Friday 24 March 2023


Whale by Cheon Myeong-Kwan (translated by Chi-Young Kim)       $38
An adventure-satire of epic proportions, which sheds new light on the changes Korea experienced in its rapid transition from pre-modern to post-modern society. Set in a remote village in South Korea, Whale follows the lives of three linked characters: Geumbok, an extremely ambitious woman who has been chasing an indescribable thrill ever since she first saw a whale crest in the ocean; her mute daughter, Chunhui, who communicates with elephants; and a one-eyed woman who controls honeybees with a whistle. A fiction that brims with surprises and wicked humour, from one of the most original voices in South Korea.  
"A carnivalesque fairy tale that celebrates independence and enterprise, a picaresque quest through Korea’s landscapes and history, Whale is a riot of a book. Cheon Myeong-Kwan’s vivid characters are foolish but wise, awful but endearing, and always irrepressible. This is a hymn to restlessness and self-transformation." —judges' citation, 2023 International Booker Prize
Women have always gardened, but their stories have so often been buried with their work. Alice Vincent explores what encourages women to go out, work the soil, plant seeds and nurture them, even when so many other responsibilities sit upon their shoulders. This book emerged from a deeply rooted desire to share the stories of women who are silenced and overlooked. In doing so, Alice fosters connections with gardeners that unfurl into a tender exploration of women's lives, their gardens and what the ground has offered them, with conversations (with Ali Smith, Hazel Gardiner, Cosey Fanni Tutti, and others) spanning creation and loss, celebration and grief, power, protest, identity and renaissance. 
"Alice Vincent has written something wonderful. Why Women Grow is a book that not only presents us with the beauty of the earth but asks one of the most fundamental questions to the human condition: what does it mean to create? I loved the way she wrote about the ambivalent power of the maternal question. I was delighted to travel around the country with her, digging into people's lives, private spaces and plants. We need more books about women, wombs and our role in the world; Alice has done that with charm, humour and an impressive depth of knowledge." —Nell Frizzell
Deranged As I Am by Ali Zamir (translated by Alice Banks)             $38
Set on the island of Anjouan, Comoros, Deranged As I Am follows the story of a humble dock worker. With his ramshackle cart and patched-up clothes, he spends his days trying to find enough work to feed himself. This whirlwind of a novel takes place over just a few days, yet Ali Zamir's poetic and energetic prose transports readers to the docks, its noises, colors, and smells. This lively and often darkly humorous story does not draw away from the more serious themes of class, poverty, and exploitation that Zamir explores. A rich and significant text that questions literature and language itself.
The South Island of New Zealand from the Road by Robin Morrison             $75
In 1979 the photographer Robin Morrison and his family spent seven months on the road in the South Island, where Morrison photographed people and places. The resulting book was published in 1981 by Alister Taylor and became an overnight success. Alas, conflict between Taylor and the printer, and the later loss of some images, meant it was never reprinted once it had sold out. It now has near legendary status and sells for hundreds of dollars in the used-book market. Now this groundbreaking book is back in a new edition. Morrison's original Kodachrome slides have been digitised using the latest technology, and his friend and fellow journalist Louise Callan has written a major essay on the book and its legacy, including assessments and recollections by Robin White, Laurence Aberhart, Grahame Sydney, Owen Marshall, Ron Brownson, Dick Frizzell, Alistair Guthrie and Sara McIntyre. 
The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier (translated by Daniel Levin Becker)                $45
Buried deep in rural France, little remains of the isolated hamlet of the Three Lone Girls, save a few houses and a curiously assembled quartet: Patrice Bergogne, inheritor of his family’s farm; his wife, Marion; their daughter, Ida; and their neighbour, Christine, an artist. While Patrice plans a surprise for his wife’s fortieth birthday, inexplicable events start to disrupt the hamlet’s quiet existence: anonymous, menacing letters, an unfamiliar car rolling up the driveway. And as night falls, strangers stalk the houses, unleashing a nightmarish chain of events. Told in rhythmic, propulsive prose that weaves seamlessly from one consciousness to the next over the course of a day, The Birthday Party is a deft unravelling of the stories we hide from others and from ourselves, a gripping tale of the violent irruptions of the past into the present. 
"The Birthday Party is a strange and marvellous thing: a thriller in slow motion. The tension builds so patiently that you almost miss it, with the result that when shocking events occur it’s too late to turn away. This is a dark and discomfiting work of beauty and violence, made all the more disturbing by its idyllic setting." —Jon McGregor
"This impressive and fascinating book reconciles two primal feelings: empathy and dread. It is a very scary book, rooted in the traditions of horror. It is as scary as when we listened to stories about ogres and wolves as children." —judges' citation on listing the book for the 2023 International Booker Prize
Dig Where You Stand: How to research a job by Sven Lindqvist            $45
Whatever your job is, it is part of a web of relations that affect other people, and the environment too. But how can you know the effects of your work? Who holds the power of the work that you do, and what do they use it for? Dig Where You Stand is a rallying cry for workers to become researchers, to follow the money, take on the role as experts on their job, and 'dig' out its hidden histories in order to take a vital step towards social and economic transformation. This how-to guide makes the case that everyone — not just academics — can learn how to critically and rigorously explore history, especially their own history, and in doing so find a blueprint for how to transform society for the better. In a world where the balance of power is overwhelmingly stacked against the working-class, Dig Where You Stand's manifesto for the empowerment of workers through self-education, historical research and political solidarity is urgent, important and relevant..
“This pioneering work is as relevant today as it was on first publication, as capital continues to unceasingly move around the world, desperate to avoid accountability for its disastrous social and environmental consequences.” —Ken Worple
"Lindqvist’s book shows with vivid clarity how capitalism permeates society, our homes, lungs, and children’s future. And yet, at the end, there is not despair and hopelessness but an empowering sense that things can and will be changed.” —Catharina Thörn
Chinatown by Thuận (translated by Nguyen An Ly)         $36

The Métro shudders to a halt: an unattended bag has been found. For the narrator, a Vietnamese woman teaching in the Parisian suburbs, a fantastical interior monologue begins, looking back to her childhood in early ‘80s Hanoi, university studies in Leningrad, and the travails and ironies of life in France as an immigrant and single mother. But most of all she thinks of Chinese-Vietnamese Thụy, who she married in the aftermath of the Sino-Vietnamese war, much to her parents’ disapproval, and whom she has not seen now for eleven years. The mystery around his disappearance feeds her memories, dreams and speculations, in which the idea of Saigon’s Chinatown looms large. There’s even a novel-in-progress, titled I’m Yellow, whose protagonist’s attempts to escape his circumstances mirror the author-narrator’s own. Interspersed with extracts from I’m Yellow, the narrator's book-length monologue is an attempt, at once desperate, ironic, and self-deprecating, to come to terms with the passions that haunts her.
Chinatown exerts a near-tidal pull on the reader. I swallowed it down in one gulp.” — Lily Meyer
Chinatown is a fever dream, a hallucination, a loop in time and life that Thuân masterfully deploys to capture the disorienting and debilitating effects of migration, racism, and a broken heart in both Vietnam and France. I was completely immersed in this spellbinding novel.” — Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Earth Transformed: An untold story by Peter Frankopan              $45
 Following his Silk Roads books, Frankopan turns his attention to our ancestors who, like us, worshipped, exploited and conserved the natural environment — and draws salutary conclusions about what the future may bring. In this book, Frankopan shows that engagement with the natural world and with climatic change and their effects on us are not new — exploring, for instance, how the development of religion and language and their relationships with the environment; tracing how growing demands for harvests resulted in the increased shipment of enslaved peoples; scrutinising how the desire to centralise agricultural surplus formed the origins of the bureaucratic state; and seeing how efforts to understand and manipulate the weather have a long and deep history. Understanding how past shifts in natural patterns have shaped history, and how our own species has shaped terrestrial, marine and atmospheric conditions is not just important but essential at a time of growing awareness of the severity of the climate crisis.
Stagioni: Modern Italian cooking to capture the seasons by Olivia Cavalli           $54
Stagioni, meaning 'seasons' in Italian, will take you on a journey through the culinary year with recipes for every craving and occasion. Chef and food writer Olivia Cavalli brings together traditional recipes and contemporary creations with an enthusiastic aim to put fruit and vegetables centre stage. From refreshing summer salads to steaming bowls of wintery pasta, you'll find classics such as aubergine parmigiana, stuffed tomatoes and amaretti peaches alongside more unusual combinations of chestnut gnocchi, grape focaccia and courgette cake. Nicely done. 
The Remains by Margo Glantz (translated by Ellen Jones)           $38
The way you hold a cello, the way light lands on a Caravaggio, the way the castrati hit notes like no one else could—a lifetime of conversations about art and music and history unfolds for Nora García as she and a crowd of friends and fans send off her recently deceased ex-husband, Juan. Like any good symphony, there are themes and repetitions and contrapuntal notes. We pingpong back and forth between Nora's life with Juan (a renowned pianist and composer, and just as accomplished a raconteur) and the present day (the presentness of the past), where she sits among his familiar things, next to his coffin, breathing in the particular mix of mildew and lilies that overwhelm this day and her thoughts. In Glantz's hands, music and art access our most intimate selves, illustrating and creating our identities, and offering us ways to express love and loss and bewilderment when words cannot suffice. As Nora says, "Life is an absurd wound: I think I deserve to be given condolences." Glantz fuses Yiddish literature, Mexican culture, and French tradition to create an experimental new work of literature.
"An erudite meditation on the link between mortality and the nature of art." —Publishers Weekly
"Reading Margo Glantz's virtuoso novel is like letting oneself go while listening to Glenn Gould interpret Mozart." —Ilan Stavans
Iris and Me by Philippa Werry          $25
In January 1938 Iris Wilkinson—better known by her pen name Robin Hyde— left New Zealand for England. On the way, intrigued by glimpses of China, she ventured inland despite the war raging there, becoming one of the first female war correspondent—a feat that was all the more remarkable because she struggled with mental health and suffered a disability that meant she had a lifelong limp. Her story—here presented in verse form—is narrated by a loyal but mysterious companion who asks the reader to guess their secret.

Arabesques by Anton Shammas (translated by Vivian Eden)          $46
Arabesques engages with history and politics not as propaganda but as literature. That engagement begins with the language in which the book is written: Anton Shammas, from a Palestinian Christian family and raised in Israel, wrote in Hebrew, as no Arab novelist had before. The choice was provocative to both Arab and Jewish readers. Arabesques (first published in 1988) is divided into two sections: 'The Tale' and 'The Teller'. 'The Tale' tells of several generations of family life in a rural village, of the interplay of past and present, of how memory intersects with history in a part of the world where different people have both lived together and struggled against each other for centuries. 'The Teller' is about the writer's voyage out of that world to Paris and the United States, as he comes into his vocation as a writer, and raises questions about the authority of the storyteller and the nature of the self. Shammas's tour de force is both a personal and a political narrative—a reinvention of the novel as a way of envisioning and responding to historical and cultural legacies and conflicts.
"Intricately conceived and beautifully written. A crisp, luminous, and nervy mixture of fantasy and autobiography and an elegant example of postmodern baroque." —John Updike, The New Yorker
"If Hebrew literature is at all destined to have its Conrads, Nabokovs, Becketts and Ionescos, it could not have hoped for a more auspicious beginning." —Muhammad Siddiq, Los Angeles Times 
How to Get Fired by Evana Belich             $37
Wry and astute, these linked short stories all deal with work in Aotearoa — how to get it, avoid it, or lose it. In 'BurgerKai', Mel is given a motivational talk on what she says is "failing at a stupid, screwed-up sales job, selling stupid plastic shelving". Her days at Pacific Wave Plastics are numbered. Meanwhile, in the next story, Vic bikes through Christchurch collecting mementoes from the houses she has lived in, while her ex-partner Emma makes the decision to move to Auckland to work at a plastics factory... And so the chain continues — characters walk from one story to the next, often oblivious to each other, perhaps related through colleagues, or having once attended the same school, or simply crossed paths on a beach that offers escape from work. Oblique connections unite them, as does their daily struggle to negotiate relationships while they try to survive employment, or avoid it, or face getting fired.
"Reading these stories was an utterly absorbing experience. Belich demonstrates insider knowledge of unions and working conditions in real peoples' everyday lives with a profound compassion that is never sentimental. Her characters are deeply observed as they thread their way in and out of loosely linked narratives. I was reminded of Elizabeth Strout's wonderful Olive Kitteridge. I kept catching my breath as I came across familiar detail presented with a fresh and loving eye; this is simply a must-read." —Fiona Kidman
Millions of people climb the grand marble staircase to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art every year. But only a select few have unrestricted access to every nook and cranny. They're the guards who roam unobtrusively in dark blue suits, keeping a watchful eye on the two million square foot treasure house. Caught up in his glamorous fledgling career at The New Yorker, Patrick Bringley never thought he'd be one of them. Then his older brother died of cancer and he found himself needing to escape the mundane clamor of daily life. So he quit The New Yorker and sought solace in the most beautiful place he knew. To his surprise and the reader's delight, this temporary refuge becomes Bringley's home away from home for a decade. We follow him as he guards delicate treasures from Egypt to Rome, strolls the labyrinths beneath the galleries, wears out nine pairs of company shoes, and marvels at the beautiful works in his care. Bringley enters the museum as a ghost, silent and almost invisible, but soon finds his voice and his tribe—the artworks and their creators and the lively subculture of museum guards—a mosaic of artists, musicians, blue-collar stalwarts, immigrants, cutups, and dreamers. As his bonds with his colleagues and the art grow, he comes to understand how fortunate he is to be walled off in this little world, and how much it resembles the best aspects of the larger world to which he gradually, gratefully returns.
Stolen by Ann-Helen Laestadius          $37
Nine-year-old Elsa lives just north of the Arctic Circle. She and her family are Sami, Scandinavia's indigenous people and make their living herding reindeer. One morning when Elsa goes skiing alone, she witnesses a man brutally killing her reindeer calf, Nastegallu. Elsa recognises the man but refuses to tell anyone least of all the Swedish police force about what she saw. Instead, she carries her secret as a dark weight on her heart. Elsa comes of age fighting two wars- one within her community, where male elders expect young women to know their place; and against the ever-escalating wave of prejudice and violence against the Sami. When Elsa finds herself the target of the man who killed her reindeer calf all those years ago, something inside of her finally breaks. The guilt, fear, and anger she's been carrying since childhood come crashing over her like an avalanche, and will lead Elsa to a final catastrophic confrontation.
"Stolen is an extraordinary novel. A coming-of-age-story you'll get lost in, about youth and heritage and the never-ending struggle to be allowed to exist. Although set in the coldest and most northern part of Scandinavia, I'm convinced it's a universal story to be loved everywhere in the world." —Frederik Backman
The Hotel Witch by Jessica Miller          $21
Sometimes the simplest spells are the most powerful. Sibyl is the apprentice hotel witch at the splendid Grand Mirror Hotel. She is busy each day, under the watchful eye of her grandmother, drawing useful spell patterns to keep the hotel guests happy — spells to shine shoes, spells to make the pastry chef's cakes rise, spells to remove dust and spells to return lost things like hats and gloves to their owners. But Sibyl dreams of other possibilities-possibilities like her mother returning from the Black Mountains, and like Grandma letting her draw spell patterns from the Book of Advanced and Dangerous Magic. When Grandma gets stuck in last Tuesday, somewhere on the hotel's thirteenth floor, Sibyl must perform all the magic herself. Just when a very mysterious and perplexing problem arises and a very important guest must be taken care of. With the help of her friend Ahmed, the lift attendant, an aloof cat called Alfonso and Dora the concierge, Sibyl must solve the mystery of the missing shadows and find the right spell pattern to get them back. Will she open the Book of Advanced and Dangerous Magic? And will it contain the answers she needs?

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