Authors


Cover of Dining with the MaharajasI stalk books.

I usually spot my quarry in a library. I take it home – mine, all mine.  The library wants it back; I reluctantly return it. Next I do the equivalent of “the end of a relationship drive-by”: I stalk between the library shelves, pick up the book and stroke it a bit. If it is not easy to access, I’ll place the item on hold. Get it out again. Keep it for longer than a month (naughty, naughty). Return it. Give up. Buy it.

Some small children start young with this – you see them at Returns clinging to beloved picture books, with harried mothers explaining in weary tones – yet again – that library books must come back to the library. It is one of life’s first cruel lessons. Of course it is much cuter in a two year old than it is for senior citizens to be caught whimpering at Returns. But still I cannot help myself.

Cover of An illustrated lifeHere is a small selection of books that I have stalked, some of which I now own.

I think Dining with the Maharajas is one of the most beautiful books I have seen. It has a purple velvet cover and opens up to a life of luxury the like of which I am never going to experience. I put it on my Christmas wish list, but to no avail. I still track it down, just to stroke it, every now and then.

I took Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Life out of the library three times before I finally purchased it. It is a “must own” book for anyone who nurtures a small but persistent little flicker of creativity. In this book fifty artists allow access to their private sketchbooks and give information about their favoured materials. I could not live without it. I now hold it in captivity.

Cover of HeartburnAnd then there is Nora Ephron. The titles of whose books trace the trajectory of my life: Wallflower at the Orgy; Heartburn; I Feel Bad about my Neck and I Remember Nothing. I wanted them all. Finally a compendium of her writing was published – The Most of Nora Ephron. I stalked once and quickly bought the book for myself. It is My Life on a Plate, also the name of a book by India Knight (which I’ve bought as well).

Authors worry about book sales. That people won’t read printed books because there are e-books; that only libraries will buy books. But they have not factored in the book stalkers.

Have you stalked books and then bought them? Please tell me I am not the only one!

The New Zealand International Film Festival is coming to Christchurch in August and we recently chatted to the Festival Director, Bill Gosden about cinematic books that inspired him.

Book cover of The new biographical dictionary of filmBill said he was indebted to Dunedin Public Libraries where he had his unofficial film education while at high school. Titles that helped spur his interest in film included:

Take a look at our collection of movie related resources to get some inspiration for your future-film-festival-directing endeavours. If you are more interested in watching films than curating them however, there are a bunch of films in the Festival that have literary connections. We’ve got a list of them on our website, as well as a list of upcoming film and TV adaptations  and a huge list of books that have previously been filmed. Here are some of the highlights:

There are a lot more titles on our list. Let us know in the comments if we have missed any literary connections in this years Festival.

 

Margaret Mahy displays

Two years ago, we lost “word witch” Margaret Mahy – a famous Canterbury local and a much loved children’s author.

Cover of The ChangeoverWhat better way to remember her legacy than with words. There is a session The Changeover: 30 Years On at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival on Saturday 30 August 2014. Join Stuart McKenzie, co-writer and producer of the forthcoming Changeover movie, and young adult writers Elizabeth Knox and Karen Healey, as they discuss with children’s literature specialist Bill Nagelkerke the importance of this great teen novel and its ongoing relevance.

Words are also for consumption. Search our catalogue for books by Margaret Mahy.

Margaret used to be a children’s librarian at Christchurch City Libraries and our Margaret Mahy pages are full of ideas about writing as well as info on Margaret and her stories:

If the ideas don’t come I go for a walk, listen to music, do a bit of gardening, but I have so much work, it is always easy to go onto something else for a while. If it is urgent I make something happen, even if I am not particularly satisfied with the level of invention, because I think as long as the story is moving something is going to happen, and so far I have been lucky.

We are also lucky to have online the poem Down the back of the chair, and The word-eater written by Margaret Mahy, and illustrated by Bob Kerr. You might recognise the setting of the Central Library in Gloucester Street.

The Word-eater - written by Margaret Mahy; Illustrated by Bob Kerr

More Margaret

Cover: The sea the seaHappy Birthday, Iris Murdoch! She was pretty much up there with Doris Lessing for a while and was worthy of being played by Dame Judi Dench in the biopic about her tragic battle with Alzheimer’s. But then Lessing won the Nobel Prize and it seems Murdoch has gone out of fashion and few people read her now.

Fashion is just as fickle in books, or rather in writers, as it is in clothes. A movie or television adaptation can send a writer who has been ignored for years into the best seller lists, and a new biography, preferably with a few salacious details, can do the same.

Dickens keeps on keeping on and probably didn’t need a push from The Invisible Woman, but Trollope seems to have lost the impetus Barchester Towers gave him a few years ago. Swings and roundabouts – Anthony’s time may come again if a director with an eye for a great story decides to film The Eustace Diamonds.

Cover: The Fairy DollChildren’s books seem to ride the winds of fashion better, perhaps because they get a new set of readers every generation and parents and present-buyers hark back to what they loved when choosing.

A nice new cover helps, like the lovely Jane Ray illustration gracing Rumer Godden‘s The Fairy Doll, first published in 1956. Virago should have taught that lesson years ago when they single-handedly brought some unfairly ignored women writers back to readers’ attention.

Do you have a favourite who has dropped out of fashion, one you dream of bringing back?

Nadine Gordimer, the first South African author to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature, has died aged 90.

Cover of The ConservationistAnd what 90 years they were. She was the author of 15 novels, as well as numerous short stories, and essay collections. Her writing garnered her many awards, including the Booker Prize for The Conservationist, and she was praised as a “guerrilla of the imagination” by the poet Seamus Heaney, and a “magnificent epic writer” by the Nobel Prize committee.

She was just as famous for her role as an anti-apartheid activist. She became involved in the ANC (African National Congress) when it was still a banned organisation and she edited Nelson Mandela’s famous I Am Prepared To Die speech, which he gave as a defendant during his 1964 trial. Indeed she was one of the first people Mandela asked to see when he was released from prison in 1990.

Gordimer was also a campaigner in the HIV/AIDS movement and strongly anti-censorship. But, to me, her true passion as a writer is encapsulated in this beautiful quote:

Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.

 

Cover of The Lying Days Cover of No Time Like The Present Cover of Get a Life

ArtemisArtemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt and the wilderness which makes her a fitting namesake for our latest electronic arrival: Gale Artemis: Literary Sources! Artemis lets you cross search all of Gale Cengage’s literary resources in one search. Through Artemis you can search all of these at once:

  • LitFinder: full text poems, short stories, essays, speeches, plays and novels. LitFinder offers the written works of more than 80,000 authors;
  • Literature Resource Center: full text articles, critical essays and reviews and overviews of frequently studied works;
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library: access to a subset of electronic reference books that cover literature.

It is sort of like doing a  Google search on literature but you get more relevant and authoritative results all with proper punctuation. It doesn’t matter if you are searching because you have an assignment, or if you are trying to remember the rest of that poem you can only recall snatches of – there is something for everyone.

I will leave you with a beauty of a quote about literature by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald…

That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.

Sigh! You can access this resource from any library or from home through the Source using your library card number and password/PIN.

Some well-known people who have died recently

  • Cover of Best Poems on the UndergroundGerard Benson, 1931-2014
    Poet who brought Hardy and Milton, Auden and Yeats to the London Underground
  • Patsy Byrne, 1933-2014
    Actress with the RSC who later played the dim-witted Nursie in Blackadder
  • Felix Dennis, 1947-2014
    Hedonistic publisher behind Oz and The Week who dreamed of being a great poet but found his true forte was making money
  • James Douglas-Home, 1952-2014
    Racehorse trainer and writer who castigated the new Ascot racecourse as one of the ‘world’s worst dumps’
  • Cover of Night Night Spot!Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, 1933-2014
    Spanish-born conductor of German parentage who blended Teutonic precision with Iberian sensuality
  • Peter Matthiessen, 1927-2014
    Author, naturalist and reluctant CIA agent who gave up espionage to champion a different kind of wild life in his bestseller The snow leopard
  • Rik Mayall, 1958-2014
    Anarchic comedian who took on the British Establishment in The young ones, and The new statesman
  • Josephine Pullein-Thompson, 1924-2014
    Author whose pony club novels thrilled a generation of girls with the jolly adventures of the gymkhana set
  • Cover of Regal Records Live in New OrleansJimmy Scott, 1925-2014
    Jazz singer who was later in Twin Peaks
  • Horace Silver, 1928-2014
    Jazz pianist and composer behind Latin and hard-bop tunes that became post-war standards
  • Eli Wallach, 1915-2014
    Masterly and versatile actor of stage and screen who particularly delighted in playing villains
  • Bobby Womack, 1944-2014
    ‘Soul survivor’ of an astonishingly lurid lifestyle who fused passionate gospel and dulcet crooning

Woman’s body found. Police called to Victoria Park. Murder charge laid.

The body of a middle-aged woman was found in a hollow in Victoria Park, below the tearooms about 4.00 pm yesterday. An arrest has been made and a charge of murder will be preferred in the Magistrate’s Court this morning. The woman was Honora Mary Parker, aged 45, of 31 Gloucester Street. Her body was found by the caretaker at Victoria Park. He reported the discovery to the police. (Woman’s body found, Press, 23 June 1954, p.10.)

Pauline Parker, 16, and Juliet Hulme, 15, were found guilty of killing Pauline’s mother Honora Mary Parker with a brick in a sock. The murder took place on 22 June 1954. The jury rejected a plea by the defence that the girls were not guilty on the grounds of insanity.

Main Characters in trial

This year it is 20 years since Heavenly Creatures – the movie about the murder – was released. Lots of Christchurch people have a connection to the movie, mine is that my sister sung in the choir you hear at the start.

Our website has digitised content from Christchurch newspapers at the time of the trial and articles written since.

View a DigitalNZ set The Parker – Hulme Murder and Heavenly Creatures.

Honorah Mary Parker
Honorah Mary Parker: Archives NZ [CH171 - CH250/1955]

Cover of The Crane WifeI’ve got a bit of a obsessive personality at the best of times (to my shame, I have been known to tidy DVDs at shops without even being aware of it), and when it comes to favourite authors, it manifests in a need to read every book they have ever written. This has often been frustrated by choosing authors who seem to only write one book a millennium or have written so many, my task seems Herculean.

When I read a writer who just ‘does it for me’, I then set about reading every thing they have ever written. Those who have written just a few I can mark off quickly, others are proving to be a life’s work for me.

It’s interesting how some vary in their skills from book to book, and others nail it every time. I sometimes start with their first book and work through in order of publication, or just randomly pick them in a crazy ‘throw my hands in the air like I just don’t care’ kind of way.

So, like a true obsessive, I will now list a few of the authors I have read completely or am working on. I’ll also give my tips, for what it’s worth, on how I think it is best to approach them:

Cover of Close RangeAnnie Proulx

Start with The Shipping News, then Accordion Crimes, Postcards, Close Range (which is a collection of short stories including the excellent Brokeback Mountain), and then move on to her other excellent titles. I’d leave Bird Cloud to the end. This is a non fiction account of her building her dream home in Wyoming and is possibly the least interesting, but that may just be me.

Patrick Ness

Start with the amazing Chaos Walking Trilogy, move onto A Monster Calls, then More Than This, and finish up with The Crane Wife and The Crash of Hennington. Mr Ness is one of those writers who needs to write more prolifically to keep me happy! There is a title of his not in the library:  Topics about which I know nothing – I’ve filled a request an item form (a useful form to use if you want the library to buy something).

Cormac McCarthy

Cover of Outer DarkThere are eleven of his titles in the library, and he is my slow and steady author. I love his work, but it is not always easy going and rarely light, so I pepper his works in among my other reading.  I’d suggest starting with All the Pretty Horses, then move onto Outer Dark, The Road, No Country for Old Men,  Suttree and then his other works. I’ve still got a few to read, and the added bonus with McCarthy is his works have such depth and strength of narrative and character (I’m not biased or anything), that they make great movies… so read the book, watch the movie of  The Road, The Sunset Limited (a play), The Counsellor and No Country for Old Men. 

John Steinbeck

An early obsession for me when in my teens, I think I started with Of Mice and Men, then moved onto Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath, but perhaps it is time to finish that list off too.

Carol Shields

This writer’s works are only partly read by me, but Unless got me hooked, which led to The Collected Stories, Duet, Stone Diaries, Small Ceremonies and Larry’s Party. I still have several more to tick off the Carol Shields list.

Do you have authors you love with a passion, whose latest novel you are hanging out for? And who would you see as your ‘must read all’ authors?

James Joyce is an author I regard with equal amounts of admiration and guilt. Admiration? His statue in Cover: Ulysses by James JoyceDublin and the jaunty angle of his cigarette holder in photographs. And I love a man (or a woman) with an eye-patch.

Guilt? Ulysses languishing on my list of books I know I should have read but haven’t. Way back in March I added it to my list of challenges for the year, smug because I could use it for both Reading Bingo (Read a forgotten classic) and A Year in Reading (In June read that classic you have never read). I know calling it a forgotten classic is a bit of a stretch, but I’ve done my best to forget my dismal failure to read it in the sixth form. The words ‘the sixth form’ indicate how long ago it was.

Now it’s  June 16th, possibly the most famous date in literature, the date when all the action in Ulysses takes place. Some say June 16th 1904 was the day Joyce and his future wife, Nora Barnacle, had their first ‘romantic liaison’. For the last 50 years it’s been commemorated as Bloomsday.

In Dublin those who have read the book (and those who haven’t) walk the route Leopold Bloom walked. They dress up, eat up, read the book to themselves and others, attend learned lectures on the book, view art and listen to music inspired by the book and, most of all, they drink. It is Dublin after all.

Nothing quite so exciting for me. Drink on a Monday and the only way is down for the rest of the week. I draw the line at kidneys for breakfast. I could give the cat a bowl of milk in a Bloomsian way but as Ulysses sits accusingly on my bedside table the only way to commemorate Bloomsday is to read a decent number of pages .

“Why don’t you write books people read?” disloyal old Nora Barnacle asked Joyce. Will Ulysses be a book this person will read? All the way through to the very end? Perhaps.

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