Saturday 26 November 2022

 New books and book news!

Read our latest NEWSLETTER:
BOOKS @ VOLUME #306 (25.11.22)


Book of the Week: The Golden Mole, And other living treasure by Katherine Rundell  
The animal world is endlessly varied, fascinating and inspiring, and needs to be preserved both for its own sake and for the richness it adds to human experience and thought. Rundell considers 22 animals (including the human) whose existence is endangered by humans, and reveals the depths of wonder embodied in these animals. For instance, did you know that the Golden Mole is luminescent, but blind and therefore unable to see its own radiance? This hardback book is beautifully presented (it even has gilt edges), and illustrated by Tayla Baldwin. 
>>Startling astonishments
>>Consider the golden mole.
>>Consider the hummingbird. 
>>Consider the hare. 
>>The world will not starve for want of wonders
>>On the illustrations
>>Weird and wonderful
>>A 21st century bestiary
>>Consider a copy of the book
>>Other books by Katherine Rundell


>> Read all Stella's reviews.



Unraveller by Frances Hardinge   {Reviewed by STELLA}

The country of Raddith is an odd place, complex and unpredictable. Kellen, once a weaver, has been gifted or cursed, depending on your perspective, with the ability to ‘unravel’ curses. Nettle, his trusty sidekick (she’s always there — a watchful appeaser to Kellen’s unpredictable temperament) was not so long ago a heron cursed to feed on fish and watch her siblings (each other bird species) struggle with their human-bird / bird-human natures. Though she’s back in her human body, her experience has altered her and some of her heron qualities linger. She’s not the only one haunted by their recent past. Kellen was a weaver from a weaving village, but once he was cursed with unravelling, it wasn’t too long until his parents had to cast him out or suffer the consequences of a village’s livelihood undone.  But there is always work for a curse-fixer, and Kellen and Nettle mostly stay on the right side of law and order. Not all things go smoothly though in the curse game and it’s not too long until Kellen’s temper gets the better of him and they find themselves arrested. No fear, a stranger seeks them out and makes them an offer they are in no position to reject. Gall, a man bonded to a marsh horse (a strange and demonic creature) employs them on behalf of an official. Dark magic and conspiracy are afoot in the chambers of powers and someone wants to see the equilibrium — the deal struck with the Little Brothers (spidery inhabitants of the lowlands) — undone. The Little Brothers spin webs of mystical power and gift the curse eggs to those who carry loathing and hate in their guts. Curse eggs can be controlled, but not easily, and cursers and the cursed alike often regret their actions. Step in the likes of Kellen, who can unpick these spells. With no choice but to follow Gall’s instructions, Kellen and Nettle find themselves pulled tighter into a web of danger and confusion. Will their friendship endure? Will the Little Brothers help or hinder Kellen when he needs them most? The story weaves in uneven and unexpected ways as the two teens travel to the capital to meet their employer — a startling discovery, head to a remote village through a haunted forest, and end up in the lowlands and on the treacherous waters of the Moonlight Market where a clever hand will need to be played if Kellen is to keep his head and Nettle survive a deceit that will surprise the reader as well as her. Hardinge’s latest is a highly structured tale, much like a spider’s web, with two competing but complementary protagonists at its centre. It has those classic elements of loyalty and betrayal, trust and deceit alongside a vividly portrayed fantastical world (at times wonderfully overwhelming and darkly unsettling), which Hardinge does so well. Another stunner from the author of The Lie Tree and A Skinful of Shadows



 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


The Appointment by Katharina Volckmer   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
It did not read like a love story, he thought, but it was a love story. It did not even read like a story, not that he likes stories, but it was a story. And he still liked it. It was not just a stream of invective, though it certainly was a stream of invective, and he has nothing against streams of invective, especially literary streams of invective, quite the reverse, he likes them, he even, and he wonders if the word is correct, collects them, if it is possible to collect streams in anything other than a lake. A lake of invective, perhaps, that doesn’t sound right. Fiction always is an essay in time, or on time, though neither sounds right, the act of reading is a linear act and the act of writing is a linear act, no matter how clipped and disordered that act may be in either case, no matter how you cut the strands, all fiction at base is an offence against time, an offence whence springs the hope and splendour of fiction, he thought. There are two strands in this story, he thought, though he wondered why he called it a story, the time of the telling and the time of all that presses upon the telling from the past. The novel, let him call it that, consists entirely of a monologue spoken, if it is even spoken, by a young German woman to a Dr Seligman, a rant of Bernhardian dimensions or proportions, neither of these words seem right, vulgar, surprising, hugely funny, ultimately sad. He could feel the spoilers coming on. Dr Seligman does not speak, or if he speaks he speaks between the paragraphs and his words are not recorded. He is like the auditor in Beckett’s Not I, not speaking but by his silence the enabler of the saying of all that is said, without him the tremendous disburdening, if that is a word, of the voice could not occur, without this receptive silence there would be no story. We might think at first that Dr Seligman might be a psychoanalyst, but he is not a psychoanalyst, nor even a counsellor, though she was sent to a counsellor, Jason, after threatening her workmate with a stapler, of all things, and fair enough, a counsellor who did not keep silent, who could not play the auditor, who shut her down by speaking. “When we are actually forced to talk about ourselves, things always get so awkward, because there is really very little to talk about. … People like Jason only live off making others feel bad about themselves by pretending that they know the way when in the end they will drown just like everyone else,” she says. Dr Seligman is not a psychoanalyst, though he could be to the body what a psychoanalyst is to the mind, whatever that is, a body is more personal than a mind, after all, if indeed there is anything personal at all about a mind, history is an offence on a body by a body, all the rest is stories, and here come some spoilers and it is not too late, even now, even if you have read this far, reader, to stop reading, he thought, I will accept not complaints if you continue, at least no complaints in this regard. What, though, is sayable and what is not sayable? When the Jewish Dr Seligman does not throw her out after her initial provocation-test recounting invented sexual fantasies involving Hitler, if a fantasy can be invented or can be anything but invented, the hurdle at which Jason fell, he begins to gain her trust and she begins to disburden herself to him of her unhappiness, her discomfort, since childhood, with her identity, or, rather, with the identity imposed upon her as all identities are imposed. “And I think that in a way that’s all we are: other people’s stories. There’s no way we can ever be ourselves,” she says, demonstrating, incidentally, how her monologue changes register so often on a comma, passing from vulgar to reflective within a sentence, if not back again as well. Since childhood she has been repelled both by her mother’s body and by her own, she says. At this point, he thought, he might compare the splendid Volckmerian rant with the splendid Bernhardian rant, each filled, he might say, with loathing, each skewering the rot in society, if you want rot on a skewer, each exposing, among other things, the indelible mark of Nazism upon a nation. The Bernhardian rant, as it progresses, though, he thought, rings more wrong, if that is the right way to put it, that is Bernhard’s genius, the narrator’s loathing is seen to be self-loathing, the ills of the world have their bastion within, so to speak, but the Volkmerian rant, as it progresses, rings more right, he thought, that doesn’t sound right, and this is more disturbing, even, what begins as self-loathing spreads out and shows us what is wrong with the world in which the loather sits and soaks, or whatever. All crimes are crimes of identity, he thought, a provocation of his own that he doesn’t really know how to think about, though perhaps he is right. We get everything wrong. “That’s where we differ from animals: with very few exceptions they always look the part, like perfect representations of their species, dignified and in just the right shape.” Bit by bit the monologist’s story is revealed, and we learn of her relationship with K, a relationship that broke all the various taboos with which identity is ring-fenced, though what the difference is between ring-fenced and plain fenced, he does not know, at least in this instance, metaphors aren't fussy. The pact was to remain impersonal, to play out their frustrations and harm upon each other, to use up the harm, to reflect and to become the other in the mirror, but when K. says, “Be with me always,” the monologist, call her Sarah, monologist is a stupid word, if it is even a word, ends the relationship forthwith. When she later hears of K.’s suicide, she completes the journey to deciding to become him, I told you it was a love story, though not the sort you expected, which is why she is delivering her monologue to Dr Seligman, a plastic surgeon who “is fitting a German woman with a Jewish cock,” you were warned about the spoilers, a process paid for with Sarah’s inheritance from her grandfather, the stationmaster at the last stop before Auschwitz. The Holocaust lies at the root of harm. Volckmer lambasts what she sees as the German delusion is having ‘dealt with’ the Holocaust by ensuring “that we remained de-Nazified and full of respect. But we never mourned; if anything, we performed a new version of ourselves, hysterically non-racist in any direction and negating difference wherever possible. Suddenly there were just Germans. No Jews, no guest workers, no Others. And yet we never granted them the status of human beings again or let them interfere with our take of the story.” The victims remain victims, their myriad stories still overwritten by a single story outside their control, Jews still trapped in the German national myth, still othered to the extent that they are Jewish, those losses, those bodies annulled still not seen by the Germans as their own bodies, not properly mourned as their own bodies, writes Voclkmer, or Volckmer seems to write, at least to him, the distance between the story and the body is a scale to measure shame. Guilt is a ritual, he thinks, though he has not yet thought the thought to its end, a ritual that seems to address but actually conceals shame, to address is to preserve, after all, but what else is there to be done? “It takes several minds to be beautiful,” says Sarah, writes Volckmer, and, he thinks, when the desire to be otherwise has more power than identity, when we lose our footing and begin to swim, can he never purge himself of these metaphors, when we submit to or we welcome the urgent undoing of what we are or are seen to be, if there is a difference between them, then, he thinks, though it is not him who thinks the thought, he merely reports what is thought, we can be many things at once or no things, open to whatever. Sarah remarks, writes Volckmer, there comes a time when “someone has split you into two versions of yourself.” This chimes with Bachmann, he thinks, though chimes is not the right word, when she wrote, in Malina, “I am not one person, but two people standing in extreme opposition to one another, which must mean I am always on the verge of being torn in two. If they were separated it would be livable, but scarcely the way it is.” It is hard, he thinks, to find what is livable.

Friday 25 November 2022


Te Motunui Epa by Rachel Buchanan            $50
The story begins in the early 1800s in Peropero swamp, just north of Waitara. Taranaki was teetering on the edge of what would be almost a century of war, and Te Atiawa hapu moved quickly to dismantle their most important public buildings and hide significant pieces in the swamps. The epa – serpentine figures carved in five totara panels – went to sleep, only to awaken one hundred and fifty years later to hands that would take them to New York, Geneva, London and the Royal Courts of Justice. Te Motunui Epa have journeyed across the world and changed practices, understanding and international law on the protection and repatriation of stolen cultural treasures. By placing these taonga/tupuna at the centre of the story, Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Atiawa) presents a vivid narrative, richly illustrated, that draws on newly released government records to tell a story of art, ancestors and power.
>>A return home.
>>Book trailer.
>>Look inside.

Book Manifest by Irma Boom               $90
In Book Manifest, renowned Dutch designer Irma Boom presents her vision on the essence, meaning and relevance of the book. Based on the in-depth research that Boom conducted into the development of the book in the library of the Vatican, Book Manifest is at once a survey of the history of the book and a miniature Irma Boom retrospective, reproducing a selection of more than 350 books she has designed over the course of her eminent career. Alongside reproductions, Boom extensively discusses the relationship between her work and older book forms. With this tiny (65mm x 75mm), 1000-page, richly illustrated volume, Boom aims to inspire and encourage designers to experiment and develop new ways of conceiving this simplest and most enduringly effective of forms. Irresistible. 
>>Some of the 1000 pages
>>The architecture of the book
One and Everything by Sam Winston                  $33
Once there were many stories in the world. Some had beautiful sunsets, some lived at the bottom of the sea, and some were simply about dogs. Until one story decided that it was going to be the most important story ever. It called itself the One and started to consume every other story in existence. Soon it seemed that the One was all that was left ... or was it?
Inspired by the Endangered Alphabets Project, aimed at preserving cultures by sharing their unique scripts, author-illustrator Sam Winston incorporates writing systems such as cuneiform, Canadian aboriginal, Egyptian hieroglyphs and ogham in the abstract illustrations of this colourful, wonderful book.
Cooking: Simply and well, for one or many by Jeremy Lee          $75
From a lifetime of cooking with some of the UK's greatest chefs — as well as lessons from his cookery teacher mother's home cooking — this book is about good food honed from good ingredients whether that be some great potatoes, asparagus or some berries. It is they that invariably and best spark the idea of what to cook. The book is a masterclass in simple things done well. There are sections on the usefulness and frugality of breadcrumbs, whether black olive crumbs or parsley to serve on spaghetti, impromptu puddings like peaches in wine with bay leaves or plum compote with ricotta and hazelnuts, pea dishes galore, the most useful jams and jellies from a Dundee childhood, classics like potatoes and wild garlic aioli, essentials like anchovy dressing. 
"A beautifully written instant classic that is every bit as exuberant and delicious as the man himself!" —Nigella Lawson
"Already a classic." —Fergus Henderson
"One of the most beautiful cookery books I have ever seen. It should be prescribed." —Rachel Roddy
>>Have a look inside.
Granta 160: Conflict           $28
Granta 160: Conflict features Lindsey Hilsum and Volodymyr Rafeyenko (tr. Sasha Dugdale) on the war in Ukraine, but the theme of conflict is internal as well as external. This issue also includes memoir by Janet Malcolm, Sarah Moss, Suzanne Scanlon, and essays by Rebecca May Johnson, George Prochnik, Daniel Trilling and Sana Valiulina (tr. Polly Gannon). Plus: new fiction by Aidan Cottrell-Boyce, Jane Delury and Dizz Tate and poetry by Rae Armantrout, Sandra Cisneros and Peter Gizzi. Photography by Aline Deschamps (introduced by Rattawut Lapcharoensap) and Thomas Duffield.
>>Issue sampler
Bill Andersen was one of the most significant figures in New Zealand's trade union movement in the later twentieth century. Locke's biography recovers the relationships between communism and working class trade unionism during World War Two and the following decades, drawing over forty oral interviews, as well as Bill's unpublished autobiography, to explore what it meant to be a working class, communist trade unionist through those years of social change. The post-war splintering of the world communist movement fractured New Zealand communists; in the 1970s, the Northern Drivers' Union emerged as a powerful social movement; and Maori land rights and sovereignty activism reframed radicalism through the last decades of the century. The impact of neo-liberalism on trade unions in the late 1980s and 1990s is starkly shown. 
Creature: Paintings, drawings and reflections by Shaun Tan       $70
A collection of Shaun Tan’s artwork from the past 25 years. The drawings and paintings in the book come from his work in picture books and other works including films and graphic novels. Others were created for no specific purpose beyond the desire to see what something looks like, or just to follow a sketched line to see where it goes. Many works are previously unpublished. As the title suggests the collection and accompanying essays by Shaun explore his use of non-human creatures as a motif throughout his artwork.

Between the Flags by Rachel Fenton           $25
What if the worst thing that could ever happen to you had already happened, but you didn't realise? Like your brain couldn't handle it, so you turned it into a comic. Then closed it. Fourteen-year-old trainee lifeguard Mandy Malham has wanted to beat Jen in the surf lifesaving championships at Soldier Tree Bay ever since Jen bullied her in primary school, but to do that, Mandy comes to realise that first she must rescue herself. Some days it feels like the only friend you have is the pen in your hand. A YA novel from author and graphic artist Rachel J Fenton.
Nietzsche in Italy by Guy de Pourtales (translated by Will Stone)            $25
For fifteen years, after his first visit to the country in1876, Nietzsche was repeatedly and irresistibly drawn back to Italy's climate and lifestyle. It was there that he composed his most famous works, including Thus Spake Zarathustra and Ecce Homo. This classic biography, now translated into English for the first time) follows the troubled philosopher from Rome, to Florence, via Venice, Sorrento, Genoa, Sicily and finally to the tragic denouement in Turin, the city in which Nietzsche found a final measure of contentment before his irretrievable collapse.

Small Fires: An epic in the kitchen by Rebecca May Johnson            $38
Cooking is thinking! The spatter of sauce in a pan, a cook's subtle deviation from a recipe, the careful labour of cooking for loved ones: these are not often the subjects of critical enquiry. (cooking, we are told, has nothing to do with serious thought), but in this fascinating, innovative memoir, Rebecca May Johnson rewrites the kitchen as a vital source of knowledge and revelation. Drawing on insights from ten years spent thinking through cooking, she explores the radical openness of the recipe text, the liberating constraint of apron strings and the transformative intimacies of shared meals. Dissolving the boundaries between abstract intellect and bodily pleasure, domesticity and politics, Johnson awakens us to the richness of cooking as a means of experiencing the self and the world.
"An intense, thought-provoking enquiry into the very nature of cooking, which stayed with me long after I finished it." —Nigella Lawson
"One of the most original food books I've ever read, at once intelligent and sensuous, witty, provoking and truly delicious, a radical feast of flavours and ideas." —Olivia Laing
Sleeping Among Sheep under a Starry Sky: Essays, 1985—2021 by Wallace Shawn            $40
Born in 1943 in New York, Shawn has been writing plays since 1967. He has also worked as an actor. As he says of himself, he can be seen as someone who has spent his life 'sunk deep in the not particularly grown-up world of pretending and make-believe, but one could also note that writing plays and acting both involve the close observation of human society and human behaviour'. In a way entirely unique to himself, Shawn here attempts to understand the social and political realities of his time, whilst also offering some of his thoughts about 'the relatively innocent and provincial activity of creating small imaginary worlds with made-up characters'. His ultimate goal in the book is to determine whether people who are intimately concerned with the pursuit of the beautiful, can play a role in fighting against the horrifying injustice and vicious destructiveness that characterise our world.
"Shawn has a powerful sense, both as an actor and political essayist, of the extent to which our better selves are constrained by lines that have been written for us; by received ideas, the comforting deceptions of class, agency and so on. Behind most of these essays are questions about the unfairness of life to which the author responds — fairly, I think — without answers, only further questions of his own." —Will Eaves
Look! We Have Come Through! Living with D.H. Lawrence by Lara Feigal                $33
Lara Feigel listens to birds outside her window their circling, strident calls and thinks of D. H. Lawrence. It is the spring of 2020 and, as the pandemic takes hold, she locks down in rural Oxfordshire with her partner, her two children, and that most explosive of writers. Proceeding month by month through the year, she sets out to start again with Lawrence — to find vital literary companionship; to use him as a guide to rural living and even, unexpectedly, to child-rearing; to find a way through his writing to excavate the modern world she feels he helped bring into being. Tracing the arc of Lawrence's life and delving deep into his writings, she confronts his anger, his passion, his tumultuous vitality. In the process, she faces some of today's most urgent dilemmas, from secular religion to the climate crisis, from sex and sexuality to feminism's ideas about motherhood. And, as she watches the seasons change alongside Lawrence, Feigel finds the rhythms of her own life shifting in unexpected ways.
"A lovely, urgent, serious book." —Tessa Hadley
The Edge of the Plain: How borders make and break our world by James Crawford            $45
Crawford argues that our enduring obsession with borders has brought us to a crisis point: that we are entering the endgame of a process that began thousands of years ago, when we first started dividing up the earth. Today, nationalism, climate change, globalisation, technology and mass migration are all colliding with ever-hardening borders. At stake is the future of the world as we know it. Borders are the ultimate test — can we let go of the lines that separate us? Or are we fated to repeat the mistakes of the past, as our angry, warming and segregated planet lurches towards catastrophe?
Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua: Māori housing realities and aspirations edited by Fiona Cram, Jessica Hutchings and Jo Smith          $40
surveys the many ways Maori experience home and housing across Aotearoa New Zealand. These accounts range from the broader factors shaping Maori housing aspirations through to the experiences of whanau, hapu and iwi that connect to specific sites and locations. From statistically informed analyses to more poetic renderings of the challenges and opportunities of Maori housing, the book encompasses a rich range of voices and perspectives, including many wahine Maori authors. Opening with chapters on the wider contexts - history, land, colonisation - the book moves through to focused, and often intimate, discussions of the relationships between housing, home and identity. An expansive concluding section explores how Maori are developing housing solutions that are being called papakainga. These chapters cover rural, urban and big-city developments and complete a book that revitalises our understanding of what constitutes a home for Maori in the twenty-first century.
How to Read Now by Elaine Castillo          $40
An exploration and manifesto investigating the power of reading - and our potential to become radically better readers in the world. How many times have we heard that reading builds empathy? That we can travel through books? How often have we were heard about the importance of diversifying our bookshelves? Or claimed that books saved our life? Of course, these beautiful words are sometimes true. But reading is—and can be—more powerful, more relevant, and more vital than we currently let it be. Castillo illuminates—and insists upon—our potential to become better readers, readers who will wield the power of reading ruthlessly, effectively, and to startling result to enact equity, kindle authentic connection, and clear space for voices to be heard.
Idol, Burning by Rin Usami            $33
High school student Akari has only one passion in her life: her oshi, her idol. His name is Masaki Ueno, best known as one fifth of Japanese boyband Maza Maza. Akari's devotion to her oshi consumes her days completely. She keeps a blog entirely devoted to him, piously chronicling and analysing all his events. He is the spine of her life, she cannot survive without him. When Masaki is rumoured to have assaulted a female fan, facing waves of social media backlash, Akari's world falls apart. Offering a vivid insight into otaku culture and adolescence, Idol, Burning is a story of obsession, coming-of-age and the addictive, relentless nature of fandom culture. 
Winner of the 2021 Akutagawa Prize. 
Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave and Sean O'Hagan            $50
Created from over forty hours of conversations, this book is a thoughtful exploration, in Cave's own words, of what really drives his life and creativity. The book examines questions of faith, art, music, freedom, grief and love. It draws candidly on Cave's life, from his early childhood to the present day, his loves, his work ethic and his dramatic transformation in recent years. 
>>'Straight to You'

Kahurangi Out West: More stories from Northwest Nelson by Gerard Hindmarsh             $40
Following Kahurangi Calling and Kahurangi Stories, this book is the final in this trilogy of stories from the backcountry of Northwest Nelson. An area of outstanding ecological and geological complexity, Kahurangi also generated a rich and colourful social history. Told here are the stories which start with the earliest human arrivals and finish with the family stories of the graziers who live along Kahurangi’s wild western flank today. Drovers, loggers, mill workers, top secret coast watchers, linesmen, miners and uranium prospectors, there’s also the story of King Tom of the Matakitaki, and one man’s obsession with traversing the formidable Dragon’s Teeth of the Douglas Range. Highly readable and engaging.
From the Bottom... to the Top by Harry Bell            $48
Starting as a young rope boy at Liverpool No 2 coalmine near Greymouth in 1948, Harry Bell went on to manage other mines around New Zealand, including Strongman, Denniston and Huntly. He also became chief mines inspector around New Zealand – including at Ohai.



A selection of books from our shelves.


Saturday 19 November 2022


Irresistible Cookbook Reductions

We are offering a selection of superb cookbooks at reduced prices as a gesture towards the coming season. We have single copies only of most titles. 

We send books anywhere—and gift-wrap too!


>>Click here to browse our other cookbooks

BOOKS @ VOLUME #305 (18.11.22)

For new books and book news, read our NEWSLETTER.



>> Read all Stella's reviews.


The Hotel by Sophie Calle  {Reviewed by STELLA}

This book is exquisite. It’s not just the packaging, even though this is a great start: cloth-covered, gilt-edged, and excellent layout make this a pleasure to hold in the hand and eye. The cover is a triptych of patterns, reminiscent of wallpaper, fabric sheets or curtains and the golden edges are just the right touch of tack and glamour. The endpapers are the perfect hotel green. For this is a book about hotels, or rather those who stay in them through, the eyes of a chambermaid. In fact, a not-a-chambermaid. French artist Sophie Calle spent a few months in 1981 employed at a Venetian hotel. Here she conducted a series of observations in photography and text of the rooms she cleaned when the guests were absent. She was a voyeur, an explorer into what is both intimate and anonymous. She cleaned rooms and took photographs, read guests postcards, noted their underwear, the way in which they slept in the beds. She opened suitcases and clicked her camera. She pried. The result was an exhibition and later a book — a book which until now has been available only in French. This new English-language edition from Silglo is a welcome addition to Calle’s other artist books. The photographs are a mix of black and white and stunning colour. The elaborate decor (the floral glitz and the formal wooden furniture) of the hotel rooms is lovingly juxtaposed with the personal effects of the visitors: some drab, commonplace; others surprising and cumulatively interesting. Why does this guest have a letter from 16 years ago on holiday with them? What can it be but nostalgia? The two women in Room  26 have near-matching pyjamas, porn magazines and cigarettes — they leave behind the two coke bottles, mostly empty and the magazines in the rubbish. The family in Room 47 have a balloon tied to a drawer handle, towels piled up in the bidet, repetitive postcards, and Calle’s assessment on day one, “On the luggage stand, a second suitcase. It is full. I don’t go through it; I just look. I am bored with these guests already.” And what do they leave behind — a deflated balloon and stale biscuits. Some guests are neat, others unpack everything. Calle notes their nightclothes, whether they use them, the arrangement of their pillows — the different approaches between couples. What medicines and cosmetics do they carry with them? She leaves us to draw our own conclusions as to the why. The photographs are intriguing — the objects, the angles with which Calle captures these fleeting moments, these ‘peepings’ into others’ lives through things and the way in which they interact with their environment — the hotel room. The careful calculations of light that cross these rooms, highlighting a crease in the sheet, or a slight rucking of the carpet, or the shine of new luggage or the wear and tear of old, is testament to Calle's skill behind the lens. And the text adds another dimension. It tells us what Calle does, how she sees the guests and what she does in the rooms. Each episode is recorded by Room, date and time. The best episodes straddle multiple days — with each visit to a room (with the same occupants) Calle seems bolder and more intrigued with the evidence of the guests. This isn’t merely reportage — Calle laces her words with droll humour and a storyteller’s gift, taking us, the readers, into our own imagination as we become voyeurs alongside her. Somehow it never seems that she is stepping over a border, although she trends very closely to the edge. We are briefly submerged in the lives of others while remaining at a distance, remote, despite this most intimate experience.


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


Hotel by Joanna Walsh  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
As a relief from an unhappy marriage, Walsh got a job as a hotel reviewer and spent a period of time living only in places that are intended to be alternatives to home (places in which ‘staying’ means not remaining but merely deferred leaving). In this series of short pieces, with occasional appearances by Freud, Dora (the subject of Freud’s early work on hysteria), Katherine Mansfield, KM (her alter ego), and the Marx brothers, Walsh plays rigorously with the idea of the hotel and with the idea of home that is its complement and shadow. Throughout the book, she does such a thorough job of picking away at ideas that vertiginous spaces open up within them, terrifying emptinesses in what had seemed like smooth and continuous thought. She is, understandably, intent on the mechanisms and ellipses by which her marriage has disintegrated: is the fault in the idea of marriage, in her husband or in herself, or is this “only ordinary unhappiness”? Walsh is adept at the re-flexing of banal tropes into fresh and sturdy thought: “We went into marriage to fulfil our individual desires, but we found ourselves required to be fulfilled by what we found there. The marriage problem is the same as the hotel problem. I have second-guessed your desires, and those of others. I have made myself into a hotel.” She is under no illusion that thinking can provide resolution (indeed the benefits of thought are magnified when resolution is impossible or eschewed), aware that problems will remain problems (we may at best hope for them to be problems we to some extent understand): “Plot is good in books but bad in life. There is no plot in a hotel. When I am in a hotel, the bad thing is in abeyance but it is waiting to happen outside the hotel nevertheless.” 

Friday 18 November 2022

Our Book of the Week is Gotcha! A funny fairy tale hide-and-seek by Clotilde Perrin. Chased by monsters, each more comically hideous than the last, a child hides here and there inside three fairytale houses (the three little pigs' brick house, Cinderella's palace, the gingerbread house visited by Hansel and Gretel) before coming out and frightening the monsters away. Each house is a wonderland of lift-the-flap discoveries and hilarious details. This is a large, very enjoyable and very special book. 

Also by Clotilde Perrin: 

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Gotcha! A funny fairy tale hide-and-seek by Clotilde Perrin           $42
Chased by monsters, each more comically hideous than the last, a child hides here and there inside three fairytale houses (the three little pigs' brick house, Cinderella's palace, the gingerbread house visited by Hansel and Gretel) before coming out and frightening the monsters away. Each house is a wonderland of lift-the-flap discoveries and hilarious details. This is a very enjoyable and special book. 
Also by Clotilde Perrin: 
Dislocations by Sylvia Molloy (translated by Jennifer Croft)            $38
Almost every day, the narrator visits ML, a close friend who is now suffering from Alzheimer’s. Based on these encounters and ML.’s fragments of memory, she constructs a powerfully moving tale about the breakdown of a mind that progressively erases everything in a very peculiar way. An attempt through writing to ‘make a relation endure despite the ruin, to hold up even if only a few words remain’. ‘How does someone who can’t remember say ‘I’?’ asks the narrator, considering this woman who shows her around the house as if she were visiting for the first time, or who is unable to say she feels dizzy, yet is perfectly capable of translating into English a message saying that she feels dizzy. Passages from a shared past and present that are transformed into fiction when faced with a forgetting that can no longer refute them. A book that opposes disintegration with a precise and vital prose and a unique sensibility.
"A masterclass in writing, with a brevity and clarity which is both rare and welcome, and firmly situates Molloy as an outstanding talent." —The Skinny
Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami             $40
The famously reclusive writer shares with readers what he thinks about being a novelist; his thoughts on the role of the novel in our society; his own origins as a writer; and his musings on the sparks of creativity that inspire other writers, artists, and musicians. How does Murakami think about his own novels, and how does he craft them? 
>>Read an extract

Downfall: The destruction of Charles Mackay by Paul Diamond              $45
In 1920, New Zealanders were shocked by the news that the brilliant, well-connected mayor of genteel Whanganui had shot a young gay poet, D'Arcy Cresswell, who he thought was blackmailing him. They were then riveted by the trial that followed. Mackay was sentenced to hard labour and later left the country, only to be shot by a police sniper during street unrest in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis. Downfall shines a clear light on the vengeful impulses behind the blackmail and Mackay's ruination. The Mackay affair reveals the perilous existence of homosexual men and how society conspired to control and punish them. This careful examination of a little understood moment is unique for the queer lens through which it views the complex lives and motivations of key figures in late-Edwardian New Zealand and the systems within which they operated.
>>The mayor makes a comeback
Our Share of the Night by Mariana Enriquez              $37
Gaspar is in danger. Only six-years-old, he is frightened he may have inherited the same strange abilities as his father, Juan; a powerful medium who can open locked doors, commune with the dead, and possess the ancient forces of the Darkness. Now father and son are in flight, hunted by the Order, a group of wealthy acolytes who seek to harness the Darkness, no matter the cost. Among them, Gaspar's grandmother, whose twisted desires have already driven her to commit unspeakable acts. Nothing will stop the Order, nothing is beyond them. Surrounded by horrors, can Gaspar and Juan break free? Spanning the brutal years of Argentina's military dictatorship and its turbulent aftermath, Our Share of Night is a haunting, thrilling novel of broken families, cursed land, inheritance, power, and the terrible sacrifices a father will make to help his son escape his destiny. From the author of the International Booker short-listed The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
Nocilla Trilogy by Agustín Fernández Mallo (translated by Thomas Bunstead)         $28
The globe-spanning narratives that explode across the trilogy take us from a lone poplar tree in the Nevada desert to a barnacle-covered cliff in Galicia, Spain, through scientific treatises and film-editing manuals, personal journals, and comic strips. The books are full of references to indie cinema, theoretical physics, conceptual art, practical architecture, the history of computers and the decadence of the novel. And yet, for all the freewheeling, fragmentary swagger, a startling order emerges and takes hold. The Nocilla Trilogy charts a hidden and exhilarating cartography of contemporary experience.
"Like having multiple browser windows open, and compulsively tabbing between them." —Chris Power, Guardian
"The most original and powerful author of his generation in Spain." —Mathias Enard
'Think of Nocilla Trilogy as three novels at the edge of the form, their manifold narratives folded into each other: all highly imaginative, all fairly unhinged, all methodically interrupted by a range of scientific, theoretical and literary quotations." —Kevin Breathnach, London Review of Books
A Book of Days by Patti Smith            $43
In 2018, without any plan or agenda for what might happen next, Patti Smith posted her first Instagram photo: her hand with the simple message "Hello Everybody!" Known for shooting with her beloved Land Camera 250, Smith started posting images from her phone including portraits of her kids, her radiator, her boots, and her Abyssinian cat, Cairo. Followers felt an immediate affinity with these miniature windows into Smith's world, photographs of her daily coffee, the books she's reading, the graves of beloved heroes--William Blake, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, Simone Weil, Albert Camus. Over time, a coherent story of a life devoted to art took shape. This book combines those images with vintage photographs: anniversary pearls, a mother's keychain, and a husband's Mosrite guitar; and photographs from Smith's archives of life on and off the road, train stations, obscure cafés, a notebook always nearby.  In wide-ranging yet intimate daily notations, Smith shares dispatches from her travels around the world.
>>Look inside!
In 2018, boundary-breaking visual and sonic artist Cosey Fanni Tutti received a commission to write the soundtrack to a film about Delia Derbyshire, the pioneering electronic composer who influenced the likes of Aphex Twin and the Chemical Brothers. While researching Derbeyshire's life, CFT became immersed in Derbyshire's story and uncovered some fascinating parallels with her own life. At the same time she began reading about Margery Kempe, the 15th century mystic visionary who wrote the first English language autobiography. 
Re-Sisters is the story of three women consumed by their passion for life, a passion they expressed through music, art and lifestyle; they were undaunted by the consequences they faced in pursuit of enriching their lives, and fiercely challenged the societal and cultural norms of their time.
Swanfolk by Kristín Ómarsdóttir (translated by Vala Thorodds)          $35
In the not-too-distant future, a young spy named Elisabet Eva is about to discover something that will upend her carefully controlled life. Elisabet's work is the lynchpin of her existence in the city; her friends and social life centre around the Special Unit. But recently Elisabet has found herself taking long solitary walks near the lake. One day, she sees two creatures emerging from the water, half-human, half-swan. She follows them through tangles of thickets into a strange new reality. Elisabet's walks turn into regular visits to these swan women, who reveal to her the enigma of their secret existence, and their deepest desires. Pulled further and further into the monomaniacal, and often violent, quest of the swanfolk she finds her own mind increasingly untrustworthy. Ultimately, Elisabet is forced to reckon with both the consequences of her involvement with these unusual beings and a past life she has been trying to evade.
"One of the most original authors in contemporary Icelandic literature, known for subverting traditional binaries like fantasy and realism, feminine and masculine, good and evil, and the animal and the human." —Ord um Baekur
The Glass Pearls by Emeric Pressburger             $23
London, June 1965. Karl Braun arrives as a lodger in Pimlico: hatless, with a bow-tie, greying hair, slight in build. His new neighbours are intrigued by this cultured German gentleman who works as a piano tuner; many are fellow émigrés, who assume that he, like them, came to England to flee Hitler. That summer, Braun courts a woman, attends classical concerts, dances the twist. But as the newspapers fill with reports of the hunt for Nazi war criminals, the hunt is on for a Nazi surgeon hiding somewhere in Britain...
"A wonderfully compelling noir thriller and audacious and challenging act of imagination." —William Boyd
"A haunting, remarkable novel, as startlingly original as any of Pressburger's films." —Nicola Upson
Is This a Cookbook? Adventures in the kitchen by Heston Blumenthal         $53
This is probably Blumenthal's most intimate cookbook, allowing us to see the way he thinks and approaches (and rethinks) relatively simple but interesting food. Each of the seventy recipes includes Blumenthal's thoughts, hacks and anecdotes, and show that the most important ingredient is personality. Illustrated with gusto by Dave McKean. 
"Heston's done it again. With the original molecular gastronomist, nothing is ever straightforward, and his latest cookbook is no exception. Why is banana and parsley such a winning combination? What is it about a cheese sandwich that causes such a nostalgic rush? But perhaps the biggest surprise is that every musing leads to a simple recipe well within the reach of any curious home cook." —Tony Turnbull, The Times
"This is a glorious sprawl of a book, beautifully illustrated by Dave McKean, that looks at the practical and emotional components of food. Is this a cookbook? For me this is a picture book, a collection of questions that hit you like little darts, and uncomplicated recipes you'll approach in a different, more thoughtful way." —Diana Henry, The Telegraph
Moro Easy by Sam and Sam Clark           $65
Following their acclaimed Moro: The cookbook, which introduced us to the Moorish cuisine, fresh ingredients and fragrant spices of North Africa and Southern Spain, this new book continues their project to reinvigorate home cooking, with simple and speedy dishes such as Courgette, Lemon and Manchego Salad, Spiced Potato Cake with Egg, Asparagus and Jamon and Seabass with Migas, Lemon Zest and Garlic, as well as one-pot Spring Greens with Crispy Chorizo and Brown Rice and Potato Pilaf. 
"A rare and very special cookbook." —Nigel Slater
Oxygen Mask: A graphic novel by Jason Griffin and Jason Reynolds         $23
Set within the walls of a family home, this graphic novel for young adults is an  artefact of the historic year we have all lived through. We travel from the depths of despair but not without hope; the mundane details contained within four walls becomes our sanctuary. This is a gift in commemoration of a time and place, of a worldwide pandemic, of loss, and of the murder of George Floyd. It is a reminder of how, in uncertain times, we can cling to the simple things for respite, for hope. A reminder of how comforting books and artworks are in times of extreme stress.
The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to dismantle systems of oppression to protect people + planet by Leah Thomas            $28
Activist and environmental scientist Leah Thomas shows how Black, Indigenous and People of Colour are unequally and unjustly impacted by climate change and environmental degradation - and argues that the fight for the planet lies in tandem with the fight for civil rights. In fact, one cannot exist without the other. This book provides an accessible foundation in the theory, exploring everything from the birth of the environmental movement to Kimberle William Crenshaw's concept of intersectionality, 'mainstream feminism' to ecofeminism. It helps readers frame their experiences and those of their community, question concepts of privilege and ownership, and better understand how climate change impacts the most marginalised and how to help amplify their voices.
Saving Freud: A life in Vienna and an escape to freedom in London by Andrew Magorski           $37
The dramatic true story of Sigmund Freud's last-minute escape to London following the German annexation of Austria, and of the group of friends who made it possible.
Existential Physics: A scientist's guide to life's biggest questions by Sabine Hossenfelder         $38
In this lively, thought-provoking book, Hossenfelder takes on the biggest questions in physics: Does the past still exist? Do particles think? Was the universe made for us? Has physics ruled out free will? Will we ever have a theory of everything? She lays out how far physicists are on the way to answering these questions, where the current limits are, and what questions might well remain unanswerable forever.
"Hossenfelder is a rare gem. There are other theoretical physicists out there who can write for a popular audience, but very few of them are able to do so in such a no-nonsense way. The result is not just illuminating, but enjoyable." —Charles Seife
Am I Normal? The 200-year search for normal people (and why they don't exist) by Sarah Chaney           $40
Before the nineteenth century, the term normal was rarely ever associated with human behaviour. Normal was a term used in maths, for right angles. People weren't normal; triangles were. But from the 1830s, this branch of science really took off across Europe and North America, with a proliferation of IQ tests, sex studies, a census of hallucinations — even a UK beauty map (which concluded the women in Aberdeen were 'the most repellent'). This book tells the surprising history how the very notion of the normal came about, how it shaped us all, often while entrenching oppressive values. Sarah Chaney looks at why we're still asking the internet: Do I have a normal body? Is my sex life normal? Are my kids normal? And along the way, she challenges why we ever thought it might be a desirable thing to be.
A Ballet of Lepers: A novel and stories by Leonard Cohen          $37
 "This fascinating collection of Cohen's early fiction foreshadows motifs and concerns that the performer later mined across decades." —Observer 
Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor            $23
When an Antarctic research expedition goes wrong, the consequences are far-reaching — for the people involved and for their families back home. Robert 'Doc' Wright, a veteran of Antarctic field work, holds the clues to what happened, but he is no longer able to communicate them. While Anna, his wife, navigates the sharp contours of her new life as a carer, Robert is forced to learn a whole new way to be in the world.
"It leaves the reader moved and subtly changed, as if she had become part of the story." —Hilary Mantel
"So moving and delicate and terrifying and haunting." —Maggie O'Farrell
A Is For Bee: An alphabet book in translation by Helen Peck         $28
A is for bee, L is for rabbit, M is for jellyfish, T is for octopus, U is for mouse, X is for bear, Y is for porcupine. Not in English, perhaps, but in other languages the names of things often start with different letters. Boldly illustrated, this book introduces children to language diversity.

Living Pictures by Polina Barskova             $25
Two lovers remain in a gallery of the Hermitage, refusing to shelter underground while Leningrad is under siege. Freezing and gnawed by hunger, they recite poems and stories to pass the time, re-enacting the paintings that are being evacuated from the museum. As their voices and bodies begin to fail and fragment, their conversation is interspersed with sections from a diary — a real document from a person who died during the blockade. This is the centrepiece of Living Pictures, Polina Barskova's genre-defying collection of fiction that reckons with the history and aftermath of the siege of Leningrad. Drawing on archival material and refracting it through fiction, Barskova draws arresting, fearless portraits of the lives caught up in the blockade. A work of inventiveness and richly poetic language, Living Pictures is a collage of a city and a culture in crisis.
"A precise, tremendous and beautiful book." —Maria Stepanova
Freedom, Only Freedom: The prison writings by Behrouz Boochani, edited by Moones Mansoubi and Omid Tofighian             $35
Over six years of imprisonment on Australia's offshore migrant detention centre, the Kurdish Iranian journalist and writer Behrouz Boochani bore personal witness to the suffering and degradation inflicted on him and his fellow refugees, culminating eventually in his prize-winning book — No Friend but the Mountains — which was painstakingly typed out in text messages while he was incarcerated. In the articles, essays, and poems he wrote while detained, he emerged as both a tenacious campaigner and activist, as well as a deeply humane voice which speaks for the indignity and plight of the many thousands of detained migrants across the world. In this book, his collected writings are combined with essays from experts on migration, refugee rights, politics, and literature. Together, they provide a moving, creative, and challenging account of not only one writer's harrowing experience and inspiring resilience, but the wider structures of violence which hold thousands of human beings in a state of misery in migrant camps throughout the western hemisphere and beyond.
Black and Female by Tsitsi Dangaremba               $23
Being categorised as black and female does not constrain my writing. Writing assures me that I am more than merely blackness and femaleness. Writing assures me I am.
This paradigm-shifting essay collection weaves the personal and political in an exploration of Dangarembga's complex relationship with race and gender. At once philosophical, intimate and urgent, Dangarmebga's landmark essays address the cultural and political questions that underpin her novels.
"Poignant, profound, essential. The human cost of colonisation laid bare." —Audrey Magee
Empire City by John E. Martin              $70
Empire City brings the story of Wellington to life, from the invasions of iwi from further north in the early 1800s and uneasy coexistence of different iwi to the purchase of land by the New Zealand Company and the beginnings of Pākehā settlement. Whaling was replaced by pastoralism, the mercantile community rose to prominence, and a viable town with a polyglot population was established. The tales are wide-ranging and compelling, from politicians butting heads, to merchants prospering and others going bankrupt, to earthquakes and shipwrecks, Māori endeavouring to keep the peace or resisting the depredations of Pākehā settlement, the impact of the military in town, the citizenry’s establishment of a variety of social institutions and their enjoyment of diverse entertainments and sports, tales of the distressed and unfortunate underclass as exposed in court, and prisoners escaping from gaol. For its long-term future Wellington needed to secure a rural hinterland but it was hemmed in by rugged hills and heavy bush and the lack of land further north. The war that erupted in 1846 consolidated British sovereignty, purchases of land in Wairarapa and the west coast and the extension of roading helped the town gain a stronger economic footing, while its commercial sector developed apace. Gaining its own provincial government allowed a voice for Wellington and the long campaign began for it to become the capital. Political deadlock and the involvement of the lower North Island in the wars for a time hindered the town’s development and its agitation to become the capital, but in 1865 what had been a long-held dream became a reality. Wellington had truly become the Empire City. In the contributions made by Māori, the New Zealand Company, early Pākehā settlers, merchants, shopkeepers, working people, worthy and less worthy citizens alike, together with a host of institutions and organisations, we appreciate how Wellington came to be from such unpromising beginnings. This diverse, rich and turbulent story is the key to understanding Wellington’s status as the capital of New Zealand.