Saturday 25 September 2021

BOOKS @ VOLUME #248 (24.9.21)

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>> Read all Stella's reviews.

What Can a Body Do? How we meet the built world by Sara Hendren    {Reviewed by STELLA}
A book about how we physically meet the world, but so much more. A book about designing for disability and adjustments that we can make, simple as well as complicated, to interact with our built environment. And how the world could change to meet us in new ways. This is an articulate and illuminating exploration filled with intriguing examples of models of designed engagement, with historical precedents and thought-provoking conversations and ideas. Sara Hendren, designer and researcher, takes us across America, to India and The Netherlands in her study of people and innovation. From her classroom of engineering students grappling with a design problem for an art curator to a volunteering programme for community service administered and enacted by disabled teenagers in Boston, to a workshop in Manhattan that makes innovative low-cost cardboard chairs designed for one—specific to that individual’s need, to the experiences of two men — one who uses home-made solutions for his limblessness and the other with a highly technical ‘smart’ arm — in meeting their daily world with ease, and into her own story of having a son with Down’s Syndrome. Hendren travels to India to introduce us to the simple success of a prosthetics industry that uses bicycle parts (replaceable and mendable) to resolve the needs of its inhabitants and the environment they live in. In The Netherlands, she visits a village for dementia residents — a village that has all the hallmarks of freedom with the security required to reassure and to enhance the experiences of the adults who live there. These examples and others build into her discussion of design and its role in contemporary society to give meaning and agency to those that don’t fit in the ‘normative’ structure which statistics and the bell curve have exacerbated in our modern world. Hendren’s thoughtful deliberations about the fallacy of the ‘average’, about what ‘independence’ is, and why the structure of economic capital with its focus on work-as-worth and the constructs of ‘time’ as a measure are drawbacks to all of us, not just the disabled. She underscores her research with disability activism of the past, and she does not shy away from the complexities of the present with its many-faceted arguments and different approaches, including opposing design theories. The case studies are various, and within these we encounter multiple approaches and responses to the body and its abilities and, more importantly, the vagaries, often unnecessarily so, of the built world. Enlivening and insightful, What Can A Body Do? is a study in awareness and a challenge to our ethical commitment, as well as our practical ability, to make a better world for every body.


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


No. 91/92: Notes on a Parisian commute by Lauren Elkin   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
Well, he thought, I am not travelling on a bus in Paris, and, who knows, I may never travel on a bus in Paris, but, in the company of Lauren Elkin, even though I have not met Lauren Elkin, and, who knows, I will probably never meet Laren Elkin, I have no particular wish or need to meet Lauren Elkin, at least not in the conventional sense, and, almost certainly, Lauren Elkin will never meet me in any sense whatsoever, and she will be missing nothing thereby, nonetheless, in a sense, in her company I have been riding in my thoughts, or, rather, her thoughts, it is hard to tell which, as she has been travelling on the No.91 and No.92 buses in Paris over a few months in 2014/2015, when she was commuting to and from some teaching position she then held, evidently teaching literature, possibly writing, who knows, and wrote the notes which have become this book on her cellphone, as an attempt to use her phone to connect herself to the moments and in the locations in which she was holding it, rather than as a way of absenting herself from those locations and those moments, which is usually the way with cellphones, so she observes, they are a technology of absence, after all. Unlike in the bus, where who will sit and who will stand is constantly negotiated on the basis of a generally unspoken hierarchy of need, and the passengers are crammed together in each other’s odours and in each other’s breaths in a way that, in the light of the current pandemic, now seems horrific, there is plenty of fresh air in Elkin’s thoughts, there is room both for her fellow passengers, for all the details Elkin notices about them or speculates about them, for all her observations, so to call them, about what she notices and about what she notices about herself in the act of noticing, and for writers such as Georges Perec and Virginia Woolf, who, in their ways, are along for the ride, using Elkin and her cellphone to speak to us through Paris, though whether this makes Paris a medium or a subject is hard to say, using Elkin’s bus pass, too, and, I suppose, he thought, all these thoughts are waiting there, both outside and already aboard Elkin’s mind, constantly negotiating which will be next to take a seat in Elkin’s text on the basis of a generally unspoken hierarchy of need, if it is need. Elkin attempts in the practice of these notes a written appreciation of the ordinary, even the infraordinary, aspects of her journeys as a discipline of noticing, guided by Perec (read my review of Species of Spaces and Other Pieces here), a turning outward that clears her thoughts or clears her of her thoughts, he cannot decide if there is a difference, he thinks not, leaving the shape of the observer clearly outlined in their surroundings by their careful lack of intrusion upon them (in the way that Perec is always writing about something that he does not mention), but this exercise in finding worth in the ordinary, the sensate, the unsenational, against, he speculates, the general inclinations of our cellphones, is, in the two semesters in which Elkin made these notes, sometimes intruded upon by occurrences antagonistic to such appreciation, occurrences both within Elkin’s body: an ectopic pregnancy and the resulting operations; and in the collective body of the city: terror attacks that change the texture of communal life. “In an instant, the everyday can become an Event,” writes Elkin. Are Events inherently antagonistic to the worth of ordinary life, he wonders, or could rethinking the ordinary help us to resist the impact of such Events? Most Events are instants, he thinks, but some, such as pandemics or climate change, go on and on, exhausting our conceptual resistance as they strive to become the new ordinary, to normalise themselves. Conceptual resistance is useless, he almost shouts, conceptual resistance is worse than useless, we must adapt to survive, reality deniers display the worst sorts of mental weakness, pay attention, your nostalgia is an existential threat. He checks his mouth for froth, but there is none. But, he wonders, can we use an attention to and appreciation of the infraordinary to reconstruct the ordinary and thereby survive the extraordinary? Actually, the infraordinary is all we’ve got, he thinks, so we had better get to work and make of it what we can.  

Friday 24 September 2021

Book of the Week. Does your record collection—or do your memories—look like this? To mark the fortieth anniversary of the founding of Aotearoa's most remarkable independent record label, Flying Nun, Peter Vangioni has curated this wonderful collection of both published and ephemeral art associated with the music and the bands. Hellzapoppin'! The art of Flying Nun contains record covers, posters, gig and publicity photos from the label's early years, demonstrating the low-tech-high-effect aesthetic, along with interviews with and essays by those who could loosely be held responsible for the Flying Nun 'look'. 
>>Heavenly Pop Hits
>>Anything could happen. 
>>In Love With These Times
>>Time Flowing Backwards
>>Fancy an Axemen tea towel? 
What do you remember? >>Pin Group. >>Look Blue Go Purple. >>Scorched Earth Policy. >>The Builders. >>Skeptics. >>The Clean. >>Tall Dwarfs. >>25 Cents. >>The Gordons. >>All Fall Down. >>The Victor Dimisich Band. >>Snapper. >>Doublehappys. >>The Verlaines. >>The Bats. >>Sneaky Feelings. >>They Were Expendable. >>The Renderers. >>A history in songs. 


The Tiny Woman's Coat by Joy Cowley and Giselle Clarkson         $25
The tiny woman makes a coat of leaves with the help of friends in this vibrant, rhyming tale. The trees, geese, porcupine, horse, and plants all share something so the tiny woman can snip, snip, snip and stitch, stitch, stitch a coat to keep herself warm. An instant favourite. 
More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman          $37
On a kibbutz in Israel in 2008, Gili, along with the entire community, is celebrating the 90th birthday of her grandmother Vera, the adored matriarch of a sprawling and tight-knit family. Onto the scene enters Nina—the iron-willed daughter who rejected Vera's care; and the absent mother who abandoned Gili when she was still a baby. Nina's return to the family after years of silence precipitates a crisis in which mother, daughter and grandmother are forced to confront the past head-on. The three women embark on an epic journey to the desolate island of Goli Otok, formerly part of Yugoslavia. It was here, five decades earlier, that Vera was held and tortured as a political prisoner. And it is here that the three women will finally come to terms with the terrible moral dilemma that Vera faced, that permanently altered the course of their lives.
"This novel is about the way that the personal can never be wholly separated from the political, about the lingering wounds of history, about how violence seeps into all the dark corners of a life. This is another extraordinary novel from Grossman, a book as beautiful and sad as anything you’ll read this year." —Guardian
The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine             $38
Mina Simpson, a Lebanese doctor, arrives at the infamous Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, after being urgently summoned for help by her friend who runs an NGO there. Alienated from her family except for her beloved brother, Mina has avoided being so close to her homeland for decades. But with a week off work and apart from her wife of thirty years, Mina hopes to accomplish something meaningful, among the abundance of Western volunteers who pose for selfies with beached dinghies and the camp's children. Soon, a boat crosses bringing Sumaiya, a fiercely resolute Syrian matriarch with terminal liver cancer. Determined to protect her children and husband at all costs, Sumaiya refuses to alert her family to her diagnosis. Bonded together by Sumaiya's secret, a deep connection sparks between the two women, and as Mina prepares a course of treatment with the limited resources on hand, she confronts the circumstances of the migrants' displacement, as well as her own constraints in helping them.
Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest by Ole Könnecke            $25
Dulcinea has been forbidden since she was small to enter the dangerous magic forest where the witch has her castle. But her father hasn't come home from collecting blueberries for her birthday pancakes. Did the witch cast a spell on him? Dulcinea must brave the dark forest and sneak into the witch's castle to steal the spell book and free him. Her father would hardly have named her after the brave Dulcinea if she couldn't break a witch's spell to celebrate her birthday with him, after all. 
Seahorses Are Sold Out by Constanze Spengler and Katja Gehrmann         $30
Mika's father works from home and he's very busy. He can never find time for the swimming trip he promised. So Dad allows Mika to choose a pet from the store while he finishes the project—something quiet like a mouse. And so begins a wonderfully turbulent story in which Mika brings home one animal after another. The mouse gets lost so they need a dog to find it. The dog is followed by a seal, then a penguin. How many animals can come to stay before Dad notices?
The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa        $20
Bookish high school student Rintaro Natsuki is about to close the secondhand bookshop he inherited from his beloved grandfather. Then, a talking cat named Tiger appears with an unusual request. The cat needs Rintaro’s help to save books that have been imprisoned, destroyed and unloved. Their mission sends this odd couple on an amazing journey, where they enter different labyrinths to set books free. Through their travels, Tiger and Rintaro meet a man who locks up his books, an unwitting book torturer who cuts the pages of books into snippets to help people speed read, and a publisher who only wants to sell books like disposable products. Then, finally, there is a mission that Rintaro must complete alone...
Life Is Simple: How Occam's razor set science free and unlocked the universe by Johnjoe McFadden           $38
The medieval friar William of Occam first articulated the principle that the best answer to any problem is the simplest. This theory, known as Occam's razor, cut through the thickets of medieval metaphysics to clear a path for modern science. We follow the razor in the hands of the giants of science, from Copernicus, to Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Rubin and Higgs. Its success suggests that we live in the simplest possible habitable universe and supports the revolutionary theory that our cosmos has evolved. 

Marae—TeTatau Pounamu: A journey around New Zealand's meeting houses by Muru Walters, Sam Walters and Robin Walters      $65
A new edition of this superb book. The authors spent three years visiting some of this country's major wharenui as well as many of the more humble ones — houses that serve smaller hapu and iwi. They are intensively photographed, with detailed shots of their carvings, kowhaiwhai panels, tukutuku panels, and events.

Once Upon a Time There Was and Will Be So Much More by Johanna Schaible         $38
Hundreds of millions of years ago, land took shape. Millions of years ago, dinosaurs lived on Earth. Thousands of years ago, people built towering pyramids. Ten years ago, the landscape looked different. A month ago, it was still winter. A minute ago, the light was turned off. Now! Make a wish! What will you be doing in a week? How will you celebrate your birthday next year? What will you discover when you are older? What will hold you in awe forever? An inventively constructed picture book about time. 
In Love With Hell: Drink in the lives and work of eleven writers by William Palmer         $38
Palmer is interested in is the effect that heavy drinking had on writers, how they lived with it and were sometimes destroyed by it, and how they described the whole private and social world of the drinker in their work. Patrick Hamilton, Jean Rhys, Charles Jackson, Malcolm Lowry, Dylan Thomas, John Cheever, Flann O'Brien, Anthony Burgess, Kingsley Amis, Richard Yates, Elizabeth Bishop. 
How We Got Happy by J. Macfarlane and E. Nabbs          $45
The stories of twenty young New Zealanders who have faced depression and learned what helps them to stay well. Full of useful insights.

Emily Noble's Disgrace by May Paulson-Ellis        $38
When trauma cleaner Essie Pound makes a gruesome discovery in the derelict Edinburgh boarding house she is sent to clean, it brings her into contact with a young policewoman, Emily Noble, who has her own reasons to solve the case. As the two women embark on a journey into the heart of a forgotten family, the investigation prompts fragmented memories of their own traumatic histories — something Emily has spent a lifetime attempting to bury, and Essie a lifetime trying to lay bare.
Soviet Visuals by Varia Bortsova          $27
Welcome to the USSR. Marvel at the wonders of the space race. Delight in the many fine delicacies of food and drink. Revel in the fine opportunities for work and play. SOVIET VISUALS invites you back in time into the strangely captivating world of the Soviet Union, through a unique collection of photography, architecture, propaganda art, advertising, design, and culture from behind the Iron Curtain. 

Saturday 18 September 2021


BOOKS @ VOLUME #247 (17.9.21)

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>> Read all Stella's reviews.


Switch by A.S. King     {Reviewed by STELLA}
Imagine that time stands still — the clocks stop. In A.S.King’s latest young adult’s novel, Switch, that’s precisely what happens on the 23rd June 2020. Truda is sixteen and is navigating the wilds of teenage-hood, high school and family trauma. The students at her school are tasked with finding a solution to the ‘time problem’. While N3WCLOCK is useful at reinventing a time system, it doesn’t offer any reason why. Truda and her friends are the Psych Team believing that the human mind may be able to help with escaping the time/space fold they find themselves in. Here they bat around ideas of emotions and psychological paradigms to search for a solution or at the least an understanding of the time dilemma. Truda has also discovered she is good at something — very good, in fact. Javelin throwing. Is this a result of the rift in time? A phenomenon created by the fold? A talent that may be erased if she is able to restart time? Truda, as our narrator, appears to know more than she is letting on. As a reader, you have a sense that truth sits just below her conscious self, a mystery that she is shielded from, but if she was to turn towards it she would be keenly aware of it. The novel opens with a curious description of boxes. She tells us that she lives in box #7, her brother Richard box #11, box #2 is the living room and other boxes in her house are either sealed off (in reference to her older sister’s room) or unoccupied (her mother has recently walked out) or built around the Switch — which must not be touched. The Switch is encased in a multitude of boxes continuously built by her father, who can’t help but build more and more panelled rooms, making their home into a warren of almost impassable passages. This is A.S.King stretching us to the maximum with a surreal-meets-super-real scenario. On the one hand, you have a strange world stopped in its tracks with participants who may have more control over time than others, while on the other hand the very real and hard realities of dealing with anxiety (teen and adult), resolving family trauma impacted by aberrant behaviour (in this story a sibling is the family member who has wreaked havoc and created a chasm into which the family has fallen), and looking with clarity at one’s own behaviour and trying to make a change for the better. While the subject matter isn’t easy, A.S. King’s quirky approach gives the novel levity where it would otherwise sink into the maudlin and a positive outcome for our protagonist in the strong headwinds of her awareness of her own capabilities and the vulnerabilities of others close to her, is constructive. A.S. King has dedicated Switch to the class of 2020 in light, I imagine, of the isolation and in many cases the anxiety that many have felt — especially in the US where she resides — over the previous year. As always, intriguing, timely and taut writing (the writing in itself is a time/shift/fragmented experience) from this author, winner of the Michael. L. Printz Award in 2020 for her previous YA title, Dig


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


Veilchenfeld by Gert Hofmann (translated by Eric Mace-Tessler)    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“One understands only what one expects, says Father.” Through the perspective of a young boy in a small town, Gert Hofmann’s pitch-perfect novel tells of the gradual, sure and awful destruction of a Professor Veilchenfeld, who comes to live in the town after (we deduce) his expulsion from a university position. Hofmann is careful to limit the narrative to what the boy knows, learns and asks, and the answers he gets from his parents — answers progressively unable to encompass or explain the situation. Although the novel does not contain the words ‘Jew’ or ‘Nazi’, but narrates the abuses heaped upon Veilchenfeld directly as the actions of persons upon another person — Hofmann provides no buffer of abstraction or identity to Veilchenfeld’s miserable fate (the abusers, after all, are the ones motivated by identity) — the novel, evidently set in the years preceding World War 2, gives subtle and devastating insight into how an attrition of civility in German society in the 1930s prepared it to both tolerate and perpetrate the Holocaust. The change in society is seen as a loss, a narrowing, a degradation, a stupification; the abusers themselves seem helpless and perplexed even at the height of their abuse. Fascism is the opposite of thought. For others, what cannot be accepted is erased from awareness. “What one does not absolutely have to know, one can also live without knowing,” says Father. What begins as some surreptitious stone-throwing and more general avoidance escalates over the three-year period of the book into community-approved violence and brazen cruelty. As Hofmann shows well, degradation also degrades the degraders, for which the degraders hate their victim still more and therefore subject them to yet greater degradation — thereby degrading themselves still more and hating the victim still more in a cycle that quickly becomes extreme. Veilchenfeld applies to leave Germany but has his passport torn up and his citizenship revoked by an official at the town hall. Ultimately, his abjection cannot be borne; he hides in his apartment, despairs, loses the will to live, awaits his ‘relocation’. Eventually even the narrator’s father, Veilchenfeld’s doctor, sees death as the only solution. For the degraded degraders, though, there is no such simple release from the degradation they have wrought, only further escalation. “Reality is a gruesome rumour,” says Father. Towards the end of the book the townsfolk hold — for the first time ever — a unifying and nationalistic ‘traditional folk festival’, with the children grouped into different cohorts supposedly emblematic of aspects of the town’s heritage (though nobody actually recognises the supposed woodsman’s costume the narrator is issued to wear). This ludicrous festival is an innovation, a lie, emotive quicksand; all Fascism is retrospective folk fantasy, fraudulent nostalgia, a mental weakness, a sentimental longing to return to an imagined but non-existent past. Hofmann was the age of the narrator in the period described and was concerned at the ongoing relevance of what happened then. History is a good teacher, Herr Veilchenfeld says, but, time and again, we are proven to be very poor students. 

Friday 17 September 2021


Our Book of the Week is Gavin Bishop's distinctively beautiful and informative book Atua: Māori Gods and Heroes
Before the beginning there was nothing. No sound, no air, no colour—nothing. TE KORE, NOTHING. No one knows how long this nothing lasted because there was no time. However, in this great nothing there was a sense of waiting. Something was about to happen.
This wonderful large-format book belongs on every child's—and every adult's—bookshelf. From creation to migration, lively illustrations and text tell the unique stories of Aotearoa's gods, demigods and heroes.  
>>Your copy (or one to give away). 
>>Also just released from Gavin Bishop: Koro and Pops.!!
>>Old friends in our home. 
>>Some pages!
>>Meet Gavin Bishop. 
>>The book belongs alongside the wonderful Aotearoa: The New Zealand story and Wildlife of Aotearoa.


Beautiful World, Where Are You? by Sally Rooney          $33
A hugely successful young novelist is having trouble writing her third book. She meets Felix, who works in a distribution warehouse, and asks him if he'd like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Can these people find or remember or create what is supposed to be good about being alive in this world? The eagerly awaited third novel from the author of the hugely successful Conversations with Friends and Normal People
>>Author of her own discontent
No. 91/92: Notes on a Parisian commute by Lauren Elkin           $33
Commuting between English and French, Lauren Elkin chronicles a life in transit in this book written on her cellphone during her daily commute. From musings on Virginia Woolf and Georges Perec, to the discovery of her ectopic pregnancy, her diary sketches a portrait of the author, not as an artist, but as a pregnant woman on a Parisian bus. In the troubling intimacy of public transport, Elkin queries the lines between togetherness and being apart, between the everyday and the eventful, registering the ordinary makings of a city and its people.
"Perhaps one of the most interesting voices claiming the streets for women at the moment." — Will Self
"Paris in intense, dramatic closeup — an insider's entrancing view. Lauren Elkin turns her phone outwards, like a camera to see with, she writes about the outside world while inside a glass container (the bus), she maps the inner world of self and indeed of the bus onto the outer world she is travelling through. She allows herself to catch moments most writers would think don't belong in a text. The book's form perfectly embodies its content. It is disarmingly modest and that is part of its charm. She is thinking about self / community. Re-making it." — Michèle Roberts
An Island by Karen Jennings          $36
Samuel has lived alone for a long time; one morning he finds the sea has brought someone to offer companionship and to threaten his solitude... A young refugee washes up unconscious on the beach of a small island inhabited by no one but Samuel, an old lighthouse keeper. Unsettled, Samuel is soon swept up in memories of his former life on the mainland: a life that saw his country suffer under colonisers, then fight for independence, only to fall under the rule of a cruel dictator; and he recalls his own part in its history. In this new man's presence he begins to consider, as he did in his youth, what is meant by land and to whom it should belong.
"An Island concerns itself with lives lived on the margins, through the story of a man who has exiled himself from the known world only to find himself called to the service of others, themselves exiled from the world by cruelty and circumstance. It is on these grounds that this writer deftly constructs a moving, transfixing novel of loss, political upheaval, history, identity, all rendered in majestic and extraordinary prose." —judges' citation on long-listing for the Booker Prize
Bill Hammond: Across the Evening Sky             $70
A beautifully presented book of this outstanding artist. Includes an interview between the Bill Hammond and fellow artist Tony de Lautour; Texts by Rachael King, Nic Low, Paul Scofield, Ariana Tikao and Peter Vangioni: Images and details of some of Hammond’s finest paintings; Responses to Hammond’s practice by other artists, including Fiona Pardington, Marlon Williams and Shane Cotton. 
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen               $33
1618, in the German duchy of Württemberg. Plague is spreading. The Thirty Years' War has begun, and fear and suspicion are in the air throughout the Holy Roman Empire. In the small town of Leonberg, Katharina Kepler is accused of being a witch. Katharina is an illiterate widow, known by her neighbors for her herbal remedies and the success of her children, including her eldest, Johannes, who is the Imperial Mathematician and renowned author of the laws of planetary motion. It's enough to make anyone jealous, and Katharina has done herself no favors by being out and about and in everyone's business. So when the deranged and insipid Ursula Reinbold (or as Katharina calls her, the Werewolf) accuses Katharina of offering her a bitter, witchy drink that has made her ill, Katharina is in trouble. Her scientist son must turn his attention from the music of the spheres to the job of defending his mother. Facing the threat of financial ruin, torture, and even execution, Katharina tells her side of the story to her friend and next-door neighbor Simon, a reclusive widower imperiled by his own secrets. Drawing on actual historical documents but infused with the intensity of imagination, sly humor, and intellectual fire for which Rivka Galchen is known, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is the story of how a community becomes implicated in collective aggression and hysterical fear. It is a tale for our time. 
>>Rivka Galchen's unsettling powers. 
>>The heart of a prickle bush
>>History feels modern. 
After the Sun by Jonas Eika (translated by Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg)        $36
Under Cancun's hard blue sky, a beach boy provides a canvas for tourists' desires, seeing deep into the world's underbelly. An enigmatic encounter in Copenhagen takes an IT consultant down a rabbit hole of speculation that proves more seductive than sex. The collapse of a love triangle in London leads to a dangerous, hypnotic addiction. In the Nevada desert, a grieving man tries to merge with an unearthly machine. After the Sun opens portals to our newest realities, haunting the margins of a globalised world that's both saturated with yearning and brutally transactional. Infused with an irrepressible urgency, Eika's fiction seems to have conjured these far-flung characters and their encounters in a single breath. Juxtaposing startling beauty with grotesquery, balancing the hyperrealistic with the fantastical, he has invented new modes of storytelling for an era when the old ones no longer suffice.
"Eika's prose flexes a light-footed, vigilant, and unpredictable animalism: it's practically pantheresque. After the Sun is an electrifying, utterly original read." —Claire-Louise Bennett 
"Political fictions aren't supposed to be this personal. Satires aren't supposed to be this heartbreaking. Surrealism isn't supposed to be this real. Giving a damn isn't supposed to be this fun. From slights of hand, to shocks to the heart, After the Sun is doing all the things you don't expect it to, and leaving a big bold mark in what we call literature." —Marlon James
"Striking literary craftsmanship in an experimental mix of shock-lit, sci-fi, dada and Joycean glints presented as loose time-scenes that slide in and out like cards in the hands of the shuffler. By the end, this reader had the impression of having been drawn through a keyhole." —Annie Proulx
Hellzapoppin'! The art of Flying Nun edited by Peter Vangioni            $39
Does this look like your record collection? Published to mark the fortieth anniversary of the founding of Flying Nun Records in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Hellzapoppin’! brings together original artwork and design, film, record covers, posters and photography from the label’s early years. From rare collectible records and vintage posters to original artworks and paste-up designs, this book explores the art and artists behind some of New Zealand’s favourite bands. Essays from Peter Vangioni, Kath Webster, Russell Brown and Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd will be interspersed with brief interview-style contributions from some of the people responsible for creating the art of the label. Heavily illustrated with original artwork for the records and posters, photography from the archives, and rarely seen vinyl releases and posters.
&c, &c, &c.
Night As It Falls by Jakuta Alikavazovic          $33
Paul, a student who works as a night guard in a hotel to make ends meet, falls under the spell of Amelia, the young woman who rents room 313. Everything about her is a mystery: where she goes, what she does - and where she comes from. Paul and Amelia enter into a love affair, but it is an ill-fated dance informed by sex, power and class struggles. One day Amelia suddenly disappears. Unknown to Paul, she has traveled to Sarajevo in search of her mother and to attempt to uncover the links that connect her personal history to the civil war that created ruptures that still affect Europe today.
>>Read an extract. 
Post Growth: Life after Capitalism by Tim Jackson         $36
The relentless pursuit of more has delivered climate catastrophe, social inequality and financial instability — and left us ill-prepared for life in a global pandemic. Tim Jackson's passionate and provocative book dares us to imagine a world beyond Capitalism — a place where relationship and meaning take precedence over profits and power.
"Empowering and elegiac." —Yanis Varoufakis
Broken Greek: A story of chip shops and pop songs by Pete Paphides         $28
When Pete's parents moved from Cyprus to Birmingham in the 1960s in the hope of a better life, they had no money and only a little bit of English. They opened a fish-and-chip shop in Acocks Green. The Great Western Fish Bar is where Pete learned about coin-operated machines, male banter and Britishness. Shy and introverted, Pete stopped speaking from age 4 to 7, and found refuge instead in the bittersweet embrace of pop songs, thanks to Top of the Pops and Dial-A-Disc. From Brotherhood of Man to UB40, from ABBA to The Police, music provided the safety net he needed to protect him from the tensions of his home life. It also helped him navigate his way around the challenges surrounding school, friendships and phobias.
Over billions of years, ancient fish evolved to walk on land, reptiles transformed into birds that fly, and apelike primates evolved into humans that walk on two legs, talk, and write. For more than a century, paleontologists have traveled the globe to find fossils that show how such changes have happened. We have now arrived at a remarkable moment—prehistoric fossils coupled with new DNA technology have given us the tools to answer some of the basic questions of our existence: How do big changes in evolution happen? Is our presence on Earth the product of mere chance? This new science reveals a multibillion-year evolutionary history filled with twists and turns, trial and error, accident and invention.
The Sky by Hélène Druvert                         $45
This gorgeous, large-format book is filled with astounding laser cutouts that take readers away through the clouds, through the atmosphere and to the planets, the stars and beyond. On the way they'll learn about birds, insects and pollination, witness a tornado and an eclipse, and see all kinds of flying machines. 
>>Other books by Druvert.

Learning to Love Blue by Saradha Koirala              $25
The sequel to the excellent YA novel Lonesome When You Go.  With Vox Pop and high school behind her, 18-year-old Paige arrives in Melbourne with her suitcase and bass guitar; a copy of Bob Dylan's Chronicles and Joni Mitchell's Blue - a gift from her estranged mother that she's still learning to love. Following in the footsteps of her musical heroes, all of whom left home to make it in 1960s New York, Paige knows Melbourne's the new rock and roll capital of the world: if she can't make it here, she can't make it anywhere. Besides, her high school crush Spike lives here... Paige has always had music, but realises she still has a lot to learn about relationships: how to be vulnerable and how to be blue.
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead          $35
From the author of The Underground RailroadHarlem Shuffle’s story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem. 

Everyone in this Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin           $33
Meet Gilda. She cannot stop thinking about death. Desperate for relief from her anxious mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local church and finds herself abruptly hired to replace the deceased receptionist Grace. It's not the most obvious job - she's queer and an atheist for starters - and so in between trying to learn mass, hiding her new maybe-girlfriend and conducting an amateur investigation into Grace's death, Gilda must avoid revealing the truth of her mortifying existence.
"So fundamentally kind that you can feel the warmth coming off each page." —Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You by Maurice Carlos Ruffin            $40
Perspectival, character-driven stories center on the margins and deeply rooted in New Orleanian culture.
China in One Village by Liang Hong           $37
After a decade away from her ancestral family village, during which she became a writer and literary scholar in Beijing, Liang Hong started visiting her rural hometown in landlocked Hebei province. What she found was an extended family torn apart by the seismic changes in Chinese society, and a village hollowed-out by emigration, neglect, and environmental despoliation. Combining family memoir, literary observation, and social commentary, Liang's by turns moving and shocking account became a bestselling book in China and brought her fame. Across China, many saw in Liang's remarkable and vivid interviews with family members and childhood acquaintances a mirror of their own families, and her observations about the way the greatest rural-to-urban migration of modern times has twisted the country resonated deeply. China in One Village tells the story of contemporary China through one clear-eyed observer, one family, and one village.
When You Were Small by Sarah O'Leary and Julie Morstad               $19
For all children there is a whole early period of their life that they cannot remember and, for all they know, it could have been the most magical time of their life. Was it like this? Completely delightful. 

Saturday 11 September 2021

BOOKS @ VOLUME #246 (10.9.21)

Read our newsletter and find out about literary news, what we've been reading, and what you'll be reading next. 


>> Read all Stella's reviews.


A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa   {Reviewed by STELLA}
“Perhaps the past is always trembling inside the present, whether or not we sense it.” Irish poet’s Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s debut novel is a triumph of obsession, self-reflection and love. Obsessed with the eighteenth-century poet Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, a young mother negotiates her desire to unpick the mystery of this woman as she navigates the daily tasks of her life. “I try to distract myself in my routine of sweeping, wiping, dusting, and scrubbing. I cling to all my little rituals. I hoard crusts.” Out of small spare moments, car trips to historic sites (houses, cemeteries and libraries) with her youngest child and late-night searches on her phone the shape of Eibhlín Dubh’s life is constructed or more accurately imagined. Who was she? What happened to her? Why can this woman’s life not be tracked while her father's, husband's and sons’ lives can? At the heart of the story is a poem—a lament—written by Eibhlín Dubh for her husband Art O’Leary slain by the orders of the  English magistrate. “Trouncings and desolations on you, ghastly Morris of the treachery”. The poem becomes a touchstone for the narrator, a place where she can rest, where she can dream—imagine the world of this other woman who is dealing with loss, a woman who is resolute and tough, who will not lie down nor succumb to expectation from either her family nor the authorities. A Ghost in the Throat questions the telling of history—the invisibility of female voices. Scattered throughout the novel is the phrase “This is a female text”, making us aware that stories are told and histories revealed in other ways, through the body and its scars, through cloth and object, through the tasks that make us human, through the words that are sometimes unsaid and in the margins where many do not look. As the narrator discovers the poet, she frees herself along with this woman trapped in time and neglect.  Ní Ghríofa writes with bewitching clarity as she describes the daily grind, with dreamlike essence in the moments of childhood memory—the longing and discovery—with realist angst about entering adulthood and motherhood, and with compelling atmosphere as the narrator unpicks the past. Rich in content and language, A Ghost in the Throat is both a scholarly endeavour and an autofiction—endlessly curious and achingly beautiful.


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


The Death of Francis Bacon by Max Porter   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
A slice from the rump of a pig, he thought, raw and pink and veined with fat or crisped like a piece of dirty cardboard, is there a patron saint for a pig in this condition, he wondered, some other Francis, all animals are meat, some antisaint worthy of the name, his name, some name, insistent on the name and possessed of the rare ability to display both sides of his face when viewed from any angle, we’re little more than meat, he thought, meat animated by who knows what, some electricity wanting nothing more than to expend itself, arking between terminals, blurring instants, do and be done, the pain of the building charge, insufferability, release, vacuity, the whole works, no respite, images decaying on the retina, imitations but imitations failed to such an extent that they resemble originality, a resemblance only, each staled from inception, rancid cigarette breath overlaid with peppermint or mince, rot, some carcass that no amount of blows can animate, the painting “pretending it confronted death when all it did was illustrate again and again a lazy fear of it,” as Porter puts in this little book The Death of Francis Bacon, Porter nonetheless obsessed, splicing himself into the mind of the painter as he lies on his death-bed in Spain, hospitalised, wheezing, morphined, memories rising, incohering, there is no doubt some degree of biographical knowledge on display but there is no need to recognise this, it is not conveyed and who cares in any case, he thought, the degree of Porter’s invention is of no importance, these words the words of the writer ventirloquising who, Bacon, himself, the paintings, ventriloquising the moment of painting, if that can be termed ventriloquising, not “an attempt to get art history out of the way and let the paintings speak,” as Porter claims, or not in the sense that the paintings would or could or should speak to us and tell us anything other than the painting experienced from the point of view of the paint, not then representational but visceral, physical, coloured matter, paint has no interest in the image, such must be negotiated between the other parties, and there are many who would force meaning on the paint beyond the meaning it enjoys just by being spread when wet on canvas, or on whatever, “it’s an attempt to get at the sense of what is looming up behind the person being hurt,” Porter writes, “it’s an attempt to hold catastrophe still so you can get a proper sniff at it,” though I would say, he thought, it’s an attempt to decatastrophise through overemphasis, to forget through iteration, though it is unclear, he thought, whether these attempts are Bacon’s, Porter’s, the viewer’s, the reader’s, or whose, no matter, what if words came out where ordinarily you would expect paint, or vice versa, is this the nub of Porter’s project, he wondered, to reach into his subject and squeeze out words, not as he spoke but as he painted, “the mouth is the habit the eye has to teach,” writes Porter, words worked wet, out on the page, “it is exhausting to behold such huge quantities of paint being wasted,” writes Porter, perhaps as himself, but no such truck with his words, there on the page, each reading revealing a little less and what was there after all in the first place to reveal, this life, a little more than nothing but not much more.