Saturday 17 December 2022


Spadework for a Palace by László Krasznahorkai (translated by John Batki)            $38

Spadework for a Palace bears the subtitle 'Entering the Madness of Others' and offers an epigraph: "Reality is no obstacle." Indeed. This high-octane obsessive rant vaults over all obstacles, fueled by the idées fixes of a "gray little librarian" with fallen arches whose name—mr herman melvill—is merely one of the coincidences binding him to his lodestar Herman Melville ("I too resided on East 26th Street...I, too, had worked for a while at the Customs Office"), which itself is just one aspect of his also being "constantly conscious of his connectedness" to Lebbeus Woods, to the rock that is Manhattan, to the "drunkard Cowley" and his Lunar Caustic, to Bartok. And with this consciousness of connection he is not only gaining true knowledge of Melville but also tracing the paths to "a Serene Paradise of Knowledge." Driven to save that palace (a higher library he also serves), he loses his job and his wife leaves him, but "people must be told the truth" THERE IS NO DUALISM IN EXISTENCE. And his dream, in fact, will be "realized, for I am not giving up: I am merely a day-laborer, a spade-worker on this dream, a herman melvill, a librarian from the lending desk, currently an inmate at Bellevue, but at the same time—may I say this?—actually a Keeper of the Palace."
"Krasznahorkai establishes his own rules and rides a wave of exhilarating energy. Apocalyptic, visionary, and mad, it flies off the page and stays lodged intractably wherever it lands." —Publishers Weekly
"Breathtaking and hypnotic, this unorthodox novella boldly merges fiction, travelogue and literary criticism into one 96-page sentence." —Thúy Ðinh, NPR
>>A Box built in the abyss

Stream Light by William Direen, with seven artworks by Scott Flanagan             $20
Bill Direen's latest book of poems begins with his life in Dunedin after his shift there from the small rural town of Middlemarch (described in companion volume Seasons. He then takes us on a read through the suburbs and CBD of Dunedin ('Skirting'), with visits to regional Otago and Canterbury (Oamaru, Tekapo, Cave and Pukaki). But behind much of the book lies the city both Direen and artist Scott Flanagan once called home — Christchurch. Flanagan's strangely vivid domestic artworks were completed after his recovery from cancer and its treatment. Both Direen and Flanagan have more than estrangement from their home cities to deal with. Their works deal with grief and the steady accumulation of bereavement the longer one lives, the passage of time, illness and treatment, not forgetting health and, as with Seasons, rhythms of nature and the effects of local light.
>>Christchurch, 1982
3 Streets by YokoTawada (translated by Margaret Mitsutani)        $37
Yoko Tawada takes a walk on the supernatural side of the street in these three stories. In 'Kollwitzstrasse', as the narrator muses on former East Berlin's new bourgeois health food stores, so popular with wealthy young people, a ghost boy begs her to buy him the old-fashioned sweets he craves. She worries that sugar's still sugar--but why lecture him, since he's already dead? Pure white kittens and a great Russian poet haunt 'Majakowskiring': the narrator who reveres Mayakovsky's work is delighted to meet his ghost. And finally, in 'Pushkin Allee', a huge Soviet-era memorial of soldiers comes to life. Each of these stories opens up into new dimensions the work of this writer.
"Tawada's stories agitate the mind like songs half-remembered or treasure boxes whose keys are locked within." —The New York Times
"Tawada is reminiscent of Nikolai Gogol, for whom the natural situation for a ghost story was a minor government employee saving up to buy a fancy coat, the natural destiny of a nose to haunt its owner as an overbearing nobleman." —Rivka Galchen
Architecture at Home: Houses for New Zealanders to live, work and play by Debra Smith             $80
Permanent homes and occasional retreats, small houses on compact urban sites and larger ones in remote landscapes, new builds and extensive alterations are captured by New Zealand's leading architectural photographers and written about in a thought-provoking way.
Blood on the River: A chronicle of mutiny and freedom on the Wild Coast by Marjoleine Kars            $45
On February 27, 1763, thousands of slaves in the Dutch colony of Berbice (in present-day Guyana) launched a massive rebellion. Surrounded by jungle and savannah, the revolutionaries fought for an entire year, and came very close to succeeding. Kars reconstructs this pivotal event, drawing on over nine hundred interrogation transcripts and other documents collected by the Dutch when the rebellion finally collapsed, which were subsequently buried in archives. Blood on the River provides a rare in-depth look at the political vision of enslaved people at the dawn of the Age of Revolution.
One Mile and Two Days Before Sunset by Shimon Adaf (translated by Yardenne Greenspan)          $35
At age thirty, Elish Ben Zaken has found himself in a life he never imagined. As a university student, Elish was an esteemed rock-music critic for local newspapers; now, disenchanted with an increasingly commercialised music scene, he has joined a private investigation agency where he is content to be a "clerk of small human sins"—a finder of stolen cars and wayward husbands. But when a disconcertingly amiable detective asks him to look into the suicide of an infamous philosophy professor—and the police file contains unexpected information about the already-solved murder of Dalia Shushan, a celebrated singer and songwriter—Elish's curiosity is piqued. And when violence begins to dog the steps of his investigation, he knows that dangerous secrets are at hand. Haunted by the ghost of Dalia, a true artist with a transformative voice whose dark brilliance Elish was one of the first to recognize, he must face the long-buried trauma of his own past in order to unravel the intertwining threads of two lives, and their ends.
Diary of an Invasion by Andrey Kurkov                $37
A collection of Andrey Kurkov's writings and broadcasts from Kyiv. Kurkov has been a consistent satirical commentator on his adopted country of Ukraine. His most recent work, Grey Bees, is a dark foreshadowing of the devastation in the eastern part of Ukraine in which only two villagers remain in a village bombed to smithereens. The author has lived in Kyiv and in the remote countryside of Ukraine throughout the Russian invasion. 

What Is History, Now? How the past the the present speak to each other edited by Suzannah Lipscomb and Helen Carr           $30
What stories are told, and by whom, who should be celebrated, and what rewritten, are questions that have been asked recently not just within the history world, but by all of us. Featuring a diverse mix of writers, this book covers topics such as the history of racism and anti-racism, queer history, the history of faith, the history of disability, environmental history, escaping imperial nostalgia, hearing women's voices and 'rewriting' the past. 

Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Nahid Kazemi             $35
Alone with himself, even among his flock, a young bird finds an unexpected connection in the eyes of a little girl. He begins to wonder about the nature of life: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a bird? Swept up in his exploration of the human world, he doesn't notice that his flock has already migrated south for the season.
>>Look inside!
>>Also by JonArno Lawson: Sidewalk Flowers.
Tiakina te Pā Harakeke: Ancestral knowledge and tamariki wellbeing edited by Leonie Pihama and Jenny Lee-Morgan       $45
This book is a collaboration of knowledge and insight from a wide range of Māori researchers from all over Aotearoa and across multiple disciplines. The authors explore childrearing approaches and models grounded in kaupapa Māori and Māori knowledge that encourage wellbeing outcomes for children and incorporate ancestral knowledge into practices for the contemporary world.
The Passenger: California              $33
A fascinating assemblage of writing, photography and reportage conveying contemporary life and issues in California. 

Home Is an Island: A writer's tribute to New Zealand's islands by Neville Peat         $40
During Peat's fifty-year writing career, he visited many of the islands within Aotearoa’s marine realm, from the tropics to Antarctica. This insightful book, part memoir, part adventure travel, history and nature conservation, is about these islands, including Stewart Island/Rakiura, Anchor Island in Tamatea/Dusky Sound, Kāpiti Island and Tiritiri Matangi in the Hauraki Gulf. Further afield, the book also covers Ross Island in Antarctica, Enderby Island in the subantarctic Auckland Islands, the Chatham Islands and the New Zealand dependency of Tokelau.
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli (translated by Christian MacSweeney)        $23
 In New Mexico, she is a young mother. Stuck in a marriage that's deteriorating, unable to shake the feeling that her house and belongings are trapping her, she is increasingly drawn to reflect on who she was before: when she worked as an editor in New York, rarely in her own apartment, always seeking new places to call home. As she folds time, seeking to inhabit her past, she begins to encounter ghosts. Time and again, a solitary man appears — Gilberto Owen — a lesser known poet of the Harlem Renaissance, and an obsession of her youth. He is living on the edge of Harlem's social scene at the beginning of the Great Depression, anticipating death, and tracing spectral visions of his own - among them, a young woman, travelling alone, on the subway. A meditation on time, hauntings, and the elusive, transitory identities we assume.
Losing Ourselves: Learning to live without a self by J.L. Garfield           $45
Drawing on Indian and East Asian Buddhism, Daoism, Western philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience, Garfield shows why it is perfectly natural to think you have a self--and why it actually makes no sense at all and is even dangerous. He explains why shedding the illusion that you have a self can make you a better person.

The Book of Roads and Kingdoms by Richard Fidler         $45
When Richard Fidler came across the account of Ibn Fadlan — a tenth-century Arab diplomat who travelled all the way from Baghdad to the cold riverlands of modern-day Russia — he was struck by how modern his voice was, like that of a twenty-first century time-traveller dropped into a medieval wilderness. On further investigation, Fidler discovered this was just one of countless reports from Arab and Persian travellers of their adventures in medieval China, India, Africa and Byzantium. This book tells the story of the medieval wanderers who travelled out to the edges of the known world during Islam's Golden Age; an era when the caliphs of Baghdad presided over a dominion greater than the Roman Empire at its peak, stretching from North Africa to India. Imperial Baghdad, founded as the 'City of Peace', quickly became the biggest and richest metropolis in the world. In a flourishing culture of science, literature and philosophy, the citizens of Baghdad were fascinated by the world and everything in it. Inspired by their Prophet's commandment to seek knowledge all over the world, these traders, diplomats, soldiers and scientists left behind the cosmopolitan pleasures of Baghdad to venture by camel, horse and boat into the unknown. Those who returned from these distant foreign lands wrote accounts of their adventures, both realistic and fantastical.
Classic Paperbacks Jigsaw Puzzle by Richard Baker        $40
A 1,000-piece puzzle featuring favourite editions of modern classics.
>>A closer look
>>In the same series: In the Bookstore

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