Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gourmand World Cookbook Awards - two NZ titles make the finals......

Cookbook of the Year – 12 Finalists
Canada – The Art of Living According to Joe Beef ,Meredith Ericson (Ten Speed-Parfum d’Encre)
Chile – Patagonian Cuisine , Francisco Fantini (Gourmet Patagonia)
Colombia – Vida y Sabor Judio, Perla C.Gilinski (Gilinski)
Iceland – Stora Bokin um Villibrad, Ulfar Finn Björnsson (Salka)
Italy – Nuovi Cclassic, Diego Crosara (Reed Gourmet)
Malaysia – The Best of Chef Wan (Marshall Cavendish)
Mexico – Una Herencia de Sabores, Susanna Palazuelos (Random House Mondadory)
Monaco – J’aime Monaco (Alain Ducasse Editions)
Netherlands – Kookaravaan, Yassine Nassir, Marcel van Silfhout (Zilverstermedia)
New Zealand-Wanaka-,McKay,Myer (Random House NZ)
Peru – La Ruta de la Papa , Sara Beatriz Guardia (Universidad San Martin de Porres)
USA – The Cooks Illustrated Cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen (Cooks Illustrated)

New Zealand – Free Range in the City, Annabel Langbein (Harper Collins)
South Africa – Cooked out of the Frying Pan, Justin Bonello (Penguin)
UK – Baking Made Easy – Lorraine Pascale (Harper Collins)
USA – Food Network Star (William Morrow)

Hollywood has lots of new literary movies scheduled for 2012. Here are five upcoming literary movies to look forward to in the new year.

By Maryann Yin on Galley Cat, December 30, 2011 

Walt Disney Animation Studios will rerelease Beauty and the Beast in 3D. The film’s story comes from Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont‘s version of the fairy tale called La Belle et la Bête. It arrives in theaters on January 13th.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, the sequel to the 2007 film, once again stars Oscar winner Nicholas Cage as the Marvel Comics antihero. The movie comes out on February 17th.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters picks up where the Grimm Brothers left off. It explores the aftermath of how this sibling duo fared following their escapade with a cannibalistic hag. The movie hits theaters on March 2nd.
The Raven, a fictional action-adventure film, stars John Cusack as legendary mystery author Edgar Allan Poe. It’s headed for the big screen on March 9th.

The Hunger Games, arguably the most anticipated adaptation of 2012, adapts the first book in Suzanne Collinspopular young-adult trilogy. The movie will be released on March 23rd.
Link here to view the trailer for The Hunger Games

Hunger Games, Nicki Minaj, and More Most-Anticipated of 2012 (Photos)

The Daily Beast picks the most-anticipated releases in culture for 2012.

Read the rest of this article on The Daily Beast

Christmas in New Zealand

San Francisco resident Jules Older spends Christmas in New Zealand.

100 years on: The best books of 1911

The Scotsman - Published on Saturday 24 December 2011

Stuart Kelly on what The Scotsman said about books of a century ago -

IT IS always a mixture of the quaintly predictable and the downright astonishing, to leaf back through The Scotsman’s pages for the issues 100 years ago. Although I was looking for the book recommendations for 1911, it’s difficult not to be sidetracked onto articles with headlines like “Leith Town Council Tackles Diphtheria Outbreak” and “Immorality in Glasgow”, or be diverted by the “Men Of The Year” caricatures (Thomas Hardy, but also Franz Joseph I of Austria) – or linger over the adverts for charcoal pills, Evo’s tonics, a range of furs and Alice’s Return To Wonderland in Robert Maule & Son’s emporium, Princes Street, where she encounters “Caterpillars that REALLY DO CRAWL”, “dolls of all nationalities” and “CLOCK-WORK contrivances”. (Maule also advises that male sweethearts might like a Fancy Vest, or “if he has not yet tried one, a Razor of the safety kind”).
A number of books were published in 1911 that are still in the canon today, and The Scotsman was quick to review most of them. Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson, his satirical wheeze about a girl so beautiful all of Oxford falls in love with her, was warmly received: “persiflage in perfection is the keynote of Mr Max Beerbohm’s effort in fiction” which is described as “a book of intense smartness”. Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes was called a “painfully fascinating and exceptionally well-recorded” work of “psychological study and present-day Russian political conditions” despite “certain tones of cynicism and even moral negation”.
GK Chesterton’s The Innocence Of Father Brown was given qualified praise – “a book of less weight, indeed, than the best books of this kind, but one which no-one who likes a good story will read without enjoying and admiring” while noting Chesterton’s “characteristic felicity in inventing and suggesting paradox”. DH Lawrence’s The White Peacock merited but a brief notice. “The reader”, the reviewer opined “in search of problems will turn in vain to the comparatively simply story that serves as the plot of this novel”. Rather spoiling that plot, it concludes “there is none of the traditional living happily ever after; for the marriages have a disillusioning effect on the contracting parties, and one of the husbands becomes a drunkard”.
The full piece at The Scotsman.

The Royal Ontario Museum to Host "Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008"

Art Knowledge News: 29 Dec 2011 
artwork: Julianne Moore portrayed as Ingres’s ‘Grand Odalisque’ by Michael Thompson - Vanity Fair Photography Exhibition
TORONTO.- The Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) presents Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008 from September 26, 2009 to January 3, 2010. The exhibition, which garnered record-breaking attendance in its recent European engagements, showcases 150 portraits, including classic images from Vanity Fair’s early period and photographs featured in the magazine since its 1983 relaunch. 
A collaboration between Vanity Fair and the National Portrait Gallery, London, the exhibition is curated by Terence Pepper, Curator of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, and David Friend, Vanity Fair’s Editor of Creative Development. Vanity Fair Portraits is presented by the Bay and will be displayed in the Roloff Beny Gallery on Level 4 of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. The ROM will be the only Canadian venue to display Vanity Fair Portraits, and this will be its first showing in eastern North America.

Throughout its 95-year history, Vanity Fair magazine has helped define the public persona of some of the most influential individuals in the world. The exhibition brings together a collection of captivating images of cultural icons from the magazine’s vintage and modern periods. Sitters range from Claude Monet, Amelia Earheart and Jesse Owens to David Hockney, Arthur Miller and Madonna, as well as legendary Hollywood personalities from Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo, to Demi Moore and Tom Cruise. The magazine’s mix of artistic seriousness and popular celebrity means that portraits of writers, artists and leaders of the avant-garde will be displayed alongside images of actors, musicians and athletes, providing a fascinating range of high and popular culture.

“We are delighted to bring Vanity Fair Portraits to the ROM. Across its history, the magazine has been a barometer of the cultural mood of the time. This exhibition succeeds in channelling a mixture of the bygone days of Hollywood glamour, as well as newsmakers in art, business, politics and sport - all captured by some of the best portrait photographers in history. We are grateful to the National Portrait Gallery in London and Vanity Fair magazine for the opportunity to show this beautiful exhibition in Canada. It will be the centrepiece in an upcoming series of programming on the nature of celebrity,” said William Thorsell, ROM Director and CEO.

artwork: The April 2007 edition of Vanity Fair had a cover story on the SopranosVanity Fair Portraits was mounted to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the modern-era magazine and the 95th anniversary of the original magazine’s founding. The exhibition is divided into two parts, 1913-36, the magazine’s early period, and 1983 to the present. In addition to the portraits, the exhibition will include vintage and modern editions of Vanity Fair magazines.

The magazine was launched in 1913 by visionary publisher Condé Nast and editor Frank Crowinshield. From its inception, the magazine strove to engage its cosmopolitan and discerning audience with the vibrant modern culture that sparkled at the beginning of the 20th century. The birth of modernism, the dawning of the Jazz Age, and the 1913 Armory Show that introduced avant-garde art to the American public, all marked the beginning of this sophisticated new era. Vanity Fair magazine became a cultural catalyst, introducing and providing commentary on contemporary artists, personalities and writers.

In these early years, Vanity Fair was the showcase for what was to become the most accessible art form in the 20th century, and an alluring array of portraits were commissioned from the greatest photographers of the period. Edward Steichen (1879-1973), the magazine’s chief photographer for 13 years (from 1923 to 1936), became America’s leading photographer of style, taste and celebrity. Steichen is best remembered for his timeless images of actors, whose likenesses in print and onscreen helped shape popular culture during the first quarter of the 20th century. A selection of his iconic photographs will be shown in the exhibition.

From the magazine’s beginning, British, Irish and American literary figures were frequently profiled in the magazine along with their writings. Among the vintage portraits shown in the exhibition are iconic images of H.G. Wells, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Rebecca West, Ernest Hemingway and George Bernard Shaw.
Vanity Fair Portraits offers a rare opportunity to see some of the definitive portraits of the Jazz Age. Memorable images of men and women of the day are presented, such as Albert Einstein, Collette, Pablo Picasso and English playwright Noel Coward, whose images were captured by legendary photographers such as Martin Hölig, Cecil Beaton, Baron De Meyer, Man Ray and Edward Steichen.

In 1936, Vanity Fair suspended publication, laying dormant for almost half a century. In the early 1980s, the vibrant cosmopolitan spirit streaming through the culture of the time persuaded Condé Nast Publications to resurrect the magazine. Once again, the magazine succeeded in immortalizing the newsmakers of the day - individuals of talent, stature and culture who were firmly embedded in the popular culture. And, as in the early period, portrait photography was the graphic bedrock of the magazine. Tina Brown, editor from 1983 to 1992, notably imbued the magazine with a mixture of personality profiles and first-rate reportage. When Brown moved on to the New Yorker in 1992, Graydon Carter took the editorial reigns at Vanity Fair and expanded the magazine’s coverage of news and world affairs, and, amongst a variety of new franchises, inaugurated the now annual Hollywood Issue along with the much-celebrated annual Oscar party.

The section of the exhibition representing the period 1983 to the present illustrates how the revived monthly followed in the tradition of its first editor, Frank Crowninshield, and commissioned the world’s leading portrait photographers, among them Helmut Newton, Nan Goldin, Herb Ritts, Harry Benson, Mario Testino, Bruce Weber and Annie Leibovitz, Vanity Fair’s principal photographer since 1983. Leibovitz, the most famous imagemaker of her generation, first came to prominence while she was working as a photographer for Rolling Stone magazine, eventually becoming chief photographer. Her Vanity Fair covers have left us with unforgettable images of prominent figures in American pop culture. 

Short stories: David Nicholls

• Listen to David Nicholls read his short story Every Good Boy

David Nicholls storyPhotograph: Charlie Surbey
David Nicholls reads his own story Every Good Boy, in which the gift of a piano has unexpected consequences for a nine-year-old boy.

Listen to Every Good Boy by David Nicholls

Link to this audio

Friday, December 30, 2011

Amazon Sold a Million Kindles A Week In December

By Dianna Dilworth on Galley Cat, December 29, 2011 

Amazon announced today that 2011 was the best selling year ever for the Kindle. While they didn’t say exactly how many Kindles they sold, the company revealed that throughout December, they sold more than 1 million Kindle devices per week.
Kindle eBook sales were up too. According to the Amazon press release: “Gifting of Kindle books was up 175 percent between this Black Friday and Christmas Day compared to the same period in 2010.” As in the past, Christmas Day was biggest day for Kindle book downloads.
This news extended to Amazon’s international sites as well. eBookNewser has more: “And Amazon’s good news extends to their other sites, as well. The Kindle is also the best-selling product on,,, and this holiday season.”

Interlitq goes into abeyance

Following second negative funding decision by Arts Council England, Interlitq is to go into abeyance, in terms of publishing, with immediate effect

Peter Robertson writes:
“Following the second negative funding decision by Arts Council England, I am sorry to have to say that Interlitq is to go into abeyance, in terms of publishing, and with immediate effect. I very much hope that you have enjoyed Interlitq‘s 16 issues, which have set out to showcase outstanding literature in 93 languages, and including work by both Nobel laureates and new writers. We at Interlitq would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and fruitful 2012.”

Books and beer

The Spotty Dog Books and Ale is an independent bookstore and lounge/cafe, where we share our passion for books and writers with our customers in the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, and the Berkshires.

Situated in a beautiful old firehouse, We carry over 10,000 new books in all categories, including a large section of unique books and toys for kids, preteens, an expanded local section, history, gardening, food & wine, G/L/B/T, and sections featuring local writers and interests.Whether you’re looking for a classic or cutting edge, we’re constantly adding new titles, so stop in to see what we have!

The above is the opening statement on the website of The Spotty Dog Books and Ale website.

This amazing bookshop, which I have visited on each of my four visits to this part of NY state, is a rare and wonderful thing - an independent bookstore with a bar. And no ordinary bookstore either - a wonderful eclectic range of books awaits the serious browser. Mainly single copies, the most I have ever seen of one title is three, I always go away with a bag of books. Yesterdays purchases were:

FOOD RULES - an eater's manual
Michael Pollan with illustrations by  Maira Kalman
The Penguin Press - Hardcover - $23.95
Gorgeously illustrated new expanded hardback edition of the paperback edition published in 2009. Couldn't resist it!

REREADINGS - Seventeen Writers Revisit Books The Love
Edited by Annw Fadiman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux - Hardcover - $22
The second author featured is Patriacia Hampl and her choice to reread is Katherine Mansfield's Journals and Letters - how could I not buy this?
Is a book the same book---or a reader the same reader--the second time around? The 17 authors in this witty and poignant collection of essays all agree on the answer: Never. Published in 2005 and still in print. Enough said.

Nathaniel Philbrick
Viking - Hardback - $25

Joseph Keller
50th Anniversary Edition
Simon & Schuster - Large Format Paperback - $16
It must be 40+ years ago I read this contemporary classic and I feel bad that I can recall so little detail that I decided I need to reread it. It has a new thoughtful introduction by Christopher Buckley which is all I have read so far.

Lane Smith
Board Book - Roaring Brook Press - $7.99

Is it for chewing?
Is it for wearing?
Is it for calling?
NO .... it's for reading.

A new book for Sonny's library.

The Spotty Dog Books & Ale,
440 Warren St., Hudson, NY 12 534

Bestselling books of 2011: the top 5,000 listed

Nielsen's bestselling books of 2011 are dominated by paperbacks and elderly novels. See what came top

2011, ONE DAY
Elderly bestseller: Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in the film version of One Day. Photograph: Allstar/Focus Features/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar
What were the most popular books in the UK in 2011? Thanks to Nielsen Bookscan, we have the answer. Which is? By and large, books we've already read.
Of the nearly 5,000 books detailed in the 2011 charts so far, 35% of them, or 1,695, were published before 2010. In an analysis published today, John Dugdale writes that the charts are dominated by movie tie-ins and older books with the number one slot held by One Day, followed by Christmas number one chef Jamie Oliver's Jamie's 30-Minute Meals .

Shirley Hughes: Alfie, 30 years on - audio slideshow

Shirley Hughes, the author-illustrator of children's classic Alfie and many other picturebooks, talks about her much-loved character, her inspiration and her style of illustration and storytelling

Your books of the year

Illustration: Clifford Harper/
From SF to politics, cartoons to history, Guardian readers choose their favourite reads of 2011
Jeff Alderson, Oxford
John Madeley, Let Live: A Bike Ride, Climate Change and the CIALet Live: A Bike Ride, Climate Change and the CIA by John Madeley (Longstone Books). John Madeley is a well-known author and broadcaster on issues relating to development and social justice. This his second novel focuses on climate change as it has affected small farmers and others in Africa. He bases it on the experiences of a British journalist who sets out to bicycle through six countries. It is truly a thriller, with so much relevant to what is already having severe, indeed crippling, consequences for millions in rural Africa. The interplay with the powers-that-be, often of a dastardly nature, adds to the drama. It deserves to be read by those who remain unmoved and cynical about the reality of climate change, and too by those committed to mitigating its effects. Kate Anderson Sheffield
Penelope Lively's How It All Began (Fig Tree) is honest but not mawkish about being elderly, and the frustrations of being physically more dependent. One expects the supreme prose, but this book has depth with a lightness of touch. In hardback it has one of the loveliest covers, epitomising for me an ideal retirement.
Kenneth Baker, Lord Baker of Dorking, House of Lords
Death in Florence: the Medici, Savonarola and the Battle for the Soul of the Renaissance City by Paul Strathern (Jonathan Cape). This is a brilliant history of how the wealth and power of Florence was challenged by a radical monk so successfully with the Bonfire of the Vanities that they had to burn him at the stake – Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Ludovico Sforza, and Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, are in the premier league of Italian politics and make Berlusconi seem a mere pot boy. My second book is The Case for Working with Your Hands: Or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good by Matthew Crawford (Penguin). This bestseller in America is the bible for those who work with their hands. Crawford, a philosophy don, also runs his own motorcycle workshop in Richmond, Virginia, and that is his inspiration and his satisfaction. Practical, technical, hands-on learning is behind the new University Technical Colleges.
David Berry London
Sherry Turkle, Alone TogetherIt is a golden age not of fiction but non-fiction, one reason why we set up a reading group in north London where novels are banned. Two books that produced much discussion this year were Sherry Turkle's Alone Together (Basic Books) and Luke Jennings's Blood Knots (Atlantic). Turkle, a psychologist at MIT in Boston, brings a psychoanalytic eye to an investigation into the meanings of the digital world. Her dissection of the absences and tyrannies of social networking made me decide not to get an iPhone. Jennings writes about "fathers, friendship and fishing" but his subject is really mentoring, and his elegant narrative would shame many contemporary novelists.
Full list of choices at The Guardian

Overcoming problems with Kindle - Prospect

from Prospect

The Most Overlooked Movies of 2011: ‘Warrior,’ ‘Weekend,’ ‘Like Crazy,’ and More (Videos)

Dec 29, 2011 - the Daily Beast - Marlow Stern

People always seem to lament the sorry state of movies, but don’t let this year’s crop of Hollywood dreck and lackluster Oscar frontrunners get you down, as many excellent films this year went overlooked by audiences. From an insurance salesman gone wild to this year's Rocky, to the most touching gay love story since Brokeback Mountain, here are the films you missed in 2011 that deserve another look.

The list and video clips here.

The end-of-year cuisine week!

delanceyplace header

Encore excerpt favorites on food to fill the blissful week between Christmas and New Years

In today's encore excerpt - the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), perhaps the finest chef college in the world, includes among its many courses a class in killing the animals that will later be served. Jonathan Dixon, a student at the Hyde Park, New York, campus, describes the experience:

"[My classmates] Adam, Lombardi, and I all signed up to go and kill animals the following Friday. Meat class would be over, and we'd be in the thick of fish class - Seafood Identification and Fabrication. But this was something necessary. If I really asked myself some tough questions, which I did in the days going forward, I realized that the truism was right: Unless you're a vegan or hard-core vegetarian, if you are going to consume animal flesh, then you should kill an animal. Not just watch the killing and the flow of blood, not be an observer, but touch an animal and end its life. ...

"The farm [where the class would be held] had a dirt driveway that cut through green fields, and a few yards down from the road a sign read WELCOME CIA STUDENTS AND BROOK FARM FRIENDS. For most of the ride, the four of us in the car had talked food, [famous restaurateur] Thomas Keller and the cult of celebrity, run down other students we didn't care for, and generally avoided the topic of killing. With the farmhouse in sight the conversation swerved down a darker bend; we made jokes that weren't all that funny and laughed too hard at them. We parked the car, gathered the knives, and took heavy steps to the backyard.

"As we walked toward a set of tables to put our things down, we passed a mobile chicken coop, presumably filled with the work at hand. A dozen or so feet beyond that was a fifty-five-gallon drum full of bubbling water on top of a propane burner, and next to it a cylindrical tube with finger-sized rubber pieces extruding off the interior sides and on the bottom. Nearby were a few tubs filled with water. And throwing their shadows onto the tables were six traffic cones upended and nailed to a crossbeam. ... I had a good idea what the traffic cones were for. Beneath the cones, someone had dug a trench about six inches deep. On this assembly line, no one part of the process was more than a few feet from another. ...

"By the coop there were two wooden cages. The [farm owner] took a few of us to the coop, crawled inside, and handed out chickens two at a time. Six chickens were put into each cage. The cages were carried back to the cross- beams; we reached in and each picked up a chicken by its feet and held it upside down - if held that way long enough, chickens go into a trance; they'll fight you, though, when you first try to turn them feet up. Once they were sedated, we drew them headfirst through one of the cones. Sebald spoke his softly accented instructions: Hold the head with your thumb under the chicken's beak. Put the bottom end of the knife blade against the bird's throat. Draw the blade across, applying firm, even pressure. The head should pop right off. All of us stood thronged together, knives in hand, waiting. The first bird went into the cone. ...

"That first bird: a young woman from school was the first to kill, and it didn't go as well as it could have. The knife seemed to stick; the bird freaked out; she responded in kind but got the knife through the neck. She had blood running down her cheeks and held the head in her hand. She was blameless; it's hard for your hands to know what to do. In the cluster of students around her, I saw one of the teaching assistants from school, her eyes also shining with tears. Most of us were shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. I held my knife with a tight grip. Other students were reaching into the cages and pulling out the chickens. I watched people lifting the birds up, watched their wings flap frantically, heard them squawking, saw them being killed. ...

"My turn came. I could feel the bird's pulse under my thumb. I positioned the knife as instructed and drew it hard across the chicken's throat. And then I was holding its head in my hand, blood on my arms and shirt, watching the body convulse. My foot slipped and slid into the trench. My work boot was glistening with blood.

"The body was dunked into the same hot water that had cooked the corn. When the feathers began pulling away, it was removed from the water and put into the cylinder. The cylinder whipped the bird around and the rubber extrusions pulled away the feathers. Any feathers left were plucked by hand at a nearby table. Then we gutted the chickens, the viscera still hot. The carcass was then washed and put into a tub. We went through this for hours, until past dusk, stopping when the hundredth chicken was finished. ...

"At the end of the [class], the husband and wife [who owned the farm] asked us to gather in a circle and tell them what we'd learned. One by one, we each mouthed the same platitudes about respect for food, being closer to the food source, and like that. But what I actually learned I still only feel."
Author: Jonathan Dixon
Title: Beaten, Seared, and Sauced
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Date: Copyright 2011 by Jonathan Dixon
Pages: 60, 75-78

Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

To visit our homepage or sign up for our daily email click here 
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Apropos Appropriation

Theft or fair use? A collection of pieces by artists who appropriate images created by others. A key to the works above is available here.
Richard Prince's "Inquisition," which uses the Rastafarian pictures taken by the French photographer Patrick Cariou.
In March a federal district court judge in Manhattan ruled that Mr. Prince — whose career was built on appropriating imagery created by others — broke the law by taking photographs from a book about Rastafarians and using them without permission to create the collages and a series of paintings based on them, which quickly sold for serious money even by today’s gilded art-world standards: almost $2.5 million for one of the works. (“Wow — yeah,” Mr. Prince said when a lawyer asked him under oath in the district court case if that figure was correct.)  
The decision, by Judge Deborah A. Batts, set off alarm bells throughout Chelsea and in museums across America that show contemporary art. At the heart of the case, which Mr. Prince is now appealing, is the principle called fair use, a kind of door in the bulwark of copyright protections. It gives artists (or anyone for that matter) the ability to use someone else’s material for certain purposes, especially if the result transforms the thing used — or as Judge Pierre N. Leval described it in an influential 1990 law review article, if the new thing “adds value to the original” so that society as a whole is culturally enriched by it. In the most famous test of the principle, the Supreme Court in 1994 found a fair use by the group 2 Live Crew in its sampling of parts of Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman” for the sake of one form of added value, parody.
Full piece at The New York Times.     

Thursday, December 29, 2011

TINTIN - the movie

Saw the movie tonight in Red Hook, NY and loved it.

From The New Yorker magazine.

The secret histories of secondhand books

The personal dedications one finds in secondhand books are often as fascinating as the text. In honour of this, we're starting a new series showcasing my most intriguing finds

Secondhand bookshop on Charing Cross Road
Secondhand bookshop on Charing Cross Road, London, in 1951. Photograph: John Chillingworth/Hulton-Deutsch Collection

CDs, DVDS, and e-reads are all well and good when it comes to gift-giving at Christmas, but as far as I'm concerned, for sheer emotional wallop, the old-fashioned physical book is hard to beat. After all, it's the ideal opportunity to foist a well-loved novel onto someone who is now morally obliged to read the thing (and, indeed, profess to like it). Furthermore, there is generous scope / enough rope to let a carefully-chosen book speak volumes about how you feel about the receiver. For this reason, no book-as-gift is complete without a handwritten dedication on its inside cover to further make it clear, just in case there was any doubt, that the recipient absolutely MUST READ THIS BOOK AT THE EXPENSE OF ALL OTHERS!!!
With this in mind, about a year ago I wrote a piece for the Guardian confessing my bibliophilic kink of hanging around secondhand bookshops in the hope of picking up and taking home with me one or more of these discarded gifts – and the more candid the dedication within the better. These dedications offer fascinating glimpses into their books' own secret histories, imbuing the physical objects with an emotional resonance independent of – or intriguingly linked to – the actual texts. For, often, the choice of book coupled with the message within can suggest a narrative of its own. (Such as the copy of Jean-Paul Sartre's Words, addressed to "mummy" with the instructions that she "read it all without prejudice", including, one presumes, the cover artwork with its text reading: "I loathe my childhood and all that remains of it.") In the 12 months since my original piece, my kink – driven by a combination of love of stories and plain old human curiosity (tinged with an element of voyeurism, no doubt) – has blossomed into a fully-fledged habit. It has given birth to a blog and now, a new series which will look at a different secondhand book and dedication from my collection each fortnight
Full piece at The Guardian

Chen Wei & Chen Xi Imprisoned

By Maryann Yin on Galley Cat -  December 28, 2011

Chinese writers Chen Wei and Chen Xi were both given long prison sentences over the holidays. The PEN American Center denounced the action, calling it “an eerie replay of the 2009 trial of Liu Xiaobo.”
Both writers published digital essays criticizing China’s political system and government activities. Wei was charged with inciting subversion and sentenced to eleven-years’ imprisonment. Xi was charged with the same “crime” and sentenced to ten-years’ imprisonment.
PEN president Kwame Anthony Appiah gave this statement in the release: “Once more the Chinese regime has chosen to darken the holiday season with a reminder of its fear of independent thought. We salute the extraordinary courage of those Chinese, like Chen Wei, Chen Xi, and Liu Xiaobo, who love their country enough to risk long-term incarceration for speaking out against a government that betrays the hopes of the Chinese people every day.”

Twentieth-century Drawings & Sketchbooks from the Royal Academy's Collection

  1. artwork: L. S. Lowry RA (1887-1976) - " The Cripples", 1949 - Oil on canvas, 30" X 40" - © Estate of L.S. Lowry  - This painting marks the beginning of the artist's more satirical, often highly cruel view of his fellows. An example of the artist's "composite" street scene, gathering in the one deeply emotional image of the afflicted
    LONDON.- A new exhibition in the Tennant Gallery reveals the richness of the Academy’s rarely seen holdings of twentieth-century drawings and sketchbooks. Although drawing is a natural human activity, only in the twentieth century have artists drawn more from inner compulsion than out of practical necessity. By including a wide range of styles, techniques and modes of draughtsmanship found in works by both Royal Academicians and students alike – everything from doodles to diploma works – the exhibition aims to capture the magic of drawing done for its own sake. On view at the Royal Academy of Arts until 12 February 2012. Also on show is a ten-minute film, made by researcher Elisa Alaluusua, in which the sculptor Michael Sandle RA talks about his sketchbooks.

Poem of the week: This Endris Night

A dialogue between Mary and the infant Jesus, this anonymous carol is suffused with the blissful bond of mother and child -  -,

The Holy Family by Giorgio Vasari
Detail from The Holy Family by Giorgio Vasari. Photograph: Corbis
This week's poem is an anonymous medieval carol with a skip in its step. Despite the light touch and the emphasis on bliss of various kinds, earthly and heavenly, "This Endris Night" is also a reminder of the radical nature of Christianity.

Although thought to date from the end of the 15th century, "This Endris Night" reminds me a little of those Italian Renaissance paintings in which the child is depicted as a plump, authoritative and no doubt loquacious toddler. At the same time, the new-born child in the poem rather magically retains his babyishness. He still wants to be handled "full soft" and be soothed by breast and lullaby.

Mary too is an intricate character. Between questions and supplications, she demonstrates an almost humorous, and deeply human, tenderness towards this unusual child. She knows his worth, of course, and she knows her own worth as a loving mother. Thanks to the refrain, we hear her continuing to sing her lullaby as the ballad unfolds. Poems and songs by "Anon" have no doubt been shaped by many mouths, male and female. "This Endris Night" is pervaded by maternal feeling, combined with notes of courtly dalliance. It's a beguiling mix.
Full piece at The Guardian.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The pick of paperbacks in 2011

From quirky skits to heart-breaking memoir, it's been a great year
Gabrielle Wittkop
Gabrielle Wittkop … sly humour in The Necrophiliac. Photograph: Pierre Franck Colombier/EPA

One of the most pleasant surprises of the year has been the way people seem to be abandoning their distrust of foreign fiction in translation. When I raved about Diego Marani's New Finnish Grammar in May I didn't expect it to sit in the Guardian's bestseller list for weeks – let alone reappear recently. I gather it made the publishers, the defiantly independent imprint Dedalus, very happy. But there was some other great stuff: Nobel laureate Imre Kertész's Fiasco (Melville House) is actually an even better book (and funnier, too), so I hope that gets another look-in.
Peirene Press, an imprint that makes Dedalus look almost mainstream, continued their enthusiastic mission to bring intriguing short European fiction to these islands with Alois Hotschnig's incredibly weird and unclassifiable Maybe This Time. Various pressures prevented me from praising Matthias Politycki's Next World Novella, a heartbreaking tale of loss which then goes on to deliver a horse-strength kick in the face. I will say no more but to exhort you to investigate Peirene and buy the book.
Then there was Gabrielle Wittkop's disgusting The Necrophiliac (ECW Press), which does what it says on the cover, but with a very sly humour. One suspects the book is an extended skit on Nabokov: good luck getting hold of a copy. Juan Pablo Villalobos's Down the Rabbit Hole brought us the inner life of the son of a Mexican drug lord; and Dalkey Archive, whose commitment to European works in the modernist tradition (which are also, to use the vulgar parlance, great reads) continued to delight by bringing us The Truth about Marie by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, who deserves to be better known over here. Surely you would like to know what happens when you take a highly strung thoroughbred racehorse on a plane in appalling weather? Well, Toussaint has somehow done the research.
Anglophone fiction in paperback brought us Ian McEwan's Solar, which is not quite the comic departure for its author some said it was, but is still droll and clever. Everyone's going to buy Jonathan Franzen's elegantly constructed Freedom, but you know what? They're going to forget what happened in it within a few months, just as they did with The Corrections. Philip Roth's Nemesis showed the old boy still has it in him, though. And I liked Martin Amis's The Pregnant Widow, too, so there.
I didn't do much poetry this year, to my shame, but I like to think I made up for this by raving about Carcanet's New Poetries V, edited by Michael Schmidt and Eleanor Crawforth, which contains a melancholy and reflective poem about a headbutt by new Scottish genius William Letford. (He also puts clothes-eating moths in their place, and it's about time someone did.) My non-fiction book of the year, though, was a reprint of Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain (part of a series of reprints by Canongate), which will make you go almost mystical about the Cairngorms even if you've never thought of them before.
Full piece at The Guardian.

California Bookstore Helps Brooklyn Reading Club

By Jason Boog on Galley Cat, December 27, 2011 

Over at Reddit, a reading club leader in Brooklyn received some unexpected help from Poppies Bookstore in California.
An employee at Poppies Books sent a Brooklyn book club a massive shipment of kid’s books recently, a heartwarming story about why independent bookstores are so important. Check out our massive list of indie bookstores on Twitter for more.
Check it out: “I posted [on Reddit] looking for some short story suggestions for the struggling readers in our reading club … I got a message from a woman from Poppies Bookstore in Torrance, CA offering me some books (and she got the shipping!), and I was thrilled. I expected a small box of books. Instead it was a huge box of books! And they were great selections and titles–books the kids love! Seriously awesome … there are far too few good bookstores in the world, and we need them. I only wish we lived closer because it looks like a great bookstore and I know the owner is gold!”

The Museum of European Cultures Reopens in Berlin

Art Knowledge News: 26 Dec 2011 
artwork: Pieter Bruegel (about 1525-69) - "Netherlandish Proverbs", 1559 - Oil on panel, 117 x 163 cm. - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Gemaldegalerie, Berlin

BERLIN.- After two years of extensive renovation work, the Museum of European Cultures reopened this December and is again able to host exhibitions in Dahlem. The Museum of European Cultures was called into being in 1999 and was created by merging the 110 year-old Museum of European Ethnology (Museum für Volkskunde) with the European collection of the Ethnological Museum. It focuses on life-worlds in Europe and European cultural contacts from the 18th century until today. Comprising some 27,000 original objects, the museum houses one of the largest European collections of everyday culture and popular art. The topics covered by the collection are as diverse as the cultures of Europe themselves: ranging from weddings to commemorating the dead, the cult of Napoleon to Halloween, music on Sardinia, the historically pagan 'Perchten' processions in the Alps ... the list goes on and on.

Highlights will include:

• a permanent exhibition on the theme of 'Cultural Contacts - Life in Europe'
• a temporary exhibition entitled 'Explorations in Europe - Visual Studies in the 19th Century' and
• a study collection, with regularly rotating displays of groups of objects from the museum's collection.

The museum unveiled its new permanent exhibition, 'Cultural Contacts - Life in Europe', which forms a cross-section of its diverse collections and will be spread over 700 square metres of exhibition space. It tackles debates on social movements and social boundaries, for no matter where you are in the world, 'mobile' social patterns among people lead to cultural encounters, ties and mingling. Europe is an excellent example of this. Despite all their differences, Europeans have many things in common, which have arisen from many factors, ranging from cultural contacts to globalization. Besides the spread of knowledge through various forms of media, such factors primarily include encounters through trade, travel and migration, as well as missionary campaigns, war and reconciliation. With its many ties to Judaism and Islam, Christianity has decisively shaped Europe ever since the Middle Ages. The Age of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, industrialization and the consequences of both World Wars are the key factors that continue to shape Europe today.

Children's book book printed with heat-sensitive, disappearing ink!

McMullens—the children’s imprint of  the McSweeney’s publishing empire—has just published a kids’ book that’s not quite like anything we’ve seen before.
Author and illustrator Jordan Crane has created a world where nothing’s quite what it appears to be—hence the book’s title, Keep Our Secrets. Each page features one or more secrets that magically appear when they’re exposed to some sort of heat source (very warm hands work quite well; a hair dryer’s even better). The technology is cool and kid-friendly. But that wouldn’t matter if the illustrations, and secrets, weren’t so well drawn, witty, and—the not-so-secret key to any great kids’ book—totally worth looking at again and again.
For a walk-through of the book with McSweeney's McMullens editor/art director Brian McMullen and his son Alton, head on over to our YouTube channel!
 Via Very Short List

Short stories: Julian Barnes and Jennifer Egan

The Guardian. 28 Dec, 2011

In our special Christmas short story series, we're parcelling up two of our most popular short stories each day – one to read and one to listen to. Today …

• Listen to Julian Barnes reading Homage To Switzerland by Ernest Hemingway

• Read Jennifer Egan's short story Trespassing
Julian Barnes (left) and Jennifer Egan
Julian Barnes (left) and Jennifer Egan. Photographs: Sarah Lee (left) and Murdo Macleod
Julian Barnes reads Ernest Hemingway's Homage To Switzerland by Ernest Hemingway, a sly, funny story which shows how much more to the writer there is than the macho "Papa" myth.

Homage To Switzerland by Ernest Hemingway read by Julian Barnes

Link to this audio

Read To Do – a short story by Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan picIn this short story by Jennifer Egan, told entirely as a to-do list, things begin innocuously but quickly devolve into complex, murderous fantasies
1. Mow lawn
2. Get rid of that fucking hose
3. Wash windows
4. Spay cat
5. Dye hair
6. Do tarot cards
7. Pick up kids
8. Drop off kids at Mom's
9. Buy wig....

Read more

A poet's lament, a stopped town clock, the OMG Fruitery and Other Tales

 -  enjoy the latest post from A Latitude of Libraries.
Doug Ford’s Manurewa murals include this tongue-in-cheek
(he says) portrayal of the fictitious Oh My God Fruitery.

POW! Marvel, DC and the other comics publishers finally go digital

By ANDY IHNATK - - Chicago Sun-Times , December 20, 2011                                                      

On behalf of what must be hundreds, or dare I even say thousands, of comic book readers who also own phones, tablets, and even our own home computers, it is my pleasure to finally welcome the comic book industry into the 21st century. Each of the big four comics publishers (DC, Marvel, Image, and Dark Horse) have committed to releasing every issue of every comic for digital download on the same day that the physical comics ship to retailers.
Well, okay: Marvel’s only announced their plans to bring the rest of their titles to same-date-digital by April. But I’ve been eager to write that sentence ever since I got my first iPad.
Why is “same date delivery” important? Particularly when casual readers don’t necessarily rush out every Wednesday to pick up their comics fresh off of the UPS truck?
It’s more symbolic than anything else. The true significance is that the distribution of digital columns is no longer going to be selective or strategic. In music and books, you can freely assume that anything you can buy as a physical object can also be bought digitally. I stand at the intersection of Comic Book and Tech Geekdom and even I couldn’t get myself interested in digital comics before now. The whole concept was like that awful comic book shop that I drive past on my way to my usual shop: the owner orders very small quantities and only orders books that he himself likes. If I’ve no idea what he’ll have, why waste my time there?
Now, the big four are in the game.
It sure took them long enough to come around, didn’t it? Granted, a comic page is probably the least-malleable form of content there is, and thus the hardest to adapt to electronic devices. The page is exactly so high and so wide, and has art panels of no fixed size and shape that can follow practically any sequential path from the top-left to the bottom-right. Each panel is a mixture of words and imagery . . . and a smirk in the corner of a character’s mouth can be more important to the story than the words he’s speaking. The words of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” obligingly reflow to fill any screen. The sinuous and sumptuous artwork of P. Craig Russell in issue #50 of “Sandman” would be horribly diminished by even the slightest adjustment

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Booker Prize Winning Author exits Okarito with parting shot

By Laura Mills - Greymouth Star - 27 December 2011

Booker Prize-winning author Keri Hulme is leaving her remote Okarito home of almost 40 years, saying it has become a “nasty mcmansion village”.
Her novel The Bone People won the international Booker award in 1985.
Okarito, a former goldmining village on the coast near Franz Josef Glacier, has been her home since the early 1970s, when she won a Crown land ballot and built her own home in a unique octagonal design.
Writing in the Ngai Tahu magazine Te Karaka, the reclusive author said only a handful of people lived at Okarito when she arrived — a family of six, who left within two years, and “an alcoholic”.
She said she was leaving because she could no longer afford to live there, while also firing broadsides at the changing nature of the place.
“We have people who fly in, planes, helicopters, to their very ugly mcmansions,” she wrote.
“Little by little a lot has been eroded: most of the places (can’t call them homes) have been holiday places, in an area
where very few people take holidays.”
Local body rates demands made living there impossible, she said.
She still “loved the place and the birds” but the truly loving people of the place had gone away.
Okarito residents spoken to today would not be named, but were clearly affronted by the comments.
The article does not give a date for leaving, but says it will be “soon”.
Ms Hulme told the Greymouth Star today she planned to shift to Otago.
The bluff and lagoon at Okarito had “permeated her”, but it was time to move on.
Ms Hulme was born in Christchurch, the daughter of a carpenter and a credit manager, and the eldest of six children. She worked as a tobacco picker in Motueka after leaving school.
When she first arrived on the West Coast, she worked briefly as a postie in Greymouth and at one stage a proofreader for the Greymouth Star.
Her eagerly awaited twinned novels Bait and On the Shadow Side, on which she has been working for a number of years, are still in the pipeline.
The Bone People was not only New Zealand’s first Booker Prize, it was the first time a first novel had ever won.
It fell off the New Zealand bestseller list in January 1986 — not for lack of interest, but because the publishers had run out of copies. It has now sold more than a million copies and been translated into nine languages.
The Bone People was followed by a collection of poems, Lost Possessions, and a collection of short stories Te Kaihau: The Windeater.
She writes from the main room of her home, which overlooks the Tasman Sea.
Okarito Community Assoc-iation chairwoman Raewyn McLennan, who lives just up the road from the village’s most famous resident, said quite a few of the houses today were holiday homes, with a permanent population of about 35.
Located 20 minutes drive from Franz Josef Glacier to the south and Whataroa to the north, she said Okarito was made up of a “wide range of people from varied backgrounds”.
Westland District Council rates for a large section there — more than the traditional quarter acre — are generally under $1000 a year.
Mrs McLennan had heard that the author was planning to leave, and said they had been “quite privileged” to have her living in the community.
Photo above  Don Scott - The Press.
Thanks to author Joan Druett for bring this story to my notice.

Behind the scenes at The Hobbit set

Short stories: Colm Tóibín and Téa Obreht

In our special Christmas short story series, we're parcelling up two of our most popular short stories each day – one to read and one to listen to. Today …

• Listen to Colm Tóibín reading Music at Annahullian by Eugene McCabe

• Read Téa Obreht's story The Sentry
Colm Toíbín and Téa Obreht
Colm Toíbín and Téa Obreht. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/Rex
Colm Tóibín reads a story by Eugene McCabe, "one of Ireland's most accomplished short story writers" though not yet widely known beyond the Republic. Set in the borderlands between Monaghan and Fermanagh, "Music at Annahullian" recounts what happens when a woman, trapped in a claustrophobic old house with her brothers – decides she would like to buy a secondhand piano on sale locally, which comes to stand for "all her hope and for all our hopes".

Listen to Annahullian by Eugene McCabe read by Colm Tóibín

Link to this audio

Read The Sentry – a short story by Téa Obreht

In Téa Obreht's story a 10-year-old boy, Bojan, finds a dangerous solution to coping with the ferocious dog his soldier father has brought back from the front
The Sentry Photograph: Illustration: Juan Moore The year Bojan turned 10, his father was assigned a sentry mastiff called Kaiser, and when his father came back from the front that summer, he brought the dog to live with them.
Full story at The Guardian.