Saturday 29 February 2020

BOOKS @ VOLUME (29.2.20)

Our 167th newsletter, published on Leap Day. 


Here We Are by Graham Swift   
Here we are, but are we? Graham Swift’s novel is set upon the stage — the show stage. Illusion and magic, secrets and mystery, and disillusionment tinged with disloyalty. The scene opens and the stage curtain parts to reveal a man in the wings: Jack Robinson — compère and born entertainer — awaiting the push from the hand of his now absent mother. Yet this man’s bravado will hide another self and reveal over time other selves — not that we will learn too much about this, except through the reminiscences of his widow, Evie White. Evie — one-time show girl (ostrich feather plumes and tiara) and the famously distracting assistant to the magician Pablo. It’s 1959, and on Brighton Pier the summer holiday season is in full swing. Pablo and Eve are shoring up the audiences and their names are rising in the billing order. On stage and off, the act is developing. 'Pablo' is Ronnie Deane, aspiring magician, lad from Bethnal Green — the son of a missing seaman and charwoman — with a past he would rather forget. But, unlike many, it is the war that saved Ronnie. Eight years old, he is bundled onto a train with other evacuees and carried away from London to Oxford and a completely different life: the Lawrences, who take him in, will be his ‘parents’ for the duration of the war, and this experience will mark him out for a life on stage, as well as an unrelenting sense of guilt towards his own mother, Agnes — a guilt which he will find difficult to resolve. The theme of mothers runs through this novel. Evie, Ronnie and Jack all have their mother issue ,and Mrs Lawrence is haunted by her own motherlessness. Swift gently allows us to see the truths between the folds of the curtain, subtly rather than explicitly. Guilt and betrayal along with subterfuge and intrigue are the main players on the stage and in the wings. The taut and close relationship between Ronnie and Jack, and later the third pivot in this saga, Evie, will have consequences that not one of them would have foreseen, and the greatest illusion will take place in the final scene. Swift’s writing is superb, not one word is unnecessary, and the seemingly straightforward story of a child evacuee, the diminishing romance with live entertainment acts in the 1950s, and the complex pressures of relationships between parents and their children, is wonderfully underplayed and fittingly revealing beneath the smoke and mirrors and distractions of the illusion — deception at its best.
>> Read all Stella's reviews.

Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride     {Reviewed by THOMAS}
To ‘stay’ in a hotel (as opposed to ‘staying’ home) does not mean to remain but merely to await departure. A hotel is not a home away from home but is the opposite of a home, a place where, as McBride puts it, “nothing is at stake,” a place where action and inaction begin to resemble each other, a place where the absence of context allows or invites unresolved pasts or futures to press themselves upon the present without consequence. There is no plot in a hotel; everything is in abeyance. The protagonist in Strange Hotel is present (or presented) in a series of hotels — in Avignon, Prague, Oslo, Auckland, and Austin (all hotels are, after all, one hotel) — over a number of years in what we could term her early middle age. She spends the narrated passages of time mainly not doing something, choosing not to sleep with the man in the room next door, not to throw herself from the window as she waits for a man to leave her room, not to stay in the room of the man with whom she has slept until he wakes up, not to meet a man at the hotel bar, not to let in the man with whom she has slept and who she almost fails to keep at the distance required by her rigour of hotel behaviour. Her ritual self-removal from the stabilising patterns of her ordinary existence — about which we learn little — in the hotels seems designed to reconfigure herself following the death of her partner without either wearing out the memory she has of him or being worn out by it. Slowly, through the series of hotels, she becomes capable of reclaiming herself from her loss, moving from instances where even slight resemblances to experiences associated with her dead partner close down thought (as with the speaker in Samuel Beckett’s Not I) to a point where memory begins to not overwhelm the rememberer, when the hold on the present of the past begins to loosen, when the path to grief loses its intransigence and coherence and no longer precludes the possibility that things could have been and could be different. McBride’s linguistic skill and introspective rigour in tracking the ways in which her protagonist negotiates with her memories through language is especially effective and memorable. Language is a way of avoiding thought as much as it is a way of achieving it: “Even now, she can hear herself doing it. Lining words up against words, then clause against clause until an agreeable distance has been reached from the original unmanageable impulse which first set them all in train.” Her self-interrogation and her “interrogating her own interrogation” “serves the solitary purpose of keeping the world at the far end of a very long sentence,” but as her ‘hotel-praxis’ (so to call it) starts to erode the structures of her ‘grief-taxis’ (so to call it), language is no longer capable of — or, rather, no longer necessary for and therefore no longer capable of — buffering her from loss: “I do like all these lines of words but they don’t seem to be helping much with keeping the distance anymore.” At the start of the the book she feels as if she has “outlived her use for feeling” and clinically observes that, in another, “sentiment must be at work somewhere, unfortunately”; in Prague she observes of the man whose departure from her room she awaits on the balcony: “She hadn’t intended to hurt his feelings. To be honest, she’s not even sure she has. His feelings are his business alone. She just wishes he hadn’t presumed she possessed quite so many of her own. She has some, naturally, but spread thinly around—with few kept available for these kinds of encounters.” By the end of the process, though — “to go on is to keep going on” — the possibility of feeling begins to emerge from beneath her grief, the present is no longer overwhelmed by actual or even possible alternative pasts, and she begins to sense that she can “turn too and return again from this most fitly resolved past that was never really an option — to the life which, in fact, exists.” 

>> Read all Thomas's reviews.

Friday 28 February 2020

Our Book of the Week is a feminist metaphysical thriller, a story shaped within a political pressure cooker. Shakti, by Wellington author Rajorshi Chakraborti, will shake you up, mystify you and make you laugh, as well as frighten you with its clear reflection of our current socio-political structures and our willingness to accept or dismiss these intrusions into our minds, as well as our hearts.
>>Read Stella's review. 
>>How the rise of right-wing populism led Chakraborti to write the book. 
>>Raj reads from the book and discusses its context
>>On writing a superhero(ine) novel
>>The twin teller of dreams
>>How does the book speak to India? 
>>This reading life
>>"Funny, shocking, and deeply thought-provoking.
>>On writing as performance
>>The author's favourite books, films, music and TV shows
>>The Man Who Would Not See was listed for the Acorn Prize in the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
>>Click and collect
Here We Are by Graham Swift          $33
A relationship triangle between a young show magician, his assistant, and their compère threatens not only their show (in Brighton, in 1959), but also those things they hold most dear. Both intimate and coolly observed, Swift's writing retains its economical power. 
"The variety of voices and its historical and emotional reach are so finely entwined, it is as perfect and smooth as an egg. Passages leap out all the time, demanding to be reread, or committed to memory. It is perhaps too simple to say that Swift creates a form of fictional magic, but what he can do with a page is out of the ordinary, far beyond most mortals’ ken. —The Herald
Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty        $85
The much-anticipated new book from the author of the incisive and influential Capital in the Twenty-First Century (which was made into a film), exposing the ideas that have sustained inequality for the past millennium. Our economy, Piketty observes, is not a natural fact. Markets, profits, and capital are all historical constructs that depend on choices. Piketty explores the material and ideological interactions of conflicting social groups that have given us slavery, serfdom, colonialism, communism, and hypercapitalism, shaping the lives of billions. He concludes that the great driver of human progress over the centuries has been the struggle for equality and education and not, as often argued, the assertion of property rights or the pursuit of stability. With this in mind, he outlines a pathway to a fairer economic system. 
Bad Island by Stanley Donwood       $30
A striking lino-cut graphic story, telling the prehistory, history and fate of an island and the ravages wrought upon it by 'civilisation'. An angry and memorable work from this cult graphic designer and Radiohead collaborator
>>Stanley Donwood's website
>>Nothing will ever get better
Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth           $33
"This smart, funny novel about social media and modern romance from the author of Animals mixes humour with grief and betrayal. Unsworth’s prose is jaunty, witty, sexy and funny. I will remember, for a long time, this novel’s lacerating wit and its melancholy sorrow." —Guardian
"Emma Jane Unsworth’s virtuoso new novel is far too canny to convey anything so gauche as a message, but if it did, it would be this: step away from your screen. Adults is a tale rich in keenly observed relationships – between mothers and daughters, best friends and boyfriends, idols and rivals – yet its central, inseparable pairing is that of thirty-something heroine Jenny and her phone. Theirs is a supremely dysfunctional affair. The fakery of online life, its codes, its rules, its soul-destroying self-promotion have been plenty anatomised but, as Unsworth shows, online anxiety also takes a very physical toll, too." —Observer 
A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson       $30
This wide-ranging collection of poetry, honed by anger at racism and injustice, won the 2019 T.S. Eliot Prize
"A Portable Paradise finds in the bitterness of everyday experience continuing evidence of ‘sweet, sweet life’.” —Judges' citation
"A scathing polemic, and a meditation on love. It attacks the economies that saw Grenfell Tower clad in substandard materials. It stares unflinchingly at the legacies of slavery and yet, at its heart, it believes in kindness and community. While A Portable Paradise is a portrait of the worst of us, Robinson never loses sight of our better selves. The collection is challenging but is also rewarding and, ultimately, uplifting." —John Field
"One of the most important poetic voices in the UK right now." —Raymond Antrobus
>>Robinson reads
Hattie by Frida Nilsson          $20
Hattie is a street-smart country girl in her first year of school. She lives just outside of nowhere, right next to no one at all. Luckily she's starting school and that brings new adventures. Hattie gets her first swimming badge, falls madly in love with a hermit crab and meets a best friend. Sometimes things go wrong, like when the hairdresser cuts her hair into stumps just in time for school photos. Or when she happens to accidentally say in class that her new neighbour has three white horses she can ride on.
Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley           $26
"There are some writers who never let you down. They’re not big stars and their books are not preceded by a tsunami of hype. They simply do what writers do best, producing novels that are so apparently effortless that a wise reader recognises just how difficult they must be to construct. Tessa Hadley is one such writer. Throughout her career, Hadley has explored the middle-class existence, its ennui and its deceptions, with great skill. She has a keen psychological insight that allows her to create multifaceted characters that remain with the reader long after the story has come to an end. It’s no surprise, then, that Late in the Day is a powerful addition to her already distinguished body of work. Really, a rather brilliant novel." - John Boyne, Irish Times

 Samuel Beckett: Anatomy of a literary revolution by Pascale Casanova         $25
Casanova argues that Beckett's reputation rests on a pervasive misreading of his oeuvre, which neglects entirely the literary revolution he instigated. Once his subversion has been reinstated, she suggests, the enigmas thought to lie at the heart of his work are revealed. 
Kraftwerk: Future music from Germany by Uwe Schütte       $28
"If you pay attention to the noises made by your car, Hütter explained, you'll realise that it is a musical instrument." So many of Kraftwerk's innovations have become absorbed into the mainstream that it is sometimes hard to remember just how innovative, strange and avant-garde they were. Ignoring almost all rock traditions, working in near total secrecy in their Dusseldorf studio, releasing new material sometimes at very long intervals, Kraftwerk also revolutionized stage presentation and, through their obsession with design and presentation, linked their work to the traditions of Bauhaus and 1920s German aesthetics.
>>Live (1970)
>>'Autobahn' (1974)
>>"Live" (1978)
The Wandering by Intan Paramaditha         $37
"You’ve grown roots, you’re gathering moss. You’re desperate to escape your boring life teaching English in Jakarta, to go out and see the world. So you make a Faustian pact with a devil, who gives you a gift, and a warning. A pair of red shoes to take you wherever you want to go. You’re forever wandering, everywhere and nowhere, but where is your home? And where will you choose to go? To New York, to follow your dreams? To Berlin or Amsterdam? Lima or Tijuana? Or onto a train that will never stop? The choices you make about which pages to turn to may mean you’ll become a tourist or an undocumented migrant, a mother or a murderer, and you will meet many travellers with their own stories to tell. As your paths cross and intertwine, you’ll soon realise that no story is ever new."
“Intan Paramaditha is a wicked feminist writer in the very best sense possible. The novel is simultaneously unnerving and yet oddly familiar from the outset. Paramaditha establishes a rapport with the reader through a second person narrative that invites us to wander through worlds of myth, horror, and fantasy that progressively dismantle our perception of geographic and cultural boundaries. Epstein’s translation vividly captures the divergent voices and narrative styles that make up this wonderfully inventive novel.” Pen America
Seagull, Seagull by James K Baxter          $30
Poems for young children written by Baxter in the 1950s and illustrated by Kieran Rynhart. 
Celebrations by Alan Burns        $23
First published in 1967, Burns applies his cut-up and collage style to denounce power hierarchies and inherent violence in a family-owned factory and arcane legal structures. 
>>Other books by Alan Burns.

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga         $35
Denied refugee status in Australia after fleeing Sri Lanka, Dhananjaya works illegally as a cleaner in Sydney, trying to construct a new life for himself. One morning he he learns that a client of his has been murdered. When Danny recognises a jacket left at the murder scene, he believes it belongs to another of his clients, a doctor with whom he knows the woman was having an affair. Should he come forward with his knowledge about the crime and risk being deported, or say nothing, and let justice go undone? From the author of White Tiger.

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli        $25
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. New paperback edition. 
Short-listed this week for the 2020 Rathbones Folio Prize. 
"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
Until the End of Time: Mind, matter and our search for meaning in an evolving universe by Brian Greene       $55
Greene takes us on a journey across time, from our most refined understanding of the universe's beginning, to the closest science can take us to the very end. He explores how life and mind emerged from the initial chaos, and how our minds, in coming to understand their own impermanence, seek in different ways to give meaning to experience: in story, myth, religion, creative expression, science, the quest for truth, and our longing for the timeless.

Nightingale by Marina Kemp           $33
A 24-year-old Parisian escaping her past takes a job as a nurse to a dying patriarch in a remote village in Languedoc. The book is remarkably evocative both of the Mediterranean countryside and of caring for a cantankerous invalid.  
"Deft, gritty, unsentimental but deeply moving, aglow with compassion." —Guardian
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor          $25
"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
"Quite simply one of the most exciting - and one of the most fun - novels of the decade." —Garth Greenwell
Females by Andrea Long Chu          $23
Drawing inspiration from Valerie Solanas (author of The SCUM Manifesto and would-be assassin of Andy Warhol), Long Chu claims that femaleness is less a biological state of women and more a fatal existential condition that afflicts the entire human race.

Chinese Thought, From Confucius to Cook Ding by Roel Sterckx        $28
With examples from philosophy and literature and everyday life, Sterckx intimates some key approaches to self, community and environment that underlie the variety of Chinese thought through the centuries. 
Strange Antics: A history of seduction by Clement Knox         $40
If sex has generally been agreed a private matter, seduction has always been of intense public interest. Strange Antics analyses seduction in art, history, legality, politics and literature.
Possible Minds: 25 ways of looking at AI edited by John Brockman           $35
Understanding our future in relation to artificial intelligence is only possible if the right questions are asked in the right contexts.  

The Lost Properties of Love by Sophie Ratcliffe       $25
An insightful memoir of how the death of Ratcliffe's father when she was 13 affected her life for the next thirty years, and how she sought to come to terms with his absence through classic literature. 
A Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer          $25
When the neural technology used by a dying man in the near future to reduce his pain has the side-effect of time travel, he finds himself inhabiting the mind of a young woman in the Scottish Highlands in the 1860s. 
For Your Convenience by Paul Fry         $23
A reprint of a classic 1930s guide to the gentlemen's toilets of London, hailed as the city's first gay guidebook. 

Suncatcher by Romesh Gunesekera            $33
A semi-autobiographical novel about a boy growing up amidst the turmoil of Sri Lanka in the 1960s, and his friendship with a boy from a privileged family. 

Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky          $28
Best known as the novel that inspired Andrei Tarkovsky's film StalkerRoadside Picnic tells of the experiences of a 'stalker' who ventures illegally into the 'Zone' where the laws of nature are suspended in search of alien artefacts with unusual powers. Classic Russian science fiction. 

Saturday 22 February 2020

BOOKS @ VOLUME #166 (22.02.2020)

Read our latest newsletter!


Shakti by Rajorshi Chakraborti     {Reviewed by STELLA}
When Shivani, a fifteen-year-old, writes a private letter, distressed about her recently acquired power, to the advice columnist Chandra Sir, the life of a school teacher is altered forever. When that same school teacher’s home help and friend, Arati, is visited by Manasa, an ancient spirit, with news of her long disappeared husband, an act of revenge is instigated. Step into modern-day India and the life of Jaya Bhowmick, one of several women who has acquired special powers. Shakti is a feminist metaphysical thrill(er), a story shaped within a political pressure cooker. The shaktis that the women have acquired are specific and different, but all give the receiver an ability that is both a gift and a burden. And to top it off, there seems to be a malign force at the centre of this structure. The words on the cover of Shakti — “Your power. Our rules” — are the opening gambit that leads the reader into this dangerous game of smoke and mirrors, a game laced with irony and fateful consequences, a game that is far from the playful tone that pervades the book. Jaya is a sassy heroine, sharp-tongued, quick-witted and observant, and it is a pleasure to be in her company — in her internal world — even when the most outrageous and horrific things are happening around her. Within the first few chapters of the book, we are confronted with gender stereotyping, suicide, class prejudice and sectarian violence. These issues do not abate, but Chakraborti’s skill as a writer and storyteller keeps you hooked, juxtaposing these serious concerns with wry asides, almost soap opera moments and absurdist situations. In this way, this book reminded me of Aravind Adiga’s award-winning The White Tiger.  As Jaya navigates the present, coming to terms with her new-found power, and the past, divulging and facing her own violent family history against a backdrop of secrecy and control, she attempts to uncover the source of Shivani’s discontent, secure justice for Arati and find a meaningful role for herself now that her true identity has been revealed. Yet power comes with a price, and only by capitulating to the political forces who control this power can you be free and not haunted. What role will Jaya choose and is she the hero we all seek in ourselves? Shakti will shake you up, mystify you and make you laugh, as well as frighten you with its clear reflection of our current socio-political structures and our willingness to accept or dismiss these intrusions into our minds, as well as our hearts. Place Shakti at the top of your ‘to read’ pile.   


Patience by Toby Litt       {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“The moon was proof to me I was in the world because I had never heard the Priest or the Sisters mention a moon in Hell,” states Elliott, confined to his wheelchair and to the first-floor hospital ward of an orphanage, his life a narrowly repetitive round of pains and incapacities, parked either facing the window or facing the calming white wall, incapable of much resembling speech. Trapped within the spastic body is a mind rich in unutterable language, a mind through overcoming boredom intensely observant through its senses of detail and nuance, acutely aware of the inner lives of others, bursting with an almost inconceivably large amount of knowledge which he uses to draw insights from his world in idiosyncratic and poetic ways. What sort of life is there for a mind without a body to carry it about and to enable it to communicate with others? “The nights at that time I most wanted to pass quickly were of course the slowest and the nights I most wanted to forget afterwards are those I can now remember in such absolute detail.” When Jim, mute and blind, arrives on the ward and demonstrates with his strong body a resistance, a resistance that Elliott is incapable of practising, to the strictures of the nuns, Elliott sees the possibility not only of a friendship of complementary capacities (or complementary incapacities (a sort of Beckettian ideal)) but also the opportunity to escape the ward by harnessing Elliott’s mind to Jim’s body, a stitching achieved with great patience. “Here is where a hero would become a hero by refusing to be anywhere but Here,” says Elliott in resistance to the despair and resignation that his disability would seem to demand. “It may have been my maddest decision to return to sanity when that sanity was frustration and boredom and the constant possibility of going mad in a far less pleasant way.” Litt does an excellent job of projecting himself into the mind of a narrator who is prodigiously capable of taking in but tragically incapable of giving out (“I had never assisted anyone whatsoever. I felt the atrocious selfishness of my mode of existence.”), a narrator whose relationship to time differs from that of a person capable of initiating action, and whose relationship to language differs from that of a person capable of contributing to a conversation (if occasionally Elliott’s vocabulary and knowledge seem wider than could have been achieved from a life of minimal stimulation, this somehow only serves to make Litt’s achievement more excellent). Elliott’s brief escape from the ward, his first ever self-determined act, ends with him lying injured beneath thorny bushes on the urine-smelling edge of a layby, watching horses in the nearby field running for the sake of running, is a memorable moment of beauty, a moment in which Elliott is at last part of and not separate from the world: “Nothing here or anywhere could be where it should not be. Even me.”
Our Book of the Week is an endlessly fascinating and stunningly presented collection of information about every aspect of New Zealand's physical, political and cultural landscapes. In We Are Here: An atlas of Aotearoa, Chris McDowall and Tim Denee present eye-catching, brain-ensnaring infographics that give us an unprecedented picture of where we are now. 
>>Lose yourself/find yourself
>>On the radio (with pictures)
>>The NZ song map (interactive version). 
>>Chris McDowell on data visualisation and on what at atlas can do
>>We Are Here has been long-listed for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. See what else has been listed
>>Click and collect

Friday 21 February 2020

Shakti by Rajorshi Chakraborti          $36
Amid a political climate of right-wing, nationalist leadership, three very different women in the city of Calcutta find themselves gifted with magical powers that match their wildest dreams. There is one catch — the gifts come with a Faustian price. The Man Who Would Not See was long-listed for the Acorn Prize in the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. 
"Chakraborti has embarked on one of the most interesting career trajectories seen in recent times." —The Sunday Guardian
>>Read Stella's review
>>Raj reads from the book and discusses its context. 

The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts            $38
A fascinating history of Siberia as told through the pianos that have made their ways into houses there over the centuries. 
"An elegant and nuanced journey through literature, through history, through music, murder and incarceration and revolution, through snow and ice and remoteness, to discover the human face of Siberia. I loved this book." —Paul Theroux
>>A journey to the end of everything
Actress by Anne Enright         $35
Looking back on her mother's life and career as an actor, both in Ireland and in Hollywood, a woman finds herself reassessing her own life and her relationship with her parents. 
"This novel achieves what no real actor’s memoir could. Enright triumphs as a chameleon: memoirist, journalist, critic, daughter – her emotional intelligence knows no bounds. This is a study of possession that includes the subtly implied pain of having to share your mother with a crowd." —Guardian
Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, and me by Deirdre Bair        $33
Becket and Beauvoir lived on essentially the same street, and, apparently, despised each other. Bair wrote incisive biographies of each. How did she juggle these personalities, and the different approaches she needed to take with each of them? 
>>Bair talks about the book

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg           $48
A beautifully drawn and thoughtful graphic novel about the imaginary world invented by the four Brontë siblings when they were children — and what happened to that world when its creators grew up and abandoned it. From the author of The Encyclopedia of Early Earth and The One Hundred Nights of Hero
Humiliation by Paulina Flores          $33
Short stories revealing new dimensions of often marginal life in Chile. 
"In this impressive debut, nimbly translated by Megan McDowell, Flores explores the indignities of poverty, widespread in her native Chile. Like Alice Munro, Flores sparks empathy with a careful attention to details. Humanity, she makes clear, is bound together by a shared vulnerability." —Guardian 
"If reading can feel like a hand reaching out and taking yours (as Alan Bennett memorably put it), it’s still rare to encounter a debut with a grip this sure. A number of stories are written from the perspective of children, and are so saturated with misunderstandings and swollen emotions that they really do transport you backwards. Flores perfectly captures how silly things and life-changingly serious ones can acquire the same weight for a child trying to make sense of a grown-up world. There’s a masterly steadiness to her writing: no flash or dash, but neat psychological insight and understated, sometimes drily funny storytelling. There are also some killer twists. For all that she eschews high drama, I still physically winced a couple of times." —Observer
Translation (Documents of contemporary art) edited by Sophie Wilkinson        $55
The movement of global populations, and subsequently the task of translation, underlies contemporary culture. Economic and environmental migration, forced political exiles, and the plight of refugees are now superimposed upon the intricacies of ancient and modern diasporas, generations of colonisation, and the transportation of slaves. This timely anthology considers translation's ongoing role in cultural navigation, empathy, and understanding disparate experiences. It explores the approaches of artists, poets, and theorists in negotiating increasingly protean identities—from the intrinsic intimacy of language, to translation's embedded structures of knowledge production and interaction, to its limitations of expression, and, ultimately, its importance in a world of multiple perspectives. Artists surveyed include: Meric Algun Ringborg, Geta Bratescu, Tanya Bruguera, Jesse Darling, Chto Delat, Chohreh Feyzdjou, Susan Hiller, Glenn Ligon, Teresa Margolles, Shirin Neshat, Helio Oiticica, Pratchaya Phinthong, Kurt Schwitters, Yinka Shonibare, Mladen Stilinovic, Erika Tan, Kara Walker, Wu Tsang. Writers include: Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Luis Camnitzer, Jean Fisher, Stuart Hall, bell hooks, Sarat Maharaj, Martha Rosler, Bertrand Russell, Simon Sheikh, Gayatri Spivak, Hito Steyerl, Lawrence Venuti
Forever by Beatrice Alemagna          $30
Beautiful illustrations with clever overlays show that we are surrounded by change, but the most important thing will last for ever. 
We Fight Fascists: The 43 Group and their forgotten battle for post-war Britain by Daniel Sonabend         $43
Returning to civilian life, at the close of the Second World War, a group of Jewish veterans discovered that, for all their effort and sacrifice, their fight was not yet done. Creeping back onto the streets were Britain's homegrown fascists, directed from the shadows by Sir Oswald Mosley. Horrified that the authorities refused to act, forty-three Jewish ex-servicemen and women resolved to take matters into their own hands. In 1946, they founded the 43 Group and let it be known that they were willing to stop the far-right resurgence by any means necessary. Their numbers quickly swelled. Joining the battle-hardened ex-servicemen in smashing up fascist meetings were younger Jews, including hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, and gentiles as well, some of whom volunteered to infiltrate fascist organisations. The Group published its own newspaper, conducted covert operations, and was able to muster a powerful force of hundreds of fighters who quickly turned fascist street meetings into mass brawls. The struggle peaked in the summer of 1947 with the Battle of Ridley Road, where thousands descended on the Hackney market to participate in weekly riots. Fascinating (and appropriately priced).
>>Sabotage and street scuffles
Grow Fruit and Vegetables in Pots: Planting advice and recipes from Great Dixter by Aaron Bertelsen          $70
Container gardening, and cooking (also using containers (of another sort)). 50 delicious recipes; excellent photographs; New Zealand author. 
Democracy May Not Exist, But we'll miss it when it's gone by Astra Taylor         $33
Is democracy a means or an end? A process or a set of desired outcomes? What if the those outcomes, whatever they may be - peace, prosperity, equality, liberty, an engaged citizenry - can be achieved by non-democratic means? Or if an election leads to a terrible outcome? If democracy means rule by the people, what does it mean to rule and who counts as the people? Incisive. Urgent. 
Comrade: An essay on political belonging by Jodi dean        $35
In the twentieth century, people across the globe addressed each other as 'comrade'. Now, among the left, it's more common to hear talk of 'allies'. Dean insists that this shift exemplifies the key problem with the contemporary left: the substitution of political identity for a relationship of political belonging that must be built, sustained, and defended. Dean offers a theory of the comrade. Comrades are equals on the same side of a political struggle. Voluntarily coming together in the struggle for justice, their relationship is characterised by discipline, joy, courage, and enthusiasm.

Lives and Deaths by Leo Tolstoy            $33
Short stories, newly translated by Boris Dralyuk. Includes the novella, 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich', together with shorter works 'Three Deaths', 'Pace-setter' and the fable-like 'Alyosha the Pot'. 
Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt        $25
"Few contemporary writers are as satisfying and stimulating to read as Siri Hustvedt. Her sentences dance with the elation of a brilliant intellect romping through a playground of ideas, and her prose is just as lively when engaged in the development of characters and story. Her wonderful new novel, “Memories of the Future,” is, among other things, a meditation on memory, selfhood and aging, but the plot is driven by the encounters of a present-day narrator with the young woman she was when she moved to New York City in August 1978. The drama that arises from these encounters is a reckoning between male privilege and female rage as timeless as “Medea” and as contemporary as #MeToo." —Washington Post
New paperback edition. 

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom        $35
Broom's remarkable book tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area in New Orleans. This is the story of a mother's struggle against a house's entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina.
Granta 150: There Must Be Ways to Organise the World with Language         $28
Fiction, reportage, poetry, photography. Carmen Maria Machado, Oliver Bullogh, Andrew O'Hagan, Sidik Fofana, Amy Leach, Mazen Maarouf, Jack Underwood, Che Yeun, Tommi Parrish, Michael Collins, Jay G. Ying, Iain Willms, Pwaangulongii Dauod, Noriko Hayashi. 
Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš       $25
When Baroness Valtraute von Bruegen's officer husband's body is severed in two she is delighted to find that the lower half has been sewn onto the upper body of the humble local Captain Ulste. She conceives a child only to see the return of her husband in one piece. What happens next? A darkly bizarre novel flitting between 18th century Baltic gentry and the narrator's life in contemporary Latvia. 
The Writing Deck: 52 prompts for putting pen to paper by Emily Campbell and Harry Oulen         $40
Prompts, constraints, exercises, suggestions — your writing year in a deck of cards. 
Diary of a Murderer by Kim Young-Ha          $23
In the titular story of this darkly funny collection, a one-time serial killer with dementia sets his sights on one last target: his daughter's boyfriend. 
"Filled with the kind of sublime, galvanizing stories that strike like a lightning bolt, searing your nerves." —Nylon 
"Kim delicately weaves philosophical debates on the nature of happiness and morality into his characters' inner narrations. Both jarring and atmospheric, this is a cerebrally satisfying collection." —Booklist
Meet Me in Buenos Aires by Marlene Hobsbawm         $35
Recounts her hugely eventful and various life, especially with her husband, the historian Eric Hobsbawm, often under constant scrutiny by MI5. 
The Star Factory by Ciaran Carson           $23
Could there be a better guide to the streets, stories, histories and cultural depths of Belfast than the author of Shamrock Tea and Fishing for Amber
Identity and Involvement: Auckland Jewry into the 21st century edited by Ann Gluckman        $50
This, the third volume of Gluckman's monumental record of 180 years of Jewish life in Auckland (and wider New Zealand), gathers family and individual stories of migration and identity. Contributors include Max Cryer, Sir Peter Gluckman, Walter Hirsh, Juliet Moses, Professor Paul Moon, Dame Lesley Max, Bob Narev, David Galler, Diana Wichtel, Judge David Robinson, Deb Filler and Maria Collins. 
Radicalised by Cory Doctorow       $23
Four dystopian sci-fi novellas set in a near future and exploring issues of migration and toxic economic and technological stratification.

Puligny-Montrachet: Journal of a village in Burgundy by Simon Loftus        $33
Loftus explores the mystery of how seven and a half acres of impoverished soil became the most precious agricultural land on earth, producing the grandest of all white wines: Puligny-Montrachet.

An Atlas of Geographical Wonders: From mountaintops to riverbeds by  Gilles Palsky, Jean-Marc Besse, Philippe Grand and Jean-Christophe Bailly         $100
An outstanding selection of comparative maps and tableaux, mostly drawn from nineteenth century publications. Endlessly wonderful. 
On Flowers: Advice from an accidental florist by Amy Merrick    $85
"I wanted the book to feel like this delightful collection of surprises, where you wouldn’t quite know what was coming next, a bit like a classic 1950s flower arranging manual but also a scrapbook of inspiration and ideas." —Amy Merrick
>>An interview with Amy Merrick.
Speak Italian: The fine art of the gesture by Bruno Munari      $30
With this superbly designed and photographed "supplement to the Italian dictionary" you will learn what Italians are saying with their hands — and what this says about them.
>>How to talk without using words