Friday 12 November 2021

List #4: CULTURE

We recommend these books as seasonal gifts and for summer reading. Click through to our website to reserve or purchase your copies—we will have them delivered anywhere or aside for collection. Let us know if you would like them gift-wrapped. 
If you don't find what you're looking for here, browse our website, or e-mail us: we have many other interesting books on our shelves.

Fifty Sounds by Polly Barton            $38
Polly Barton reflects on her experience of moving to the Japanese island of Sado at the age of twenty-one and on her journey to becoming a literary translator. Written in fifty semi-discrete entries, Fifty Sounds is a personal dictionary of the Japanese language that draws together a variety of cultural reflections — from conformity and being an outsider, to the gendering of Japanese society, and attitudes towards food and the cult of 'deliciousness' — alongside insights into the transformative powers of language-learning. 

Enough Horizon: The life and work of Blanche Baughan by Carol Markwell           $40
One of the first writers to speak with an authentic New Zealand voice, Blanche Edith Baughan (1870-1958) was known as a poet and local travel writer. Enough Horizon tells of Baughan's troubled upbringing with a mentally ill mother in London, and her emigration to New Zealand in 1900, where she embraced the freedom it gave her to write and think and enjoy the wilderness she grew to love. It was here, particularly in her beloved Akaroa, that Blanche's writing and interests in the environment and her advocacy for the vulnerable in society flourished. She was a botanist, conservationist, humanitarian and prison reformer, who strove for the effective and humane treatment of prisoners. Blanche met and corresponded with leading writers, thinkers and scientists of her day, including John Ruskin, and poets Jessie Mackay and Ursula Bethell.

The Other Jack by Charles Boyle           $32
A book about books, mostly, and bonfires, clichés, dystopias, failure, happiness, jokes, justice, privilege, publishing, rejection, self-loathing, shoplifting and umbrellas. Writer and reader meet in cafés to talk about books – that’s the plot. There are arguments, spilt coffee, deaths both in life and in fiction, and rain and laughter. Wonderful. 
>>Read Thomas's review. 
Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell            $17
Shaun Bythell, proprietor of The Bookshop, Wigtown, follows his (cuttingly accurate) Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Bookseller, with a hilarious 'useful' handbook to the types of customers booksellers are faced with every day. Which type are you? 

Essays: Two by Lydia Davis              $55
"A writer as mighty as Kafka, as subtle as Flaubert, and as epoch-making, in her own way, as Proust." —Ali Smith
Lydia Davis gathered a selection of her non-fiction writing for the first time in 2019 with Essays: One. Now, she continues the project with Essays Two, focusing on the art of translation, the learning of foreign languages through reading, and her experience of translating, amongst others, Flaubert and Proust, about whom she writes with an unmatched understanding of the nuances of their styles.
>>Read Thomas's review of the first volume

Things I Learned at Art School by Megan Dunn               $35
A hilarious and personal collection of essays from a distinctive and resonant voice. Things I Learned at Art School tells the story of Dunn's early life and coming-of-age in New Zealand in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. From her parents’ split-up to her Smurf collection, from the mean girls at school to the mermaid movie Splash!, from her work in strip clubs and massage parlours (and one steak restaurant) to the art school of the title, this book has been eagerly anticipated—and very much worth waiting for. Chapters include: The Ballad of Western Barbie; A Comprehensive List of All the Girls Who Teased Me at Western Heights High School, What They Looked Like and Why They Did It; On Being a Redhead; Life Begins at Forty: That Time My Uncle Killed Himself; Good Girls Write Memoirs, Bad Girls Don’t Have Time; Videos I Watched with My Father; Things I Learned at Art School; CV of a Fat Waitress; Nine Months in a Massage Parlour Called Belle de Jour; Various Uses for a Low Self-esteem; Art in the Waiting Room; and Submerging Artist. 
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.
"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
Things Are Against Us by Lucy Ellmann          $32
Bold, angry, despairing and very funny, these essays cover everything from matriarchy to environmental catastrophe to Little House on the Prairie to Agatha Christie. Ellmann calls for a moratorium on air travel, rails against bras, and pleads for sanity in a world that hardly recognises sanity when it (occasionally) appears.
"Joyously electric." —Guardian

Not a Novel: Collected writings and recollections by Jenny Erpenbeck          $33
Following astonishing, insightful, and pellucidly written novels, including Visitation and Go, Went, Gone, Erpenbeck turns her pen on herself and reveals aspects of her life, her literary and musical influences and preoccupations, and thoughts on society. Her essays are as astonishing, insightful and pellucidly written as her fiction. 
"Wonderful, elegant, and exhilarating. Ferocious as well as virtuosic." —Deborah Eisenberg
"Her restrained, unvarnished prose is overwhelming." —Nicole Krauss
"Erpenbeck's writing writing is a lure that leads us — off-centre as into a vortex — into the most haunted and haunting territory." —Anne Michaels
Excavate! The wonderful and frightening world of The Fall by Tessa Norton and Bob Stanley       $55
Over the course of their prolific forty-year career The Fall were consistently one of the most influential and idiosyncratic groups in Britain, with frontman Mark E. Smith hailed as one of the sharpest lyricists. Following Smith's death in January 2018, there was an outpouring of tributes from a surprising spectrum of admirers. With contributions from Adelle Stripe, Dan Fox, Elain Harwood, Mark Fisher, Ian Penman and others, alongside never-before seen artwork, photographs, and hand-written material from Smith and the band, Bob Stanley and Tessa Norton book unpack and make sense of the strangely fascinating landscape of The Fall.
For nearly fifty years, Vivian Gornick’s essays, written with her characteristic clarity of perception and vibrant prose, have explored feminism and writing, literature and culture, politics and personal experience. Drawing on writing from the course of her career, Taking a Long Look illuminates one of the driving themes behind Gornick’s work: that the painful process of understanding one’s self is what binds us to the larger world. In these essays, Gornick explores the lives and literature of Alfred Kazin, Mary McCarthy, Diana Trilling, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, and Herman Melville; the cultural impact of Silent Spring and Uncle Tom’s Cabin; and the characters you might only find in a New York barber shop or midtown bus terminal. Even more, Taking a Long Look brings back into print her incendiary essays, first published in the Village Voice, championing the emergence of the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s.
“We all talk the talk about public intellectuals nowadays. Vivian Gornick walks the walk. The essays in Taking a Long Look could not be more direct, more authoritative, more alive with the pleasures of discovery or alert to the ambiguities of argument. Whether writing literary or political criticism, memoir, or feminist polemic, her mastery is assured.” —George Scialabba
From the Centre, A writer's life by Patricia Grace             $40
Patricia Grace begins her remarkable memoir beside Hongoeka Bay. It is the place she has returned to throughout her life, and fought for, one of many battles she has faced. This book provides special insight into the life of this important author. "It was when I first went to school that I found out that I was a Maori girl. I found that being different meant that I could be blamed." 

Some Answers Without Questions by Lavinia Greenlaw          $28
Part memoir, part manifesto, Some Answers Without Questions is a rigorous and lyrical work of self-investigation. Lavinia Greenlaw sets out to explore the impulse to say something, to write or sing, and finds herself confronting matters of presence and absence, anger and speechlessness, authority and permission. The result is important and timely, a spirited and vital exploration of what enables anyone — but a woman and an artist in particular — to create and record even when not invited to do so. Some Answers Without Questions is the result of decades of answering questions that don't really matter - and not being asked the ones that do.

The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw           $38
Brave, explosive, and thought-provoking, this is a powerful memoir. 'It's material, make a story out of it,' was the mantra Charlotte Grimshaw grew up with in her literary family. But when her life suddenly turned upside-down, she needed to re-examine the reality of that material. The more she delved into her memories, the more the real characters in her life seemed to object. So what was the truth of 'a whole life lived in fiction'? This is a vivid account of a New Zealand upbringing, where rebellion was encouraged, where trouble and tragedy lay ahead. It looks beyond the public face to the 'messy reality of family life — and much more'.

A nicel presented book about the remarkable collaboration between the modernist architect James Hackshaw (a member, for a time, of the famous Group Architects), the painter Colin McCahon, and the then young sculptor Paul Dibble on 12 New Zealand buildings — from churches to school halls. Drawing on interviews with James Hackshaw before his death and on the McCahon archive, this book brings into the light a body of work and a collaboration that has hitherto been little known or examined. Illustrated with Hackshaw's plans, McCahon's drawings, letters and journal entries, and contemporary images of the surviving buildings and artworks, the book includes essays by Peter Simpson, Julia Gatley, Peter Shaw and Alexa Johnston.
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. 

The Homely II by Gavin Hipkins             $30
In 2001, Gavin Hipkins unveiled his photo frieze, 'The Homely', at City Gallery Wellington. Consisting of eighty photos taken between 1997 and 2000 on travels in New Zealand and Australia, neighbouring antipodean colonies, it became his best-known and most celebrated work. In 2018, he unveiled its sequel in the exhibition This is New Zealand, also at City Gallery. 'The Homely II' also comprises eighty photos, shot in the same manner, arranged in the same frieze format. Hipkins took the images between 2001 and 2017 on excursions through New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the former colony and the colonial homeland. Contributions by Megan Tamati-Quennell, Robert Leonard, Felicity Barnes, Andrew Clifford, Blair French, Terrence Handscomb, Emil McAvoy, Emma Ng, and Lara Strongman.
>>A few images
Where We Swim by Ingrid Horrocks                $35
"I’d wanted to remember why it was we swam in the first place – to remember the pleasure of immersing in an element other than air." Ingrid Horrocks had few aspirations to swimming mastery, but she had always loved being in the water. She set out on a solo swimming journey, then abandoned it for a different kind of swimming altogether – one which led her to more deeply examine relationships, our ecological crisis, and responsibilities to collective care. Why do people swim, and where, how, with whom? Where We Swim ranges from solitary swims in polluted lakes and rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand, to swims in pools in Medellín, Phoenix and the Peruvian Amazon. Near Brighton, Horrocks is joined by an imagined community of early women swimmers; back home she takes her first tentative swim after lockdown. Part memoir, part travel and nature writing, this book is about being a daughter, sister, partner, mother, and above all a human animal living among other animals. 
The Dark is Light Enough: Ralph Hotere, A biographical portrait by Vincent O'Sullivan           $45
Hotere invited O'Sullivan to write his life in 2005, and this nuanced and insightful portrait of one of Aotearoa's most important and interesting artists is the long-awaited and supremely fulfilling result. 
.....and then there were none by Lloyd Jones, Harvey Benge, Jon Carapiet, Haru Sameshima, and Stu Sontier          $40
An outstanding collaborative book by four New Zealand-based photographers and one writer, breaking out of conventional story-telling to play out their anxieties and doubts about the world they see. Developed over the last two years, . . . . . and then there were none grew from conversations and arguments about mortality, our technologically mired existence and the degradation of the environment. The project triggered its own version of flygskam for the collaborators, conflicted by the international travel that made many of the photographs and the writing possible and tainted by knowing the greater price to be paid. Images included from such travels are drenched in sordid human histories that recall the myriad pathways that have led us to now, and to what comes next.
"When I explained to the collectors that I hoped to find at least fifty fine examples to showcase an industry that once thrived in every New Zealand city, their eyes lit up. We disappeared together into a world that no longer exists, of forges and lugs and pinstriping. A time when the humble bicycle was not so humble, and everyone knew the name of the craftsman that built the machine they rode." Includes much to recognise and much to discover with surprise. 

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.

Everybody: A book about freedom by Olivia Laing              $50
The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. At a moment in which basic rights are once again imperilled, Olivia Laing conducts an ambitious investigation into the body and its discontents, using the life of the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to chart a daring course through the long struggle for bodily freedom, from gay rights and sexual liberation to feminism and the civil rights movement. Drawing on her own experiences in protest and alternative medicine, and travelling from Weimar Berlin to the prisons of McCarthy-era America, she grapples with some of the most significant and complicated figures of the past century, among them Nina Simone, Christopher Isherwood, Andrea Dworkin, Sigmund Freud, Susan Sontag and Malcolm X. Despite its many burdens, the body remains a source of power, even in an era as technologized and automated as our own. Everybody is an examination of the forces arranged against freedom and a celebration of how ordinary human bodies can resist oppression and reshape the world.

Real Estate by Deborah Levy            $26
The final volume of Levy's 'Living Autobiography' is a meditation on home, the spectres that haunt it and the possibilities it offers. Reconfiguring her life after her children leave home, how can Levy create a balance between her creative, political and personal lives and the demands of the world she lives in?
>>Read an extract.
>>Things I Don't Want to Know.
>>The Cost of Living

Tranquillity and Ruin by Danyl McLauchlan            $30
In these essays McLauchlan explores ideas and paths that he hopes will make him freer and happier – or, at least, less trapped, less medicated and less depressed. He stays at a monastery and meditates for eight hours a day. He spends time with members of a new global movement who try to figure out how to do the most possible good in the world. He reads forbiddingly complex papers on neuroscience and continental philosophy and shovels clay with a Buddhist monk until his hands bleed. He tries to catch a bus. Tranquillity and Ruin is a light-hearted contemplation of madness, uncertainty and doom. It’s about how, despite everything we think we know about who we are, we can still be surprised by ourselves.
"McLauchlan is likely the most intelligent essayist in New Zealand and this is likely to be the most thought-provoking book of non-fiction published in New Zealand in 2021." —Steve Braunias
>>Writing in his head
The Look of the Book: Jackets, covers and art at the edges of literature by Peter Mendelsund and David J. Alworth        $100
As the outward face of the text, the book cover makes an all-important first impression. The Look of the Book examines the interface of art and literature through notable covers and the stories behind them, galleries of the many different jackets of bestselling books, an overview of book cover trends throughout history, and insights from dozens of literary and design luminaries.
A Sound Mind: How I fell in love with classical music (and decided to rewrite its entire history) by Paul Morley        $40
Paul Morley had stopped being surprised by modern pop music and found himself retreating into the sounds of artists he loved when, as an emerging music journalist in the 70s, he wrote for NME. But not wishing to give in to dreary nostalgia, endlessly circling back to the bands he wrote about in the past, he went searching for something new, rare and wondrous – and found it in classical music. A soaring polemic, a grumpy reflection on modern rock, and a fan's love note, A Sound Mind rejects the idea that classical music is establishment; old; a drag. Instead, the book reveals this genre to be the most exciting and varied in music. A Sound Mind is a multi-layered memoir of Morley's shifting musical tastes, but it is also a compelling history of classical music that reveals the genre's rich and often deviant past – and, hopefully, future.
Small Bodies of Water by Nina Mingya Powles             $33
Nina Mingya Powles first learned to swim in Borneo - where her mother was born and her grandfather studied freshwater fish. There, the local swimming pool became her first body of water. Through her life there have been others that have meant different things, but have still been, in their own way, home: from the wild coastline of New Zealand to a pond in northwest London. This collection of essays explores the bodies of water that separate and connect us, as well as everything from migration, food, family, earthquakes and the ancient lunisolar calendar to butterflies. 
>>The safe zone
The Lobster's Tale by Chris Price and Bruce Foster        $45
"What's the lobster's tune when he is boiling?" Exploring the lobster's biology and its history in language, literature and gastronomy, The Lobster's Tale navigates the perils of a life driven by overreaching ambition and the appetite for knowledge, conquest and commerce. In conversation with Chris Price's text, Bruce Foster's photographs navigate a parallel course of shadows and light, in which the extraordinary textures and colours of the natural world tell a darker story. The Lobster's Tale is a meditation on the quest for immortality on which both artists and scientists have embarked, and the unhappy consequences of the attempt to both conquer nature and create masterpieces. Meanwhile, below the waterline of text and images, a modest voice can be overheard whispering an alternative to these narratives of heroic and doomed exploration.
>>Other books in the Kōrero series: High Wire by Lloyd Jones and Euan Macleod; Shining Land: Looking for Robin Hyde by Paula Morris and Haru Sameshima.
Dressed: Fashionable dress in Aotearoa New Zealand, 1840—1910 by Claire Regnault           $70
A beautifully presented look at colonial-era fashionable dress, based on the collections at Te Papa (of which Regnault is curator), and exploring the social context of the garments and of the women who wore or made them. How does clothing give us an insight into Women's historical experiences that might otherwise not be available to us? 
For the last twenty years, George Saunders (whose Lincoln in the Bardo won the Booker Prize) has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it's more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.
>>Read our reviews of Lincoln in the Bardo
Speak, Silence: In search of W.G. Sebald by Carole Angier              $65
Through books such as The EmigrantsAusterlitz and The Rings of Saturn, Sebald pursued an original literary vision that combined fiction, history, autobiography and photography and addressed some of the most profound themes of contemporary literature: the burden of the Holocaust, memory, loss and exile. The first biography to explore his life and work, Speak, Silence pursues the 'true' Sebald through the memories of those who knew him and through the work he left behind. 

The Musical Human: A history of life on earth by Michael Spitzer          $33
165 million years ago saw the birth of rhythm. 66 million years ago was the first melody. 40 thousand years ago Homo sapiens created the first musical instrument. Today music fills our lives. How we have created, performed and listened to this music throughout history has defined what our species is and how we understand who we are. Yet music is an overlooked part of our origin story. The Musical Human takes us on a journey across the ages, from Bach to BTS and back, to explore the relationship between music and the human species. With insights from a wealth of disciplines, musicologist Michael Spitzer renders a global history of music on the widest possible canvas, looking at music in our everyday lives; music in world history; and music in evolution, from insects to apes, humans to AI.
"Michael Spitzer has pulled off the impossible - a Guns, Germs and Steel for music." —Daniel Levitin
In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova           $45
After the death of her aunt, Maria Stepanova is left to sift through an apartment full of faded photographs, old postcards, letters, diaries, and heaps of souvenirs: a withered repository of a century of life in Russia. Carefully reassembled with calm, steady hands, these shards tell the story of how a seemingly ordinary Jewish family somehow managed to survive the myriad persecutions and repressions of the last century. In dialogue with writers like Roland Barthes, W. G. Sebald, Susan Sontag and Osip Mandelstam, In Memory of Memory is imbued with rare intellectual curiosity and a wonderfully soft-spoken, poetic voice. Dipping into various forms – essay, fiction, memoir, travelogue and historical documents – Stepanova assembles a vast panorama of ideas and personalities and offers an entirely new and bold exploration of cultural and personal memory.
"A luminous, rigorous, and mesmerizing interrogation of the relationship between personal history, family history, and capital-H History. I couldn’t put it down; it felt sort of like watching a hypnotic YouTube unboxing-video of the gift-and-burden that is the twentieth century. In Memory of Memory has that trick of feeling both completely original and already classic, and I confidently expect this translation to bring Maria Stepanova a rabid fan base on the order of the one she already enjoys in Russia." —Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot
African Artists, From 1882 > now edited by Joseph L. Underwood and Okeke-Agulu Chika      $110
The most substantial survey to date of modern and contemporary African-born or Africa-based artists. Long overdue. 
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.
Vitamin D3           $110
An astounding survey of contemporary drawing from over 100 artists, selected by over 70 international experts. 

Patch Work: A life amongst clothes by Claire Wilcox          $45
Claire Wilcox has been a curator of fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum for most of her working life. In Patch Work, she steps into the archive of memory, deftly stitching together her dedicated study of fashion with the story of her own life lived in and through clothes. From her mother's wedding outfit to her own silk kimono, her memoir unfolds in a series of intimate and compelling close-ups. Wilcox tugs on the threads that make up the fabric of our lives—a cardigan worn by a child, a mother's button box, the draping of a curtain, a pair of cycling shorts, a roll of lace, a pin hidden in a seam. Through the eye of a curator, we see how the stories and the secrets of clothes measure out the passage of time, our gains and losses, and the way we use them to unravel and write our histories.

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