27 September 2007
alt=”Death and the Maidens”Another new book on the Shelley-Byron circle is on its way to the Library. This is a well mined subject, but author Janet Todd’s book Death and the Maidens takes the perspective of the one of the more sidelined characters – Fanny Imlay Godwin (half sister of Mary Shelley). She committed suicide in 1816 and Percy Shelley wrote a poem On Fanny Godwin lamenting her demise.
There are many fascinating women associated with Shelley and Byron. In The bride of science : romance, reason and Byron’s daughter, Benjamin Woolley looks at Ada, Countess of Lovelace. She is famous not only as the daughter of Lord Byron, but within computing and scientific circles. The computer language Ada, created by the U.S. Defense Department, was named after Lovelace. See our Library resources on Ada.
Mary Shelley is the most well known of this group. She began to write Frankenstein while a teenager. Her mother Mary Wollstonecraft is known as a writer and feminist philosopher who posited the idea that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. Her seminal work is A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).
Claire Clairmont (stepsister of Mary Shelley), Augusta Leigh (Byron’s half sister) and Annabella Millbanke (Byron’s wife) are three more intriguing characters in this story, and they have fascinated writers of both fiction and non-fiction.alt=”" (more…)
26 September 2007
Installation Art can be something of a challenge to those of us who are used to our art being viewed in places where we expect art to be. As a kind of art making that considers the relationship between a number of elements or the interaction between things and their contexts and that can extend the area of practice from the studio to the public space, Installation Art requires a bit more thought than we might be willing to give it.
One way to get more accustomed to such art is to look at it, a task made easier by Installation Art, which combines illuminating text on the history of the movement and large images of installations around the world, where materials and spaces come together in strange and beautiful ways that encourage consideration of what art can be.
Wack! Art and the Feminist revolution is the first international survey of the work that emerged from the relationship between art and feminism in the 1970s; ground-breaking and life-altering work that changed culture as we know it, for good or ill.
The catalogue of an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles, it makes the case that feminism’s impact on the art of the 1970s constitutes the most influential post-war international ‘movement’, even though it was less coherent than any of the others such as Abstract Impressionism, and that it changed everything.
This is a big book, which or may not be off-putting depending on how much you already know about feminist art and how much time you feel you have to devote to learning about it, but it is a very big subject. The essays do make rewarding reading but if they overwhelm you can always just look at the pictures.
Panic Attack! Art in the Punk Years is another exhibition catalogue featuring an exclamation mark in the title, this time revealing the art scene that came into being around the attitudes and aesthetics of punk and post-punk in the United States and Britain.
As society moved towards conservatism under Thatcher and Reagan, art went in several directions; outwardly political, using the imagery of alienation as social critique; inward-looking, using the body and performance to explore sexuality and violence, and do-it-yourself, mining popular culture to create art out of what most saw as being without value.
It’s hard to say whether these images would be so potent to someone who didn’t live through the 1970s and early 1980s but I like to think that independent and intelligent work remains of interest even when removed from the context in which it was created.
26 September 2007
The Guardian’s Digested Reads
The Guardian has a nifty little feature where it digests the latest fiction or nonfiction for you and serves it up in ultra abbreviated form. The latest on the site is Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. If the modest size of these portions suits you, browse the full archive for more.
My favourite is Misadventures by Sylvia Smith – condensed in the wonderfully dry style of the original:
My relationship with John lasted three dances. His chat-up line was, “I work for the BBC.” It turned out he meant Barking Borough Council.
There is much to be said for the succinct, brief, the short. My favourite author Dan Rhodes has made an art form of it, and explains the value of brevity in fiction:
But it seems obvious (doesn’t it?) that writing overlong books is at the very least plain bad manners. I can’t understand why writers are so often pilloried for writing short books. Brevity is mistaken for laziness when more often than not it’s the opposite that is true. My new book, Gold, clocks in at 198 pages, and I’m convinced that, apart from in truly exceptional cases, this is about as long as a book ought to be … in the meantime here’s a list of works of fiction that I love which, in the edition on my shelf, don’t run a page over the 200 mark. All killer, no filler
This quote is from Dan’s Top 10 of short novels - his list includes Catcher in the Rye, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the lesser known The Bride Wore Black by Cornell Woolrich:
His name makes him sound like a range of cardigans, but Cornell Woolrich was in fact a writer of highly-wrought suspense fiction, this one being a fine example. In his 1948 book Rendezvous In Black, the main character is called Johnny Marr, and at one point he has a fight with a man called Morrissey. A must-read for Smiths fans.
25 September 2007
I’ve just finished reading Banker to the Poor: micro-lending and the battle against world poverty by Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. For information on other Nobel Prize winners, check out the library’s backgrounder on Nobel Prize winners.
Yunus’ book was an interesting read about the way to alleviate poverty through the creation of micro-lending schemes. This book lends itself well to being read alongside The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman and Jeffrey Sachs’ The end of poverty.
Another title which I thoroughly enjoyed was Jerry Newman’s My secret life on the Mcjob: lessons from behind the counter guarenteed to supersize any managment style where the author, a college professor, headed out to work the “bottom-rung” jobs in the fast food industry to discover what it is that makes management of these places tick. He discovered a common trait – the manager can make or break the climate of the work environment.
Fiction-wise, I recently finished Mister Pip (Lloyd Jones) – which has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I’ll admit that I didn’t think much as I started to read it, but once I was several chapters in, it was easy to continue onwards. Although it was a seemingly easy book to read, there were multiple layers and ideas to delve into. It is also the only book that everyone in my book group has enjoyed in the 18 months that we have been meeting. Lloyd Jones was interviewed about the success of Mister Pip, and the possibility of winning the Man Booker Prize.
25 September 2007
Earlier this month, I attended a travel writing workshop held at Parklands Library. Several hours passed quickly as the group spent time gathering writing ideas and inspiration from local Christchurch author, Heather Hapeta, who has recently published Naked in Budapest which tells of her independent travels from Alaska to the Zambesi river.
Heather’s website is full of examples of her writing, and shows her ability to write about all sorts of global places and people, as well as giving a different spin to seemingly familiar places, including Christchurch. One of key piece of advice that she gave to the group was that even the familiar can be exotic to other people, so it pays to get out and explore your own familiar surroundings, and then share your discoveries through writing about it.
The group was made up of passionate travelers, so when Heather shared some photographs from her recent travels, including India and Budapest, it made some of us just want to get on a plane and go adventuring!
Some inspiration that stuck with me was to write your story and then put it away and come back to it after a period of time to see whether the passion and the imagery is still there, but don’t leave it too long in case someone beats you to the punch with an article on the same idea. Heather also advised to always do research on where you are going to submit your material, make sure you have an idea of the potential audience. Another favourite idea was that there is always room for bad drafts, as long as you then remember to edit them and turn them into good drafts, or discard them and start again.
Some books and authors that members of the group shared as having good advice for writers were:
Lonely Planet has also published a useful book specifically on travel writing, creatively titled Travel writing, by Don George with Charlotte Hindle.
So the plan is to get out and do more travelling, and to write about it and maybe even have the chance to get paid for it.
22 September 2007
Those of you who remember singing the above song at primary school might enjoy listening to it on this CD.
Two Northland teenagers say they saw two red eyes and bubbling in Lake Omapere, a traditional home of the Taniwha Takuere. Christchurch City Libraries has a wide variety of Taniwha related reading, including a lot of children’s material and also many books on Maori mythology and folklore.
One of my particular favourites is Maori folk-tales of the Port Hills by James Cowan. Have a read and you’ll never take a drive over the Port Hills in the same way.
21 September 2007
Posted by Erin under Art
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One of my favourite artworks of recent years was Tacita Dean’s short film of a setting sun, The Green Ray. Part of the 2002 Scape Urban Arts Biennal, the title of the work refers to the ‘green ray’ supposedly visible as the sun sets into the sea and which is said to bestow happiness and enlightenment on those who see it. The Turner prize nominated Dean is one of the artists profiled in Phaidon’s Contemporary Artists series. This is another in Phaidon’s scrumptious catalogue – filled with lots of images and interviews with the artist. Others in the series include the awesome Peter Doig and Maurizio Cattelan. Tacita Dean also appears in another nice looking book, Berlin Art Now.
20 September 2007
Posted by Erin under Books
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This weekend will see the alternative craft market Craftwerk come to Christchurch (Saturday September 22nd, 6-9pm at Al’s Bar, 31 Dundas Street).
Craftwerk is a well established regular event in Auckland and Wellington, and is beginning to take off in Christchurch. This isn’t so surprising, as the “alternative” craft industry has been steadily growing since the Riot Grrrl days of the 90s. Perhaps it is a reaction to mass-market consumption or the new age of feminism, but the success of books like Stitch ‘n Bitch resulted in a publishing spin-off.
Some of the cute and interesting books that I have seen in the library recently include:
20 September 2007
There have recently been major losses in the science fiction and fantasy arena – Robert Jordan died on September 17 2007, Madeleine L’Engle on September 6 and Douglas Hill on June 21. All three authors were beloved by young readers, and were read by discerning adults too.
James Oliver Rigney Junior, who wrote under the pseudonym Robert Jordan, died of a rare blood disease. He was probably best known for his Wheel of Time series.
… the epic sweep, intricate plotting, constructed languages and intelligent character development of Jordan’s work won over many sceptics, and, some would say, helped to imbue his genre with a new respectability
19 September 2007
Posted by Donna under Dance
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The Body Festival begins today. It is a celebration of dance and physical theatre, featuring performances and workshops.
If you love dance, as a watcher or participant, check out The Body Festival pages for some ideas. I am keen to bust some moves at the Bollywood dance and hiphop workshops.
The Library has a good range of books on dance as well as videos and DVDs for those who like to learn from watching. There is information on various styles, from Ceroc, line dancing, Latin to ballroom. One of my personal favourites is krumping (a hardout hiphop gyrating style as demonstrated in the documentary Rize). Tommy the Clown, one of the originators of this style, was in New Zealand earlier this year.
Check CINCH for dance classes in Christchurch.
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