emotion and children on the cusp of losing their feelings - of "waning" - when they reach their teens. Natalia Pena has already waned. So why does she love her little brother with such ferocity that, when he's kidnapped by a Big Brother-esque corporation, she'll do anything to get him back?
Letters to the Lady Upstairs by Marcel Proust, translated by Lydia Davis       $23
Letters written between 1909 and 1919 to Madame Marie Williams, the upstairs neighbour to his elegant apartment at 102 Boulevard Haussmann, revealing his concerns with his health and with noise (that harp!), in a mix of elegance and haste, refinement and convolution, gravity and self-mockery. Now in paperback.
>> Lydia Davis on translating Proust's letters

Lot by Bryan Washington         $33
“Washington’s subtle, dynamic and flexible stories play out across Houston’s sprawling and multiethnic neighborhoods. An alert and often comic observer of the world, Washington cracks open a vibrant, polyglot side of Houston about which few outsiders are aware. An underthrob of emotion beats inside Washington's stories. He’s confident enough not to force the action. The stories feel loose, their cellular juices free to flow.” —New York Times
Rip It Up and Start Again: Post punk, 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds        $19
"A fantastic tribute to an amazingly creative musical period . . . An instant pop classic, worthy of a place on your shelves beside the handful of music books that really matter." - Scotland on Sunday

Going to Town: A love letter to New York by Roz Chast        $25
Who better than Roz Chast to provide a graphic novel portrait of what it is like to live in New York. 
>>Chast talks about the book and about New York