Saturday 27 July 2019

BOOKS @ VOLUME #137 (27.7.19)

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Find out what we've been reading and find out what you'll be reading next. 

Dig by A.S. King and Wilder Girls by Rory Power    {Reviewed by STELLA}
Some things grow down and other out and up. In Dig, the potato tuber takes centre stage while in Wilder Girls a plant-like toxin is trying to take everything over, including the inhabitants of an island. These two teen novels are both excellent. Dig by A.S. King deals with some big issues in the world of a group of teens in a Southern town in America while Wilder Girls by Rory Power lands us in Raxter, a girls' boarding school on an island. Each explores the ferocity and grit of teens to overcome challenging situations. Wilder Girls has been described as The Power meets Lord of the Flies. Hetty, Reese and Byatt are firm friends and become even more dependent on each other as the situation on Raxter escalates. And what a situation it is! The Tox, a robust and vigorous plant-form is suffocating and mutating the environment, as well as the children and teachers that live on the island. Some merely succumb to the plague and die, while others are damaged or find themselves with a variety of growths — extra spinal structures, silvered arms. The island is in quarantine awaiting, the girls think, rescue. Each girl has her role to play, and when Hetty is chosen to be one of a small team to go to the jetty to collect food and other supplies, she realises that the teachers (who are still alive — just two of them) are not being up-front about the school’s predicament. It’s dangerous outside the gates of the school, and at night the mutated forest creatures are hungry beasts who need to be warded off from entering the school grounds. With this mix of illness and fear, the girls, while living chaotically and dividing themselves off into groups pitted against each other, are kept at arm's length from the truth. No one is coming to rescue them. When Byatt has a relapse and disappears from the school infirmary, Hetty and Reese go in search of her, in search of the cause of the Tox and a way off the island. This gripping, imaginative tale where many can not be trusted, where a fierce friendship will help overcome devastation, where you will keep reading despite a sense of unease (it’s a little creepy — the intruding vines and branches) and you will hold your breath until the surprising end.
Dig is quieter in its telling but no less powerful. Bringing together of the lives a group of teens whose stories ultimately will intertwine, A.S. King’s young adult's novel is a brilliant piece of work. Set in the South, we are introduced to the characters through their eccentricities: The Freak — a girl who is off the rails and bullied, The Shoveler — a boy who has arrived in a new town (for the umpteenth time) always the outsider, CanIHelpYou? —  a girl who works in a drive-thru handing out junk food and hustling hash on the side, Loretta and her flea circus who live in a trailer home with an abusive father and down-trodden mother, and Malcolm — who doesn’t eat lamb. The teens live normal lives, go to school, make some pocket money, regret or despise their parents, try to make their own decisions and go their own way when they can, but reality throws them curve-balls. And then you also meet the young thugs of the town. Bill and Jake, along with the respectable elderly couple, Marla and Gottfried. and as the story progresses you realise that they are tarred with the same brush. Dig down a little and the past, its injustices and prejudices make a quick route to the surface. King does not shy away from the racism, abuse and double standards that permeate middle America and the small-town attitudes that act as a fertiliser. Why are Marla and Gottfried in a position of superior wealth? Why has The Shoveler’s mother moved them to this small town? Why can’t HowCanIHelpYou? remain friends with Ian (her closest friend since primary school)?  And why do they all see The Freak unexpectedly flickering in and out of their lives  what is she trying to tell them? Dig down and it’s all there underground. Rot, as well as hope.  

Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann    {Reviewed by THOMAS}

“‘Today’ is a word that only suicides ought to be allowed to use, it has no meaning for other people.” 
Even five decades after it was written, this wholly remarkable book continues to reveal new possibilities in literature and new impossibilities in living. 
In the first part of the book, ‘Happy With Ivan’, the unnamed narrator records her obsessive love affair with a man she first sees outside a florist’s shop near her home in Vienna. On account of Ivan, “the rest of the world, where I lived up to now — always in a panic, my mouth full of cotton, the throttle marks on my neck — is reduced to its petty insignificance.” She snatches evenings with Ivan, plays chess with him (resulting in stalemate), writes him letters (which she tears to shreds and throws away, unsent), and talks (or 'talks') with him on the telephone, but, mainly, she waits and thinks and narrates. “Ever since I’ve been able to dial this number, my life has finally stopped taking turns for the worse, I’m no longer coming apart at the seams. I hold my breath, stopping time, and call and smoke and wait.” But hers is a desperate happiness, not a convincing happiness, not really happiness at all but a straining towards the impossibility of happiness, agitation trying to pass as happiness. Just as the difference between pleasure and irritation is generally merely a matter of degree, there is, for the narrator, no substantial difference between ostensibly contradictory states and the case for her happiness is made so strenuously that it is clearly made from a position of great unhappiness. Ivan lives along the street, but the narrator shares an apartment with Malina, a civil servant who works at the Austrian Military Museum but who is so compartmentalised in the narrator’s mind that he never makes contact with Ivan, or, rather, never inhabits the Ivan compartment in the narrator’s mind. Although the narrator interacts with Malina, and we are told of her visiting elsewhere with him, it is very unclear that Malina exists outside the narrator’s mind, or, rather, that he is not an aspect of the narrator. “Ivan hasn’t been warned about me. He doesn’t know with whom he’s running around, that he’s dealing with a phenomenon, an appearance that can also be deceiving, I don’t want to lead Ivan astray but he has never realised that I am double. I am also Malina’s creation.” I increasingly began to suspect that Ivan also exists, at least mostly, in the narrator’s mind, and that, although probably affixed to someone she saw outside the florist’s shop, the Ivan with whom this 'love affair' persists is a never-quite-reachable eidolon of her longing and desperation. “My living body gives Ivan a reference point, maybe it’s the only one, but this same bodily self disturbs me. Extreme self-control lets me accept Ivan’s sitting opposite me.” Is there no exteriority? All these words, these truncated staccato telephone conversations, these endlessly commaed descriptions, these letters and interviews and documents in many versions, these moments and encounters, these details, these memories and revised memories, these stupendous rants, are they all the desperate invention of the narrator (in the same way that the novel is the desperate invention of the author)? “Whatever falls on my ground thrives, I propagate myself with words and also propagate Ivan.”
The second part of the book, ‘The Third Man’, intimates, perhaps, the degree of trauma that underlies the narrator’s agitation and the fracturing of her psyche. Passages, seemingly dreams or memories, describe violence, torment and sexual abuse, largely at the hands of the narrator’s 'father' (and of, by extension, Austria and Nazism), enacted either upon the narrator or upon her naive and complicit alter ego Melanie. “Here there is always violence. Here there is always struggle.” Bachmann’s sentences offer no respite for the reader nor for the narrator. “I don’t want to be any more, because I don’t want war, then put me to sleep, make it end.” The dream sequences are interspersed with conversations, written as script, between the narrator and the rational, interrogating Malina, bringing into her awareness the nature of her trauma, and moving towards the possibility of understanding. “Although it disgusts me to look at him [father], I must, I have to know what danger is still written in his face, I have to know where evil originates.” But, Malina warns, “Once one has survived something the survival itself interferes with understanding.”
The third part, ‘Last Things’, charts the shrinking of the narrator’s world, her gradual inevitable loss of Ivan, either as reality or eidolon, her loss of confidence in herself or hope in her world — and it is much funnier than this list would suggest, though no less tragic. Experience, once replaced with knowledge of — or description of — experience, loses the power of experience. Language at once conjures and replaces — annihilates — what is lived. But, says the narrator, “I must have reached a point where thought is so necessary that it is no longer possible.” Her conversations with Malina drain the reality from Ivan and reveal her isolation and self-suffocation. “I am not one person,” she says, “but two people standing in extreme opposition to one another, which must mean I am always on the verge of being torn in two. If they were separated it would be livable, but scarcely the way it is.” The slow, cumulative, fatal intrusion of rationality is here like a pin being pushed against the surface of a balloon with great, horrible, slow, thrilling patience. “The story of Ivan and me will never be told, since we don’t have any story.”  Literature is lack. All that is written is written against the facts. Happiness, or imagined happiness, becomes harder and harder and at last impossible to sustain. All that is imgined is destroyed. The narrator’s ‘I’, her subjective self, “an unknown woman”, catches a last whiff of Ivan in the crack in the wall, enters the crack and disappears, leaving the rational alter ego, Malina, the cataloguer, the explainer, the understanding and inhibiting mind, to answer the telephone when Ivan rings (their first encounter) and to deny her very existence. The book ends with the bare sentence, “It was murder,” but, if the characters are all fractured parts of a single mind (if there can be such a thing), what is the nature of this ‘murder’? 
“What is life?” asks Malina. “Whatever can’t be lived,” the narrator replies.

Book of the Week. Lynn Jenner's deeply thoughtful book, Peat, enlists the help of deceased cultural eminence Charles Brasch to explore the tensions between words and land, and between society and ecology, as a response to the recent development of the Kāpiti Expressway, a so-called ‘Road of National Significance’.
>> Book your ticket to hear Lynn Jenner in conversation with with environmental planner and social scientist Charlotte Šunde at the VOLUME MAPUA LITERARY FESTIVAL in September 
>>Read Thomas's review. 

Friday 26 July 2019


Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann           $30
In the wholly remarkable Malina, originally published in German in 1971, Bachmann draws the reader into a world stretched to the very limits of language. An unnamed narrator, a writer in Vienna, is torn between two men, who may or may not exist outside her head. Viewed through the tilting prism of obsession, she travels further into her own madness, anxiety — and genius. 
"If I was permitted to keep only one book it would be MalinaMalina has everything." —Claire-Louise Bennett
"Malina continually reveals new possibilities in literature and new impossibilities in living." —Thomas
>>Read an extract.
>>Detonating the container of consciousness
>>"A singular woman adrift."
>>"We could call her happiness self-deception."
>>"I don’t understand how one can live."
Happiness, as Such by Natalia Ginzburg           $34
In this hypersharp, subtle and humane novel, Ginzburg portrays a family drawn to the brink of an abyss by one of its member's absence. 
>>Read an extract
>>"The novel’s new English title is evocative. That comma is like the pre–big bang universe shrunk to a pinhead."
>>Read other books by Ginzburg
I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman        $26
"I am the sterile offspring of a race about which I know nothing, not even whether it has become extinct.'' Deep underground, thirty-nine women live imprisoned in a cage. Watched over by guards, the women have no memory of how they got there, no notion of time, and only vague recollection of their lives before. As the burn of electric light merges day into night and numberless years pass, a young girl — the fortieth prisoner — sits alone and outcast in the corner. Soon she will show herself to be the key to the others' escape and survival in the strange world that awaits them above ground. A compelling feminist science fiction novel, first published in Belgium in 1997.
"A small miracle." —The New York Times
Peat by Lynn Jenner            $35
Lynn Jenner’s deeply thoughtful book enlists the help of deceased cultural eminence Charles Brasch to explore the tensions between words and land, and between society and ecology, as a response to the recent development of the Kāpiti Expressway, a so-called ‘Road of National Significance’.
>>RNZ review
>>Book your ticket to hear Lynn Jenner in conversation with with environmental planner and social scientist Charlotte Šunde at the VOLUME MAPUA LITERARY FESTIVAL in September
The Runaways by Ulf Stark, illustrated by Kitty Crowther        $20
Grandpa’s in the hospital and hating it. He swears at the nurses and makes trouble for everyone. Dad finds it too stressful to visit, but Gottfried Junior visits Grandpa as often as he’s allowed, and when he’s not allowed, he goes anyway. Grandpa thinks only of the place he was happiest—the island where he lived with Grandma. He wants to go back one last time, but they won’t let him out of the hospital. Gottfried Junior and Grandpa take things into their own hands. If running away is the only way to the island, then they’ll be runaways.

Last Witnesses: Unchildlike stories by Svetlana Alexievich       $37
A remarkable collection of accounts, collected by Alexievich since the 1970s, in which the subjects recall life as Soviet children during the upheavals and horrors of World War 2. 

Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen by Alix Kates Shulman      $23
Shulman's Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen created a profound impact on the cultural landscape when it was originally published in 1972. A sardonic portrayal of one white, middle-class, US Midwestern girl's coming-of-age, the novel takes a wry and prescient look at a range of experiences treated at the time as taboo but which were ultimately accepted as matters of major political significance: sexual harassment, job discrimination, the sexual double standard, rape, abortion restrictions, the double binds of marriage and motherhood, and the frantic quest for beauty. The book is one of the first and exemplary pieces of fiction born of the women's liberation movement. 
"An extraordinary novel. Women will like it and men should read it for the good of their immortal souls." —The New York Times (1972)
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead          $35
Following his Booker Prize-winning The Underground Railroad, Whitehead unearths another shocking strand of US history, setting his novel in a hellish reform school in Jim-Crow-era Florida.
>>From unmarked graves to a novel
The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and their year of marvels by Adam Nicholson         $60
From June 1797 to the autumn of 1798, while Britain was at war with revolutionary France, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Dorothy Wordsworth lived on the edge of the Quantock Hills in Somerset and began to explore a new way of looking at the world — and their place in it — as devotees of nature and of the unfettered mind, effectively inventing the Romantic movement. 
"The perfect marriage of poetry and place." —Robert McCrum, Guardian
She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore            $37
A novel dramatising Liberia's early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.
"Compelling." —Guardian
The Clockill and the Thief by Gareth Ward         $20
The sequel to the immensely exciting The Traitor and the Thief is, as you would guess, also immensely exciting. Sin is dying, poisoned by his blue blood. His troubles deepen when the traitor who poisoned him escapes from the custody of the Covert Operations Group and sets out for revenge. COG tasks Sin, his friend Zonda Chubb and their frenemy Velvet Von Darque with recapturing the traitor, whatever the cost. Taking to the air in pursuit, they must battle skypirates and the terrifying Clockill to complete their mission. But with his condition worsening, can Sin survive long enough to save his friends, himself and the day?
>>Here they come!
Lucky Hans, And other Merz fairy tales by Kurt Schwitters        $40
Kurt Schwitters revolutionized the art world in the 1920s with his Dadaist Merz collages, theatre performances, and poetry. But at the same time he was also writing extraordinary fairy tales that were turning the genre upside down and inside out. This book is the first collection of these subversive, little-known stories in any language and the first time all but a few of them have appeared in English.
The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino by Hiromi Kawakama          $28
From the author of Strange Weather in Tokyo and The Nakano Thrift Shop, a new novel about an elusive ladies' man and the women who have loved him.

Remembered Words: A specimen concordance by Roni Horn         $35
Much of artist Roni Horn’s work revolves around language. In a series of watercolours produced in 2013 and 2014, she remembered words and pairs them with dots, adding the words to the dots like footnotes or captions, creating a kind of personal, even autobiographical dictionary. The combination of the dots with the words creates unexpected relations and meanings, endless strings of associations, absurd and beautiful at the same time. This book provides a key to the artworks (not included), and to Horn's mind and working methods.
Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan         $35
Mina is found by police staring over the edge of the George Washington Bridge. When her husband takes her to London, she seeks to overcome her despair first in the women on Classical mythology, and then in the arms of the living. 

"Buchanan has achieved that rare feat of writing a convincing novel about depression which manages, miraculously, not to be in itself depressing." —The Spectator 
The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde        $24
Filled with rage and tenderness, Audre Lorde's most acclaimed poetry collection speaks of mothers and children, female strength and vulnerability, renewal and revenge, goddesses and warriors, ancient magic and contemporary America. 

Attention Seeking! by Adam Phillips           $21
What does it mean to give our attention to something? What does it mean to seek attention? 
"Adam Phillips is that rarest of phenomena, a trained clinician who is also a sublime writer. Reading Phillips, you may be amused, vexed, dazzled. But the one thing you will never be is bored." —Observer

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo       $35
"This is one of the most riveting, assured and scorchingly original debuts I've ever read. Taddeo's beautifully written and unflinching portraits of desire allow her protagonists to be wholly human and wholly, blessedly complex. I can't imagine a scenario where this isn't one of the more important — and breathlessly debated — books of the year." —Dave Eggers

Zanzibar by Catharina Valckx         $20
Zanzibar cooks a fine mushroom omelette,and he is a crow who wears his feathers well. At least he thought so, until a spectacled lizard knocks at his door, wanting to write an article about a remarkable person. Is Zanzibar remarkable? The lizard seems to doubt it. Zanzibar thinks: To be remarkable, I must achieve something incredible, an extraordinary feat. What will he do? An enjoyable early chapter book. 
Out of Our Minds: A history of what we think and how we think it by Felipe Fernández-Armesto      $35
Imagination is the faculty that distinguishes homo sapiens most from other species, but just how do we form images of things that are not, and then how do we convert these into things that are? 

Hobo Mom by Charles Forsman and Max de Radigues         $27
A thoughtful, understated graphic novel. After a dangerous encounter riding the rails, Natasha chooses to show up on the doorstep of the family she abandoned years ago and finds an upset husband and a little girl yearning for a mother. Can someone who covets independence settle down?
"This is a remarkable graphic novel. Forsman and Radiguès seem to understand instinctively that while one person’s search for happiness may be the cause of another’s deep pain, accepting daily sadness as a kind of life tax won’t, in the end, make things better for anyone." —Guardian 
Mud and Stars: Travels in Russia with Pushkin and other geniuses of the Golden Age by Sara Wheeler            $40
Wheeler travelled across eight time zones, guided by the writers of the Golden Age: Pushkin to Tolstoy via Gogol and Turgenev.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power       $20

Sixteen-year-old scholarship student Hetty was one of the first to show signs of the Tox. Over the last 18 months, she’s watched it ravage her classmates and teachers as they wait, quarantined within school grounds, for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop and deliver a cure. The Tox affects everyone differently: Hetty’s right eye sealed itself shut; her best friend, Byatt, grew a second, exterior spine; Reese has a sharp, silver-scaled left hand and glowing hair. Why is this happening? What does this mean? 
The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas          $26
This is the story of Mattis, a mentally handicapped man who lives with and is cared for by his older sister, Hege. Within their isolated, lakeside existence, Mattis cannot make sense of his tangled thoughts, frightening apparitions, surges of emotion and clever insights. When a travelling lumberjack attracts Hege's affections, the disruption is too much for Mattis to bear. This spare Norwegian novel by the author of The Ice Palace sensitively captures the presence of the natural world, the prison of unfulfilled time and the fragility of the human mind.

Portraits Destroyed: Power, ego and history's vandals by Julie Cotter       $55
Portraits are often painted to represent the power of the powerful. What does it mean when such portraits are destroyed, either by their subjects or by those who wish to undo their power? 

An Unquiet Heart by Martin Sixsmith         $35
A novel of the life of early 20th-century Russian poet Sergei Yesenin, acclaimed both before and after the Revolution. 

Otto Goes North by Ulrika Kestere         $20
Far up in the north is a blueberry-blue house with a grass roof, where Lisa and Nils live. One day a tourist arrives: Otto has cycled for months, maybe years, to visit his friends. Otto wants to do a spectacular painting of the Northern Lights to remember his visit, but he is from a hot country and it is very cold here, but he can’t paint for shivering so hard. His friends decide to knit him a jersey.

Saturday 13 July 2019

BOOKS @ VOLUME #136 (13.7.19)

Read our latest NEWSLETTER

Postcard  Stories by Richard von Sturmer  {Reviewed by STELLA}
Postcard Stories does all those things that books should. From the moment you spy the cover — a group of Filipino dancers in brightly checked frocks arranged in front of a smoking volcano — your curiosity will be piqued. It will also confound you a little and ultimately hook you in, not once, but several times over, as you investigate what it is. Richard von Sturmer has chosen 100 postcards from his collection, arranged them into thematic groups and added text (prose and verse), creating narrative dimensions that resonate on multiple levels. Postcard Stories is a gem of a book — charming, curious, and just a little strange. In his introduction, von Sturmer talks about his collecting habits, and his attraction to the unusual or odd. “My own interest in postcards lies elsewhere, in a more eccentric and even subversive realm where the postcard is appreciated for itself, for its own oddness, which transcends whatever scene or image it may represent.” He sees postcards as a portal to places and times, thinking of them as “cells in a giant, universal brain” and as “postcard dreamscapes”.Postcard Stories gives us an opportunity to share in these dreamscapes.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part consists of postcard sequences (16 in total) with a corresponding verse. Each sequence is a group of four distinct postcards that von Sturmer feels resonate with each other — they are linked by a common element or theme. For example, in sequence 5, four postcards all containing monuments — statues — tell a story of escape and discovery. There are landscape images of deserts and roads to seemingly nowhere resonating together even as they are pulled from different places on the globe. There are strange groups of people participating in what might be tourist activities, and ancient wonders sitting alongside industrial haunts. The verse that accompanies these postcard sequences is sparse and cleverly composed, the narrative building between image and text constantly drawing us in, altering our perspective, our way of seeing. In the second part, von Sturmer has selected some individual postcards that stand alone in their oddness. Here he adds short prose pieces that let us look again at the images and notice so much more. In the final section, there is a short homage to postcard publisher John Hinde who would tell his photographers, “You can’t have enough sunsets.” Postcard Stories is initially delightful and witty, but it is ultimately this and more. It is an endlessly curious book that takes you into a realm of imagination and narrative playfulness. In these dreamscapes, you will find much to occupy your mind (and eye).


Darker With the Lights On by David Hayden   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
The act of writing is an act of forgetting as much as it is an act of memory. Description replaces experience, if there was experience there to start with, or otherwise description precludes the experience described, permitting experience only of itself. The pencil’s mark obscures whatever line it traces. That which is described becomes digestible as text, becomes definite, finite and defined. Whatever is described becomes ersatz, the currency of exchange between a writer and a reader, the tin chip passed between parties to a language game, pretending understanding, pretending being understood, the cosiest, most intimate of couplings. How reassuring to have one’s expectations fulfilled by text, but how tiresome, this pact-as-habit, this plethora of detail, this obsessive mentioning that enervates the experience that gets obscured by words. But every signifier has its limit. Every mentioned thing is mentioned at the exclusion of another thing, the excluded or unincludable thing that pushes the mentioned into view while remaining, carefully, out of sight, hidden in the place of greater force, unseen, unfaced, the unseeable and unfaceable warping the mentioning by exerting its weight upon it from behind. A reader has no business to supply anything beyond the text, but also has to complete the text with nothing but their own paltry store of experiences to supply the meanings of the words. How to proceed? How to read the unseen mechanics behind but not referred to by the text? The reader too has ungraspable weights that can be induced to rise and touch the undersurface of the text, pressing up upon it as those of the author press down, two sides of one skin, the text the shared rind of two ungraspable depths, if there are such things as depths, otherwise, without depths, a synclastic and anticlastic flexing of the only surface, two dimensions modelled in a third. If it is what is excluded that potentises text, if it is what is destroyed by writing that makes writing do what writing does, then the stories of David Hayden in Darker with the Lights On move like the sharpened tip of a great black crayon as it scribbles out all memory and knowledge. Not in these stories the reassurance of the expected, nor that of continuity or clarity. Answers are not given, perhaps withheld, though withholding requires an existence for which no evidence ensues, but we are participants in the ritual taking away of knowledge, the deanswering of questions, itself a sort of understanding. Many of the stories concern themselves with the tensions between memory and perception, between two times running concurrently, memory snarling on details and producing not-quite-narrative but a stuttering intimation of the vast force of passing time. What unfaceable calamity bridged the idyll of memory with the torment of the present? In ‘Dick’, for me, perhaps, the most memorable story in the collection, the main character is buried to the waist in the sand, declaring snippets of memory, of idyll even, like some character shoved from Beckett to somewhere beyond the apocalypse, declarative not in Beckettian wearidom and decline but in extremis, the object of some cruelty, disoriented by their own presence, spouting words such as those that may have spoken by the condemnee in Kafka’s ‘Penal Colony’ reading aloud the words as they are inscribed into his flesh by the harrow. It often seems Hayden’s characters’ backgrounds are withheld not only from the reader but seemingly also from the characters themselves. They are being dememorised by their stories, or they exist, as perhaps we all do, with great voids where stories could be expected to be. But stories come from somewhere, unseen, and visit themselves upon us. “There were stories everywhere. Stories in the body, stories in and out of time, stories in the chosen and the unchosen, stories under glass, stories under water, stories under flesh, hot and cold, stories in tumult and silence.” Remembering and inventing contest the same attention, preclude each other but find themselves indistinguishable from one another, as a matter of course in fiction, more problematically so in the lives of writers and of readers. The characters are disoriented but grasp at every chance to climb into, or out of, some awareness: “He senses his head thinking, his trunk big and loose, his delicate fingers flickering at the ends of his arms and decides that he is conscious: real.” The stories’ worlds are composed of granules of awareness, snatches of phrases forced out against their silencing. Reading is akin to viewing through a narrow tube: the perspective is limited but the focus is immense. What is not seen is always there, deforming what is seen, but unglimpsable, unassailable beyond the vertigo of any attempt to look in its direction. Hayden produces a spare disorienting beauty on the level of the sentence. His admixture of restraint — even paucity — and excess, produces a surrealism truncated rather than efflorescent, its effects cumulative rather than expansive, a surrealism not the furthest expression of surrealism’s usual tired romantic literary inclinations but of their opposite, their extinguishment, not the surrealism of dreams but of the repetitive banging of the back of the head as the reader is dragged down a flight of steps, their eyes either closed or open.

Friday 12 July 2019

ransack by essa may ranapiri         $25
In these poems, essa may ranapiri addresses the difficulty of assembling and understanding a fractured, unwieldy self through an inherited language — a language whose assumptions and expectations ultimately make it inadequate for such a task. 
All My Goodbyes by Mariana Dimópulos      $30
a novel told in overlapping vignettes, which follow the travels of a young Argentinian woman across Europe (Malaga, Madrid, Heidelberg, Berlin) and back to Argentina (Buenos Aires, Patagonia) as she flees from situation to situation, job to job, and relationship to relationship. Within the complexity of the narrator's situation, a backstory emerges about a brutal murder in Patagonia which she may or may not be implicated in, but whether this is the cause of her flight is never entirely clear — she is driven as much by psychological concerns, her relationship with her father, uncertainty about her identity and purpose in life.
>> You are in the middle of time.

>>Truth and lies
The Country Life by Rachel Cusk           $23
In this comedy drawing on literary tropes shared with Jane Eyre and Cold Comfort Farm, unhappy, solitary Stella arrives in a tiny village to answer an advertisement for the job of caregiver to Martin Madden, the handicapped son of a rich farming family. New edition. 
 "Cusk's loaded sentences can be a joy or a stumbling-block, depending on your state of mind. Stella's every sensation is logged, and every nuance of every encounter calibrated, but it's the kind of analysis that can often make you gasp. Cusk is at her best at capturing the psychological make-up and mannerisms of particularly unpleasant people." —The Independent
A Life's Work by Rachel Cusk         $25
When first published in 2001, A Life's Work divided female critics and readers. One reviewer wrote a piece demanding that Cusk's children were taken into care, that was she was unfit to look after them. Oprah Winfrey invited her on the show to defend herself and the book as protests grew about the its honest, gritty account of the misery of those early months. It is a remarkable book on the complications of being an ambivalent mum in an age of white-washed families.
>>"I was only being honest."

>>"If she really didn't care, she wouldn't have written the book."
Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk          $23
The lives of middle class English women living in suburbia are dissected to perfection in this novel. New edition.
"The refined intelligence of Rachel Cusk's writing, with its exhaustive clarifications, elaborate metaphors and distinctly bitter aroma, may not be everybody's cup of tea, but for those who appreciate that particular blend of qualities, her books are a source of rich pleasure." —James Lusden, Guardian

The Animal Gazer by Edgardo Franzosini         $35
Rembrandt Bugatti was the brother of the famous builder of luxury sports cars, Ettore. He made bronze sculptures of wild animals that he spent long hours observing in the Paris and Antwerp Zoos. Sometimes he took the animals to live in his Paris apartment while he worked on his pieces. Franzosini's haunting short novel recreates the eccentric, orderly life of this strange genius, a gentle man who loved animals and created memorable sculptures. His life was ruined by the declaration of war in August 1914. As the Germans drew closer to Paris and Antwerp, the zoos in both cities were closed. Then, in fear and panic, the decision was taken to shoot the captive creatures. Firing squads of soldiers massacred the wild cats, elephants and eagles. Bugatti, by then working in a military hospital, killed himself, unable to live in such a world.
Mid-Century Graphic Design by Theo Inglis          $45
Very good coverage. Includes Ray Eames, Paul Rand, Alex Steinweiss, Joseph Low, Alvin Lustig, Elaine Lustig Cohen, Leo Lionni, Rudolph de Harak, Abram Games, Tom Eckersley, Ivan Chermayeff, Josef Albers, Corita Kent, Jim Flora, Ben Shahn, Herbert Bayer and Helen Borten.
The History of Philosophy by A.C. Grayling       $38
Authoritative. Accessible. Covers both Western and Eastern traditions. 
Dragonflies and Damselflies of New Zealand by Milen Marinov and Mike Ashbee      $50
Remarkable organisms that have survived 325 million years (so far). 

Mailman by J. Robert Lennon       $28
"A phantasmagoria of American paranoia and self-loathing in the person of a deranged but somehow good-hearted middle-aged mail carrier in steep decline, the book hums with a kind of chipper angst." —Jonathan Lethem, Los Angeles Times
Rape: From Lucretia to #MeToo by Mithu Sanyal          $33
“This is a book for today. Mithu Sanyal is insightful, thoughtful, and provocative. She encourages us to think about sexual violence in new ways and, most importantly, has challenging things to suggest about the way we should deal with rapists.” —Joanna Bourke
>>Sanyal examines the role of race and the recurrent image of the black rapist, the omission of male victims, and the racist agenda behind media reporting of rape in these videos.

The Necessity for Consolation: John Cousins speaks edited by Robert Hoskins and Norman Meehan    $40
"Of all New Zealand composers, John Cousins has thrown the spear furthest." —John Psathas
Cousins's work has evolved from conventional musical composition to sculptural performance, mixed-media and sonic art.
>>'Three Little Duets'.
A Communist in the Family: Searching for Rewi Alley by Elspeth Sandys         $40
In 2017, Sandys travelled to China to mark the 90th anniversary of her relative's arrival in Shanghai in 1927. New Zealander Rewi Alley went on to become one of the cultural heroes of twentieth century China. Sandys went on to write this book, which among other things, is a meditation on the relationship between memory and writing. 
Fabulous by Lucy Hughes-Hallett       $33
Marvellous reworkings and updatings and recreations of stories from Graeco-Roman myth, the Bible and folk-lore, reminiscent of Angela Carter. 
Lay Studies by Steven Toussaint         $25
"Steven Toussaint writes with a formidable blend of intellectual toughness and technical command. These finely worked poems range over a wide territory, local and global, religious, social (a devastatingly intelligent piece, 'Yes or No', evoking the world of online pseudo-discourse), and offer many memorable images and phrases (a favourite is 'The furious pleasure / of a man being listened to'). This is an excellent collection of demanding and rewarding poetry." —Rowan Williams
Only in Tokyo: Two chefs, 24 hours, the ultimate food city by Michael Ryan and Luke Burgess       $45
From daybreak to late night, discover the creative people and compelling stories behind the restaurants, bars and tea houses of Tokyo. 
The Book of Why: The new science of cause and effect by Judea Pearl            $30
What does it actually mean for one thing to cause another? How does Pearl's work in this area underlie the development of artificial intelligence? 

Bunny by Mona Awad         $35
A lonely MFA student is drawn into a clique of rich girls who seem to move and speak as one in this bizarre and disconcerting novel. 
"One of the most pristine, delightful attacks on popular girls since Clueless. It made me cackle and nod in terrified recognition." —Lena Dunham

The Heartland: Finding and losing schizophrenia by Nathan Filer      $33
Filer, mental health nurse and award winning writer, takes us on a journey into the psychiatric wards he once worked on. He also invites us to spend time with world-leading experts, and with some extraordinary people who share their own stories about living with this strange and misunderstood condition. Are there new ways of thinking about mental health? 
"A truly important book." —Max Porter

The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri           $37
There are more than 25 million refugees in the world. Aged eight, Dina Nayeri fled Iran along with her mother and brother, and lived in the crumbling shell of an Italian hotel-turned-refugee camp. Eventually she was granted asylum in America. She settled in Oklahoma, then made her way to Princeton University. In this book, Nayeri weaves together her own vivid story with the stories of other refugees and asylum seekers in recent years, bringing us inside their daily lives and taking us through the different stages of their journeys, from escape to asylum to resettlement. 
"Dina Nayeri's powerful writing confronts issues that are key to the refugee experience." —Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathiser
This is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion handbook        $24
No-One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg       $8
"Everything needs to change. And it has to start today."
>>"The message is clearly not getting through."