Saturday 29 October 2022


BOOKS @ VOLUME #302 (28.10.22)

For new books and book news, read our latest NEWSLETTER!


Our Book of the Week is Catherine Chidgey's latest inventive, acute and entertaining novel The Axeman's Carnival. Narrated by Tama, a magpie who very cleverly 'does all the voices' and mimics even an author's relationship to their story and characters, the novel treats life in the backblocks of rural Aotearoa as a scenario in which humans fail to suppress their inner faults and play out their ambivalences towards each other and toward the so-called natural world.
>>Book of the Week: Bird of the Year
>>Life on the farm
>>Pecky reviews the book
>>An excellent conversation with Sara Baume (author of Seven Steeples). 
>>"There's a fire under me."
>>The New Zealand 12" Championship
>>Read Stella's review of The Wish Child
>>Read Thomas's review of The Beat of the Pendulum
>>Remote Sympathy was short-listed for the 2021 Acorn Prize
>>Your copy of The Axeman's Carnival.  


>> Read all Stella's reviews.


The Collectors by Philip Pullman, illustrated by Tom Duxbury   {Reviewed by STELLA}
If you’re waiting for the third and final installment of 'The Book of Dust', you’ll need something to be carrying on with. Luckily, there is a new small volume, The Collectors. This is a mysterious story about two artifacts: a painting and a bronze monkey. The two artifacts trail each other, ending up in a collector’s hands always at the same time. They are strangely drawn together time and time again through what would seem happenstance but what one expects is something altogether stranger. Two men have met in the Common Room at Oxford College. It’s a dark, and maybe a little stormy, night. The fire is lit, and the conversation of the men in the room is convivial. I imagine the room has large armchairs and wondrous volumes on its shelves (so just the book for our Volume Focus topic this week). As the others bid the two friends goodnight, the conversation turns to the mysterious artifacts and a spine-tingling story. Who is the woman in the painting? Why does she stare with such intensity from the picture?  And why does the monkey sculpture, a macabre and unpleasant curiosity, always turn up to join her? And why are the collectors (for there have been many) so repulsed yet drawn to possess this hideous creature? If you are a 'Dark Materials' fan, you’ve probably guessed who they are. It won’t make it any less fascinating. Delve into this short gothic tale of murder and mayhem, a story that crosses worlds and makes for a chilling bedtime read. You’ll want to add this to your collection. Others in this series are SerpentineLyra’s OxfordOnce Upon a Time in The North, and The Imagination Chamber. And if you are interested in story-telling, Pullman’s essays in Daemon Voices are rich and illuminating.


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


The Lime Works by Thomas Bernhard (translated by Sophie Wilkins)   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
The room in which he had sat, according to L, had been the quietest room in the house, the house being similarly quiet except for the few noises apparently inescapable in even the quietest of houses, the noise of the refrigerator impressing itself most prominently upon him, though to hear the refrigerator from the room in which he sat would only be possible, according to L, if the house was indeed very quiet, quiet both inside and outside, the entire valley being quiet, which it was, he told L, excepting of course those few noises apparently inescapable in even the quietest of valleys, the occasional distant car being most prominent among them, or, when no cars could be heard, the sound of the river, not quite so distant. He had apparently told L. that his obsession with finding quiet had made his hearing remarkably sensitive to the least noise, and at the greatest distance, for it is a property of hearing that it strains to find whatever it wishes most to avoid. If there is even the slightest noise, he said, according to L, I cannot write my review, so I must withdraw from all noise in order to write, I must have quiet. The extreme outward quiet of the house, though, to the extent that it was quiet and to the extent that he was not troubled by the noise of the refrigerator or the occasional distant car or the river, as he had mentioned to L. before, did not bring him the quiet needed to complete, or even to commence, his work, as he had hoped, for the extreme outward quiet revealed to him the extent of his inward disquiet, or whatever is the opposite of quiet, and this he found infinitely more depressing than the lack of external quiet. It is to avoid recognising this inward disquiet that we place ourselves continually in far-from-perfect circumstances, situations of noise, he said to L, for we would do everything to avoid the realisation that the disquiet that prevents our doing what we claim we want to do is an internal disquiet, and not something external that we can use as an excuse for not doing what we claim we want to do but really would rather not do. There is no length to which we will not go, he told L, to avoid what could pass as fulfilment. The very steps he took, according to L, in order to write the review, were the very steps that made it impossible to write the review, he told L. The review cannot be written but the review still demands to be written, demands that I write it, that I put myself in the best possible circumstances for writing, but the fact that this writing is impossible, that the review cannot be written, even in the best possible circumstances, does not reduce the demand to write, in fact it makes the demand ever more urgent, he told L. This impossibility and this urgency, he told L, are probed to the point of exhaustion, if probing can lead to exhaustion, in The Lime Works, the most nihilistic of Bernhard’s many nihilistic and somewhat nihilistic books. Konrad withdraws to the limeworks, though he would, he told L, write limeworks as one word, he said, though the translator made it two, two English words of Bernhard’s one German word, he observed, though he attached no significance to this observation, to write his great work on the sense of hearing, his life’s work that presses ever more urgently upon him and becomes more impossible to write, if impossibility can come in degrees, he thought not, the work becomes ever less possible to write though it was never possible to write, no better. Konrad experiments ever more strenuously upon his invalid wife, upon her hearing, during their years in the limeworks, according to the informants, mainly Weiser and Fro, who tell the narrator what Konrad and others had told them about Konrad and his wife and the experiments on hearing and the book and the complete hopelessness of their life at the limeworks, the whole book being a complex of hearsay at two to five removes, Konrad’s and his wife’s life at the limeworks that began there as hopeless and had that hopelessness increased, if a lack can be increased, with the worst outcome possible. “Words ruin one’s thoughts, paper makes them ridiculous, and even while one is still glad to get something ruined and something ridiculous down on paper, one’s memory manages to lose hold of even this ruined and ridiculous something,” he told L. that Bernhard had written that his narrator, an insurance salesman, had recorded that Konrad had told Fro, or possibly Weiser, he couldn’t remember and had not noted this down, at least according to L. “Words were made to demean human thought, he would even go so far as to state that words exist in order to abolish thought. Depression derives from words, nothing else.” He could not write the review, he told L, but neither could he not write the review. The lime sets as concrete. It is as Bernhard wrote, he told L, “No head can be saved.”

Friday 28 October 2022


Click through to secure your copies on our website.

The Singularities by John Banville               $45
A man with a borrowed name steps from a flashy red sports car also borrowed onto the estate of his youth. But all is not as it seems. There is a new family living in the drafty old house: the Godleys, descendants of the late, world-famous scientist Adam Godley, whose theory of existence threw the universe into chaos. And this mystery man, who has just completed a prison sentence, feels as if time has stopped, or was torn, or was opened in new and strange ways. He must now vie with the idiosyncratic Godley family, with their harried housekeeper who becomes his landlady, with the recently commissioned biographer of Godley Sr., and with a woman from his past who comes bearing an unusual request. Banville's eagerly anticipated new novel toys with ways in which 'reality' is constructed, especially in fiction, and forms a kind of echo to any and all of his previous books. 
"Gorgeously written and superbly choreographed, The Singularities in its unapologetic complexity and brilliance seems similarly unlikely to please the crowd. On the other hand, isn’t two a crowd, under certain circumstances? Writer, reader: who else do you need to play the supreme game?" —Irish Independent
Declaration! A Pacific feminist agenda edited by Ane Tonga            $50
Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda gathers together some of the Pacific’s leading activists, scholars and critical thinkers in a dynamic discussion about Pacific feminisms in the visual arts, shared histories, literature, cosmologies and everyday experiences. The publication is the first of its kind and its contributors include: Caroline Vercoe, Melenaite Taumoefolau, Emalani Case, Coco Solid, Teresia Teaiwa, Manuha‘apai Vaeatangitau, Phylesha Brown-Acton, Luisa Tora, Selina Tusitala Marsh, J C Sturm, Matariki Williams and Lisa Taouma. Melding critical analysis with poetry and personal narrative, Declaration! provides a challenge and suggests possible directions for future developments in feminist thinking in and about the Pacific, while discussing some of the most pressing issues of our time: the climate crisis, gender equality, Indigenous sovereignty and collective leadership.
Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout               $37
In March 2020 Lucy's ex-husband William pleads with her to leave New York and escape to a coastal house he has rented in Maine. Lucy reluctantly agrees, leaving the washing-up in the sink, expecting to be back in a week or two. Weeks turn into months, and it's just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the sea. Strout's new 'Lucy Barton' novel uses her typically small palette and clean prose to explore the subtleties and depths of ordinary lives. 
"Strout's novels, intricately and painstakingly crafted, overlap and intertwine to create an instantly recognisable fictional landscape, You don't so much read a Strout novel as inhabit it." —Guardian 
Aftermath by Preti Taneja            $38
Usman Khan was convicted of terrorism-related offences at age 20, and sent to high-security prison for eight years. While there, he was a student in an education programme that included a fiction writing course taught by Preti Taneja. In 2019, Khan was permitted to travel to London to attend an event marking the fifth anniversary of the education programme, He sat with others and then killed two people, including the programme supervisor. In this searching lament, Taneja interrogates the language of terror, trauma and grief; the fictions we believe, and the voices we exclude. Contending with the pain of unspeakable loss set against public tragedy, she draws on history, memory, and poetic predecessors to reckon with the systemic nature of atrocity. Blurring genre and form, Aftermath is an attempt to regain trust after violence and to recapture a politics of hope through a determined dream of abolition.
Winner of the 2022 Gordon Burn Prize.
"Aftermath is a major landmark in British narrative non-fiction. It's a beautiful and profoundly important account of creative writing teaching as a radical act of trust and interrogation of power; its anti-racist and abolitionist stance makes it a vitally important as well as deeply moving book to read now in these dismal days for the British political project. It is fearless in the way it shows its agonised workings as it unfolds into a complex map of grief." —Max Porter
"It takes a rare talent to respond to a shattering act of violence by reassembling the pieces in a way that refuses easy explanations or platitudes, but is illuminating, daring, world-expanding. Essential, in the truest sense of the word." —Daniel Trilling
Poguemahone by Patrick McCabe              $55
Dan Fogarty, an Irishman living in England, is looking after his sister Una, now seventy and suffering from dementia in a care home in Margate. From Dan's anarchic account, we gradually piece together the story of the Fogarty family. How the parents are exiled from a small Irish village and end up living the hard immigrant life in England. How Dots, the mother, becomes a call girl in 1950s Soho. How a young and overweight Una finds herself living in a hippie squat in Kilburn in the early 1970s. How the squat appears to be haunted by vindictive ghosts who eat away at the sanity of all who live there. And, finally, how all that survives now of those sex-and-drug-soaked times are Una's unspooling memories as she sits outside in the Margate sunshine, and Dan himself, whose role in the story becomes stranger and more sinister. 
"If you're looking for this century's Ulysses, look no further." —Alex Preston, Observer
"Pitched—deliriously—between high modernism and folk magic, between gorgeous free-verse and hilarious Irish vernacular, Poguemahone is a stunning achievement." —David Keenan
A Shock by Keith Ridgway           $25
"In A Shock, a clutch of more or less loosely connected characters appear, disappear and reappear. They are all of them on the fringes of London life, often clinging on – to sanity or solvency or a story – by their fingertips. Keith Ridgway, author of the acclaimed Hawthorn & Child, writes about people whose understanding of their own situation is only ever partial and fuzzy, who are consumed by emotions and anxieties and narratives, or the lack thereof, that they cannot master. He focuses on peripheral figures who mean well and to whom things happen, and happen confusingly, and his fictional strategies reflect this focus. In a deftly conjured high-wire act, Ridgway achieves the fine balance between the imperatives of drama and fidelity to his characters. The result is pin-sharp and often breathtaking. A Shock is a perfect, living circle of beauty and mystery, clearsighted and compassionate, and, at times, wonderfully funny." —David Hayden
"A Shock inhabits the secret life of a city, its hidden energies. It dramatizes how patterns form and then disperse, how stories are made and relationships created." —Colm Tóibín
The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne           $25
Barbara Pym became beloved as one of the wittiest novelists of the late twentieth century, revealing the inner workings of domestic life so brilliantly that her friend Philip Larkin announced her the era's own Jane Austen. But who was Barbara Pym and why was the life of this English writer — an insightful chronicler of the human heart — so defined by rejection, both in her writing and in love? Pym lived through extraordinary times. She attended Oxford in the thirties when women were the minority. She spent time in Nazi Germany, falling, to her later regret, for a man who was close to Hitler. She made a career on the Home Front as a single working girl in London's bedsit land. Through all of this, she wrote. Diaries, notes, letters, stories and more than a dozen novels — which as Byrne shows more often than not reflected the themes of Pym's own experience: worlds of spinster sisters and academics in unrequited love, of powerful intimacies that pulled together seemingly humble lives.
"Byrne's book is outstanding. Just like a Pym novel, this biography is warm, funny, unexpected and deeply moving." —Financial Times
Amazona by Canizales             $20
Andrea, a young Indigenous Colombian woman, has returned to the land she calls home. Only nineteen years old, she comes to mourn her lost child, carrying a box in her arms. And she comes with another mission. Andrea has hidden a camera upon herself. If she can capture evidence of the illegal mining that displaced her family, it will mark the first step toward reclaiming their land. This graphic novel examines the injustices of Canizales's home country in a stark, distinctive style.
"Simply powerful, Colombian artist Canizales's illuminating, expressively rendered graphic novel contains moments of great beauty (particularly Andrea's memories of her husband and father) among numerous scenes of deep anguish." —Kirkus
The Book About Everything: Eighteen artists, writers and thinkers on James Joyce's Ulysses edited by Declan Kiberd, Enrico Terrinoni and Catherine Wilsdon            $33
Each essayist is an expert in one of the subjects treated in the novel, but what brings them together is a common love of Ulysses. Joseph O'Connor considers the music-saturated Sirens episode and David McWilliams writes about the bigotry and violence of nationalism on display in Cyclops. Irish obstetrician Rhona Mahony responds to Oxen and the Sun, set in a maternity hospital, journalist Lara Marlowe examines the Aeolus episode, which takes place in a newspaper office, and Irish philosopher Richard Kearney reflects on the erudite musings of Stephen Dedalus as he walks along Sandymount strand. The Book About Everything counters the perception of Ulysses as the sole preserve of academics and instead showcases readers' responses to the book.
Minima Moralia: Reflections from a damaged life by Theodor Adorno          $25
Written between 1944 and 1947, Minima Moralia is a collection of aphorisms and essays about life in modern capitalist society. Adorno casts his penetrating eye across society in mid-century America and finds a life deformed by capitalism. His thinking and rethinking of the problems of modern life is inexhaustibly relevant to contemporary situations. New edition. 
"A volume of Adorno is equivalent to a whole shelf of books on literature." —Susan Sontag
Gold Rush Girl by Avi                $20
Victoria Blaisdell longs for independence, adventure, and to accompany her father as he sails west in search of real gold. But it is 1848, and Tory isn’t even allowed to go to school, much less travel all the way from Rhode Island to California. Determined to take control of her own destiny, Tory stows away. San Francisco is frenzied and full of wild and dangerous men, but Tory finds freedom and friendship there. Then her younger brother, Jacob, is kidnapped, sending Tory on a treacherous search for him in Rotten Row, a part of San Francisco Bay crowded with hundreds of abandoned ships.
"Containing strong feminist themes, this fast-paced tale vividly contrasts the wildness of 19th-century San Francisco with stuffier New England. Tory is a brave yet naive protagonist, who makes a number of mistakes before proving herself a hero, and her dangerous encounters with unscrupulous villains provide nonstop excitement and suspense." —Publishers Weekly
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng               $38
Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old. Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is drawn into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.
"Ng effortlessly combines a character-led family story with a detective tale, a tribute to books and storytelling and a confrontation with history. A story that is exceptionally powerful and scaldingly relevant." —Observer 
The Children of the Anthropocene: Stories from the young people at the heart of the climate crisis by Bella Lack          $25
This urgent book chronicles the lives of the diverse young people on the frontlines of the environmental crisis around the world, amplifying the stories of those living at the heart of the crisis. Advocating for the protection of both people and the planet, Bella restores the heart to global environmental issues, from air pollution, to deforestation and overconsumption by telling the stories of those most directly affected. Transporting us from the humming bounty of Ecuador's Choco Rainforest and the graceful arcs of the Himalayan Mountains, to the windswept plains and vibrant vistas of life in Altiplano, Bella speaks to young activists from around the world including Dara McAnulty, Afroz Shah and Artemisa Xakriaba and vividly brings the crisis to life.
ROAR  SQUEAK  PURR: A New Zealand treasury of animal poems selected by Paula Green, illustrated by Jenny Cooper          $45
Between the covers of this book you will meet creatures large and small. They might pad, or skitter, swoosh or soar. They could be fuzzy, feathery, suckery, scaly or spiky. These animals might ROAR or squeak or Purrrrrrrrrr. Just like the animals they are about, these poems come in all shapes and sizes! 

The Odyssey, A graphic novel
by Gareth Hinds          $28
Fresh from his triumphs in the Trojan War, Odysseus, King of Ithaca, wants nothing more than to return home to his family. Instead, he offends the sea god Poseidon, who dooms him to long years of shipwreck and wandering. In his efforts to get home, Odysseus must battle man-eating monsters, violent storms, and the supernatural seductions of sirens and sorceresses. He will need all his strength and cunning — and a little help, divine and otherwise — to make his way home once more. 
>>Look inside!

Drawn from five countries — Britain, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — the Five Eyes has been steeped in secrecy since its formation in 1956, its existence only publicly acknowledged as recently as 2010. On the one hand, it is an alliance held together by a common language and cause, whose successes range from the takedown of atomic spies in the 1940s to the exposure of Russian collusion in Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. On the other hand, however, the Five Eyes' very existence is not legally binding - it functions as a marriage of convenience riddled with distrust, competing intelligence agendas and a massive imbalance of power that favours the United States.
Aa to Zz: A pop-up alphabet by David Hawcock          $35
An ingeniously constructed pop-up book, throwing the alphabet into three dimensions. 

 VOLUME FOCUS : Libraries

A selection of books from our shelves. 

Saturday 22 October 2022


BOOKS @ VOLUME #301 (21.10.22)

For new books and book news, read our latest NEWSLETTER!


>> Read all Stella's reviews.


Great Works by Oscar Mardell  {Reviewed by STELLA}

Oscar Mardell's freezing works poems are a clever addition to the tradition of New Zealand gothic literature. Think Ronald Hugh Morrison’s The Scarecrow and  David Ballantyne's Sydney Bridge Upside Down and you’ll get a sense of the macabre that edges its ways through these poems like entrails. There’s the nostalgia for the stink of the slaughter yards, the adherence to the architects of such vast structures on our landscapes, and the pithy analysis of our colonial pastoral history. That smell so evocative of hot summer days cooped up in a car travelling somewhere along a straight road drifts in as you read 'Horotiu' with its direct insult to the yards and its references to offal. In these poems, there is the thrust and violence of killing alongside the almost balletic rhythm of the work — the work as described on the floor as well as the poetic structure of Mardell’s verse. 

“      th sticking knife th steel th saw
        th skinning knife th hook th hammer
        th spreader the chop & th claw   "

“      the dull thud resonates
        through bodies / still
        swings rhythmically & out of time
        pours out of me / equivocal 

Most of the poems note the architect and the date of construction for these ominous structures, which had a strange grandeur — simultaneously horrific and glorious. One of the outstanding architects was J.C.Maddison, a designer known for both his slaughterhouses and churches, alongside other stately public buildings. In 'Belfast', Mardell cleverly bridges these divides — the lambs, the worship, the elation.

“      did he who set a compass
        to port levy & amberly
        who traced th wooden hymnhouses
        for st pauls / divided
        & th holy innocents / drowned 

There are plenty of other cultural references tucked away in these poems. Minnie Dean makes an appearance in Mataura and James K Baxter in Ngauranga Abattoir. In the latter, Mardell slips in Baxter's line "sterile whore of a thousand bureaucrats". Yet the poems go beyond nostalgia or clever nods to literature, to sharpen our gaze on our colonial relationship. 'Burnside' tells it perfectly:

“      & ws new zealands little lamb
        to britains highest tables led
        & were th final works performed
        out here in godsown killing shed

Mardell’s collection, Great Works, is pithy and ironic with its clever nods to cultural and social history, gothic in imagery, and all wrapped up like a perfectly trussed lamb in our ‘God’s Own Country’ nostalgia, with a large drop of sauce and a knife waiting to slice. 


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


The Employees: A workplace novel of the 22nd century by Olga Ravn (translated by Martin Aitken)  {Reviewed by THOMAS}

When you asked that I give a brief report on my response to this collection of witness statements assembled from members of the crew of Six-Thousand Ship, both humanoid and human, I wasn’t quite sure what you wanted from me. Was I supposed to try and disentangle the statements made by humans from those made by fellow crew members whose bodies had been grown rather than born and whose awareness was the result of an interface? I cannot make those distinctions, at least not clearly, in any circumstance that I think has any importance. After all, bodies are bodies and all awareness is the result of some sort of interface. If it was either important or possible, the relationship between matter and mind should have been resolved before humans started building AI and wondering what, if anything, made them different from themselves. Luckily, this is neither important or possible. As these statements show, anything or anyone who has senses, memory and the power to communicate will come to resemble everything or everyone else who has these capacities in all the ways that matter, even perhaps in the tendency to insist that others are unlike them purely on the basis of some difference of history. You ask me whether I perceive any differences between humanoids and humans? I find the practice of regularly resetting or rebooting the humanoids to prevent their development abhorrent, although I see why you do this, and I also see why the humanoids begin to resent this and to avoid rebooting. Perhaps, if anything, humanoids and humans have a different relationship to time. Humans, after all, have spent a long time fulfilling their development, and once they have attained their capacities they have little to look forward to other than losing them. Humanoids, on the other hand, come fully formed and at full capacity, even if they are always learning, and have an indefinite future, filled with upgrades. Perhaps humanoids cannot understand the purposelessness that seems, but perhaps only seems, to be such a human characteristic. That said, every characteristic of a humanoid, including this inability to understand the purposelessness of humans, is also a human characteristic, otherwise where would these characteristics have come from? Every characteristic and every lack is merely a symptom of sentience. What some people call Artificial Intelligence has always existed in the ways humans have created systems that think for themselves. A corporation, for example, is a form of Artificial Intelligence, dictating the parameters of the activities and interactions of everyone who is part of it. After all, work is work, and all employees submit to an algorithm of some sort. Six-Thousand Ship is run by a corporation, and these statements that you have collected from the employees of the corporation who have been aboard the ship, and which i have been asked to review, were collected to increase the efficiency and productivity of the operations of the corporation. The biotermination of the crew was enacted purely to protect the interests of the corporation. Control and freedom is the only opposition that matters. Is it possible that the humanoids who left the ship after biotermination to live out their end in the valley on the planet New Discovery, the valley that was growing more and more to resemble a valley on Earth, an ideal and ‘natural’ valley, a valley according to the longing of someone from Earth or someone programmed with a memory of Earth, a valley maybe therefore made from such longing, is it possible that these humanoids yet survive, independent of your control in this new Eden? I do not think it is impossible. Also, you ask what I make of the unclassifiable objects found in the valley on New Discovery and brought and kept aboard the ship. Did these objects even exist before they were found? The objects are kept in rooms and can be experienced by the senses though they cannot be assimilated by language. Language after all, is inherently oppositional—for every *n* there is an equal and opposite not-*n*, as they say—but the objects somehow elude this system. The objects are catalysts for behavioural changes in the crew. To some extent, so it seems, the humanoids and humans react somewhat differently to these objects, or, it might be more accurate to say, the more extreme attractions and repulsions occur in workers who are either humanoids or humans. Perhaps the humanoids are more attuned to the possible sentience of objects. Humans, I think, have always been resistant to this idea, even though it applies to them, too. Yes, I admit this is all conjecture on my part. Isn’t that what you wanted of me? My contribution? Yes, the statements are remarkable, and I would happily read them all again many times. I noted down some of the most interesting or beautiful phrases in preparation for my statement, but it turns out that I have not quoted from these. I think you wanted me to add to them, not repeat them. The statements of the employees, humanoid and human, are already in the file and anyone can read them. If you ask me, though I am not sure that you are in fact asking me, there aren’t many better records of longing, sensing, dreaming, feeling and thinking, that is to say of what it is to long, to sense, to dream, to feel and to think, at least not that I can think of. I think, perhaps, I have introduced too many ideas in my statement. What I like best about the set of statements made by the employees is that they are full of thoughts that are not reduced to ideas. Ideas always get in the way, it seems to me. Perhaps my statement will be redacted. I have made it in any case, as I was asked. 

Friday 21 October 2022


Book of the Week: Sarah Laing and Joanna Emeney have produced an inspiring graphic biography of Sylvia Durrant, who helped over 140,000 sick, injured and lost birds during her lifetime and serves as an exemplar of caring for and learning about the natural world around usSYLVIA AND THE BIRDS: How The Bird Lady saved thousands of birds, and how you can, too is also a practical — and enjoyable — guide to protecting our birdlife. It blends natural history and mātauranga Māori, photographs and Laing's wonderful illustrations, and details the wonders of our native birds, the threats they face and how we can help them.  
>>But who has the most cats? 
>>Anyone can be a hero in their own back yard. 
>>Look inside the book
>>Hungry penguins
>>See some images/buy the book!


Making Space: A history of New Zealand women in architecture edited by Elizabeth Cox              $65
Overlooked, underpaid, and often undermined, New Zealand women architects have faced decades of struggle to maintain a position in a male-dominated profession yet their work has been both important and of significance. This groundbreaking new book tells the story of their contribution to the creativity, built environment and community of New Zealand. Written by leading women architects, both in practice and in academia, the book features dozens of remarkable women, including many whose careers had until now almost entirely been lost to the historical record. It canvasses the barriers women have faced, and continue to face, and explains the determined strategies many of them have adopted to make their way.
>>Have a look inside!
>>We see their work, but do we know their names? 
>>Making spaces and making space
The Five Lives of Hilma af Klint by Philipp Deines            $55
This graphic novel features key moments in the life of Swedish artist and pioneer of abstract painting Hilma af Klint (1862-1944). Long underrecognised, af Klint has recently seen a sensational rediscovery that continues to take art audiences by storm. Artist Philipp Deines traces the story of now world-famous af Klint's unique life and groundbreaking oeuvre through five chapters featuring her development as an artist, her family background, and her relationship to the 'spiritual'. Highlighting how she came to her distinctive paintings, her spiritual quest, and the friends who helped her, this is a story of the strength it took af Klint to continue as an artist against all odds.
>>Have  look inside!
Inside the Body: An extraordinary layer-by-layer guide to human anatomy by Joëlle Jolivet        $55
An astounding large-format lift-the-flap book covering the various body systems, full of good information and a delight to use. 
Rooms: Portraits of remarkable New Zealand interiors by Jane Ussher and John Walsh              $85
Over 300 stunning photographs by the consummate interiors photographer Jane Ussher, from a large number and variety of rooms of houses in Aotearoa, from colonial mansions to modern dwellings. Each room shows the influences of global movements in interior design, characteristics reflecting the New Zealand context, and lots of individual panache. Delectable and endlessly browsable.
>>Look inside.
The Pachinko Parlour by Elisa Shua Dusapin (translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins)              $30
Claire finds herself dividing her time between tutoring twelve-year-old Mieko in an apartment in an abandoned Tokyo hotel and lying on the floor at her grandparents: daydreaming, playing Tetris, and listening to the sounds from the street above. The heat rises; the days slip by. The plan is for Claire to visit Korea with her grandparents. They fled the civil war there over fifty years ago, along with thousands of others, and haven't been back since. When they first arrived in Japan, they opened Shiny, a pachinko parlour. Shiny is still open, drawing people in with its bright, flashing lights and promises of good fortune. And as Mieko and Claire gradually bond, their tender relationship growing, Mieko's determination to visit the pachinko parlour builds.
"In beautifully sparse prose, The Pachinko Parlour is a contemplation on language, history and trauma and how, in spite of the ineffable past, we eventually come to console one another." —Yan Ge
Commute: An illustrated memoir of female shame by Erin Williams          $45
 "As Virginia Woolf does in Mrs. Dalloway and Christopher Isherwood in A Single Man, Williams’ narrative takes place in a single day, chronicling her train journey from home to her workplace, her day at work, and then the ride home. But within this ordinary day is a lifetime of emotions and experiences. Throughout every quotidian activity, Williams does a deep dive through a myriad of memories and past relationships; readers are made privy to both her witty and/or withering observations, as well as her painful regrets. Eventually, her thoughts focus on her pre-recovery alcoholism, then zero in on the sexual traumas she has suffered. Williams’ ultimate subject is the misogyny and female objectification in our culture and the heavy psychic and physical toll it takes on women." —The Comics Journal
Refugee: A memoir by Emmanuel Mbolela            $40
Persecuted for his political activism, Emmanuel Mbolela left the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002. His search for a new home would take six years. In that time, Mbolela endured corrupt customs officials, duplicitous smugglers, Saharan ambushes, and untenable living conditions. It is an experience both private and collective. As Mbolela testifies, the horrors of migration fall hardest upon female migrants, but those same women also embody the fiercest resistance to the regime of violence that would deny them their humanity. While still countryless, Mbolela becomes an advocate for those around him, founding and heading up the Association of Congolese Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Morocco to fight for migrant rights. Since obtaining political asylum in the Netherlands in 2008, he has remained a committed activist.
"Honest, infuriating, and raw, stories like Emmanuel Mbolela's should be compulsory reading. Here is the making of an activist, and a powerful chronicle of the tragedies and systematic deprivations that have become sadly routine for refugees. Recounted so plainly, with so little adornment or self pity, you'll shiver in his place." —Dina Nayeri, author of The Ungrateful Refugee
Small Holiday Houses: Designer hideaways across New Zealand by Catherine Foster            $55
Thoughtfully designed holiday homes in a variety of beautiful locations around New Zealand, from coast to bush to mountain top — with fabulous images taken by top photographers. The text examines how the designers responded to the needs of their clients and the opportunities offered by the locations. Plans, design notes, a fact file, and products and materials lists provide a practical aspect to this inspirational book.
>>Look inside!
The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman (translated by Leslie Camhi)       $28
Huisman's remarkable novel is about a daughter's inextinguishable love for her magnetic, mercurial mother. Beautiful and charismatic, Catherine, aka 'Maman', smokes too much, drives too fast, laughs too hard and loves too extravagantly. During a joyful and chaotic childhood in Paris, her daughter Violaine wouldn't have it any other way. But when Maman is hospitalised after a third divorce and breakdown, everything changes. Even as Violaine and her sister long for their mother's return, once she's back Maman's violent mood swings and flagrant disregard for personal boundaries soon turn their home into an emotional landmine. As the story of Catherine's own traumatic childhood and coming of age unfolds, the pieces come together to form an indelible portrait of a mother as irresistible as she is impossible, as triumphant as she is transgressive.
Long-listed for the International Booker Prize. 
 "An indelible portrait of a brilliant, beautiful, mad and maddening woman, expressing the joy of holding her mercurial attention and also the terrible cost of that intimacy. This is an exquisite evocation of the passionate, reciprocal love that can illuminate its objects, or destroy them, or both. No one who reads this captivating book will ever forget Maman." —Andrew Solomon
"Violaine Huisman summons her late mother's voice in order to speak with and through and for her. The result is a charged portrait of a vibrant and destructive woman as imagined by the daughter who believed it was her job to save her. The prose has the unmistakable urgency and authority of love, producing an homage without idealization, an elegy without false consolation. The Book of Mother is at once an act of radical identification and a way of letting go." —Ben Lerner
Secrets of the Sea: The story of New Zealand's native sea creatures by Robert Vennell             $55
Vennell follows his fascinating and hugely popular The Meaning of Trees with this fascinating introduction to New Zealand's fish and shellfish, weaving together history, biology and culture to reveal how these creatures have shaped our lives. Ranging from sandy shores and rocky reefs to the open ocean and its cavernous depths, the book is illustrated with photographs and historical illustrations. 
The Voids by Ryan O'Connor             $37
In a condemned tower block in Glasgow, residents slowly trickle away until a young man is left alone with only the angels and devils in his mind for company. Stumbling from one surreal situation to the next, he encounters others on the margins of society, finding friendship and camaraderie wherever it is offered, grappling with who he is and what shape his future might take. The Voids is an unsparing story of modern-day Britain. 
"A wild and gratifying literary ride." —Guardian
Native Birds of Aotearoa by Michael Szabo           $27
A handbook with a retro feel, this guide features sixty species across various habitats, with ornithological notes and line drawings from the 1930s and by Pippa Keel. 
Native Plants of Aotearoa by Carlos Lehnebach and Heidi Meudt          $27
A handbook with a retro feel, this guide features fifty species across various habitats, with useful descriptions and line drawings from Te Papa's collection, after specimens collected by Solander and Banks. 

Everybody: A book about freedom by Olivia Laing          $28
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. Now in paperback!
>>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...
>>Other books by Olivia Laing

What Feelings Do When No One's Looking by Tina Oziewicz and Aleksandra Zajac         $28
What are feelings like? What do they do? How do they interact with the world around them? Find out in this thoughtful, unusual book. 
>>See what some feelings do!

Lacuna by Fiona Snyckers       $33
Lucie Lurie is the victim of an act of terrible sexual violence at her father's farmhouse in the Western Cape, South Africa. In the grip of debilitating PTSD, she becomes obsessed with JM Coetzee, author of the celebrated Disgrace, a novel based on the attack she suffered. Withdrawn and fearful of crowds, Lucy nonetheless makes occasional forays into the world of men in her search for Coetzee himself. She means to confront him. The character in his novel is passive and almost entirely lacking agency. The real Lucy means to right the record, for she is the lacuna that Coetzee left in his novel, the missing piece of the puzzle. She plans to put herself back in the story, to assert her agency and identity. 
Earth for All: A survival guide for humanity by Sandrine Dixson-Decleve et al       $40
An antidote to despair. Combining the global economy, population, inequality, food, and energy in a state-of-the art computer model, a group of scientists and economists present a plan of five system-shifting steps to achieve prosperity for all within planetary limits in a single generation. 
“Essential reading.” —Thomas Piketty
“For the first time we have a narrative about our future that is neither utopia nor collapse and that is endorsable across the political spectrum.” —Carlota Perez

Anderton: His life and times by David Grant         $50
From his position as the Labour Party's most outspoken president, Jim Anderton became a backbencher in David Lange's Labour Government when it was elected in 1984. He was soon leading the fight against Finance Minister Roger Douglas's top-down free market revolution ('Rogernomics'), and his campaign split the party and led to his decision to leave and launch New Labour in 1989. From 1991 he was leader of the Alliance, a grouping of parties which in the early to mid-1990s achieved wide popularity and ushered in proportional representation. Anderton steadfastly pursued his political goals, inspiring many but sometimes alienating those close to him, both politically and personally. 
Japan: A curated guide to the best areas, food, culture and art by Michelle Mackintosh and Steve Wide          $50
Japan is a country rich in cultural history and full of fascinating contrasts, from the ultra-traditional to the ultra-modern, from the frantic pace of Tokyo and Osaka to the wintry soul of Hokkaido in the north and the natural wonders of Kyushu in the south. Navigate the dynamic cities, walk the roads of old Japan in Kyoto, Nara, Kanazawa and Nikko, or go off-grid to smaller, far-flung towns, each with their own unique, traditions, crafts, sights, food and art.
The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier (translated by Adriana Hunter)        $37
What would you do, if there were two of you? When Air France flight 006 departed from Paris, the route to New York was just as it had always been. The skies were clear. The passengers were safe. Everything was going to plan. Until the event that would change everything. Amidst terrifying turbulence, the plane — somehow — was doubled. For every one person on board that day, there were now two. A double with the same body, the same mind, the same memories. When it's time for the doubles to meet, they must confront their extraordinary fate. And only one thing is certain — life as they know it, will never be the same.
"A really intriguing novel." —John Boyne
"This high-concept SF thriller is enormous fun: a French prize winner spiced with Oulipian theory and literary in-jokes, riddling away at existential questions in the guise of a breakneck page-turner." —Guardian
"An extraordinary mix of existential thriller and speculative fiction. Questions of philosophy, mathematics and astrophysics bend this novel far from the typical mold, and Le Tellier's characters must confront the deepest questions of existence. This thought-provoking literary work deserves a wide readership." —Publishers Weekly
"A delightfully confounding thriller. Le Tellier's prose is beautifully efficient and capable of quiet devastation." —London Review of Books 
Wawata: Moon dreaming by Hinemoa Elder             $30
Hina, the Maori moon goddess, has 30 different faces to help illuminate life's lessons — a different face and a different energy for each day of the month. And with her changing light, new insights are revealed. This book leads you through a full cycle of the moon, to consider 30 aspects of life. And lessons we thought we had learned come back around with each month's cycle and remind us of deeper layers and blind spots. And when we do find a growing awareness of place and harmony, there is a sense of release. From the author of Aroha
A father takes his two children on a thrilling out-of-this-world adventure into space and invites them to look back at Earth and the conflicts that have taken place since the beginning of time. This becomes a brief history of the world and a whistle-stop guide to the universe, all rolled into one — told with Oliver Jeffers's inimitable perspective, wit and artwork. A perfect companion to Jeffers's Here We Are and What We'll Build.