Monday, March 31, 2008

Best New Zealand Poems 2007 is now online at:

Declaring 2007 the Year of the Poem, editor Paula Green likens good poetry to any other good gift - something you fall in love with even though it may not be what you thought you wanted. The 25 poems showcased here range from the fiercely personal to the resolutely political with many finding new ground in old mysteries—identity, mortality, distance—along the way. On the basis of this collection, 2007 was clearly a year rich in ‘good gifts’.

Best New Zealand Poems has been published annually by the International Institute of Modern Letters since 2001. It aims to introduce readers (especially internationally) to leading contemporary New Zealand poets and to showcase the vitality and range of current writing. The Institute gratefully acknowledges the support of Creative New Zealand in publishing Best New Zealand Poems.

Please note that if you have BNZP saved as a favourite or have recently browsed the collections, you may need to refresh your browser the first time you visit the site.


With submissions now closed, NZ Book Month 2008, are proud to announce the six celebrities that will judge the record number of applications received for this year’s Six Pack.

Project Director Michele Powles is thrilled with the response from the public; “I’m delighted that this year we’ve received around 500 entries for the third edition of The Six Pack. The hard task is now in the hands of our judging panels who will read and judge all the entries anonymously to evaluate the many high calibre works we’ve received.” says Powles.

2008 Celebrity Judges Tamati Coffey, Stacey Morrison (nee Daniels), Dave Armstrong, Graham Beattie and Carole Beu face the challenge of deciding the final cut for this year’s Six Pack, which has raced to top of the NZ Bestsellers list in the previous two years. The popular collection of six short stories offers a slice of exciting new literature for only six dollars.

With 16 years television experience and nearly as many in radio, Stacey Morrison (nee Daniels) says she has been hugely influenced by her love of reading. She admires and supports NZ writers, relishing her role as a judge this year. Also from Television is TVNZ’s Breakfast roving reporter and weather presenter Tamati Coffey. Proclaimed as one of the most exciting young personalities on New Zealand television, Tamati completed an honours degree in Political Studies at Auckland University before his break on iconic kid’s show What Now and proclaims a secret love of libraries.

Dave Armstrong, perhaps best known for his Television writing, also boasts an array of award winning playwright credits including King and Country, The Tutor and Nui Sila. He is also an accomplished author, with a chapter of his new novel The Speechwriter appearing in last year’s Six Pack Two.

Previously the Managing Director of Penguin Books NZ, Graham Beattie now works as a book reviewer, judge of book awards, and his recently launched daily blog – Beatties Book Blog - is widely regarded as essential reading for anyone in publishing.

Joining the team from Thursday mornings on EasyMix radio, owner of the Women’s Bookshop in Ponsonby Carole Beu has been previously involved with the Listener Women’s Book Festival and for many years was on the Board of Booksellers’ New Zealand. Moreover she is the undisputed grand high tea-mistress of the Ladies Litera-Tea, one of the Auckland highlights of New Zealand Book Month.

The sixth judge involved this year is as important as the other five celebrities. YOU. NZ Book Month 2008 invites the public to vote online for one of ten works. Make sure you have your say by picking the final voice of New Zealand writing in The Six Pack Three.

“Now in its third year this Six Pack is going to be a cracker.” Powles adds “For only $6 it’s something all Kiwi’s can enjoy – and something all Kiwi’s can feel they’ve contributed to either by submitting work or voting for their favourite story.”

NZ Book Month is a national celebration of NZ books and NZ writers. The month is supported by writers, booksellers, publishers, librarians and book lovers of all ages and descriptions, and is inspired by the exceptional literary talents found in Aotearoa. Check out to explore how NZ Book Month has something for everyone.

Public Voting for this year’s “Six Pack” opens May 13 and closes June 6th

For more information contact publicist:
Michelle Lafferty,

Internet book piracy will drive authors to stop writing
Ben Hoyle, Arts Reporter for The Times

Book piracy on the internet will ultimately drive authors to stop writing unless radical methods are devised to compensate them for lost sales.

This is the bleak forecast of the Society of Authors, which represents more than 8,500 professional writers in the UK and believes that the havoc caused to the music business by illegal downloading is beginning to envelop the book trade.
Tracy Chevalier, the author of Girl with a Pearl Earring who also chairs the London-based organisation, said that her members were deeply concerned that the publishing industry was failing to adapt to the digital age.
The internet is awash with unlicensed free digital copies of individual chapters or in some cases entire books. Prominent victims of book piracy include Jamie Oliver and J. K. Rowling but the most vulnerable writers are less well-known poets, authors of short stories and writers of cookery books.

Some of the biggest names on the internet are effectively becoming digital publishers, not necessarily with the support of the book industry. Google is locked in legal disputes with authors and publishers over its plans to make available free electronic copies of every book over the next ten years. Amazon has found that its “Search Inside” function, which allows readers to see selected pages of books, has increased sales.

Ms Chevalier told The Times that the century-old model by which authors are paid – a mixture of cash advances and royalties – was finished. “It is a dam that’s cracking,” she said. “We are trying to plug the holes with legislation and litigation but we need to think radically. We have to evolve and create a very different pay system, possibly by making the content available free to all and finding a way to get paid separately.”
“It’s hitting hardest the writers who write books that you dip in and out of: poetry, cookbooks, travel guides, short stories – books where you don’t have to read the whole thing.
“Although people still buy [books by] Nigella and Jamie Oliver and Delia it is because of their celebrity. Cookbook authors are really struggling. I do it myself – if I want a recipe I go online and get it for free.
“For a while it will be great for readers because they will pay less and less but in the long run it’s going to ruin the information. People will stop writing. There’s a lot of ‘wait and see what the technology brings’ but the trouble is if you wait and see too long then it’s gone. That’s what happened to the music industry.”
In the 19th century and before, other models of paying writers existed, including lump-sum agreements and profit-sharing. She sees no reason why the book industry should not be equally innovative. She suggested four possible sources of income at an industry discussion on copyright law last week: the Government, business, rich patrons and the public. Government funding could take the form of an “academy” of salaried writers.

Foyles: end of an era
28.03.08 Graeme Neill writing in The Bookseller last Friday

The choice of venue for Foyles’ most recent major event seems ironic in hindsight, given the raft of departures announced at the world-famous independent over the past few weeks. In retrospect the official opening of the new St Pancras store seems to have been the last stop for many of those responsible for turning the independent from its chaotic past into a dynamic, expansionist business.

The industry was shocked when Vivienne Wordley, the store’s vivacious commercial director, was made redundant two weeks ago. And then today it was further announced that both Christopher Foyle and Bill Samuel, the cousins who were chairman and vice chairman respectively, are to take a back seat in running the company. Foyle will continue as chairman but in a non-executive capacity. Samuel will sit on the board as a non-executive director.
That move in itself was not a major surprise - they had been saying for months that they were taking more of a “hands off” approach to the business since Sam Husein was appointed as c.e.o. last May.
However, considering Foyles’ position as a quintessentially London family business and a bookshop brand with worldwide fame, the departure of the last two members of the founding family from the top operational level of management is the end of an era.
Husain, former m.d. of entertainment production company Ascent Media, stressed that Foyle would continue to be involved in the business.
“This has been going on for quite some time,” he said. “Christopher has taken a back seat and has delegated responsibility to me as c.e.o. He still remains close to the business and will continue to be involved. But on a day to day basis the intention is for the business to be run by a c.e.o." Husain said that as the business’ major shareholder, Foyle will have an important say in its future. “He will very much be involved in any future strategic direction, as will the rest of the board.”

Foyle, Samuel and Wordley deserve much credit for putting the business back on the right track. Foyle took control of the then chaotic bookstore in 1999, six days before his aunt Christina’s death. Christina Foyle was the driving force of the bookstore and responsible for its many idiosyncracies including old, decrepit bookshelves and a baffling ticket-led queuing system. The business was ailing, losing 20% of sales annually and with a turnover of under £10m.

However, new buying systems, increased levels of technology instore and a multimillion pound revamp of the flagship store brought in by the new team turned Foyles around. The 2005 London bombings affected sales, but the business is targeting a £22m turnover this year and hopes to break even.

Coupled with this has been a canny growth policy. The first move, putting a store in the Royal Festival Hall in 2005, set the benchmark for Foyles’ expansion which has targeted areas which fit easily alongside the independent’s identity. Its role as a very English bookseller dovetails nicely with the tourist arrival point at St Pancras. And the forthcoming White City branch, due to open in December, will have the yummy mummy enclaves of Holland Park and Chiswick on its doorstep.

Following the heightened activity of recent weeks, Husain said that there are no further plans to reshuffle the management team. “It’s a young team with considerable experience and knowledge,” he said. “They are part of the strategy - we want to bring them further up into the business.” One indication of this has been Wordley’s former duties as commerical director which now being shared between marketing manager Julia Kingsford and product director Kate Gunning.
“It’s been quite an eye opener [since I joined] to see how competent the team is,” said Husain. “I have a weekly meeting on Tuesday with the management and they have much greater responsibility for their businesses now, including profit and loss. That’s where we are going. I feel the knowledge exists at a management level.”

Endpaper: Critics criticised

Strong criticism is not necessarily intolerance, says Alex Clark writing in the Weekend Telegraph.

None of us who have yet to publish books (and may indeed never) can, I imagine, quite understand the mixture of terror and fury that must surely surround the moment of release - specifically, the moment when a piece of work so long nurtured in private becomes public property. The temptation to attack the idiot reviewers - not to mention the idiot general reader - must be immense.

Rachel Cusk last week wrote at length in a newspaper about the effect on her of publishing her book about motherhood, A Life's Work. She waited a long time to let us know how awful it felt: seven years, to be precise.

Having had some time to let her feelings settle, she did not hold back. Quoting extensively from the worst of her reviews - with a smattering of positive notices in between - she described being on the receiving end of "a judgment of sanctimoniousness whose like I had never experienced".
At times, she explained, she wished she'd never written the book; the world "became a bleaker place"; the whole thing left her feeling "angry and defensive and violated".

Evidently, she recovered enough to return to the themes central to the book in subsequent works of fiction, including The Lucky Ones and Arlington Park; and also to permit the forthcoming reissue of A Life's Work itself. But it is clear that she has remembered in great detail the moment when not only her work but her life - its fabric, its events and its loved ones - came under intense scrutiny.

It was not a word that she used, but it was clear that she felt something like persecution and, catching the tone of many of the pieces she quoted, it was plain enough to see why.
The word she did use, however, was intolerance; an intolerance, she decided, that "arose from dependence on an ideal", in this case an ideal of motherhood. But the mention of intolerance seems to take literary criticism into another arena, one in which the critics' expression of their point of view, however trenchantly expressed, becomes confused with their view of the writer's right to write what she has written.
To take strenuous issue with a piece of work seems an entirely different matter from feeling that it shouldn't have come into being at all; and it seems unlikely that even Cusk's harshest critics were suggesting that.

The author may disagree; she may indeed feel that intolerance was precisely what she experienced, and that the aim was to deter her from writing on the subject ever again. If so, the "mockery and censure" to which she also referred haven't worked.
Most lovers of books would count that as something of a victory, rather than something to dwell on, however horribly bumpy the ride might have seemed at the time.

I am probably not the greatest fan of Sebastian Horsley, author of the memoir Dandy in the Underworld, who recently arrived at US immigration with nothing to declare "but my genitals and my genius" and was promptly turned away at the gate on the grounds of moral turpitude (I believe they stopped short of "gross moral turpitude", somewhat disappointingly).
It's nothing personal, but self-proclaimed geniuses do tend to grate - as do those committed to portraying their lives as an unceasing merry-go-round of sex, drugs and all manner of fleshly pleasures undreamt of by the more quotidian among us.
None the less, a long-past conviction for possession of amphetamines and a fondness for top hats should hardly be enough to keep an author from his book tour, or where would the publishing industry be? Next they'll be banning alcoholic narcissists, and the whole damn shooting match will be over.

Perhaps, though, the powers that be were simply taking direct action to prevent yet more controversy over precisely how many grains of truth, these days, constitute a proper memoir.
Horsley has been admirably up front about the extent to which his musings boing between fact and fiction until the funniest or most scurrilous story emerges. One might also imagine that if he's taken half as many naughty substances as he suggests, he's in no position to recall the past with much clarity at all.

But in an American literary scene that barely seems to get through a week without exposing yet another fraud, the last thing they need to do is start importing them. Heaven knows what will happen when Katie Price and Kerry Katona hit town and start telling all and sundry how they didn't really write their own books.

Horsley, meanwhile, can be seen contemplating his future in a charming film on YouTube. He might, he confides, "go to Carlisle and open a knitting shop". The good people of Cumberland had better start preparing the barricades now.

And here is Rachel's story from The Guardian last weekend which prompted the above story. Author pic right, also from The Guardian.
And here is The Observer review of her book from September, 2001.

Dunedin born Juliet Marillier has jointly won the 2008 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Young Adult novel for Cybele's Secret.

The Sir Julius Vogel awards are fan voted awards for various endeavours in the science fiction, fantasy or horror fields, and are administrated by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand.

Juliet Marillier is the author of the internationally acclaimed and award-winning Sevenwaters Trilogy, as well as Wolfskin and Foxmask, and the award-winning Bridei Chronicles.

Cybele's Secret is her second novel for young adults. Born in Dunedin, New Zealand, Juliet graduated from Otago University with a BA in languages and an honours degree in music, and has had a varied career which includes lecturing in music history, professional singing, choral conducting and assessing tax returns. Juliet now lives in a hundred-year-old cottage near the river in Perth, where she writes full-time.

Juliet was first equal for this award with another very talented New Zealander, Hastings-based Anna Mackenzie for The Sea-wreck Stranger (Longacre Press) .

La Bohème by Giacomo Verdi
NBR New Zealand Opera

St James Theatre Wellington
May 10 - 17

Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland
May 29 - June 7

La Bohème which is in the top ten of the most popular of all operas is much more than just another tragic love story. It’s a timeless celebration of youthful rites of passage, the struggle against poverty, and the artist’s quest for integrity. Puccini created a lyrical tour de force with tortured relationships, resonant characters and the famous arias.

This new production of La Bohème has a strong cast with Australia stars Antoinette Halloran as Mimì and Tiffany Speight as Musetta who returns to New Zealand after her superb performance in The Magic Flute in 2006.
Tenor Jesus Garcia, who starred on Broadway in Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème, plays Rodolfo.

Puccini’s La Bohème, arguably the most popular of all operas, gets a face lift in 2008. The NBR New Zealand Opera’s new production sees a vibrant cast and creative team bring this timeless classic back to life in a fresh and stylish way.
The director Australians Patrick Nolan says of this production “Our concept is driven by a desire to illuminate the story in a way which connects the past to who we are as a society and culture now,”
“The time period has been moved from 1830 to 21st century Paris so our production presents a world that contemporary audiences will recognise and relate to.”

In keeping with this modern update, costume designer Elizabeth Whiting has created a range of sharp and imaginative costumes that place the characters in the Paris of today.
General Director of The NBR New Zealand Opera, Aidan Lang is thrilled with the cast and creative team the Company has lined up for this new production. “La Bohème is an opera about young people,” he says, “so we wanted to secure an exciting, youthful cast and creative team who would, through an injection of freshness and energy and a contemporary perspective, create a memorable theatrical showpiece for audiences.”

John Daly-Peoples, NBR 28 March 2008.

John Daly-Peoples reviews

The Carver and the Artist, Maori Art in the Twentieth Century by Damien Skinner
Auckland University Pres
RRP $89.99

Damien Skinners account of Maori Art in the twentieth century is an attempt to understand what often appears to be the rupture between the traditional carving practice of Maori and the contemporary forms of Maori art.
The book focuses on two artists Tuti Tukaokao who began carving in the 1950’s and Lyonel Grant whose career as a carver began in the late 1980’s
On the one hand one is a carver who refers to the past the ancestors and an impenetrable spirituality. On the other is the Maori artist who uses traditional motifs, symbols and narratives to make political social and personal comment.

Skinner argues that these two threads are mutually inclusive, that Maori Modernism cannot be fully comprehended without being aware of the customary practice which came before.
The book also traces the growth of art over the last century with the importance of Sir Apirana Ngata and the development of the Rotorua School of Maori Arts and Crafts. He also includes the other master carvers such as Hone Taipa and Paki Harrison and discusses the role of the innovators such as Arnold Wilson, Buck Nin and Paratene Matchitt.

The well illustrated book features a number of major commissions by Maori artists including the remarkable fusion carvings of Lyonel Grant at Ihenga and Tuti Tukaokao’s strangely inappropriate carvings at the McDonalds in Rotorua.

This review was first published in NBR 28 March.

The story of an orphaned, talkative, red-headed 11-year-old sent to a remote farm by mistake, Anne of Green Gables was an instant success in 1908 and, a century later, is still loved by girls from Canada to Japan. Margaret Atwood salutes a childhood classic
From The Guardian - Saturday March 29, 2008

Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel Anne of Green Gables is 100 years old this April, and the Annery is in full swing. Already there's a "prequel", Budge Wilson's Before Green Gables, which chronicles the life of spunky, strange, but endearing Anne Shirley before she hit Prince Edward Island's Green Gables farmhouse in a splatter of exclamation marks, apple blossoms, freckles and embarrassing faux pas.
And there's yet another mutton-sleeved, button-booted, Gibson-girl-hairdo'ed television show in the offing - Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning - due in 2009, following the 1919 silent film, the 1934 talkie, the 1956 television version, the 1979 Japanese animé, the 1985 Green Gables series, the 1990-96 Road to Avonlea and the PBS Animated Series of 2000, not to mention the various parodies - Anne of Green Gut, Fran of the Fundy and its brethren - that have appeared over the years.

Earliest printed versions of the Bard's plays to go online

LONDON - A U.S. and British library plan to reproduce online all 75 editions of William Shakespeare's plays printed in the quarto format before the year 1641.

The Bodleian Library in Oxford and Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC have joined forces to download their collections, building on the work of the British Library which digitized its collection of quarto editions in 2004.
"There are no surviving manuscripts of Shakespeare's plays in his handwriting so the quartos are the closest we can get to what Shakespeare really wanted," said Bodleian spokeswoman Oana Romocea.
"Some quartos do, however, have his annotations around the printed text."
The project is designed to make all of the earliest printed versions of Shakespeare's plays, many of which are only accessible to scholars, available to the wider public.
The process of downloading the quartos will begin next month and take a year to complete.
Online visitors will be able to compare images side-by-side, search the plays and mark and tag the texts.
"We (at the Bodleian) have about 55 copies, although some of them are duplicates," said Romocea.
"Each quarto is different, so it's very interesting from a research perspective to compare the quartos.
"For example, some of the famous lines in 'Hamlet' exist in one quarto and in another they don't, or they are very different."

Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays and collaborated on several more between about 1590 and 1613. He died in 1616.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Jacki Passmore Penguin Books $19.99

Noodles are the ultimate convenience food. Noodles are inexpensive, easy to cook, remarkably versatile - and they're healthy too. A winning combination!

Noodle Bible is packed with recipes - fragrant broths, hearty hawker-style dishes, one pot meals and cool favourites such as soba noodles. I've made three of the dishes thus far and all were voted tops!

As well, there are tips on cooking and storing noodles, preparing basic stocks and sauces, and ideas for elegant concoctions such as noodle baskets for special occasions.

Jacki Passmore is a prolific and highly regarded Australian food writer with numerous Asian cookbooks to her credit. Top marks to Jacki and Penguin for an excellent index, something often overlooked with less expensive books like this.

This book will make an exceptionally practical gift for someone setting up home or for a member of your family who is leaving home to go flatting.

Novelist wins prize for 'empowering women'
Story from The Australian.

WRITER Rhyll McMaster last night won the inaugural Barbara Jefferis Award for the best novel by an Australian author that empowers the status of women in society.
McMaster, 60, was awarded the $35,000 prize for her novel Feather Man, which explores the affect of childhood sexual abuse on adult life. The NSW-based novelist is also an accomplished poet, and weaves a number of poems through Feather Man.

Other authors shortlisted for the award were Michelle de Kretser for The Lost Dog, Karen Foxlee for The Anatomy of Wings and Geraldine Wooller for The Seamstress.
Mireille Juchau (Burning In) and Elizabeth Stead (The Gospel of Gods and Crocodiles) were highly commended.

Jeremy Fisher, executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, said there were 53 entrants for the inaugural award, which will be presented on an annual basis. "The standard was very high, which I think reflects the healthy state of Australian literature," he said.
Novelist Barbara Jefferis was a founding member of the Australian Society of Authors and its first female president. The $35,000 prize is paid from the Barbara Jefferis Literary Fund, established by a bequest from Jefferis's husband, ABC film critic John Hinde.


Stephen Abell writing in The Telegraph reviews The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Cape. (NZ publication 4 April, $36.99)

As a boy in Sixties Bombay, Salman Rushdie saw colour films for the first time. One of the early examples was Mughal-e-Azam, an epic treatment of the life of Emperor Akbar, the 16th-century Grand Mughal, which had one reel of colour cinematography showing a spectacular dance at court.

It must have made an impression: nearly 50 years on, he has produced his own version of Akbar's life, happily splashed with its own startling hues; an all-dancing, colourful performance leaping up from the pages.
The Enchantress of Florence tells the tale of a sandy-haired European visitor to Sikri, Akbar's capital city. He styles himself "Mogor dell'Amore" (the Mughal of Love), and says he is Akbar's long-lost relative, the son of Qara Köz ("Lady Black Eyes"), a "hidden" Mughal princess.

She had been exiled from India and fell in love with Argalia, an Italian mercenary (friend to Niccolò Machiavelli, cousin to Amerigo Vespucci), who provided military muscle for the Ottoman Turks and then the city of Florence. The novel's story is Mogor's story, a "swirling transcontinental composition" moving between Asia and Renaissance Europe, as he tries to convince Akbar of his legitimacy as a member of the royal family.
Of course, it is not as simple as all that (and that is not at all simple). Mogor also goes by the names of Uccello di Firenze (which he then drops "like the abandoned skin of a snake") and Niccolò Vespucci; Argalia is actually "Argalia or Arcalia" or one of "Argalia, Arcalia, Arqalia, Al-Khaliya"; Qara Köz is the eponymous Enchantress also known as Angelica, and may easily be confused with her identical slave or "Mirror".
Seasoned followers of contemporary fiction may recognise the game Rushdie is playing here. Certainly, The Enchantress of Florence is, among other things (historical romp, fairy tale, celebration of inclusiveness), a postmodern working-through of ideas around identity and storytelling.

The prose is fast, simple and prioritises facility over felicity. It is full of alliteration (Akbar is "a feudal ruler absurdly fond of talking about freedom") and anachronistic vernacular: "he had always been a stick-in-the-mud who thought of wild Amerigo as a hot-air merchant whose accounts of himself needed to be taken with a pinch of salt".
The resultant, splendid farrago suggests that Rushdie has recalled his own childlike wonder at the flash of brightness he enjoyed in the Sixties, and has sought to recreate that experience for the reader.
While 1990's Haroun and the Sea of Stories was Rushdie's first novel for children, The Enchantress of Florence is, in the best sense of the word, childish fiction for adults: a welcome splash of bright colour; Rushdie, a virtuoso in poster-paint.
Read the full review........... And here is the review from The Guardian.

Win every novel to scoop the Booker Prize
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction celebrates its 40th birthday in 2008. To mark the occasion, Peter Straus, writing in The Times, has compiled a fiendish quiz on the prize's history.

The winner of our exclusive quiz will receive a copy of every Booker-winning work, from the inaugural winner, Something to Answer For by P. H. Newby, to last year's The Gathering by Anne Enright. That's 41 of the best novels (in 1974 and 1992 two winners were awarded) published in the past 40 years.

Three runners-up will each win a set of the past five years' winning books: The Gathering by Anne Enright, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, The Sea by John Banville, The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst and Vernon God Little by D.B.C. Pierre.

Send your entries by e-mail only to our books competition email hotline , with Man Booker Prize in the subject line. Include your name, address and telephone number. Do not send any attachments. Entries must be received by 10am on Friday, April 18, and winners and answers will be announced on April 26. You don't have to answer every question to enter. Questions with multiple parts are worth one point per part. Prizes will go to the entries with the most correct answers. In the event of a tie, the winners will be drawn at random.

1) Who was the only debut novelist to win the prize and then go on to publish a second novel?
2) Which was the first second novel to win?
3) Who are these authors and why is this an ageist question?
4) Which unfinished novel was shortlisted?
5) Which was the first novel originally written in Afrikaans to be shortlisted?
6) Which author and which book was selected for the shortlist but removed at the wish of the author?
7) Which author found himself pitted against another to whom he had earlier given the prize?
8) When the prize was founded he was a man. But he was shortlisted as a woman. Who is she?
9) Which was the most catty of the winning author's speeches?
10) Which winner ends with the following sentence? “He was intent, as though he had finally managed to strike a light with a damp match and was protecting it in the wind.”
11) Which winner underwent changes between the first published edition and the finished UK edition?
12) What do The Beggar Maid and Who Do You Think You Are? have in common?
13) One winning author's two shortlisted books had different titles in the United States. Name the author and the original and the American titles.
14) Who is “the perpetual Booker Prize bridesmaid”, having been shortlisted five times but never having won?
15) Which winning book nearly had all the poetry taken out of it by its American editor?
16) Which shortlisted book was first self-published by the author in England?
17) Which book won two years after its first publication?
18) Name two shortlisted books with dedications to other shortlisted authors.
19) How many “sea” books have won? Give the titles and authors.
20) Which book's format and title changed when it was shortlisted? Name the original title, the title after being shortlisted and the author.
21) Whose first three novels were all shortlisted for the prize? Name the author and the titles.
22) Which shortlisted title began as a Granta book but ended up a Cape book? Or are you in the dark about this?
23) Saul Bellow and John Fowles were judges. Name the year and the winner.
24) Which shortlisted author, whose use of bad language was considered in poor taste by some, was treated with contempt by the chairman of the judges but ten years later went on to win the award, much to the annoyance of at least one judge?
25) Saville-David Storey, An Instant in the Wind-Andre Brink, Rising - P.C.Hutchinson, The Doctor's Wife - Brian Moore, King Fisher Lives - Julian Rathbone, The Children of Dynmouth - William Trevor, were all shortlisted in 1976. What else links their authors?
26) How many first books have been shortlisted? Name the authors and the books.
27) Who has won twice but never turned up to collect his prize?
28) Which winner ends like this? “Perhaps, by the very end of his life, in 1880, he had come to believe that a people, a nation, does not create itself according to its own best ideas, but is shaped by other forces, of which it has little knowledge.”
29) Which author's butler beat which author's murderer to win? Name the authors and the books.
30) And when did the authorial reverse happen?
31) Which bravura shortlisted novel contained this paragraph? “There shall be no more novels which are really about other novels. No ‘modern versions', reworkings, sequels or prequels. No imaginative completions of works left unfinished on their author's death. Instead, every writer is to be issued with a sampler in coloured wools to hang over the fireplace. It reads: Knit Your Own Stuff.”
32) Name the seven winners whose first books were poetry. And name the poetry books.
33) Name the poet who threatened to defenestrate himself when he was a judge if his choice did not win. And name the choice.
34) Name the poet who gave the prize to an author who had dedicated a previous work to the threatened defenestree.
35) What is unique about the book of this author among all the others shortlisted?
36) What is unique about this book ?
37) Who beat her mother to the prize?
38) And which winner beat his son?
39) Name three shortlisted books dedicated to their editors.
40) What do these authors have in common?

To mark the Man Booker Prize's 40th anniversary, The Best of the Booker will honour the best overall novel to have won the prize since it was first awarded on April 22, 1969. The judges are Victoria Glendinning, Mariella Frostrup and John Mullan. Their shortlist will be announced on May 14 and public voting will then begin online at the Man Booker Prize site.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thomas Sangster might be studying for his A-Levels but that hasn't stopped him signing up for a trilogy of Tintin films -from The Daily Mail

A London schoolboy studying for his A-levels is about to sign up to play comic book hero Tintin in a trilogy of films to be directed by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

Thomas Sangster, 17, from South London, has already been to Los Angeles to work on preproduction test sequences with both directors.
Sangster, you may recall, was the lad who starred in the Richard Curtis film comedy Love Actually, where Liam Neeson played his stepdad and his leading co-stars were Emma Thompson and Bill Nighy (who, actually, walked off with the picture).

Anyway, Sangster, who possesses mesmerising eyes, was good in the movie.
Soon after, he did Nanny McPhee, starring again with Emma Thompson, and that was also a hit.
At the end of this month, he begins working with Oscar-winning director Jane Campion on her film Bright Star, a love story with Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish portraying John Keats and his lover Fanny Brawne.

The Tintin film, though, is shrouded in secrecy - to a most frustrating degree.
Sangster's London agent refused to respond to multiple telephone messages.
However, on the agent's website there's chatter about Sangster being in the middle of his A-levels but that, despite this, he would be flying "to LA for preproduction of his next project . . . watch this space".
Spielberg's spokesman Marvin Levy said he couldn't comment on Sangster because the film's production team weren't available.
An executive who worked with Sangster in Los Angeles recently told me: "Thomas seems to be the one.
"He was just great, but I'm not certain if anything has been finalised yet."

One thing that is certain is that Andy Serkis has been cast as Tintin's sidekick Captain Haddock.
Filming on the first story involving Tintin begins in the autumn, with Spielberg directing. Peter Jackson will make the second movie.
I've heard various tales about the third film: some say Spielberg and Jackson will direct it together; others claim that James Cameron, who made Titanic, will be at the helm.
Last night, everyone involved was in lockdown.


Fake memoirs, factual fictions, and the history of history.

by Jill Lepore writing in The New Yorker magazine March 24, 2008

What makes a book a history? In the eighteenth century, novelists called their books “histories,” smack on the title page. No one was more brash about this than Henry Fielding, who, in his 1749 “History of Tom Jones, a Foundling,” included a chapter called “Of Those Who Lawfully May, and of Those Who May Not Write Such Histories as This.” Fielding insisted that what flowed from his pen was “true history”; fiction was what historians wrote.
“I shall not look on myself as accountable to any Court of Critical Jurisdiction whatever: For as I am, in reality, the Founder of a new Province of Writing,” Fielding explained.
Tom Jones’s claim to truth is different from Margaret Jones’s. Earlier this month, Jones, also known as Margaret Seltzer, tried to pass off a gangland bildungsroman as the story of her life. Pulped days after it was published, the book, titled “Love and Consequences,” is a fraud; “Tom Jones” is not. Fielding was playing; Seltzer was just lying.

But Fielding meant it when he said that “Tom Jones” was true, and there’s a sense in which he was right. History matters, but the best novels boast a kind of truth that even the best history books can never claim. And when history books are wrong they can be miserably, badly, ridiculously wrong, a point that wasn’t lost on Jane Austen, who, in 1791, when she was sixteen, wrote a brilliant parody of Oliver Goldsmith’s four-volume, march-of-the-monarchs “History of England, from the Earliest Times to the Death of George II.” (Goldsmith, the author of the novel “The Vicar of Wakefield,” wrote history to keep out of debtors’ prison.) Austen called her parody “The History of England from the Reign of Henry the 4th to the Death of Charles the 1st, by a Partial, Prejudiced & Ignorant Historian.” It consisted of thirteen perfectly dunderheaded character sketches of crowned heads of England. Of Henry V, she wrote, “During his reign, Lord Cobham was burnt alive, but I forget what for.” Of the Duke of Somerset: “He was beheaded, of which he might with reason have been proud, had he known that such was the death of Mary Queen of Scotland; but as it was impossible that he should be conscious of what had never happened, it does not appear that he felt particularly delighted with the manner of it.” Of the allegation that Lady Jane Grey, Edward VI’s cousin, read Greek: “Whether she really understood that language or whether such a study proceeded only from an excess of vanity for which I believe she was always rather remarkable, is uncertain.”
Once in a great while, Austen happened to bump into a fact or two, for which she apologized: “Truth being I think very excusable in an Historian.”

Historians and novelists are kin, in other words, but they’re more like brothers who throw food at each other than like sisters who borrow each other’s clothes. The literary genre that became known as “the novel” was born in the eighteenth century. History, the empirical sort based on archival research and practiced in universities, anyway, was born at much the same time. Its novelty is not as often remembered, though, not least because it wasn’t called “novel.” In a way, history is the anti-novel, the novel’s twin, though which is Cain and which is Abel depends on your point of view.

Among the ancients, history was a literary art, as John Burrow illustrates in his fascinating compendium “A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century” (Knopf; $35). Invention was a hallmark of ancient history, which was filled with long, often purely fictitious speeches of great men. It was animated by rhetoric, not by evidence. Even well into the eighteenth century, not a few historians continued to understand themselves as artists, with license to invent. Eager not to be confused with antiquarians and mere chroniclers, even budding empiricists confessed a certain lack of fussiness about facts. In “Letters on the Study and Use of History” (1752), Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke condemned those who “store their minds with crude unruminated facts and sentences; and hope to supply, by bare memory, the want of imagination and judgment.”

For the rest of the piece go here.....


Bookman Beattie enjoyed this entertaining essay by Rachel Donadio, writer & editor at the Book Review, which is published in The New York Review of Books this weekend.

Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”

We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility. These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. When it comes to online dating, even casual references can turn into deal breakers. Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone,” said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.” To Fels (who happens to be married to the literary publisher and writer James Atlas), reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. “It tells something about ... their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is,” Fels said. “It speaks to class, educational level.”

Pity the would-be Romeo who earnestly confesses middlebrow tastes: sometimes, it’s the Howard Roark problem as much as the Pushkin one. “I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.” (Members of, a dating and fan site for devotees of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” might disagree.)
Judy Heiblum, a literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, shudders at the memory of some attempted date-talk about Robert Pirsig’s 1974 cult classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” beloved of searching young men. “When a guy tells me it changed his life, I wish he’d saved us both the embarrassment,” Heiblum said, adding that “life-changing experiences” are a “tedious conversational topic at best.”

Let’s face it — this may be a gender issue. Brainy women are probably more sensitive to literary deal breakers than are brainy men. (Rare is the guy who’d throw a pretty girl out of bed for revealing her imperfect taste in books.) After all, women read more, especially when it comes to fiction. “It’s really great if you find a guy that reads, period,” said Beverly West, an author of “Bibliotherapy: The Girl’s Guide to Books for Every Phase of Our Lives.” Jessa Crispin, a blogger at the literary site, agrees. “Most of my friends and men in my life are nonreaders,” she said, but “now that you mention it, if I went over to a man’s house and there were those books about life’s lessons learned from dogs, I would probably keep my clothes on.”
Still, to some reading men, literary taste does matter. “I’ve broken up with girls saying, ‘She doesn’t read, we had nothing to talk about,’” said Christian Lorentzen, an editor at Harper’s. Lorentzen recalls giving one girlfriend Nabokov’s “Ada” — since it’s “funny and long and very heterosexual, even though I guess incest is at its core.” The relationship didn’t last, but now, he added, “I think it’s on her Friendster profile as her favorite book.”

James Collins, whose new novel, “Beginner’s Greek,” is about a man who falls for a woman he sees reading “The Magic Mountain” on a plane, recalled that after college, he was “infatuated” with a woman who had a copy of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” on her bedside table. “I basically knew nothing about Kundera, but I remember thinking, ‘Uh-oh; trendy, bogus metaphysics, sex involving a bowler hat,’ and I never did think about the person the same way (and nothing ever happened),” he wrote in an e-mail message. “I know there were occasions when I just wrote people off completely because of what they were reading long before it ever got near the point of falling in or out of love: Baudrillard (way too pretentious), John Irving (way too middlebrow), Virginia Woolf (way too Virginia Woolf).” Come to think of it, Collins added, “I do know people who almost broke up” over “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen: “‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’ ‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’”

Naming a favorite book or author can be fraught. Go too low, and you risk looking dumb. Go too high, and you risk looking like a bore — or a phony. “Manhattan dating is a highly competitive, ruthlessly selective sport,” Augusten Burroughs, the author of “Running With Scissors” and other vivid memoirs, said. “Generally, if a guy had read a book in the last year, or ever, that was good enough.” The author recalled a date with one Michael, a “robust blond from Germany.” As he walked to meet him outside Dean & DeLuca, “I saw, to my horror, an artfully worn, older-than-me copy of ‘Proust’ by Samuel Beckett.” That, Burroughs claims, was a deal breaker. “If there existed a more hackneyed, achingly obvious method of telegraphing one’s education, literary standards and general intelligence, I couldn’t imagine it.”

But how much of all this agonizing is really about the books? Often, divergent literary taste is a shorthand for other problems or defenses. “I had a boyfriend I was crazy about, and it didn’t work out,” Nora Ephron said. “Twenty-five years later he accused me of not having laughed while reading ‘Candy’ by Terry Southern. This was not the reason it didn’t work out, I promise you.” Sloane Crosley, a publicist at Vintage/Anchor Books and the author of “I Was Told There’d Be Cake,” essays about single life in New York, put it this way: “If you’re a person who loves Alice Munro and you’re going out with someone whose favorite book is ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ perhaps the flags of incompatibility were there prior to the big reveal.”

Some people just prefer to compartmentalize. “As a writer, the last thing I want in my personal life is somebody who is overly focused on the whole literary world in general,” said Ariel Levy, the author of “Female Chauvinist Pigs” and a contributing writer at The New Yorker. Her partner, a green-building consultant, “doesn’t like to read,” Levy said. When she wants to talk about books, she goes to her book group. Compatibility in reading taste is a “luxury” and kind of irrelevant, Levy said. The goal, she added, is “to find somebody where your perversions match and who you can stand.”

Marco Roth, an editor at the magazine n+1, said: “I think sometimes it’s better if books are just books. It’s part of the romantic tragedy of our age that our partners must be seen as compatible on every level.” Besides, he added, “sometimes people can end up liking the same things for vastly different reasons, and they build up these whole private fantasy lives around the meaning of these supposedly shared books, only to discover, too late, that the other person had a different fantasy completely.” After all, a couple may love “The Portrait of a Lady,” but if one half identifies with Gilbert Osmond and the other with Isabel Archer, they may have radically different ideas about the relationship.

For most people, love conquers literary taste. “Most of my friends are indeed quite shallow, but not so shallow as to break up with someone over a literary difference,” said Ben Karlin, a former executive producer of “The Daily Show” and the editor of the new anthology “Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me.” “If that person slept with the novelist in question, that would probably be a deal breaker — more than, ‘I don’t like Don DeLillo, therefore we’re not dating anymore.’”


Thrillers thrive on villains and heroes, and usually these characters are not overly complicated; writers don’t want to confuse or slow the plot. In John Grisham’s page turners the villains are corporate titans and their lawyers, and the plucky, idealistic heroes (played in the movie versions by Tom Cruise in “The Firm” and Julia Roberts in “The Pelican Brief”) are renegade lawyers or law students, shocked into action by the corruption they have stumbled across.

By John Grisham.
358 pp. Doubleday. $27.95.

Grisham sticks with his formula for the villains in “The Appeal.” But he paints a more complicated picture of the heroes, while making an important point about how the justice system in more than half of the 50 states is increasingly threatened by the kind of big-money gutter politics that have made so many Americans disgusted with Washington.
Grisham’s heroes in “The Appeal” are plaintiffs’ lawyers, the much maligned litigators who represent victims of alleged corporate wrongdoing. Their excuse for taking a third to 40 percent of their clients’ winnings — even if those winnings are in the millions or billions (in the case of mass tort claims against asbestos or tobacco defendants) — is that their little-guy clients don’t have the money to pay hourly fees in advance of a verdict, and that it’s those big paydays that give them the incentive and resources to take on risky cases that deliver powerfully deterrent punishment to those who would otherwise keep committing all kinds of corporate jihad. It’s an argument, however, that’s been undermined by the spectacle of trial lawyers cashing in on cases where deep-pocketed, well-insured defendants who might not be fully culpable or culpable at all threw in the towel out of fear that sympathetic juries were too easily rewarding any tug at their heartstrings, and by revelations of corruption in recruiting clients and divvying up fees among fellow vultures of the bar who did little more than race to the scenes of tragedies.
Grisham presents both sides. While plaintiffs’ lawyers are the heroes in this fast-moving, smartly constructed tale, they also come off as greedy, self-absorbed and repugnant — true ambulance chasers. In fact, at the small, beleaguered Mississippi firm run by his two heroes — the husband-and-wife team of Mary Grace and Wes Payton — a paralegal asks during some down time from the big case if he can go back to chasing ambulances, literally.

To be sure, Payton & Payton are doing God’s work. They’ve spent years representing a woman in a small town in Mississippi whose husband and son died within weeks of each other, victims of cancer allegedly caused by deliberate cost-cutting spills into the town’s drinking water by big, bad Krane Chemical. The Paytons’ painstaking marshalling of the evidence against Krane makes for a seemingly indefensible defendant. The cancer rate in the town has become 15 times the national average. The town’s water is so fouled that the swimming pool has long since been closed and bottled water is trucked in daily for everyone. No one would consider drinking out of the taps; even showering is a bungee jump.

In the real world, most companies would settle a case like this. (Although in the real, real world, no evidence would be as lopsided as Grisham makes it.) But Krane is part of a Manhattan-based conglomerate run by Carl Trudeau. And Trudeau is not settling with anyone.
Trudeau is a parody of evil, Grishamstyle. No shades of gray here. He’s an East Side Manhattan insider-trader, corporate killer and philanderer so devoid of redeeming qualities that he even dislikes the 5-year-old daughter he’s procreated with the latest trophy wife.
Mary Grace and Wes Payton have had to endure years of the pretrial war of attrition that companies like Krane can throw at plaintiffs. Having ditched other paying clients to concentrate on this case, they’ve had to sell their house and their car, and move with their two young children into a shoddy rental, where they can afford to hire only an illegal immigrant to be the nanny.
The rest of the review........
Orwell prize nominations announced - from The Guardian.

Three Observer journalists and two Independent writers are finalists for this year's Orwell prize for journalism.
The Observer's chief political commentator, Andrew Rawnsley, has been nominated for the Orwell journalism prize, for five columns and his work on the Observer special magazine, the Blair Years, which examined the former prime minister's 10 years in power.
Mary Riddell, now an assistant editor at the Daily Telegraph, is nominated for the same award for six columns she wrote last year while at the Observer.
Observer columnist Nick Cohen was nominated for the Orwell books prize for What's Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way.

Independent columnist Johann Hari is nominated for the Orwell journalism prize for five columns; while his colleague Paul Vallely is up for the same award for six articles for the paper.
The Economist's defence and security editor, Anton La Guardia, is nominated in the same category for six articles.
Veteran presenter Clive James was nominated for the Orwell journalism prize for three editions of A Point of View on BBC Radio 4.

The Orwell prize for political writing is awarded annually to two writers, one for journalism and one for a book, who are judged to have best achieved George Orwell's aim "to make political writing into an art".

A record 54 journalists and 181 books entered this year's awards.
The two Orwell prizes are sponsored by the George Orwell Memorial Fund, which was set up in 1981, and the Political Quarterly, the magazine founded by a group of leftwing thinkers in 1930.

The judges this year were professor Jean Seaton, the chair; Annalena McAfee, the founder of the Guardian's Review section; Albert Scardino, former executive editor of the Guardian and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist; and Sir John Tusa, former head of the BBC World Service.

Other writers shortlisted for the Orwell book prize are Jay Griffiths for Wild: An Elemental Journey; William Hague, for William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner; Ed Husain, for The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left; Marina Lewycka, for Two Caravans; Raja Shehadeh, for Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape; and Clive Stafford Smith, Bad Men: Guantanamo Bay and the Secret Prisons.

"Closure" wins oddest book award

LONDON (Reuters) -
Self-help manual "If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs" won this year's oddest book title competition, The Bookseller trade magazine said on Friday.
The book took an impressive one-third of the 8,500 votes cast online in The Bookseller's 30th annual competition.

Runner up "I was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen", the story of a fictitious World War Two pilot forced to bale out over the jungle, polled a distant 20 percent.
"'If You Want Closure', makes redundant an entire genre of self-help tomes. So effective is the title that you don't even need to read the book itself," said the magazine's deputy editor Joel Rickett.

The winner beat stiff competition from other shortlisted titles including the somewhat niche "Cheese Problems Solved" and "How to Write a How to Write Book" and the rather provocative "Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues".

The annual competition was launched in 1978 at the Frankfurt Book Fair when it was won by the memorably titled "Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice".
Since then, with the exceptions of 1987 and 1991 when no award was granted due, according to Rickett, to a lack of oddness, the weird and wonderful titles have flowed thick and fast with some eyebrow raising winners.
"Joy of Chickens" took the 1980 title, with "The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling" in 1983, "Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual" in 1990, "Living with Crazy Buttocks" in 2002 and "Bombproof Your Horse" in 2004 are but a sample.
However, the 1997 winner "Joy of Sex: Pocket Edition" does stand out among the glittering array, and in September this year the public will be asked to vote for the oddest of all the winners.
"That and 'Nude Mice' probably remain among the weirdest, but it is a strong competition," said Rickett.
"And the quality of weirdness does seem to be improving in part as technology allows greater access to publishing. Certainly we are getting more titles coming forward," he added.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Amazon captures 33% of UK student textbook sales
27.03.08 Tom Tivnan writing in The Bookseller

Pic left, Amazon's UK warehouse.

Amazon's dominance in the second-hand textbook market has also boosted its new book sales, a survey of undergraduates has found.
The report, "Addressing the Second-Hand Book Market 2007-08", was compiled by educational consultancy Shift Media after interviewing 943 UK students.
It found 42% of respondents bought their last second-hand book from Amazon Marketplace, ­rising from 28% the previous year. Well over half (57.7%) of students said they were buying ­second-hand through online sites, including eBay, Abebooks and ­
The report found that Amazon (18.2%) and Amazon Marketplace (14.8%) now account for 33% of new textbook sales.
Jane Powell, director of Shift Media, said online searching for second-hand titles has pushed new books sales at Amazon. "If students can't find a second-hand copy on Marketplace, then they'll consider buying a new copy since they are already on the site. As demand for second-hand texts continues to increase, we can expect to see ­Amazon becoming an ever more dominant supplier of textbooks in the UK."
The majority of new textbook sales (54.3%) are still going through bricks-and-mortar booksellers, with Blackwell (18.9%) topping the list.


Remember Friday night late shopping?
For Fiona Farrell and me, Friday nights always included a trip to the Oamaru Public Library to borrow up to four books to keep us going for another week. Although born a few years apart, we discovered that we had a lot in common: warm memories of the old library, now the adjacent North Otago Museum, where Janet Frame alleged that old men sat 'petrified by the silence notices', but where we encountered only warmth, friendship and stimulation. Indeed, when told that kids were sick, kindly librarians loaded our Mums' shopping bags up with extra books to carry us through enforced idleness.

It's that civil, civilised behaviour that makes the free public library such a cornerstone of an enlightened society, so we were delighted to be invited to speak at last night's reopening of the newly refurbished Oamaru Public Library and the unveiling of the new Waitaki District Libraries logo. Oamaru's a bookish place, with its excellent bookshops and the Janet Frame House, so it wasn't surprising that 150 North Otago book people turned out to sample the food and wine, inspect the new mod cons, and above all to talk books. The good news is that several people have books 'on the stocks'.

Part of the audience at the library re-opening.

Fiona Farrell reads her memories of the old Oamaru Public Library from her book Book, Book.

At top - new Waitaki District Libraries logo, unveiled last night.

Peter Carey Bloomsbury $28

Back in 2001 Bloomsbury added this title to their The Writer & the City series which they have progressively added to over the years so that today there are some six titles in the series.

The Writer and the City series are beautifully produced, pocket-sized books featuring great authors writing about cities they know best.

The latest in the series is Ghost Town, a new book by Patrick McGrath about New York McGrath was one of the guests at the recent NZ Post Writers & Readers Week.

To read an extract from Rio de Janeiro, click hereTo read selected excerpts from Prague Pictures, click here.For an extract from The Flâneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris, click here.To read an extract from 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account, click here.To read an extract from Florence, A Delicate Case, click here.

Now Bloomsbury have issued Peter Carey’s title in paperback. Good on them but for me I’ll take the gorgeous little hardcover original edition everytime.

Children are reading celebrity gossip magazines such as Heat and Bliss instead of books, especially if the novels stretch to more than 100 pages, a study shows.Boys and girls as young as 11 said they preferred absorbing the exploits of pop stars and models such as Amy Winehouse and Kate Moss to reading books by Jacqueline Wilson or Philip Pullman.

Gossip magazines rated much higher than Shakespeare'

One literacy expert said those children who chose to read such magazines - Heat is aimed at an adult audience - and to surf the internet instead of reading books were damaging their development.Others argued children should be encouraged to read whatever they liked, as long as they were reading.
The National Year of Reading study found Shakespeare was given short shrift by the children questioned, as were "books I am made to read by my teachers".
Instead, they preferred to read song lyrics on the internet, their own online blogs and film scripts. Four out of the top 10 choices for reading were online.
JK Rowling's Harry Potter series was the most popular set of books on the list, followed by Anne Frank's Diary, books by Anthony Horowitz and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis.

Sue Palmer, a literacy consultant, said reading such books helped to develop a child's brain.
"There is research that shows one of the best indicator of future academic success is how much children are reading by the age of 16," she said.
"The trouble with reading magazines and reading online is that you don't get the narrative thread of a story in the same way.
"By reading a book you are building up the stamina to absorb words for a longer period of time. What you are doing is gradually locking brains with the author, which you do not really do in quite the same way when you read chunks of a magazine or chunks of text on a screen.
"This personal interaction going on in your head is the thing that's special about reading a book and the pleasure of that is what, in the end, turns someone into a reader."

The Read up, Fed Up survey asked 1,340 children aged between 11 and 14 to list their 10 favourite and 10 least favourite things to read.
Homework was the most unpopular subject matter, followed by Shakespeare, encyclopaedias and dictionaries. Teenagers also said they were tired of reading about the size of thin celebrities, did not favour The Beano, the classic comic, and were unimpressed with Facebook, the social networking site.
The survey also revealed 45 per cent had been told off by adult for enjoying something that was not "proper" reading.
Honor Wilson-Fletcher, the director of the National Year of Reading, said: "We should all appreciate that many young people are reading creatively.
"Teens are challenging our traditional definitions of reading as being all about books, but reading enthusiastically nonetheless."
Jim Knight, the schools minister, said: "It is vital that young people have the opportunity to read widely. It is wonderful that 80 per cent of the teenagers surveyed wrote their own stories and kept up-to-date with current affairs by using sites such as BBC Online."It's wonderful that Anne Frank's Diary is still proving so popular among teenagers."

From The Daily Express


IT’S Sunday evening and you’re dreading double English in the morning.
Your Shakespeare essay is due and you haven’t even read the book.Never fear, because one in ten naughty Brits admit to watching the film adaptations of classic novels instead of reading the books.The new research from Blackwell exposes Londoners as the worst classroom cheats with 16 per cent admitting to watching Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet and the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice instead of the real deal. At the other end of the scale Scots were the most honest with 93 per cent preferring to study the traditional way – from the written word.

The findings support what teachers have suspected for years but in spite of some people taking the easy route to revision, the majority still favour a good read.In fact classic novels are more relevant today than you might think. 85 per cent of Brits didn’t know that teenage comedy Clueless was based on Jane Austen’s Emma.
Half of the population is oblivious to the fact that blockbusting romantic comedy Ten Things I Hate About you was inspired by Shakespeare’s classic The Taming of The Shrew.A pitiful 17 per cent knew that Pretty Woman was based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and My Fair Lady and only 22 per cent of us knew that O’ Brother Where Art Though was based on Homer’s The Odyssey. Phill Jamieson from bookstore Blackwell said: “Classic books are timeless. “You will find contemporary themes such as love, sex, murder, mystery and high octane drama in all the great novels, which is why they still appeal to the masses to this day through films and have parallels with our daily lives.”

So does life imitate art? More than half of us believe we are descending into Dickensian Britain with binge drinking and petty crime on the rise. And a third of the population believes the WAG culture of trying to find a rich husband apes Jane Austen’s love-obsessed heroines.Almost half of us think young adults suffer from Peter Pan syndrome, living at home and refusing to grow up.
Pretty Woman or Eliza Dolittle? And 61 per cent agree that, like Oscar Wilde’s narcissistic hero Dorian Gray, vain Brits are overly concerned with the way they look.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Anna and Tess, Richard King’s daughters, want to arrange an informal get-together to honour and remember their father, especially for those who were not able to attend his funeral in Christchurch earlier this month.

Date: Thursday, 3 April
Time: 5-7pm
Venue: Belgian Beer Bar at the top of College Hill, Ponsonby
Enquiries to Renee Lang:
Renaissance Publishing
Tel: +64 9 414 2456 Mob: 021 480 466

THE NEW YORKER March 17, 2008.

It is a bit of a bugger when The New Yorker and the London Review of Books arrive on the same day as they did today. It means that not a lot else gets done apart from reading these two outstanding, although very different magazines.

This edition of The New Yorker contains loads of good stuff but there are two pieces which I particularly enjoyed.

GHOST WRITER by Kennedy Fraser is about the outstanding contemporary British writer Pat Barker and the impact that her childhood has had on her writing, while Adam Gopnik, (Paris to the Moon, Through the Children’s Gate: At Home in New York), writes about the art of magic.

Then of course there are all the usual brilliant cartoons.

London Review of Books, 20 March 2008

My copy landed in the mail box today and I immediately lost a couple of hours…………..
Interesting to note that two of the many star writers attending this year’s Auckland Writers & Readers Festival are among those featured.

Poet & novelist John Burnside, winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1992 and the Whitbread Poetry Prize in 2000, occupies much of a page with his poem “An Essay Concerning Light” while author Junot Diaz’s brilliant first novel is the subject of a long, thoughtful review by Philip Connors.
Burnside also has a piece of short fiction in The New Yorker of March 17.

At the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival you can attend “An Hour with John Burnside” at 10.00am Friday 16 May in the ASB Theatre , Aotea Centre while “An Hour with Junior Diaz’ is in the same venue and on the same day but at 7.00pm. Both men feature on various panels as well.

Remember the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival is on 14-18 May and bookings open
7 April. Be in early with your bookings as it is a great programme and seats will be at a premium for many sessions.

Story from The Journal - Edinbugh's student newspaper.

Following a celebrated acting career spanning some 50 years, Sir Sean Connery is set to release his autobiography.The legendary 77-year-old film veteran has tempted fans over the past five years with talk of the release of his memoires; however, the book, entitled Being a Scot, has recently been completed and is due to be published this autumn. The 300-page book, co-written by Conner’s lifelong friend, filmmaker Murray Grigor, combines an account of Connery’s life with the actor's personal take on the history and culture of Scotland and will display over 400 photographs from his collection.

Publishing briefs suggest that Being a Scot will include various details of the James Bond star’s life and career, from being born into a poor working-class family in Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge to learning how to play golf with Goldfinger co-star Gert Frobe and weekending with fellow Scottish entertainer Billy Connolly. This is the third time Connery has attempted to publish an autobiography. In 2003 he canceled an agreement with Scottish writer Meg Henderson, and two years later pulled out of a deal with renowned biographer Hunter Davies, famous for penning the memoirs of celebrities including The Beatles and Paul Gascoigne, in 2005.

Indeed, the difficulties which have plagued previous attempts struck mid-way through the completion of Being a Scot when Connery and Grigor were reported to have clashed with publisher Jamie Bying, of Scottish publication company Cannongate, after work on early chapters took several months.

The completed version will now be released by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, part of the Orion Publishing Group.The book offers an account of Connery’s impoverished childhood in Edinburgh, which he spent earning money as a milk delivery boy. Later, as a young man, Connery worked as a doorman at the Oddfellows Hall, as it was then known, on a salary of two pounds an hour.

The Orion Publishing Group’s website reveals just how much of an emphasis Connery places on Scottish national identity in the book, analysing what it is to be Scottish on a number of different levels. It said: “Being a Scot is a vivid and highly personal portrait of Scotland and its achievements, which is self-revelatory whilst full of Sir Sean's desire to shine light upon Scottish success and heroic failure. “His personal quest with his friend and co-writer Murray Grigor has been to seek answers to some perplexing questions. How did Scots come to devise so many new sports and games, or raise others to new heights? What gave fire to the Gothic tendency in Scottish literature? Why have so many creatively inventive and influential architects been Scots? Where did Scotland's unreal blend of psychotic humour originate? And what about the national tradition of self-deprecation sometimes called the Scottish cringe?

"Sean Connery offers a correction to misconceptions that many believe are part of the historical record whilst revealing as never before his own vibrant personal history.”Grigor claims that the book “really reflects the life and film achievements of this extraordinary man. It reflects topics of Scottish culture, high and low.” Weidenfeld and Nicolson publisher Alan Samson said: “I am very excited about this book. There’s a book called England Made Me; this is how Scotland made me.”Adding, "We can't pretend it's something it isn't. It is not a book of titillating revelations about the women in his life, nor will it be sold that way."

Extract from Being a Scot:
"My first big break came when I was five years old. It's taken me more than seventy years to realise that. You see, at five I first learnt to read. It's that simple and it's that profound. I left school at thirteen. I didn't have a formal education... It has been a long return journey from my two-room Fountainbridge home in the smoky industrial end of Edinburgh opposite the McCowans' toffee factory. There was no bathroom with a communal toilet outside. For years we had only gas lighting. Sometimes the light in the shared stairway would be out after some desperado had broken the mantle to bubble gas through milk for kicks."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Original Auld Lang Syne manuscript on show at the Grolier Club,
March 29-April 5

It is arguably the world’s most famous song, sung on joyous occasions globally, and now a manuscript for Auld Lang Syne, written in Robert Burns’ own hand circa 1788, will go on display at the Grolier Club in New York March 29-April 5, 2008 as part of the city’s 20th anniversary Tartan Week celebrations.
Robert Burns (1759-1796) is Scotland’s best-known and best-loved poet: an enduring national figure with an international reputation. His life was cut short at the age of 37, yet his achievement was extraordinary and is still celebrated today. The manuscript of Auld Lang Syne that will be on display in New York during Tartan Week is one of only six known copies scribed by Robert Burns himself. It is on loan from the Robert Burns Collection at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, which with 4,000 Burns-related items is the largest collection of its kind in the world.

Karen Cunningham, Head of Libraries at Culture & Sport Glasgow, will deliver a lecture on Burns and the Mitchell’s outstanding collection of Burns artefacts, as part of the seminar “It Is Time to Come Home – Homecoming Scotland 2009,” to be held Sunday, April 6, 10am-4pm, at The New York Public Library South Court Auditorium, Humanities and Social Sciences Library, 5th Avenue at 42nd Street. For more information about the seminar, including instructions on how to reserve a place, visit,4.

By special arrangement with the Mitchell Library, the manuscript of Auld Lang Syne will be on view for one week only leading up to the seminar, free of charge, 10 am-5 pm, Saturday March 29-Saturday April 5, at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, New York, NY, 10022.

For more information on this special exhibition, call the Grolier Club at (212) 838-6690
Source - ibookcollector newsletter 105.