Saturday 7 May 2022


Pure Colour by Sheila Heti               $35
Here we are, just living in the first draft of creation, which was made by some great artist, who is now getting ready to tear it apart. In this first draft, a woman named Mira leaves home for school. There, she meets Annie, whose tremendous power opens Mira's chest like a portal—to what, she doesn't know. When Mira is older, her beloved father dies, and she enters the strange and dizzying dimension that true loss opens up.
"Pure Colour tells the story of a life, from beginning to end. It is a galaxy of a novel: explosive, celestially bright, huge, and streaked with beauty. It is an atlas of feeling, and a shape-shifting epic. Sheila Heti is a philosopher of modern experience, and she has reimagined what a book can hold."
>>Also available as a lovely hardback.
>>Read an extract. 
>>Still asking questions.
>>Treated differently. 
>>Read our reviews of How Should a Person Be?
>>Read our reviews of Motherhood

Very Cold People by Sarah Manguso         $40
No-one is watching Ruth. She, however, watches everyone and everything, and waits, growing up on the outskirts of an affluent but threadbare New England township, on the outer edge of popularity. She doesn't necessarily understand what she is seeing, but she records faithfully and with absolute clarity the unfurling of her awkward youth, under even more awkward parenting. As they alternately mock, ignore, undermine and discount their daughter, Ruth's parents present now as damaged, now as inadequate, now as monstrous. All the while the Future comes towards them all, steadily, inexorably, for some of them fatally. And the fog of the Past and the abuses committed under it gathers, swirls, settles, intermittently clears. Watching the future come, the reader of Very Cold People is immobilised, transfixed as much by the gross failures of the adults to be adults, as by the determinedly graceful arc Ruth's trajectory makes towards an adulthood of her own making.
>>The apocalypse might come draped in ice
The Secret of Cricket Karlsson by Kristina Sigunsdotter and Ester Eriksson       $20
 Cricket Karlsson is going to become an artist just like her aunt, who loves cheese and art and always speaks her mind. Not like Cricket's mother, who is dieting and sighs at everything. But now Aunt Frannie has lost her joy and Cricket's best friend has dumped her for the horse girls. Eleven-year-old Cricket Karlsson is a warm and complex character with an artistic soul. Written as a diary, readers will fall in love with Cricket’s tough yet charming voice as she shares her secret thoughts about her best-friend-break-up, her Aunt’s breakdown and experimental chewing gum sculptures. Punkish and surprising comic-style illustrations perfectly compliment this coming-of-age story. This is a liberating and unexpected story about growing up, fitting in, and sorting out the adults in our lives.
Resonating Distances by Richard von Sturmer             $30
Resonating Distances is a work of complexity made out of simplicity. Each of the five sections consists of ten three or four part tanka sequences, from which the nouns have been excerpted and then employed as seeds with which to write the ten prose pieces which follow, in a disciplined yet strangely invisible manner. 
"The two forms swim alongside each other like eels in a stream; they walk together like lovers under an umbrella in the rain. The tanka flow from image to perception and back again. The prose pieces tell stories we seem to have heard before but not, in their brevity and their mystery, the way we hear them here." —Martin Edmond
“In Richard von Sturmer’s prose and poetry, the acts of seeing and thinking become one, and the end result is – to borrow a phrase from J. S. Bach – a musical offering, an exercise in marvellousness.” —Gregory O’Brien
Archetypes by Diana Halstead          $45
In the 1990s Diana Halstead broke with the formal abstract paintings she had been exhibiting in the preceding years, and in a rush of work created a remarkable series of drawings, a selection of which are contained in this book. Halstead used an unusual technique in the works. She began each image with a crayon, then added oil paint, then put on a layer of watercolour paint. This process has given the images a strange mixture of spontaneity and fustiness. The quickly drawn crayon lines make the pictures seem vigorous, intuitive. But the layers of paint obscure some of the crayon marks, and create a sense of age, even antiquity. Looking at them, we seem to see an artist entering a trance state, becoming fused, confused, with animals. Men and women have beaks. Heads crumble and regrow. Whales fill vaginas. Mullet leap from fleshy hips. The distinctions between the human and the non-human dissolve. The works are introduced by an essay by Scott Hamilton. 
>>Claustrophobia and the unconscious
>>A few of the images.
The Undercurrents: A story of Berlin by Kirsty Bell           $38
A dazzling work of biography, memoir, and cultural criticism told from a precise vantage point: a stately nineteenth-century house on Berlin's Landwehr canal, a site at the centre of great historical changes, but also smaller domestic ones. The view from this apartment window offers a ringside seat onto the city's theatre of action. The building has stood on the banks of the Landwehr Canal in central Berlin since 1869, its feet in the West but looking East, right into the heart of a metropolis in the making, on a terrain inscribed indelibly with trauma. When her marriage breaks down, Kirsty Bell becomes fixated on the history of her building and of her adoptive city. She moved into this house in 2014 with her then-husband and two sons, but before her was Herr Zimmermann, the wood-dealer who built the house, and the Salas, a family of printers who took it over in 1908, and lived here through both world wars. Their adopted daughter Melitta Sala, a Kriegskind or 'child of the war', inherited the building and takes hold of her imagination. Now, in the twenty-first century, it is Kirsty Bell's turn to look out of this apartment window. She looks to the lives of the house's various inhabitants, to accounts penned by Walter Benjamin, Rosa Luxemburg and Gabriele Tergit, and to the female protagonists in the works of Theodor Fontane, Irmgard Keun and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. A new cultural topography of Berlin emerges, one which taps into energetic undercurrents to recover untold or forgotten stories beneath the city's familiar narratives.
Night School by Michael Steven           $25
Winner of the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award 2021, poet Michael Steven's Night School explores the gap between fathers and sons, the effects of toxic masculinity, how power corrupts and corrodes, and whether weed, art and aroha can save us in a godless world.
"This is the poet as pilgrim, traveller, and astonished survivor. His sonorous verse has an impeccable lapidary quality, each word fitted like a stone in a wall. Phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, writing with a lucid precision, Michael Steven patiently builds up his world view, always making sure we are with him, always allowing us to share the understanding." —David Eggleton, Judge's Report Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award 2021
>>Books by Michael Steven
Gorse Poems by Chris Holdaway            $25
Chris Holdaway’s collection of poetry is based around the emblem of gorse – that barbed colonial invader that was first introduced to windbreak off native land into farmland, for the use of settlers. This touches on many of the main themes in the book: historical land grievances, ecological disaster, and worker exploitation. Gorse Poems has a social conscience at its heart, that is battered against the inequalities and injustices of contemporary New Zealand. But it also has a lyrical and postmodern persuasion, that is interested in what language can do – how the rhythms can be regulated, how words stacked in long DNA chains can spiral down the page building to a volume that threatens to overrun the reader. 
“Chris Holdaway’s Gorse Poems is a startlingly brilliant debut collection. Here is a postcolonial epic written in a textured language that not only exalts, contorts and repels, but is true to the difficult music of reality.” — Michael Steven
Emergency by Daisy Hildyard           $35
Hildyard reinvents the pastoral novel for the climate change era. Emergency is a novel about the dissolving boundaries between all life on earth. Stuck at home alone under lockdown, a woman recounts her 1990s childhood in rural Yorkshire. She watches a kestrel hunting, helps a farmer with a renegade bull, and plays out with her best friend, Clare. Around her in the village her neighbours are arguing, keeping secrets, caring for one another, trying to hold down jobs. In the woods and quarry there are foxcubs fighting, plants competing for space, ageing machines, and a three-legged deer who likes cake. These local phenomena interconnect and spread out from China to Nicaragua as pesticides circulate, money flows around the planet, and bodies feel the force of distant power. 
"Its prose is bewitching and uncompromising, alive to the enmeshing of cruelty with care that articulates our shared — human and nonhuman — existence." —Daisy Lafarge
>>Neither purpose nor persuasion
Africa Is Not a Country: Breaking stereotypes of modern Africa by Dipo Faloyin           $40
So often Africa is depicted simplistically as an arid red landscape of famines and safaris, uniquely plagued by poverty and strife. In this funny and insightful book, Dipo Faloyin offers a much-needed corrective, creating a fresh and multifaceted view of this vast continent. To unspool the inaccurate narrative, Africa Is Not A Country looks to a wide range of subjects, from chronicling urban life in Lagos and the lively West African rivalry over who makes the best Jollof rice, to the story of democracy in seven dictatorships and the dangers of white saviourism and harmful stereotypes in popular culture. It examines how each African country was formed, by white European explorers who turned up with loose maps and even looser morals, and how 90% of Africa's material cultural legacy was stolen during the colonial era. Important and very readable.
Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes              $40
"The task of the present is to correct our understanding of the past. And that task becomes the more urgent when the past cannot be corrected." Elizabeth Finch was a teacher, a thinker, an inspiration - always rigorous, always thoughtful. With careful empathy, she guided her students to develop meaningful ideas and to discover their centres of seriousness. As a former student unpacks her notebooks and remembers her uniquely inquisitive mind, her passion for reason resonates through the years. Her ideas unlock the philosophies of the past, and explore key events that show us how to make sense of our lives today. And underpinning them all is the story of J — Julian the Apostate, her historical soulmate and fellow challenger to the institutional and monotheistic thinking that has always threatened to divide us. Barnes's new novel is both an interrogation of the processes of memory and a celebration of liberating influence. 
"Barnes is in his element here – investigating with subtlety and gentleness the quiet mysteries that make up a life." —Guardian
Sonnets for Sio by Scott Hamilton          $25
Hamilton wrote these poems as letters to the sculptor, painter, and mystic Visesio Siasau. The poems look back on adventures the two shared amidst the jungle ruins and kava bars of Tonga, and discuss the alternately violent and beatific history of that nation. Sonnets for Sio is a book about art, goddesses, cicadas, sex, war, and intoxication. It celebrates a friendship that is intensified rather than broken by distance.
“One of the best of all our writers about the Pacific.” —Philip Matthews
“Scott Hamilton is one of the best writers and thinkers in New Zealand.” —Steve Braunias
The Stasi Poetry Circle: The creative writing class that tried to win the Cold War by Philip Oltermann             $37
Berlin, 1962. Morale is at rock bottom in East Germany, thrown into chaos by the new Berlin Wall. The Ministry for State Security is hunting for a new weapon in the war against capitalism. Rather than guns, tanks, or bombs, the Stasi resolve to fight the enemy through rhyme and verse, winning the Culture Wars through poetry. Consisting of 15 secret agents — from WW2 veterans to schoolboy recruits — the 'Working Group of Writing Chekists' met monthly from 1962 until the Wall fell. In a classroom adorned with portraits of Lenin, the spies wrote their own poetry and were taught verse, metre, and rhetoric by East German poet Uwe Berger. The regime hoped that poetry would sharpen the Stasi's 'party sword' by affirming the spies' belief in the words of Marx and Lenin, as well as strengthening the faith of their comrades. But as the agents became steeped in poetry, revelling in its imaginative ambiguity, the result was the opposite. Rather than entrenching state ideology, they began to radically question it — and, following a radical role reversal, the GDR's secret weapon dramatically backfired.
The Land of Short Sentences by Stine Pilgaard             $38
A young woman relocates to an outlying community in West Jutland, Denmark, and is forced to find her way, not only in the bewildering environment of the residential Folk High School, where her partner has been hired to teach, but also in the inscrutable conversational forms of the local population. And on top of it all, there's the small matter of juggling her roles as mother to a newborn baby and advice columnist in the local newspaper. In this understated and hilarious novel, Stine Pilgaard conjures a tale of venturing into new and uncharted land, of human relationships, dilemmas, and the perplexing byways of local social codes.
The Last Emperor of Mexico: A disaster in the New World by Edward Shawcross           $45
'One of the most monstrous enterprises in the annals of international history,' said Karl Marx. 'A madness without parallel since Don Quixote,' said a future French president. This is history's judgement on the events surrounding the ill-fated reign of Maximilian of Mexico, the young Austrian archduke who in 1864 crossed the Atlantic to assume a faraway throne. He had been convinced to do so by a duplicitous Napoleon III. Keen to spread his own interests abroad, the French emperor promised Maximilian a hero's welcome, which he would ensure with his own mighty military support. Instead, Maximilian walked into a bloody guerrilla war - and with a headful of impractical ideals and a penchant for pomp and butterflies, the so-called new emperor was singularly unequipped for the task. The ensuing saga would feature the great world leaders of the day, popes, bandits and queens; intrigue, conspiracy and cut-throat statecraft, as Mexico became the pivotal battleground in the global balance of power, between Old Europe and the burgeoning force of the New World: American imperialism.
Bacon in Moscow by James Birch             $40
This funny and personal memoir is the account of an audacious attempt by James Birch, a young British curator, to mount the ground-breaking retrospective of Francis Bacon's work at the newly refurbished Central House of Artists, Moscow in 1988. Side-lined by the British establishment, Birch found himself at the heart of a honey-trap and the focus for a picaresque cast of Soviet officials, attaches and politicians under the forbidding eye of the KGB as he attempted to bring an unseen western cultural icon to Russia during the time of 'Glasnost', just before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"A rollicking cultural adventure before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the meteoric rise of contemporary art in the nineties." —Grayson Perry
>>Bringing the Bacon to Moscow
>>Dodgy plumbing.
The Social Lives of Animals: How co-operation conquered the natural world by Ashley Ward          $45
Some animal societies hold a mirror up to the human world: elephants hold funerals for departed family members. Pinyon jays run collective creches. Rats will go out of their way to help a cold, wet stranger. Other lifestyles can seem intensely alien (or maybe not so alien). Take locusts, surging over the land in their millions, unable to slow down for a moment because the hungry ranks behind will literally bite their legs off if they don't stay one step ahead.
"A great antidote to the dog-eat-dog view of nature that we grew up with. Ashley Ward takes the reader on a personal journey of discovery to make clear that animals often depend on cooperation for survival." —Frans de Waal
Faraway Girl by Fleur Beale            $24
Etta is worried about her brother, Jamie. The doctors can find nothing wrong with him, but he is getting weaker by the day. At breakfast one morning, he seems to have lost it completely - in a voice as pale as his face, he said, 'I think I can see a ghost.' However, when they all turn to look, sure enough, materialising on the window seat is a girl about Etta's age, wearing a beautiful Victorian wedding dress. Etta has to get off to school, she has no time for this, but she is about to discover that time has a whole new significance. She and her ghost companion have no choice but to work out what is going on before Jamie is lost for ever.

Matariki by Kirsten Parkinson and Kitty Brown           $23
How can we celebrate Matariki? Let's look to the stars! Maumaharatia: Remembering our past Tiakina te taiao: Caring for our environment. Te whakawhanaungatanga: Connecting with our people. 
Me pehea tatou e whakanui i a Matariki? Tirohia nga whetu! Maumaharatia te onamata. Tiakina te taiao. Te whakawhanaungatanga ki o tatou iwi. 
Explore the nine stars of Matariki in rich, detailed imagery and bilingual text. Dive into the meanings of the stars and Matariki itself. 

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