Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mary Ann Shaffer – Allen & Unwin - NZ$35.00 A$29.95

I predict that this utterly delightful and charming book will become something of a phenomenon by year’s end with sales, hugely assisted by word of mouth enthusiasms, running into the hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions.

Let me start by quoting the publisher’s afterword:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a first novel from a 70-year-old former librarian, Mary Ann Shaffer. She first became interested in Guernsey when visiting London in 1976. On a whim, she decided to fly to Guernsey but became stranded there as a heavy fog descended and no boats or planes were permitted to leave the island. As she waited for the fog to clear, she came across a book called Jersey Under the Jack-Boot, and so her fascination with the Channel Isles began.

Many years later, when goaded by her own book club to write a book, Mary Ann naturally thought of Guernsey. She chose to write an epistolary novel because, ‘for some bizarre reason, I thought it would be easier that way’.

First her family, then her writing group, and then publishers around the world greeted her manuscript with avid enthusiasm, recognizing that they had found a true gem.

Not long after the sale of her manuscript, 70-year-old Mary Ann’s health declined, and her niece Anne Barrows, a successful YA author in her own right, undertook the author edits. Tragically, Mary Ann died early in 2008 without seeing her book in print, but she has left the world an unforgettable legacy – the heartwarming, moving story of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

How sad, but her story is a triumphant one, a simple and captivating tale of love and friendship and books, a story told entirely by way of letters. It is set in Guernsey and London and takes place between January and September 1946. I read it in two long sittings and was totally enchanted.
Every book group in the English speaking world will be selecting this title once the word is out.
And as a bonus it comes in a handsomely designed, chunky, and most appealing hardback package.
My congratulations to Australian publishers Allen & Unwin on a fine piece of publishing, it is not often fiction is treated with such care.
Don’t miss this one, everyone is going to be talking about it.

Jan of Poppies Bookshop in Hamilton tells me she has sold a shedload of the title already and it is only just out. This is the copy from her website:

A glorious, gorgeous, completely irresistible novel, Guernsey will win hearts everywhere.
An affecting, emotional epistolary novel recalling the charm and warmth of 84 Charing Cross Road and the gentle wit of Alexander McCall Smith, Guernsey tells the story of a small group of neighbours on the island of Guernsey off the coast of England, a pig farmer, an elegant lady, a potion maker, a rag and bone man, a footman posing as a lord who survive the Nazi occupation in the second world war by gathering over humble potato peel pie to talk of Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the great novels.
With the war over, Juliet, an eager writer from London, uncovers just how dramatic the lives of these islanders really were during the war, and through them, discovers the drama in her own life.
Guernsey is a real gem of a novel. It's that rare thing: a small story, simply told, that contains within it enormous depth and heart. Completely accessible and immediately captivating, the characters are nothing short of enchanting. Gloriously honest, moving, sweet and funny, a sheer delight from beginning to end, this is truly a book to fall in love with.

I warmly endorse these comments, and was also reminded somwhat of 84 Charing Cross Road, and I reckon this new title will enjoy a similar sort of international success.
Here is Jan's own review:
This is absolutely delightful and is my favourite book so far this year. A writer looking for inspiration for her next book finds it unexpectedly in a letter from a man she has never met but who has come across her name written in a book by Charles Lamb. In an exchange of letters she becomes drawn into the Group, founded after the war and finally goes to Guernsey to meet them. In a less skillful writer the device of letters can be clumsy but here it works superbly. The characters are so human they leap off the page.
This book is a must read. It is charming, witty, warm and in short an absolute treasure. This is going to be huge. A glorious, gorgeous, totally irresistible novel, that will win hearts everywhere. Gloriously honest, moving, sweet and funny, a sheer delight from beginning to end. I loved this book and was sad to get to the final page and leave my friends behind.
Booker longlist: 'A profound eccentricity about literary prizes... it's just nice when you win'
Literary editor Claire Armitstead and Salmon Rushdie give their thoughts on the Man Booker Prize

The Guardian presents Salman Rushdie on the merits of literary prizes.You must hear this. You need to go the Guardian online to listen to these most interesting interviews.
Bad Words; Bad Art; Bad, Bad, Bad
by Jules Older

I'm in the middle of Trendy But Casual, the recent novel by Paula Morris. It’s hilarious. It’s outrageous. And it should never have been written.
Paula Morris is, after all, a New Zealander, and a half-Maori one at that. Trendy But Casual is told from the point of view of an all-American girl living in New York.
That’s cultural appropriation. Instead of basking in the glow of a book well-written (and awards well-won), Ms Morris should be deeply, deeply ashamed.

If that sounds insane, consider this. In November, 2005, New Zealand artist Lyn Bergquist was shown the door. The Warkworth artist’s work, intended to be displayed at an Auckland gallery, was rejected by the gallery owner because… because it depicted Maori flags.
Oedipus Rex Gallery director Jennifer Buckley told Radio New Zealand, “Flags are symbols and emblems of a very specific culture. And these are Maori flags. I would have the same issue with a Maori artist using my MacKenzie tartan.”
Flags or tartans, art or literature, the issue is cultural appropriation. Of all the dumb ideas to come out of academia, cultural appropriation is just about my least favourite.
Why? Oh, let me count the ways.
But first, a quick review.

Here's how New York Times reviewer Richard Eder described E. Annie Proulx’s novel, Close Range: “She knows…extraordinarily much about males: their bodies (who else writes of them with such lyrical respect?), the roughness and wary companionship of a raw macho society and a sporadic, startling sweetness.” [Book review, May 23, 99, p 8]

I felt the same about Julian Barnes’ description of the experience of a young girl in his novel, England, England. It had a ring of truth as clear as a pure crystal goblet.
The literary and film worlds have both been enriched Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur S. Golden and Remains of the Day, a spelunk deep into the mind of a traditional English butler, by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Yet, all these books would be banned, or at least derided, if the cultural appropriation school of artistic criticism had its way. For they all suffer from the same “flaw” — their main characters are not of the same gender and/or ethnicity as the author. The author is therefore “appropriating”, an academic term for stealing from another culture or poaching into a province that is not his own.

I say “his” own because the finger of appropriation is most often aimed at males, and white males in particular. William Styron got it in spades for writing The Confessions of Nat Turner. In New Zealand, remember how author Michael King caught it for writing on Maori leaders? Despite his intent “to make Maori preoccupations more intelligible to some non-Maori New Zealanders”, both Te Puea and Whina caught heavy flak for cultural appropriation.
As a writer, the very notion of appropriation drives me crazy.

The first and worst thing about it is this: the notion of appropriation strikes at the very heart of what artists — painters and sculptors, composers and lyricists, novelists and playwrights — do. We make things up. We make people up. We make up cultures and countries and tartans and flags. And the only limit we want applied to our characters is the limit of our imaginations. I'm writing a book with three main characters: a Jewish boy from New York, a Montana boy in trouble with the law and a Black girl who’s the catcher on a baseball team. If I took appropriation seriously, two of ‘em would have to go.

Second, I firmly believe the world is a better place for “appropriation.” If Annie Proulx hadn't written about Newfoundland because she was an American, Shipping News would never have won all those awards. If Ted Dawe hadn’t written about living rough because he’s not a street kid, a member of the young urban tribe, K. Road would never have been published. And, really, if Paula Morris hadn't written Trendy But Causal, I wouldn’t have spent half an hour rolling around in bed, laughing my socks off.
All three books reveal the world, perhaps all the better because the authors viewed the place they were writing about with the fresh eyes of someone from a distance.
Third, if appropriation is damaging to writers, it’s just as damaging to other arts. Would the world be as rich, would women be better served, if Reubens didn’t paint their likeness? If Picasso had limited his art to white European males? If Titian, if Rodin, if most of the visual artists of our millennium hadn't followed their own admiring vision?

Fourth, and for now, finally, when academic voices call for an end to appropriation as a protection of minority culture, they pose the greatest danger to… minority artists. Why should Black artists be limited to painting Black subjects? Jewish women to writing about Jewish women? Ngai Tahu writing poems about Ngai Tahu and not Ngati Mahuta, Ngai Wai, or white settlers from Dalmatia? Would New Zealand really be better off in Hone Tuwhare only wrote from a Maori perspective, and only about Maori subjects?

My answer is… well, my first answer is “Duh.” I mean, how dumb does a concept have to be before it gets dumped on the slagheap of stupidity? Where are the intellectual Darwin Awards when we need them?
But my longer answer is the world is better for “appropriation,” that artists are better for appropriation and that minority artists would be in a tight and narrow place without appropriation.
What’s derided as appropriation, I celebrate as imagination. Deep in my heart, I do believe that no artist should be limited by anything other than imagination.

Jules Older’s first book was The Pakeha Papers. His latest is PIG. After many years in Dunedin, he now lives in San Francisco.
Visit his website here.

Where are the intellectual Darwin Awards when we need them?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


John Weaver, Professor of History at McMaster University, Canada. John will speak about land confiscation and land acquisition in New Zealand and comparable events in North America, Australia, and southern Africa. He will also discuss how that history contrasts with the history of relations between first peoples and governments in the last twenty years.

John is a graduate of Queens University, Canada and Duke University; University Research Professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada where he has taught for 34 years. He has ongoing research interests in New Zealand social history in the twentieth century.

Venue: Te Wharenui / Te Wharepapa on the ground floor of Radio NZ House, 155 The Terrace, Wellington and commences at 12.15pm.

John Weaver's talk is a special late July talk and in August our speaker is:

BERNIE WOODS. WEDNESDAY 6 AUGUST. Bernie will speak about 100 years of positive Maori influence on rugby league in New Zealand and internationally. You will have already received an invitation to this talk but please contact me for further details if required.

Lyn Belt
History Group, Ministry for Culture & Heritage
Radio NZ House, Level 5, 155 The Terrace
PO Box 5364, Wellington
Booker Prize longlist: From an enchantress to exploding mangoes: judges draw up longlist
· Rushdie among favourites for novel that split critics · Carey, Kureishi, Lessing missing from final 13
Mark Brown, arts correspondent writing in The Guardian ,Wednesday July 30 2008

He is a winner of the Booker and the Booker of Bookers and now he is the bookie's favourite to be a double Booker after Salman Rushdie was yesterday named in the prize's longlist for The Enchantress of Florence.
Rushdie's venture into historical Medici meets Moghul romance has divided critics. The fantastical tale is either a thrilling return to form or is, according to David Gates in the New York Times, "so pious ... so pleased with itself and so besotted with the sound of its own voice", or, according to Peter Kemp in the Sunday Times, the worst novel Rushdie has written.

Ladbroke's yesterday installed Rushdie as 4-1 favourite to win the overall prize, something he last did in 1981 for Midnight's Children, the novel named the best of Booker winner last month.
Rushdie is up against 12 other novelists in a longlist which undoubtedly covers most bases in terms of experience and novelty as well as age and geography. There are first-time novelists, including Aravind Adiga and Tom Rob Smith, who is a stripling at 29 years old.
The oldest writer on the list is 81-year-old John Berger, who won the Booker 36 years ago.

Aside from the UK, there are writers from Ireland, Pakistan, India and Australia. Michael Portillo, chairman of the judges, admitted: "I would have been concerned if we hadn't produced a balanced list."
Bookman Beattie's astonishment at the omission of Tim Wilton seems to be a view widely shared, at least in this part of the world.
I liked the following remark from the Chair of the judging panel:
"Judging had been a "gruelling and pleasurable" experience.
"You're not reading for leisure or pleasure, you're reading because you have to. Put it this way, I would never do it again."
Sotheby's Sets New Record for any Book Illustration Sold at Auction

At Sotheby’s London sale on 17 July, Beatrix Potter’s original watercolour illustration for the final scene from “The Rabbits’ Christmas Party” sequence sold for the remarkable sum of £289,250 – almost five times its pre-sale high estimate (est. £40,000-60,000) – setting a new record for any book illustration sold at auction.
The watercolour was one of 20 original illustrations, books, unpublished Christmas cards and letters by Beatrix Potter that originate from the collection of the artist's brother, Bertram Potter (1872-1918), which were offered for sale in today’s auction of English Literature and History.

The whole collection, which represents the most extensive group of Beatrix Potter artwork to have appeared on the market in living memory, realised a total of £748,200. From the same collection, an abandoned watercolour for The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which was later redrawn for publication, sold for £32,450 - more than double its pre-sale low estimate (est. £15,000-20,000). This earlier version has never been reproduced and is the only contemporary Beatrix Potter illustration for her Peter Rabbit likely to be offered for sale.
Above story from Ibookcollector Newsletter #123
Ibookcollector © is published by Rivendale Press Ltd.
The image shown above is not the one that has been auctioned but rather is from the V&A and is one of a set of four watercolours by Beatrix Potter showing the successive stages of a Christmas party. Here the rabbits are roasting apples on the hearth. These pictures were given to Beatrix Potter's aunt, Lady Roscoe, wife of Sir Henry Roscoe. The date of these watercolours is unknown although the series pre-dates the publication of the 'Tale of Peter Rabbit' in 1901 when Beatrix had begun publishing some of her rabbit drawings as Christmas cards.

A laureate summit in Wellington Monday 4 August will be a rare chance to hear all New Zealand's living poet laureates read at one event.

The event, jointly organised by Victoria University's International Institute of Modern Letters and the National Library of New Zealand, will include readings from current laureate Michele Leggott (left) and former laureates Jenny Bornholdt, Elizabeth Smither, Brian Turner (right) and Bill Manhire.
Kate Camp introduces the poets.

All laureates will bring their tokotoko—a ceremonial stick carved with details personal to each of them—to this event. The first two were carved from rata, but subsequent tokotoko are more idiosyncratic. Brian Turner's is made from a hockey stick, Michele Leggott's from a pool cue, and Elizabeth Smither's from a gear lever. Although the sixth laureate, Hone Tuwhare, died earlier this year, his tokotoko will be at the event.

This is the first time the tokotoko have all been in one place and will provide an excellent photo opportunity. Jacob Scott, who carved all the tokotoko will be present too. More information about the tokotoko can be found here:

The event will also act as the launch of poetry CDs by Wellington laureates Bill Manhire and Jenny Bornholdt. These two collections are the first two in a projected series offering a selection of work spanning each laureate’s career. The CDs are available from Jayrem Records.

What: Hand to Hand - Five Laureates
When: 5.30pm Monday 4 August for refreshments (readings from 6pm)
Where: National Library foyer, Wellington

This event is part of the International Institute of Modern Letters' Writers on Mondays series. For the full programme see:

For more information please contact Victoria University lecturer or 0272113287.
Sebastian Barry – Faber & Faber 0 $37.99

Reviewed by The Bookman on Radio New Zeland National yesterday

This is a sad and enormously moving story about a lonely woman, Roseanne McNulty, about whom little is known, now nearly 100 years old and living in Roscommon Mental Hospital. Somehow it seems appropriate that it is so sad because indirectly it is also the story of Ireland in the 20th century and that history is itself not the happiest tale with the country splintered by civil war following the 1922 Irish Treaty that partitioned the country into north & south.
The story opens in 2007 with Roseanne McNulty facing an uncertain future as Roscommon Mental Hospital, where she has spent the most part of her adult life, is about to be demolished. The hospital’s chief psychiatrist, Dr.Grene, is to evaluate whether Roseanne should be released into the general population.

In the weeks leading up to the upheaval Dr.Grene and Roseanne have many meetings and spend hours talking, with Dr.Grene being increasingly drawn to Roseanne becoming determined to learn the truth of her internment.

The Secret Scripture of the title alludes to the respective journals of our two protagonists. The story is set in the west of Ireland, mainly in Sligo some 120 miles west of Belfast with a chunk of the story taking place in the 1920’s. Sligo along with the rest of the country is deeply divided at this time. Roseanne’s greatly loved Dad, Jo Clear is a Presbyterian and while being respected by the town’s largely Catholic population he is not fully accepted. As a young woman Roseanne works is a café in the town, then marries the highly personable band leader Tom McNulty. Sadly, after a brief period of happiness during a time noted for its murder, betrayal and divisiveness things begin to go badly wrong and due to the meddling of a rather loathsome priest, Father Gaunt, Roseanne’s marriage is annulled and she eventually ends up in the mental hospital. How this all happens is revealed in her journals; what a shocking, haunting and passionate story it proves to be.

Sebastian Barry is a noted contemporary Irish writer, born and educated in Dublin, a graduate of Trinity College and is probably best known as a playwright although this is his fourth novel with his title preceding this one, A Long Long Way (2005) being shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and the Dublin International Impac Prize. I will not be at all surprised if The Secret Scripture enjoys similar accolades, watch for it on the longlist tomorrow.

It is an outstanding literary novel that I found poignant, disturbing, poetic, sad, and ultimately deeply satisfying with a quite wonderful twist at the end. A winner.
Just announced as one of the titles on the Man Booker Prize longlist!
The ‘Man Booker Dozen’ Announced

The judges for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction today (Tuesday 29th July) announce their longlist of books in the running for the prize this year.

The longlist of 13 books, the ‘Man Booker Dozen’, was chosen from 112 entries; 103 were submitted for the prize by publishers and nine were called in by the judges.

The longlist is as follows;

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Atlantic)
Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold (Tindal Street Press)
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (Faber and Faber)
From A to X by John Berger (Verso)
The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser (Chatto & Windus, Allen & Unwin)
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (John Murray)
A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif (Jonathan Cape)
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant (Virago)
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher (Fourth Estate)
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill (Fourth Estate)
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie (Jonathan Cape)
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Simon & Schuster)
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (Hamish Hamilton)

Chair of judges, Michael Portillo, comments:

“With a notable degree of consensus, the five Man Booker judges decided on their longlist of 13 books. The judges are pleased with the geographical balance of the longlist with writers from Pakistan, India, Australia, Ireland and UK.
We also are happy with the interesting mix of books, five first novels and two novels by former winners. The list covers an extraordinary variety of writing. Still two qualities emerge this year: large scale narrative and the striking use of humour.”

The judging panel for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction is: Michael Portillo, former MP and Cabinet Minister; Alex Clark, editor of Granta; Louise Doughty, novelist; James Heneage, founder of Ottakar’s bookshops and Hardeep Singh Kohli, TV and radio broadcaster.

The 2008 shortlist will be announced on Tuesday 9th September at a press conference at Man Group’s London office. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 14th October at an awards ceremony at Guildhall, London.

Bookman Beattie is delighted, and not at all surprised to note the inclusion of talented Australian writer Michelle de Kretser included for her brilliant novel, The Lost Dog, and Sebastian Barry for his powerful title, The Secret Scripture which I reviewed on Radio New Zeakabd National yesterday and commented then that I would not be surprised to see it in this year's Man Booker shortlist. And of course a special note of congratulations to Salman Rushdie for yet again being on the longlist. There will be no surprises to find him on the shortlist either. And great too for all those first time novelists, some sort of record must have been established here?

Booker longlist boost for first-time novelists - The Guardian comments here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Say So Long to an Old Companion: Cassette Tapes

By Andrew Adam Newman writing in The New York Times.

There was a funeral the other day in the Midtown offices of Hachette, the book publisher, to mourn the passing of what it called a “dear friend.” Nobody had actually died, except for a piece of technology, the cassette tape.
While the cassette was dumped long ago by the music industry, it has lived on among publishers of audio books. Many people prefer cassettes because they make it easy to pick up in the same place where the listener left off, or to rewind in case a certain sentence is missed. For Hachette, however, demand had slowed so much that it released its last book on cassette in June, with “Sail,” a novel by James Patterson and Howard Roughan.
The funeral at Hachette — an office party in the audio-book department — mirrored the broader demise of cassettes, which gave vinyl a run for its money before being eclipsed by the compact disc. (The CD, too, is in rapid decline, thanks to Internet music stores, but that is a different story.)

Read the full piece at the NYT online.
Robert Jobson – John Blake Publishing (Bookwise) - $22.99

This is how the publisher summed up this title:

On February 28, 2008, to great international surprise, the British Ministry of Defense released a statement acknowledging that Prince Harry--son of the late Princess Diana and third in line to the British throne--had secretly been deployed to Afghanistan. Subsequent reports revealed that the prince had killed up to thirty Taliban insurgents in directing at least three air strikes, and that he had helped Gurkha troops repel a ground attack of Taliban insurgents using a machine gun. On Februrary 29, Prince Harry was withdrawn from the country with distinction via a covert SAS deployment. This is the amazing story of the first British royal to serve his country in 25 years and his 10 heroic weeks of combat.
That is a fair description, the book is clearly a must-read for those many folk who are avid watchers of the British Royal family.
The author is an award-winning author and journalist, he is a former CNN royal commentator, and this is his third title about the British Royal family, the others being Diana, Closely Guarded Secret, which he wrote with Diana’s bodyguard, and William’s Princess,
a definitive account of Prince William’s relationship with Kate Middleton.
Includes photos.
WHARE RAUPO - 100 Years of Reed Publishing

The following message just to hand:

Kia ora ra koutou,

Apologies for the short notice, but just a quick email to let you all
know, our documentary 'Whare Raupo - 100 Years of Reed Publishing'
screens tomorrow night, Wednesday 30th July, at 8:30pm on Maori TV.

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa mo to koutou awhina, thank you
again for your help, and we hope you enjoy it.
Na Ira Heyder
Associate Producer
Brendon Butt Productions Ltd

The judging panel for the Man Booker Prize 2008 is:

Michael Portillo (Chair), Alex Clark, Louise Doughty. James Heneage, Hardeep Singh Kohli

The longlist will be announced on 29 July 2008 - today but of course because of time differences we will not get the result in NZ & Australia until 30 July but be assured Bookman Beattie will have the news here for you on the blog as soon as it is released.

The shortlist will be announced on 9 September 2008
The winner will be announced on 14 October 2008


One of New Zealand's most senior writers, long an advocate for writers and literature, Fiona Kidman delivered a keynote address at the recent Booksellers New Zeland Conference. It was a warm and inspirational address in which she promoted the idea of booksellers as the coalface of literary culture in New Zealand, recognising and acknowledging booksellers, both the great and the small.

Near the end of her address she expressed her views on the Montana NZ Book Awards and I am grateful to her for allowing me to reproduce this part of her speech on my blog today.

I think it would be great if the various stakeholders in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards were to consider changing the rules of how the competition was run.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not about the books chosen for the shortlists this year. I’ve read – really read – many of them, because I read New Zealand books for pleasure not duty, in the spirit I hope you sell them. There are great books amongst them and who ever wins deserves to have their work celebrated. Nothing should stand in the way of acknowledging that achievement.
Nor does it mean that the rules should be changed every time the results are a surprise. That’s part of the excitement. No, the problem this year is not what’s on the lists, it’s what’s not - a large and serious body of New Zealand books that can never be repeated and are unlikely to be significantly recognized again. And these awards, I need hardly remind you, are all that we have, apart from the Adam Prize which is in-house for IIML students, and the Glen Schaeffer Prize for emerging writers.

What the judges apparently failed to grasp, or the rules didn’t direct them sufficiently well to appreciate, is that in not providing a fifth book in the fiction list, and in not providing lists for the best first books of poetry and fiction sections, rather than ‘ not diluting’ the Montana Creative New Zealand Book Awards, as it was rather quaintly described, the judges essentially diluted a whole raft of major New Zealand writing and publishing. In the process, whether they thought it important or not, they denied booksellers the opportunity of further promotion of stock they hold, in an already risky market place.

This brings me to the question of what the Montana New Zealand Book Awards are about. Are they about rewarding literary excellence or are they about marketing? Well here, perhaps, we get to the heart of the problem. They have, in short, become a multi-headed monster that tries to do too many things for too many people. And unfortunately, this year, the result has become a media scrum down that give the All Blacks hollow legs by comparison.

So, should Booksellers New Zealand have done something about it? My initial response was yes, because they do administer the prizes. But Timaru bookseller Jeff Grigor argued very convincingly in the Listener that Booksellers New Zealand had no authority to tell the judges what to do, and risked an even bigger outcry if they’d tried to. Under the rules of the competition, the judges were not required to provide these lists. These rules, he pointed out, were devised some years ago by a committee consisting of representatives of the NZ Society of Authors, Creative New Zealand, the Book Publishers Association of NZ and Booksellers NZ and, until that group decides to do something about them, nobody can do anything.

As it happens I was invited to be on that original working party and I declined the invitation. Why? Because the rules were written in response to a change that saw the abolition of the New Zealand Book Awards, which ran more or less simultaneously with the Montana Book Awards, and were administered by Creative New Zealand. The two prizes were amalgamated and I didn’t agree with that, believing instead that the two existing prizes promoted a wider range of titles.

Why was one prize abandoned? I was told at the time that it was because the booksellers and the media found it confusing to promote the two prizes at once. Point taken. But wasn’t that a matter of branding and of timing?

Consider the range of prizes in countries like Australia and Canada, Britain and the United States. In Britain, for fiction alone, there is the Man Booker Prize, the Costa Whitbread Prize, the Orange Prize, to cite just three of the 18 I counted, 24 in Australia, 16 in Canada. For that matter, when it comes to children’s books in this country, as well as the New Zealand Post’s awards for children’s books, we have the Esther Glen Award (around for years), the Elsie Locke Award and more recently the Russell Clark Award, all supported by LIANZA.

Have they mattered in terms of sales, or created a conflict of interest? I doubt it - in fact, now I see that LIANZA is actively promoting these awards with colorful posters which I assume will take their place in bookshops alongside those of New Zealand Post book award promotions.

It’s possible that new prizes for adult writing could to emerge in the future. I think that, handled well, that could only be a good thing, for writers, for the trade. In the mean time, I believe the rules for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards have become obsolete in several areas.
Its time to sort it out, its time to find a way forward.
As a writer, I’m a stakeholder along with the rest of you. I urge Booksellers New Zealand and Creative New Zealand to reconvene the interested parties, so that in future the judges are equipped with clear guidelines on how to proceed.
Keyboard kids losing art of handwriting
By Gerard Noonan - Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Pic Left - E-STUDENTS: Australian high schoolers are skilled on keyboards, but long periods of neat handwriting needed for exams are a hard ask.

More than 150,000 students in years 11 and 12 at schools across the Australian state of New South Wales have a problem.
Almost all are skilled users of computer keyboards. Most can easily outperform their elders when it comes to text messaging on their mobile phones.
But within the next year or so all of them will have to sit 15 to 20 hours of examinations for Australia's Higher School Certificate, and the exams will be almost entirely handwritten. Unless they have a proven disability and cannot write on the day of the exam, the only acceptable exam paper is one handed up in an individual's handwriting.

The disjunction between the acquired skill of keyboarding and the need to handwrite exams has led some schools to incorporate handwriting lessons in years 11 and 12 as students find they have to relearn the art of using a pen and paper quickly - lost after years of using computers, laptops and mobiles.
The senior English teacher at Barker College, on Sydney's North Shore, Sue Marks, says she has had top students forced to do remedial courses to get their handwriting legible enough for HSC examiners to read.
For the full story link here.
Last Lecture’ Professor Randy Pausch, 47, Dies

From The New York Times:

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon computer science professor whose last lecture became an Internet sensation and bestselling book, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 47.
Randy Pausch with Dylan, Logan and Chloe.
Dr. Pausch, whose proudest professional achievement was creating a free computer programming tool for children called Alice, was an improbable celebrity. A self-professed nerd, he pushed his students to create virtual reality projects, celebrated the joy of amusement parks and even spent a brief stint as a Disney “Imagineer.'’
Last September, Dr. Pausch unexpectedly stepped on an international stage when he addressed a crowd of about 400 faculty and students at Carnegie Mellon as part of the school’s “Last Lecture” series. In the talks, professors typically talk about issues that matter most to them. Dr. Pausch opened his talk with the news that he had terminal cancer and proceeded to deliver an uplifting, funny talk about his own childhood dreams and how to help his children and others achieve their own goals in life. He learned he had pancreatic cancer in September, 2006.

Sitting in the audience was Carnegie Mellon alumnus Jeff Zaslow, a columnist with The Wall Street Journal, who wrote about the speech. Media outlets and bloggers linked to the story, and more than 10 million people have since watched an Internet video of the talk. The lecture was translated into seven languages, and Hyperion published a book version that became a New York Times bestseller.

For the full NYT story link here.
For my earlier comment on The Last Lecture link here.
R.I.P. Randy.

Further comment:
In a statement, Pausch's co-author, Jeff Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal columnist, said, "Randy had a remarkable ability to reach into his own life and find an anecdote, a funny story, an uplifting memory--and then translate it in ways that resonated deeply with the rest of us. I first saw him move and inspire 400 people at his last lecture. It was astonishing to then watch his message leave that room and touch millions worldwide. As his co-author, it was a great honor to see his love of life from a front-row seat. I'll miss him."

His wife, Jai Pausch, said, "I'd like to thank the millions of people who have offered their love, prayers and support. Randy was so happy and proud that the lecture and book inspired parents to revisit their priorities, particularly their relationships with their children. The outpouring of cards and emails really sustained him."

The family has requested that donations on Pausch's behalf go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 2141 Rosecrans Ave., Suite 7000, El Segundo, Calif. 90245 or to Carnegie Mellon's Randy Pausch Memorial Fund.

Monday, July 28, 2008

On demand book printing coming soon
Machines that can produce almost any work on request are being installed in British bookshops

Story by Richard Brooks and Shiv Malik writing in The Times

IMAGINE walking into a bookshop and being certain that even the most obscure title will always be in stock.
In October, the first British store will install a device called the Espresso Book Machine, nicknamed the ATM for books. Shoppers will be given a choice of more than 1m books - many rare or discontinued - to download and print in shops to take home as ready-bound paperbacks.
Some publishers are making plans to digitise their entire catalogue of titles, in or out of print. This will mean they can be printed either through the machines or on demand by the publisher.
The Espresso Book Machine’s backers claim it combines the virtually unlimited choice of the internet with the packaging of a conventional book. It also has the potential to make even the most obscure titles easy to buy.
Many shoppers complain that bookstores are overwhelmed by piles of heavily hyped books from big publishers, while more unusual titles become harder to find.
Read the full story at The Times online.
Kevin Ireland - Reasons to be cheerful

This marvellous piece by NZ Herald books editor Linda Herrick was in the Weekend Herald's Review section.

Kevin Ireland and Sydney (left) at home in Devonport. Photo / Richard Robinson

Devonport writer Kevin Ireland turned 75 on July 18. He celebrated in style with a five-hour lunch with friends, then slept like a baby and awoke the next morning feeling great. Today, he has reasons to feel more sunny again after reeling over the sudden death of his wife Caroline last November. He and Caroline, who had been together for 40 years, had moved to a smaller, more modern house in Devonport, while their son and his family moved into their old villa around the corner. "We thought we'd better downsize," he says, "but I didn't know we'd be downsizing quite so much".
After the shock of Caroline's death, from a brain aneurism, Ireland is bouncing back. He has just returned from a 10-day trip to Florence, where he gave a keynote address at the conference of the NZ Studies Association in conjunction with the Centre for NZ Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. The conference is a jolly affair where academics and writers from around the world gather to discuss urgent matters such as "Italy in the Maori Imaginary: the Novels of Witi Ihimaera" and "Odysseus in the Land of Kupe".
Ireland's speech was more simply titled, "Coming to terms with the Med".
Read the rest of Linda Herrick's story at the New Zealand Herald online.
Canadian Writers' Trust increases value of prizes

Canadian Press
July 24, 2008

Toronto — The Writers' Trust Awards just got richer.

The awards are already among the richest fiction and non-fiction prizes in Canada, with past winners including Alice Munro, Rudy Wiebe and Austin Clarke.

The Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize will now award each winner $25,000 and finalists $3,500 (up from $15,000 and $2,000). The Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature will increase in value to $20,000 (up from $15,000).

A new award, the Writers' Trust Notable Author Award, will be created by merging two existing prizes: the Marian Engel Award for a female writer in mid-career and the Timothy Findley Award for a male writer in mid-career. The new prize will be worth $25,000 and won't be gender specific. Each of the awards was previously worth $15,000.

The eighth annual Writers' Trust Awards will be handed out on Nov. 17.
More Bang for the Book

Published in The New York Times: July 27, 2008

John Cleese may be best known for his goose step in Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch and as the zany hotel owner in “Fawlty Towers,” ’70s-era British television comedies that played up the weirdness lurking beneath petit-bourgeois conventions. These days, Cleese has a new gig: teaching businesses how humor can “unleash creativity” and how creativity can lead to “better and more enjoyable customer service.”
Yes, it has come to this.

But Cleese, who wrote the self-help books “Life and How to Survive It” (1993) and “Families and How to Survive Them” (1984) with the psychiatrist Robin Skynner, isn’t the only author to step behind the lectern. In recent years, a growing number of writers, from the best-selling to the less so, have hit the rubber-chicken circuit, speaking at colleges and businesses, chambers of commerce, trade fairs and medical conventions. While a midlist novelist might ask, though not necessarily get, $2,500 per appearance, a superstar presidential historian might command $40,000. And some best-selling authors charge double that.

The venues can range from the upstanding (libraries, churches) to the downright weird. “Once, back in the ’80s, I spoke at a ‘motion upholstery conference’ in North Carolina,” the author Roy Blount Jr. said in an e-mail message. “Motion upholstery,” he explained, means “chairs that tilt back or vibrate or turn into beds.” He learned something at the conference: “Just as fish can’t see anything funny about water, people in the motion upholstery field don’t respond to jokes, however inspired, about motion upholstery.” Blount said speaking fees helped put his children through college. “Then I drifted away from it,” he said. “Now I’m doing it again; the money is a comfort in my golden years.”
For the full NYT story link here.

I like the play on words employed for this popular NZ Listener column by Joanne Black which appears as the last feature in the magazine each week.

One if the subjects Joanne has written on this week (Listener August 2-8) is the Montana NZ Book Awards and here is what she has to say:

On Monday night I attended the Montana Book Awards.
As I find some aspects of New Zealand’s obsession with itself to be rather insular and a little too worthy, the highlight of the evening for me was MC Jennifer Ward-Lealand’s dress. Designed by Liz Mitchell it was perfect awards-night couture and brought glamour to an event which is, after all, a celebration of the pinnacle of creativity and achievement in one sphere of the arts.

Awards are always subjective. They are the opinions of judges who bring experience and expertise to their roles but whose views you may not necessarily share. I think it was Radio New Zealand’s Lynn Freeman, one of this year’s judges, who said that in the end reading was a relationship between a reader and a book. Each person’s personal experience will therefore be different, as will their opinion of what is good or interesting.

I used to devour fiction, but these days I prefer books on politics and economics, not least because they have fewer tales of harrowing childhoods and hardly anyone’s horse dies. However, from the book awards I will put Mary McCallum’s The Blue on my reading list, along with Judy Siers’ biography of James Walter Chapman-Taylor and Alan Clarke’s The Great Sacred Forest of Tane. For the rest, I’ll await the real consumer test – friends saying, “Oh, you really must read…”.
Margaret Barca – Penguin - $19.95

This substantial, full-colour cookbook is a little gem and with the Slow Food movement taking off worldwide its publication is timely.
As the author says in her introduction slow food does not mean taking forever to raost or braise a piece of meat. It is about taking time to enjoy food – the choosing, the cooking, the delight in sharing good food with family and friends. It’s about fresh and seasonal ingredients, it’s about an age old tradition designed to extract maximum flavor and goodness from basic ingredients.
I made the Jerez chicken with orange and it was deemed to be delicious, and "could we have it again please?".

The recipes in the Slow Food Bible are suitable for both stove top and oven cooking rather than using slow cookers but it does give advice on adapting these recipes for use with slow cookers along with tips on using them. However if you want recipes especially for slow cookers then you are best to get one of the many titles published that cater specifically for them.
At $19.95 this book represents great value.
Ebooks: The enthusiasts
The Observer,
Sunday July 27 2008

John Sutherland, English professor
'It's a great invention in search of a name: they're not "ebooks" any more than automobiles are "horseless carriages". E-readers are not storage devices but portals to new literary forms, among much else. How about calling them "Stargates"?'

Binky Urban, New York super-agent
'Many publishers, especially in the UK, feel threatened by e-readers, but I think they're a great development [I have both a Kindle and a Sony Reader]. Kids spend so much time playing computer games; if games techies would figure out how to make reading a book a more interactive experience, we could win back the younger readers we've lost to computers and TV.'

Toby Young, writer
'In the long run they will benefit writers, creating an easier way for first-time authors to get their work in front of the public. That will be a revolutionary change.'
About this article
This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday July 27 2008 on p20 of the Features and reviews section.
A Bitter-Sweet Story
Janet Hunt – Random House - $69.99

Winner of both the Environment category and the overall non-fiction prize at the recent Montana New Zealand Book Awards I was intrigued by this title as it was one of the few titles among all those shortlisted that I had not read or even at least browsed through in one of my favorite bookstores.
That has now been corrected and I have spent several hours over this past very wet and windy weekend in my favourite reading chair enjoying reading Janet Hunt’s highly accessible text and looking at the glorious photos from a huge variety of contributors.

This is at once a provocative, challenging and inspriring work of great scholarship and I thought the sub-title – a bitter-sweet story – so appropriate. At times I felt great despair at the enormous damage we have done to our precious wetlands, 90% of those that were here at the time of Cook’s visit in the late 18th century have now gone, while at other times I experienced great hope reading of the restoration and protection work that is going on and of the formation of the National Wetland Trust and its work.

This beautiful and important book deserves the widest possible readership which the winning of the two Montana NZ Book Awards will undoubtedly assist.
My warm congratulations to Janet Hunt (who also designed the book) and her publishers on a truly fine production.

Think about joining the National Wetland Trust, I have joined as a result of reading Janet Hunt's book, it is only $20 p.a. and they are doing a great and vital job.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?
By MOTOKO RICH writing in The New York Times, July 27, 2008

Books are not Nadia Konyk’s thing. Her mother, hoping to entice her, brings them home from the library, but Nadia rarely shows an interest.
Instead, like so many other teenagers, Nadia, 15, is addicted to the Internet. She regularly spends at least six hours a day in front of the computer here in this suburb southwest of Cleveland.
(Pic left from NYT) A NEW GENERATION Nadia Konyk, 15, has a small book collection but prefers reading online.

A slender, chatty blonde who wears black-framed plastic glasses, Nadia checks her e-mail and peruses, a social networking site, reading messages or posting updates on her mood. She searches for music videos on YouTube and logs onto Gaia Online, a role-playing site where members fashion alternate identities as cutesy cartoon characters. But she spends most of her time on or, reading and commenting on stories written by other users and based on books, television shows or movies.
Her mother, Deborah Konyk, would prefer that Nadia, who gets A’s and B’s at school, read books for a change. But at this point, Ms. Konyk said, “I’m just pleased that she reads something anymore.”
Children like Nadia lie at the heart of a passionate debate about just what it means to read in the digital age. The discussion is playing out among educational policy makers and reading experts around the world, and within groups like the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
From The Sunday Times
July 27, 2008
Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria by Kapka Kassabova
Pub. by Portobello (UK), Penguin (NZ & Aust)

The Sunday Times review by Cathy Galvin

So. You've written a memoir, but nobody has heard of you. In English, which is not your native tongue. And it's also a travelogue about your beloved homeland, Bulgaria. Where? Ah yes, the Wombles! Uncle Bulgaria...The Bulgarian umbrella murder. Wrestlers, or was it weightlifters? Men - and women - with moustaches. And you have a small following in New Zealand, you say. For your, er, poetry.
It is from this implausible position that Kapka Kassabova's bitterly funny, brilliantly clever journey through her childhood and her troubled country breaks down a Berlin Wall of indifference towards her compatriots. Observing that Bulgaria generally merits the shortest entry in any travel book, she resolves in her opening chapter “to write my own Bulgaria into being”.

Read the full piece by Cathy Gavin , editor of the Sunday Times magazine. It is I guess a slightly condescending wink to poetry and NZ, but nevertheless an interesting review and being in the Sunday Times gains wide, welcome exposure for Kassabova's latest title.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


This award made annually by the NZ Trustees Association Trust of the Year is the MICHAEL KING WRITERS STUDIO TRUST.

Warmest congratualtions to the trustees, great news.
The 50 outstanding literary translations from the last 50 years

The Translators Association of the Society of Authors celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion they have compiled a list of 50 outstanding translations of the last half century

1. Raymond Queneau – Exercises_in_Style (Barbara Wright, 1958)

2. Primo Levi – If This is a Man (Stuart Woolf, 1959)

3. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa – The Leopard (Archibald Colquhoun, (1961)

4. Günter Grass – The Tin Drum (Ralph Manheim, 1962)

5. Jorge Luis Borges – Labyrinths (Donald Yates, James Irby, 1962)

6. Leonardo Sciascia – Day of the Owl (Archibald Colquhoun, 1963)

7. Alexander Solzhenitsyn – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Ralph Parker, 1963)

8. Yukio Mishima – Death in Midsummer (Seidensticker, Keene, Morris, Sargent, 1965)

9. Heinrich Böll – The Clown (Leila Vennewitz, 1965)

10. Octavio Paz – Labyrinth of Solitude (Lysander Kemp, 1967)

11. Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master and Margarita (Michael Glenny, 1969)

12. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 100 Years of Solitude (Gregory Rabassa, 1970)

For the full list link to The Times online.

publishes a monthly e-newsletter and the following is an excerpt from the latest issue which came out this week and is reproduced with their permission.

Blogging good advice

If it weren’t for a shortening of Graham Beattie's book review on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon show in late 2006 Beattie's Book Blog might never have happened. As it was, Graham had prepared a review of Martin Amis’s House Of Meetings and due to programming time schedules was forced to cut it short. He arrived home frustrated at his inability to finish what it was he wanted to say and wondering how he could put the rest of it out into the public domain – Voila! Beattie's Book Blog was born.

Today it is one of the most visited sites in the NZ book trade, filling a much-needed service for readers – updates on new books, allowing space for book trade grievances and links to interesting industry articles. Beattie gets the pick of books he wants to review and publishers are always grateful that there’s an active and lively site out there promoting books. His site has been so successful, he received one of the highly sought-after invitations to last years Man Booker Prize awards in Guildhall, because the organizers were aware of his awards coverage on his site. The former publisher and bookseller blogs from his Freemans Bay home, where he lives within a one mile radius of inner city Auckland with excellent cafes and bookshops (three in walking distance). It’s a good life. Check it out:

The tough questions, with Graham Beattie:
From your blogs-eye view of the book world, what do you see are the trends in publishing for 2008?

1. A further increase in the number of original titles going straight into paperback. Before long the hardback novel will be a thing of the past.
2. Publishers developing websites that are both increasingly sophisticated and easy for visitors to navigate. This will include increasing information about their authors to include interviews and readings especially aimed at book groups/clubs.
3. A gradual rise in popularity of the e-book, as Kindle, Sony Reader and other brands become available around the world

What is on your bedside table right now?

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry, a wonderfully dramatic and plaintive novel set in Ireland both today and 100 years ago.

Kindle – friend or foe?

A bit early to say yet but I’m inclined to think friend.

I suspect a lot of fine titles that are out of print and uneconomic to reissue in standard book format may once again be made available. But I do not see the Kindle or the like replacing the printed book this century. Supplement, not replace.

If you had to leave your house in a blazing fire but had the chance to rescue one book, what would it be?

The thought of a fire and only being able to save one book is a terrible thought to which I had great difficulty responding, but in the end I opted for The Portable Graham Greene (Penguin USA, 1977), because in the front it carries the following handwritten inscription – For Graham Beattie with all good wishes from Graham Greene. He gave it to me in February 1978, during one of his rare visits to London, he was famously reclusive and media-shy in his later years. The board of directors of Penguin Books put on a luncheon for him to which I was invited. After the lunch, as we were saying goodbye, he picked up this book from a display of his Penguin titles, signed it and presented it to me.

The New Zealand Book Council receives core funding from Creative New Zealand. We are extremely grateful to our funding partners, who enable us to deliver our programmes. We also value your membership, which supports our work in schools and communities throughout New Zealand.
If you would like to join the New Zeland Book Council and receive the newsletter contact: .
To view the latest issue, and it is full of interesting book news, or earlier issues, then go to:

At last weekend's annual conference of Booksellers New Zealand booksellers voted The Road to Castle Hill as their choice for book of the year.
Farmer, author, human dynamo Christine Fernyhough has kindly allowed The Bookman to reproduce her acceptance speech on the blog. Here it is for your entertainment:
How absolutely fantastic! Yeah! Thank you all so very much – without you, your work – daily – so often 7 days a week, your enthusiasm and your delight in The Road to Castle Hill - a High Country love story – perhaps we all love - love! John, Louise, Nicky and I would not be smiling from ear to ear.

I feel like I have just run up the drafting race of life and instead of being culled for my limp and my teeth I have been drafted to the right – top mob, best feed, a winner – guaranteed to free range the tussock block, to enjoy the best ram on Father’s Day.
The business of farming is capturing, packaging and selling sunlight.
And here I am being presumptive – the business of Bookselling is capturing, packaging and selling dreams.
You sure sold my dreams – it was you and your staff who have answered the many questions, it was you who gave the book prime display space, it was you who enabled us to be right on the top of the best sellers list almost from the very first day - when we knocked Tana off - he took his eyes off the ball - only to be knocked off temporarily by the Road Code when all Kiwi schools bought their year supply and then more permanently, in May, by Ian Wishart’s Absolute Power!

From the extraordinary sales, the result of your work – nearly 23,000 copies have been sold since October – it is a beautiful book, exquisite photography by John and beautifully published by Random. From the many hundreds of letters I have received, the book sure touched a chord – maybe it was the honesty in the way I talked about my loves and losses, of my mistakes, my loneliness, of life being short but also long, of my reinvention along the way, of following dreams of giving things/life a go.
Particularly moving are the letters from chaps, some farmers, some not, some nearing the end of the lives, others still seeking – these blokes talked of never reading a book or not from cover to cover and not three times before – they loved The Road to Castle Hill and many put it in the same category as Mona Anderson’s A River Rules my Life or Lady Barker’s Station Life in New Zealand. Maybe The Road to Castle Hill will become a classic – certainly with so much of the High Country going into the Department of Conservation Estate – DOC now owns over 50% of the South Island and with that change goes the iconic High Country Merino Stations – the environment we kiwis hold dear to our hearts.

Winning this award reinforces to those many ‘I don’t read books through’ that their choice of book was wise which in turn will encourage them to buy and to read more. Some tell me that they were 106 on the list at the Library – that there are still 100 on the waiting list – that because of fading eyesight they never got through the book before their turn was over. That their Retirement Village needs to buy more copies. Perhaps the Gold Card could be extended to allow senior citizens special discounts on books.

I still love each day – we are still waiting for the lamb schedule to rise. We didn’t have the top pen at the High Country calf sale this year – we have bought a Run Off Block – a run off with your money block and instead we bought in calves. Snow continues to be a stock star – we have just scanned 98% in our cows, the ewes get scanned on August 12th. Merino wool goes from strength to strength as buyers luxuriate in its texture, its properties.

Will John and I continue to grow in our love for each other – I hope so – do you know what - we got married on April 19th at the conclusion of our annual Castle Hill Dog Trials. What with crushed legs, run off with your money blocks and getting married there is plenty for a sequel!

Thank you again for awarding us the New Zealand Booksellers’ Choice for 2008.
A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare.
By Jess Winfield.
291 pp. Twelve. $23.99.

Times Topics: William Shakespeare
Paper Cuts Blog: A Midsummer Day’s Dream
In “My Name Is Will,” William Shakespeare, imagined in his green youth (England, 1580s), alternates chapters with an American alter ego, a hash-smoking University of California, Santa Cruz, grad student named Willie Shakespeare Greenberg (California, 1980s). While young Will frolics in the hedgerows of Stratford-upon-Avon with his Rosaline, incurring the wrath and the rack of anti-Catholic Elizabethan heavies, young Willie divides his time between chasing Ophelias, dodging Reaganite narcs and fiddling with a Rubik’s Cube, musing all the while (purportedly) on the questions: “What was it that made Shakespeare great?” and “What made him Shakespeare?”
For the full review from The New York Times link here.
And to read an excerpt link here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Looking for an e-readership
Sony's e-reader was launched today through Waterstone's. Will this spark a bookish revolution?

July 24, 2008 by John Sutherland. English lecturer, emeritus professor, Guardian columnist and author.

The most authoritative history of the book that we have opens, laconically: "About the year 1450, some rather unusual 'manuscripts' made their appearance in the northern regions of Western Europe." Thus began the print revolution. In the year 2008, a rather unusual "book" made its appearance in Britain's walk-in and click-in bookstores.

The e-reader.The retail chains, and Amazon, have decided to blitz the consumer with Sony, Kindle, and iLiad. Many users will, however, like me, first come across these nifty gadgets in institutional sites: through their educational establishments, or offices.

It's significant, for example, that CNN has - for about a year now - been pushing an array of e-readers on Richard Quest's "Business Traveller" slot. As Richard informs us (with that somewhat irritating bubbliness), they're easily packed, and they're packed not just with airport reading but invaluable factual information. If you're travelling to Tokyo for the first time, wouldn't you find a shelf-full of professional guidebooks helpful?

Read John Sutherland's full essay here.

Google Knol Opens to Public
Wikipedia Competitor Includes Identified Authors, Rankings, Ads
By ASHLEY PHILLIPS July 24, 2008 , ABC News.

Unlike Wikipedia, people who write entries on Google's encyclopedia are identified and could even earn a profit from their articles with ads. The more times the article is viewed, the more an author can get paid. Google, of course, gets a cut of the profits.
"The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content," the company wrote on its blog Wednesday. "It's their knol, their voice, their opinion. We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good."

For the full story link here.
The authors' view
It's not just the ordinary public who succumb to reader's block. Even writers often find they cannot get beyond a book's first few pages

Interviews by Heidi Blake, Aida Edemariam and Charlotte Northedge
writing in The Guardian , Friday July 25 2008
Alain de Botton, writer (left)

Have you ever experienced reader's block?
I often go through periods when I feel a need to take stock, think and generally not read very much. My mind isn't blank, just too dense with thoughts that need untangling. How do you overcome it? Sometimes I can't "get into" any books, usually because I'm at a stage of forming a set of interests. So I feel as if nothing interests me, when in fact, I'm just growing into an interest. Forcefeeding books is as risky as forcefeeding food. One has to let the appetite arise naturally - and the constant pressure to read new prizewinning books can give one an unhealthy sense of guilt about periods when the mind is just idle - as it needs to be regularly to digest experiences.
This story is well worth reading, link here to The Guardian online.

Lynn Freeman's popular Sunday afternoon programme on Radio New Zealand National this week will include the following two items of particular interest to booklovers:

2:20 Montana New Zealand Book Awards

Lucy Orbell brings together two of the big winners at this year’s awards for a chat.

2:30 Writer’s Block

O E Middleton on fifty years of short story writing as many of them are gathered together in one memorable book, and Bob Orr on working on and writing about the sea in his poetry collection Calypso.


This is the very timely question posed by Listener Arts & Books Editor Guy Somerset in a page long thoughtful piece in the NZ Listener dated August 2-8 which will be on sale next week.
(One of the advantages of being a subscriber is to receive your copy before the non-subscribing punters.)
Somerset makes a number of valid points about the need for a fresh look to be taken at the whole structure of the awards and draws a comparison between the reaction of the organizers to criticism of judging decisions with that of criticism leveled at leading UK book awards.
He makes a number of specific suggestions including splitting up the fiction awards, the poetry awards and the non-fiction awards.
And his suggestion which I warmly endorse - "making the judging process less like a Creative New Zealand grant application and more intuitive, more like the way people actually read.”

Let us hope that Booksellers New Zealand will undertake a review of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, that they will take on board suggestions by Somerset and others, and pay heed to the widespread criticism they came in for at the time of the shortlist announcement.

And here is another point for consideration sent to Bookman Beattie by bookseller and former publisher Tom Beran:
My concern regarding the Montana awards has been bugging me for years i.e. the Peoples Choice award which carries a monetary prize of $1000. I have never been able to understand the purpose of this award as the winning author in any year may have encouraged friends, family etc to vote for him/her and due to a small response for such awards (unlike the Children’s one) we may get a strange result.
Surely the best process is to look at the sales of major selling titles over the calendar year to create a shortlist of say 5 titles, and then the Booksellers NZ/Montana Awards management committee who are unbiased towards any book, author or publisher can chose the appropriate winner by popularity and discussion.
This would give the award some parity with the Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award which I don’t think carries any monetary prize, just the prestige of being the booksellers’ favourite title to have been selling. Take this year’s winner ROAD TO CASTLE HILL, sold 23,000 copies, surely that makes it a more popular and legitimate Peoples Choice than a novel which has sold maybe 2000-2500 copies. I am not saying that the title with most sales should win, but the top 5 selling titles should be considered on their individual marketing merits.

All in all there is plenty for the organizers to think about if the Montana New Zealand Book Awards are to continue “celebrating excellence in New Zealand books.”