Saturday 29 May 2021


BOOKS @ VOLUME #231 (28.5.21)

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>> Read all Stella's reviews.


Funny Weather: Art in an emergency by Olivia Laing  {Reviewed by STELLA}
A collection of essays about art and emergency couldn’t be more fitting for the times we live in. Funny Weather is a collection of pieces written by Olivia Laing between 2015—2019 for various art magazines and newspapers. Laing is intrigued by the idea, and adamant that it is so, that art is a vehicle for resistance and repair in a world where crises pit us against systems, both capitalist and governmental, and where unexpected emergencies create social and cultural upheaval. While these writings predate the Covid crisis, the ideas and analysis can easily be applied to our present scenario. Laing discusses artists, writers, and their work related to the political and social upheavals that prefigure and inform their practice. Whether it’s documenting the AIDS crisis, as in the work of  David Wojnarowicz, or exploring our place in nature — Derek Jarman — or creating a place of least distraction — Georgia O’Keefe — or using language to counter political expediency — Ali Smith — or countering expectations — Jean-Michel Basquiat — Laing introduces us to artists who push against the rigidity of conformity, question authority and suggest alternatives. While the best works are in a biographical essay style, the longer pieces being more satisfying, the variety of work ensures fresh views on artists you may know, as well as introductions to some you don’t. Split into loosely thematic sections, the essays intersect across each other in ideas and study, with all drawing down to Laing’s insistence that art is important in the face of an emergency. This concept underlies her conversations about or with the artists, and her critique of their work in the context of political, social and cultural phenomena. Where Laing succeeds and keeps the reader engaged (compared with the stilted or pretentious nature of much art writing) is in her ability to write with insight, compassion and verve, by putting her own experiences into the dialogue and teasing at the edges, looking afresh (much in the same way that John Berger makes us look at art) to give the reader informative and complex, yet unwaveringly accessible, conversation. Laing avoids easy conclusions and gives us plenty to chew on, as we seek art to save us in an emergency.


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


Mouthpieces by Eimear McBride   {Reviewed by THOMAS}

To remove from language the ornamental aspects of that language, to undercut the words until the uncuttable is all that’s left, to remove from a text all rationale, to leave all bare, is a path of negation, of austere interrogation, he wrote. “There is no occurrence upon which doubt cannot be thrown,” she wrote. The space cleared by Samuel Beckett surely is or could be an enterable space, not a fenced space, if there are any who would enter and could enter, some few perhaps, but some, he wrote. Space for a voice, a voice tied with the breath, or by the breath, whatever, to the body, to the mind, to the mouth and to the ear, if there is not no such thing as a body or a mind, or a mouth and an ear, he wrote. The most is nearest the least. Three pieces by McBride, I’m ear, call them pieces, call them texts, nothing else to call them, three voices, women’s voices, attrited by all that surrounds them and attrites, by all that expects, by all that intrudes upon them and demands, by all that surrounds them and occludes, but voices made more clear by all attempts, at all times and from all quarters, to stifle and occlude, he wrote. Kick away the crutch and see what walks. There is more threat or rage in the uneraseable than in that which has yet to be erased, though the impulse to erase remains, an impulse no longer able to be expressed, from which expression is exhausted, or denied, or is itself erased, he wrote. Some breath remains unsmothered, some unsmotherable breath or some breath not quite yet smothered, some voice will name, or if not name resist, with irresistable resistance or with what must pass for resistance, the smotherers whose smothering is not quite yet done, whose smothering will never now be done or whose smothering is at least postponed by the voice, the voice that therefore must not cease, he wrote. Three brief texts made powerful by their briefness. I read, I unread and reread, he wrote. I write this adminicle, this text as evidence of another text, the text I view and review, the text the reader of this adminicle would do well to read and reread rather than this rushed adminicle, this clumsiness, this crutchlessness, he wrote. How to go on? “She cannot find a way out because there is no way,” she wrote. “Because there is no out. Because there is no because. Just is.”

Friday 28 May 2021


In our Book of the Week, Everybody: A book about freedom, Olivia Laing explores the capacities and vulnerabilities of the human body, and sees it as the locus of a political struggle for individual and collective freedom and authenticity. Laing uses the body as a way to consider significant and complicated figures of the past, and to understand their relevance today, when our bodies are facing both established and new threats and opportunities. 
>>The problems of inhabiting a body
>>William Reich and the 'sexual revolution'.
>>An interrogation of bodies.
>>The book came out of a moment of despair. 
>>Laing discusses the book with Maggie Nelson
>>On writing the global story of liberation
>>Finding renewal in a precision haircut. 
>>Of course the book has a playlist!
>>Laing's reading piles are far from organised...
>>Your copy of Everybody.
>>Other books by Olivia Laing


To order these books, just click through to our website

Dead Souls by Sam Riviere              $38
A glorious and hilarious rant against the pretensions of the 'poetry scene', so to call it, and against pretty much everything else that falls under the author's notice, Dead Souls is also a metaphysical mystery and an exploration of the dual pitfalls of plagiarism and invention — a novel with a similar palette of barbs and pleasures to those of Thomas Bernhard
>>Read an extract
The Hard Crowd: Essays, 2000—2020 by Rachel Kushner            $37
In nineteen razor-sharp essays Kushner explores friendship, loss, social justice, art and more, taking us into the world of truckers, a Palestinian refugee camp, the American prison system and the San Francisco music scene, via the work of Jeff Koons, Marguerite Duras and the Rolling Stones. The book also details how, in her twenties, Kushner went to Mexico in pursuit of her first love — motorbikes — to compete in the notorious and deadly race, Cabo 1000, and how, following a crash at 200km/h, she decided to leave her controlling boyfriend and manoeuvred her way into a freer new life.
A Clear Dawn: New Asian voices from Aotearoa New Zealand edited by Paula Morris and Alison Wong               $50
This collection of poetry, fiction and essays by emerging writers is the first-ever anthology of Asian New Zealand creative writing. A Clear Dawn presents a new wave of creative talent. With roots stretching from Indonesia to Japan, from China to the Philippines to the Indian subcontinent, the authors in this anthology range from high school students to retirees, from recent immigrants to writers whose families have lived in New Zealand for generations. Some of the writers – including Gregory Kan, Sharon Lam, Rose Lu and Chris Tse – have published books; some, like Mustaq Missouri, Aiwa Pooamorn and Gemishka Chetty, are better known for their work in theatre and performance. The introduction outlines New Zealand's long yet under-recognised history of immigration from Asia. 
"Breathtaking in its parts and as a whole. Even if you know a part of Asia well, even if you feel in touch with present-day Aotearoa, this anthology will surprise you again and again, as, voice by unique voice, truth by particular truth, its artists build a mosaic you have never seen before." —Rajorshi Chakraborti
A Door Behind a Door by Yelena Moskovich          $36
Olga immigrates as part of the Soviet diaspora of '91 to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. There she grows up and meets a girl and falls in love, beginning to believe that she can settle down. But a phone call from a bad man from her past brings to life a haunted childhood in an apartment building in the Soviet Union: an unexplained murder in her block, a supernatural stray dog, and the mystery of her beloved brother Moshe, who lost an eye and later vanished. We get pulled into Olga's past as she puzzles her way through an underground Midwestern Russian mafia, in pursuit of a string of mathematical stabbings.
"Yelena Moskovich’s A Door Behind A Door reminded me, as I was speeding through it, for there was no other way to read a work of such momentum and force, that novels are made of sentences, and who else writes sentences like this, does anyone else, I thought, as if in a fever dream, opening up each portal and falling through it, write sentences like this juxtaposing despair and lust, tragedy and farce." —Kate Zambreno
Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan             $40
The devil's daughter rows to the shores of Leith in a coffin. The year is 1910 and she has been sent to a tenement building in Edinburgh by her recently deceased father to bear a child for a wealthy man and his fiancée. The harrowing events that follow lead to a curse on the building and its residents - a curse that will last for the rest of the century. Over nine decades, No. 10 Luckenbooth Close bears witness to emblems of a changing world outside its walls. An infamous madam, a spy, a famous Beat poet, a coal miner who fears daylight, a psychic: these are some of the residents whose lives are plagued by the building's troubled history in disparate, sometimes chilling ways. The curse creeps up the nine floors and an enraged spirit world swells to the surface, desperate for the true horror of the building's longest kept secret to be heard.
"One of the most stunning literary experiences I've had in years. Luckenbooth, sprawling the decades with its themes of repression and revenge, brings back something that has long been lacking in the British novel: ambition. If Alasdair Gray's Lanark was a masterly imagining of Glasgow, then this is the quintessential novel of Edinburgh at its darkest." —Irvine Welsh
"A deeply powerful, compellingly vivid novel. Luckenbooth is a major work of Scottish fiction — possibly one of the most significant novels of the last ten years. —Alan Warner
"Brilliantly strange, this haunted panorama is a dazzling outsider history." —M. John Harrison, Guardian
"Radical, daring, and beautifully written." —The Scotsman
Fragments of an Infinite Memory: My life with the internet by Maël Renouard           $37
A fascinating series of conjectures on how human experience, especially the sense of self, is being changed by our continual engagement with a memory that is impersonal and effectively boundless: the internet.
>>In search of lost time (with a little help from Google). 
The Book of Unconformities: Speculations on lost time by Hugh Raffles             $55
An exploration of loss, endurance, and the absences that permeate the present. When Hugh Raffles’s two sisters died suddenly within a few weeks of each other, he reached for rocks, stones, and other seemingly solid objects as anchors in a world unmoored, ways to make sense of these events through stories far larger than his own. The Book of Unconformities is grounded in stories of stones: Neolithic stone circles, Icelandic lava, mica from a Nazi concentration camp, petrified whale blubber in Svalbard, the marble prized by Manhattan’s Lenape, and a huge Greenlandic meteorite that arrived with six Inuit adventurers in the exuberant but fractious New York City of 1897. As Raffles follows these fundamental objects, unearthing the events they’ve engendered, he finds them losing their solidity, as capricious indifferent and willful as time itself.
“In a high-voltage jolt of insight, Mr. Raffles converts what might seem a dry scientific concept into a potent literary metaphor to help anyone whose sense of time has been fractured by loss. The Book of Unconformities is so rich in erudition and prose-poetry that I read it like a glutton, tearing off big bites of lost time until I was sated.” —The Wall Street Journal
“What intuition the book requires, what detective work—and what magic tricks it performs. Raffles is serenely indifferent to the imperatives and ordinary satisfactions of conventional storytelling. Character, coherence, a legible and meaningful structure—these are not his concerns. There are no attempts to suture together the various stories, no attempts to enact something 'learned' by the author. The photographs accompanying the text are dim  and blotchy, and Raffles favors slabs of prose unbroken by punctuation. I intend all this as praise.” —The New York Times 
“A spellbinding time travelogue. Raffles’s dense, associative, essayistic style mirrors geological transformation, compressing and folding chronologies like strata in  metamorphic rock.” —Harper’s Magazine
Choke Box by Christina Milletti             $38
When Edward Tamlin disappears while writing his memoir, Jane Tamlin (his wife and the mother of his young children) begins to write a secret, corrective "counter-memoir" of her own. Calling the book Choke Box, she reveals intimate, often irreverent, details about her family and marriage, rejecting-and occasionally celebrating-her suspected role in her husband's disappearance. Choke Box isn't Jane's first book. From her room in the Buffalo Psychiatric Institute, she slowly reveals a hidden history of the ghost authorship that has sabotaged her family and driven her to madness. Her latest work, finally written under her own name, is designed to reclaim her dark and troubled story. Yet even as Jane portrays her life as a wife, mother, and slighted artist with sardonic candor, her every word is underscored by one belief above all others: the complete truth is always a secret. The stories we tell may help us survive—if they don't kill us first.
Snow Approaching on the Hudson by August Kleinzahler           $28
August Kleinzahler has earned admiration for his musical, precise, wise, and sometimes madcap poems that are grounded in the wide array of places, people, and most especially voices he has encountered in his real and imaginative worlds. Snow Approaching on the Hudson is a collection that moves through the often hypnogogic, porous realms of dreams, the past and present, inner and outer landscapes. His haunting, shifting atmospheres are peopled by characters, intimately portrayed, that are at one historical and invented. The poet's signature rhythmic propulsion serves as the engine for his newest collection, his first in eight years.
Niva and Yotam Kay of Pakaraka Permaculture on the Coromandel Peninsula share their long experience of organic gardening in this comprehensive book on how to create and maintain a productive and regenerative vegetable garden. Taking care of the soil life and fertility provides plants with what they need to thrive. The book reflects in the latest scientific research on soil health, ecological and regenerative practices. 

I Saw the Dog: How language works by Alexandra Aikhenvald            $33
 Every language in the world shares a few common features: we can ask a question, say something belongs to us, and tell someone what to do. But beyond that, our languages are richly and almost infinitely varied: a French speaker can't conceive of a world that isn't split into un and une, male and female, while Estonians have only one word for both men and women: tema. In Dyirbal, an Australian language, things might be masculine, feminine, neuter — or edible vegetable.

We All Play by Julie Flett          $30
A beautifully illustrated picture books gently encouraging an appreciation of nature, animals, seasons, and intergenerational friendship. Includes a glossary of Cree words for the various animals that appear in the book. 
Landfall 241 edited by Emma Neale            $30
Results from the 2021 Charles Brasch Young Writers' Essay Competition as well as new writing from established and new voices — work ranging from the wry, ludic and lyrical, to gripping body horror as social commentary — reviews of New Zealand books, and art by Claire Beynon, Ewan McDougall, and Bridget Reweti.

Bookstores: A celebration of independent booksellers by Horst A. Friedrichs and Stuart Husband          $100
Pay a photographic visit to a variety of new, second-hand and antiquarian bookshops, mostly in the US, the UK and Europe, in this sumptuous book. 
On the Suffering of the World by Arthur Schopenhauer, edited by Eugene Thacker         $30
Schopenhauer's later writings mark a shift towards a philosophy of aphorisms, fragments, anecdotes and observations, written in a literary style that is by turns antagonistic, resigned, confessional, and filled with all the fragile contours of an intellectual memoir. Here Schopenhauer allows himself to pose challenging questions regarding the fate of the human species, the role of suffering in the world, and the rift between self and world that increasingly has come to define human existence, to this day. It is these writings of Schopenhauer that later generations of artists, poets, musicians, and philosophers would identify as exemplifying the pessimism of their era, and perhaps of our own as well. On the Suffering of the World is presented with an introduction that places Schopenhauer's thought in its intellectual context, while also connecting it to contemporary concerns over climate change, the anthropocene, and the spectre of human extinction.
>>A few cheerful words by Thomas. 
The Lost Soul by Olga Tokarczuk, illustrated by Joanna Concejo          $38
The first picture book from the Nobel Prize-winning writer is a quiet meditation on happiness following the life of a busy man who loses his soul, beautifully illustrated by Concejo. 

Friday 21 May 2021


BOOKS @ VOLUME #230 (21.5.21)

Read our latest NEWSLETTER for book news and new books. 


>> Read all Stella's reviews.


Bread is Gold: Extraordinary meals with ordinary ingredients by Massimo Bottura and friends    {Reviewed by STELLA}
A surfeit of stale bread and bruised bananas? Bread is Gold is the perfect cookbook for these dilemmas. Spearheaded by Italian chef Massimo Bottura (of Osteria Francescana fame), the Refettorio Ambrosiano was a project designed alongside the Food Expo in Milan in 2015. Its purpose was to use the waste ingredients (the leftovers) to produce free meals for the community — a soup kitchen with world-class chefs at the stovetops. With Bottura’s personal connections and chefs coming to cook for the Expo, there was a steady stream of willing cooks in town. Bread is Gold records some of the recipes they created, insights into their experience of inventive cooking using an array of seemingly unexceptional (or abandoned) ingredients to make food that was extraordinary for the community — dinner for the homeless, the poor and the hungry, as well lunches for school children — not just to feed, but to create a sense of community through sharing good food together. The fifty-odd chefs include Daniel Humm (3 Michelin star restaurant Eleven Madison Park), Rene Redzepi (Noma), Alain Ducasse (21 Michelin stars to his name), Ana Ros (Hisa Franko), Ferran Adria (elBulli), Cristina Bowerman (Glass Hostaria), and so many more — all willing to turn up on the day, walk into the chiller and make something out of nothing. Each chef is profiled, citing their daily experience: what they find in the cupboards and how they transform the ingredients into something not just edible, but delicious. Massimo Bottura's conversational style works well as he records his conversations in the kitchen with the chefs — conversations about food waste and their reaction to cooking for people who would rarely know how famous they were; the challenge of making do, and their eagerness to make a special meal. Following the insightful text pieces, are photographs of the trays of foodstuffs for the day — sometimes treasures, but often battered or nearly past-the-use-by-date ingredients — and the cooks working in the kitchen, the hard work and the camaraderie. Then the recipes and, yes, there are multiple ways to use day-old bread and battered bananas — ice cream variations feature highly. Yet each chef brings something from their own cultural background and culinary experience, along with inventiveness and sophistication — popcorn pesto, burnt lime soup, banana peel chutney, fennel and grapefruit salad with anchovy paste, caramelised bananas with crescenza cheese, cream of mixed grains with puffed rice and goat milk royale. Some recipes are hearty, others delicate, but all have that same sensibility of looking in the cupboard when it’s almost bare, when ingredients don’t seem to be a natural match, and coming up with something that will satisfy (or surprise) the taste buds and fill the stomach — and along the way reduce waste. Learn how to experiment in your kitchen — use the wilted herbs, the stale bread and very ripe bananas — and maybe pick up some new tips from world-class chefs and reduce your food waste footprint. Refettorio Ambrosiano went on beyond its six months and continues under the wider Food for Soul international project.


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
Is there such a thing as claustrophobia in your own skin, he wondered. He thought about the possibility of a collective mind, a species mind, but why stop at species, a global mind, trapped and compartmentalised into individuals. No wonder we all feel trapped in ourselves, he thought. No wonder we do everything we can, even the most stupid things, to join ourselves back up. The most inane things. And yet, and yet, we are all the time assailed by this collective mind, he thought, how do we protect ourselves from it, and from everyone else that comprises it, how do we hold back even a little space within ourselves to be just ourselves, if there is such a thing? Do we have, or have we ever had, anything that could pass for authenticity, anyway, he wondered, and would we know whether we had it or had lost it, or not? In the age of internet hyperconnectivity, so to call it, should we fear or celebrate that so much of our thinking is done for us outside our head, how liberating, how useful, how frightening, but has this not anyway always been the case, even for our ancestors’ ancestors, is this not where the collective mind came from, after all? Too many question marks, too many superfluous words, he thought. Let’s get on. Patricia Lockwood’s novel No One Is Talking About This straddles these and other polarities, he wrote. It is both clever and moving, both piercingly funny and reassuringly sad, it is both about the bodilessness of the internet and about bodies in the world, about both isolation and intimacy, and about the burden that language bears—and the possibilities language offers—connecting or attempting to connect all these. Now he seemed to have written some sort of blurb instead of a review, he observed, not that what he had been writing or what he usually wrote could have passed as a review anyway, the blurb was closer. The first half of the book is probably the best encapsulation of the internet experience in fiction that he had read, he thought, if encapsulation is the word, though he had not read many fictions that attempted to capture the internet experience, so to call it. Actually there are very few novels that attempt this, he thought, which is surprising considering the way we all use the internet to do our thinking nowadays. Because we are all but a synapse away from everyone else on the planet, the speed of thought really is the speed of thought, he thought, by the time anyone responds to our thought, the world we thought it in has already changed, the collective mind has mutated and normalised the mutation. No One Is Talking About This is written in short paragraphs or sections of a postable size, the length of an internet thought, he thought, separated by blanks, just as thoughts seem to be. “Why were we all writing like this now?” wonders Lockwood’s narrator (that is to say Lockwood herself in the third person, past tense (he knew, he thought, why she wrote like that)). “Because a new kind of connection had to be made, and blink, synapse, little space-between was the only way to make it. Or because, and this was more frightening, it was the way the portal wrote. ::: These disconnections were what kept the pages turning, these blank spaces were what moved the plot forward. The plot! That was a laugh. The plot was that she sat motionless in her chair, willing herself to stand up.” Is this book a celebration or a satire of the internet—the portal—he wondered, who can tell the difference these days, the membrane between irony and sincerity is pretty well transparent, he wrote, avoiding a question mark where one had seemed to be called for. The portal had “once been the place where you sounded like yourself. Gradually it had become the place where we sounded like each other,” Lockwood wrote. All the time, though, as he had said in his blurb, call that the precis of his review, perhaps, the book is really about language and the ways it bears, releases, lets slip, distorts, mocks, grapples with and fails to grapple with whatever it is that language bears, releases, lets slip, etcetera, he wasn’t quite sure what, but language did it anyway, what was always protean was only more protean in the portal. The second half of the book concerns the brief six-month life of Lockwood’s niece, born with Proteus Syndrome, a growth disorder that eventually kills its subject under the chaotic asymmetric growth of their own body. He had forgotten the name of the syndrome and had to look it up in the novel later, only to find that he had used it adjectivally in his previous sentence, which was a bit awkward and unintentional, but there was no going back now. The Lockwood character is stricken (“If all she was was funny, and none of this was funny, where did this leave her?”), goes to support her sister, and the rest of the novel about language revolves around the niece who would never attain language of her own. The narrator’s love for the doomed niece is the least meme-able thing you could imagine, he thought, and yet the voice continues, the thought length continues, the writing style spun by the portal proves, in Lockwood’s hands (hands? mind? fingers? keyboard?) at least, capable of authenticity and feeling. Perhaps we have always thought like this, or experienced like this, he thought, perhaps the world and we ourselves are comprised of instances, snippets, bundled together by language, and the portal has only helped us to see that this is so. If I feel claustrophobic in my own skin, he thought, imagine how the parts and sub-parts of me feel. Imagine how my thoughts feel, and how badly they want to get out. 



Book of the Week: Feline Philosophy: Cats and the meaning of life by John Gray.
There can be no doubt that cats long ago domesticated humans for their own ends, and since then have both shown and withheld from us the secrets of living well. At once our close companions and completely inaccessible, what do cats know that we don't? They show little interest in philosophy and yet they can help us think about what it means to exist—and how we can do so better. With his wide-ranging knowledge of philosophy and his radical empathy for the experiences of animals in human association, there can be no better guide to feline philosophy than John Gray. 
>>What can we learn from cats? 
>>Cats, humans, and the good life
>>Contentment is the default condition for cats
>>We cannot know what it is like to be a cat


Second Place by Rachel Cusk              $33
From the author of the 'Outline' trilogy, a fable of human destiny and decline, enacted in a closed system of intimate, fractured relationships. A woman invites a famed artist to visit the remote coastal region where she lives, in the belief that his vision will penetrate the mystery of her life and landscape. Over the course of one hot summer, his provocative presence provides the frame for a study of female fate and male privilege, of the geometries of human relationships, and of the struggle to live morally between our internal and external worlds. With its examination of the possibility that art can both save and destroy us, Second Place is both deeply affirming and deeply scathing of humanity. 
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri               $29
A woman moves through the city, her city, on her own. She moves along its bright pavements; she passes over its bridges, through its shops and pools and bars. She slows her pace to watch a couple fighting, to take in the sight of an old woman in a waiting room; pauses to drink her coffee in a shaded square. Sometimes her steps take her to her grieving mother, sealed off in her own solitude. Sometimes they take her to the station, where the trains can spirit her away for a short while. But in the arc of a year, as one season gives way to the next, transformation awaits. One day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun's vital heat, her perspective will change forever. Written in Lahiri's adopted language, Italian, and translated by her into English, Whereabouts is spare and evocative, demonstrating the shift in the author's literary sensibilities. 
>>Lost, at sea, at odds
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones            $35
Short-listed for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, this well written multi-generational novel coils its way through issues of race, class and gender in a Barbados where poverty and misogyny lurk under the surface and where a cautionary folk tale takes on multiple meanings for three very different women.
The Voice Over: Poems and essays by Maria Stepanova            $38
Short-listed for 2021 International Booker Prize for In Memory of Memory, Maria Stepanova is one of the most distinctive voices of Russia's first post-Soviet literary generation. An award-winning poet and prose writer, she has also founded a major platform for independent journalism. As Russia's political climate has turned increasingly repressive, Stepanova has responded with engaged writing that grapples with the persistence of violence in her country's past and present. The Voice Over brings together two decades of Stepanova's poetry and essays, showcasing her range and creative evolution.  
Events in the Life of Peter Tapsell by PhillipTapsell, edited by Jonathan Adams             $45
Hans Falk, born in 1790 in Copenhagen, took to the sea as a lad, changed his name to Phillip Tapsell, and after many adventures settled at Maketu in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty. There he became the key trader for Bay of Plenty iwi and married into the highest levels of Te Arawa, while helping other tribes to defend themselves against invasion from northern tribes. He was one of the original Pakeha-Maori. Yet Tapsell's life of daring is not well known today, and the memoirs he dictated to Edward Little shortly before his death were only ever published in newspaper form. Adams's research has given Tapsell's account a context in which to appreciate his importance. 
River Kings: A new history of the Vikings, from Scandinavia to the Silk Road by Cat Jarman            $40
Using a bioarchaeological approach, Jarman follows evidence that suggests a Viking-dominated trade and slave route from Northern Europe to the Middle East, India and beyond, and reconfigures our thinking about the Vikings themselves.  

Family Papers: A Sephardic journey through the twentieth century by Sarah Abrevaya Stein             $38
For centuries, the port city of Salonica was home to the sprawling Levy family. As leading publishers and editors, they helped chronicle modernity as it was experienced by Sephardic Jews across the Ottoman Empire. The wars of the twentieth century, however, redrew the borders around them, in the process transforming the Levys from Ottomans to Greeks. Family members soon moved across boundaries and hemispheres, stretching the familial diaspora from Greece to Western Europe, Israel, Brazil, and India. In time, the Holocaust nearly eviscerated the clan, eradicating whole branches of the family tree. Sarah Abrevaya Stein uses the family's correspondence to tell the story of their journey across the arc of a century and the breadth of the globe. They wrote to share grief and to reveal secrets, to propose marriage and to plan for divorce, to maintain connection. And years after they frayed, Stein discovers, what remains solid is the fragile tissue that once held them together: neither blood nor belief, but papers.
We Are Not in the World by Conor O'Callaghan             $35
Heartbroken after a long, painful love affair, a man drives a haulage lorry from England to France. Travelling with him is a secret passenger—his daughter. Twenty-something, unkempt, off the rails. With a week on the road together, father and daughter must restore themselves and each other, and repair a relationship that is at once fiercely loving and deeply scarred.
"Haunting, mesmerising, and so deeply intelligent about the interwoven strengths and frailties of the human heart." —Kamila Shamsie
"Wonderful, wrenching, full of enormous feelings very precisely rendered." —Sara Baume 
Stranger Shores: Essays, 1986-1999 by J.M. Coetzee             $24
Includes essays on Dostoevsky, Kafka, A.S. Byatt, Doris Lessing, Cees Nooteboom, Borges, and Mahfouz.
"For all the sharpness and sorrow of Coetzee's writing, there is something grandly calming about his style: his sentences seem to give off light, and not in a hard dazzle, but in the glow of a child's night-light." —The Age

The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala        $38
The Stuart family moves to a marginal neighborhood of Cienfuegos, a city on the southern coast of Cuba. Arturo Stuart, a charismatic, visionary preacher, discovers soon after arriving that God has given him a mission: to build a temple that surpasses any before seen in Cuba, and to make of Cienfuegos a new Jerusalem. In a neighborhood that roils with passions and conflicts, at the foot of a cathedral that rises higher day by day, there grows a generation marked by violence, cruelty, and extreme selfishness. This generation will carry these traits beyond the borders of the neighborhood, the city, and the country, unable to escape the shadow of the unfinished cathedral. Told by a chorus of narrators—including gossips, gangsters, a ghost, and a serial killer—who flirt, lie, argue, and finish one another's stories, Marcial Gala's The Black Cathedral is a portrait of what remains when dreams of utopia have withered away.
There are books out there, some shelved unwittingly next to ordinary texts, that are bound in human skin. Would you know one if you held it in your hand? In Dark Archives, Megan Rosenbloom, a medical librarian and a cofounder of the Death Salon, seeks out the historic and scientific truths behind this anthropodermic bibliopegy. Dozens of these books still sit on the shelves of the world's most famous libraries and museums. What are their stories? Dark Archives exhumes their origins and brings to life the doctors, murderers, mental patients, beautiful women, and indigents whose lives are bound together in this rare, scattered, and disquieting collection. It also tells the story of the scientists, curators, and librarians like Rosenbloom—interested in the full complicated histories behind these dark artifacts of nineteenth-century medicine—are developing tests to discover these books and sorting through the ethics of custodianship. 
Faking It: My life in transition by Kyle Mewburn             $39
Kyle Mewburn grew up in the sunburnt, unsophisticated Brisbane suburbs of the 1960s and '70s in a household with little love and no books, with a lifelong feeling of being somehow wrong — like 'strawberry jam in a spinach can'. In this book, Kyle describes this early life and her journey to becoming her own person — a celebrated children's book author, a husband and, finally, a woman.
The Power of Geography: Ten maps that reveal the future of the world by Tim Marshall            $38
Marshall's global bestseller Prisoners of Geography showed how every nation's choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas and concrete. Since then, the geography hasn't changed, but the world has. In this new book, Marshall takes us into ten regions that are set to shape global politics and power. Find out why the Earth's atmosphere is the world's next battleground; why the fight for the Pacific is just beginning; and why Europe's next refugee crisis is closer than it thinks. Chapters cover Australia, The Sahel, Greece, Turkey, the UK, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Space.

Cowboy Graves by Roberto Bolaño           $25
Three novellas. In 'Cowboy Graves', Arturo Belano—Bolano's alter ego—returns to Chile after the coup to fight with his comrades for socialism. 'French Comedy of Horrors' takes the reader to French Guiana on the night after an eclipse where a seventeen-year-old answers a pay phone and finds himself recruited into the Clandestine Surrealist Group, a secret society of artists based in the sewers of Paris. And in 'Fatherland', a young poet reckons with the fascist overthrow of his country, as the woman he is obsessed with disappears in the ensuing violence and a Third Reich fighter plane mysteriously writes her poetry in the sky overhead.
The Rise and Fall of Patriarchal Systems by Nancy Folbre            $35
Why is gender inequality so pervasive? In part, says Folbre, because of the contradictory effects of capitalist development: on the one hand, rapid technological change has improved living standards and increased the scope for individual choice for women; on the other, increased inequality and the weakening of families and communities have reconfigured gender inequalities, leaving caregivers particularly vulnerable. The Rise and Decline of Patriarchal Systems examines why care work is generally unrewarded in a market economy, calling attention to the non-market processes of childbearing, childrearing and the care of other dependents, the inheritance of assets, and the use of force and violence to appropriate both physical and human resources. Exploring intersecting inequalities based on class, gender, age, race/ethnicity, and citizenship, and their implications for political coalitions, it sets a new feminist agenda for the twenty-first century.
Oddity by Eli Brown               $22
When her physician father is murdered, thirteen-year-old Clover Elkin embarks on a perilous mission through warring frontier territories to protect the one secret Oddity he left behind. And as she uncovers the truth about her parents and her past, Clover herself emerges as a powerful agent of history.

Hume's radical rethinking of human nature and of our relationship with the world is presented by Baggini as a complete approach to life (and we learn quite a bit about Hume's life, too). 
The Book of the Earthworm by Sally Coulthard               $33
For Charles Darwin – who estimated every acre of land contained 53,000 earthworms – the humble earthworm was the most important creature on the planet. We take them for granted but, without the earthworm, the world's soil would be barren, and our gardens, fields and farms wouldn't be able to grow the food and support the animals we need to survive. 

The Alarmist: Fifty years measuring climate change by Dave Lowe           $40
His research was urgent fifty years ago. Now, it’s critical. In the early 1970s, budding Kiwi scientist Dave Lowe was posted at an atmospheric monitoring station on the wind-blasted southern coast of New Zealand’s North Island. On a shoestring salary he measured carbon in the atmosphere, collecting vital data towards what became one of the most important discoveries in modern science. What followed was a lifetime’s career marked by hope and despair. As realisation dawned of what his measurements meant for the future of the planet, Dave travelled the world to understand more about atmospheric gases, along the way programming some of the earliest computers, designing cutting-edge equipment and conducting experiments both dangerous and mind-numbingly dull. From the sandy beaches of California to the stark winters of West Germany, the mesas of the Rocky Mountains and an Atlantic voyage across the equator, Dave has faced down climate deniers, foot-dragging bureaucracy and widespread complacency to open people’s eyes to the effects of increasing fossil fuel emissions on our atmosphere. In equal parts adventure and a warning, and with the wisdom and frustration of half a century behind him, The Alarmist is the autobiography of a pioneering scientist who has dedicated his life to sounding the alarm on climate change.

Saturday 15 May 2021


BOOKS @ VOLUME #129 (14.5.21)

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Friday 14 May 2021


>> Read all Stella's reviews.



The Loop by Ben Oliver     {Reviewed by STELLA}
With its stunning jacket design and the intriguing plot, The Loop, the first in Ben Oliver's trilogy, is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller for teens. Not only is the unwinding story compelling, and the mysterious experiments on the populace mind-bending, but there is also plenty of emotional heft too, with its diverse characters, developing relationships and consequential situations. Decisions may need to be made which could prove fatal. It’s Luka Kane’s birthday. He’s sixteen and he’s been in The Loop (a high-security prison) for almost two years, his daily companion—a computer AI called Happy (Happy also just happens to be a corporation). Apart from one hour of outdoor exercise (where he can hear the other inmates—they are walled off from each other) and the warden—a young woman who looks out for the ‘safe’ inmates and gives Luka books, the days are endless (that is until you go to The Block). Every six months you can delay your death sentence by letting scientists and doctors experiment on you and every night your energy is harvested to power The Loop. When the systems start to go haywire, the guards start behaving oddly and all the inmates are called up for an extra Delay, and The Loop starts to heat up. Getting out of The Loop might have been every inmate's dream, but outside the facility the city is in chaos and the leading men are up to something strange. Luka sets out with a handful of the other inmates intent on finding his family and untangling the mystery at the heart of the latest experiment. He has been genetically altered, but how and why are the big questions. The city has been attacked, the rebels from the Red Zone are coming and the inhabitants, some of them Regulars and other Alts (modified), are pitching a vicious battle where nothing makes sense. As the teens return to the city they are confronted by zombie-like people intent on murder. A disease has infected them, but not all are affected. Why are some people immune? And what was the purpose of this experiment? And that’s not the only problem—they are also on the government’s 'wanted' list, and a new type of super-soldier with curious behaviour is zoning in on them. Touching on genetic modification, mind control and power play, 'The Loop' is an exciting, high-stakes new series, bound to appeal to readers of 'Scythe', 'Maze Runner' and 'The Hunger Games'. There are echoes of Orwell’s Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go in this not-so-far-fetched future of sky farms, controlled climate, distinct levels of human ability via modification and access to technology, and political power through marketing and its machinations. Add to this that Luka and his misfit friends are the perfect companions—you will want to keep running with them as far as this world can take you.