Katherine Mansfield at her work table, Villa Isola, Menton, France. Baker, Ida :Photographs of Katherine Mansfield. Ref: 1/2-011917-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Katherine Mansfield at her work table, Villa Isola, Menton, France. Baker, Ida :Photographs of Katherine Mansfield. Ref: 1/2-011917-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

A New Zealand literary superstar was born on 14 October 1888 – Katherine Mansfield short-story writer, poet, critic, diarist, letter writer.

The first mention I could find of KM in Papers Past was in the Feilding Star, Volume VI, Issue 1669, 11 December 1911, Page 2:

New Zealanders will be, interested to hear of a new novel, called “In a German Pension,” by “Katherine Mansfield,” just published in London. Under her pen-name the writer will not perhaps be recognised, but she is the youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs Harold Beauchamp, of Wellington. Never before, it is remarked, have Germans, from a social standpoint, been written about with so much, insight, or their manners and habits described with such malicious naivete and minute skill as by this young Wellingtonian. “Miss Mansfield’s” style is almost French in its clearness. Her power of detailed observation is shown in numerous little touches of character-painting, which enable us (says a London critic) to realise almost as visibly as the authoress herself, the heart, mind, and soul of the quaint Bavarian people.

KM remains a fire to the imagination. Mansfield with monsters – a parody by Matt and Debbie Cowens, published by Steam Press – won the 2013 Sir Julius Vogel Awards for Best Collected Work.

Kirsty Gunn’s Katherine Mansfield Project has just been published. And gestating is the wonderful writer and cartoonist’s Sarah Laing’s new KM book. It will be “part-biography, part-memoir and part-fiction”  – you can follow its evolution, and see some of the beautiful illustrations –  by viewing Katherine Mansfield posts on her blog Let me be frank.

If you want to go further, NZETC – the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection – has a motherlode of Mansfield material – stories, diary entries, photos, commentary, and works that mention her.

More on KM

This month’s Science Fiction newsletter includes new titles from John Scalzi, Harry Turtledove and Ben Bova, among others. The focus topic, though, is on essays, which may sound a little boring, until you check out the authors included. These are some top authors, not just of science fiction, but of fiction in general and I’m dying to read what they think about writing, fiction and other things (Bradbury on Dandelion Tea? Eco on Atlantis? Atwood on rabbits with superpowers?).

Cover of In other worlds Cover of Bradbury Speaks Cover of The wave in the mind Cover of the book of legendary lands over of Reading Like A Writer (eBook) Cover of What makes this book so great

Read the entire newsletter online to see the new titles and subscribe to get it delivered to your inbox every other month. If you’re after new science fiction titles you might also like to subscribe to the All New fiction newsletter which lists all the new titles we received over the previous month.

Some well-known people who have died recently

  • Frans Bruggen, 1934-2014
    Dutch conductor, recorder player and baroque flautist
  • Mary Cadogan, 1928-2014
    English author who wrote on popular and children’s fiction
  • Graham Joyce, 1954-2014
    British writer of speculative fiction
  • Bill Kerr, 1922-2014
    Australian actor and comedian
  • John Ritchie, 1921-2014
    Music educator, composer and conductor, ‘father’ of Christchurch music
  • Joan Rivers, 1937-2014
    American actress, comedian, writer and TV host
  • David St John Thomas, 1929-2014
    English publisher and writer who founded David & Charles publishing house
  • Eoin Young, 1939-2014
    New Zealand motoring journalist

Cover of The Other HandWhat’s on your bedside table right now?

I ask because bedside tables and their offerings are the new profiling tool, their little worlds in microcosm giving us copious info about who we are, who we want to be and who we should be dating.

In Enough Said, the last film ever made by James Gandolfini and starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus,  Albert’s marriage breaks up partly because he has no bedside tables. When his ex discovers this she says:

Metaphorically speaking, he’s not
building a life for himself.
I mean, who would date
a person like that?

Cover of The Tao of PoohIn The End of Your Life Bookclub, when Will Schwalbe looks round the bedroom of his dying mother, whose bedside table and the floor (every surface actually) is covered with books, he asks himself how much bleaker the room would look had his mother’s night table supported a lone Kindle.

And in the September/October edition of the ever trendy Frankie magazine, five young artists have been commissioned to draw their bedside tables. Way to go, Frankie!

What about my bedside tables at home? My little bedside world currently has  three books stacked on it:

  • The Other Hand by Chris Cleave – this book is also sold under the title Little Bee and has been very popular in my Book Club. I love this book, it makes me want to speak in Jamaican patois. If you click on the link you will get the idea of the storyline.
  • Cover of The Sound of a Snail Eating There’s also The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. This is an unusual, quietly meditative book in which you will learn a lot (more than may be desirable, to be frank) about a little forest snail.
  • And The Tao of Pooh, which is my go-to book on those mornings when I can barely face the cone infested drive to a far-flung outpost of Library Land to get to a library that may or may not have stocked up on the full cream milk I require for my first cup of coffee.

In the parallel universe on the other side of the bed, my husband’s bedside table sports:

Italian Grammar for Dummies – bedtime discourse on the use of the subjunctive in Italian has entirely replaced any need for sedatives in our little world.

There’s also A History of Opera and a lone fiction work, The Panther, which he started reading seventeen months ago and hopes to complete when we travel again at the end of this year. I have to dust that book – often, and each time I wonder how on earth he is managing to remember the storyline.

How about you? Got any bedside books worth sharing?

It is about this time of year that the Selection Team starts getting notification of what items are coming out for the Christmas market. Recently we attended an evening where publishers presented their choices for Christmas high flyers.

Cover of Leaving TImeJodi Picoult was top of the list with her new title Leaving Time. It was billed as one of Jodi’s most powerful and affecting novels yet… This seems to the general hype for all her books so it will be interesting to see what she comes up with in this tale of a daughter searching for her missing mother.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly sees the return of Harry Bosch. We were informed as an aside  that Michael Connelly is the nicest man you could ever meet!  I’m not sure what this has to do with the quality of his writing, but it was oddly nice to know.

Russell Brand, famous for his quick wit and even quicker marriage to Katy Perry, has produced a children’s book called Trickster Tales: The Pied Piper of Hamelin. I thought it looked great and will probably be buying this for someone – if not for myself.

Cover of Working StiffThe festive season always requires an uplifting tale of  triumph against the odds. Long Shots is a New Zealand title of inspiring sporting heroes and Love Without Limits follows on with the story of Nick Vujicic as he meets and marries his soulmate. “If you can’t get a miracle become one – no arms no legs, no limits”.

Two doctor stories feature this year: Working Stiff, the memoir of a young forensic pathologist, and Being Mortal, a doctor looking at death, dying and medicine. Not my idea of a light Christmas read, but there you go.

Cover of River Cottage Light & EasyChristmas reading wouldn’t be the same without the obligatory cooking books. River Cottage Light & Easy features a slim line Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on the front cover. I think I prefer him hairy and chubby. There are also two expensive titles, Sepia and Organum, that were presented as “cookery books that you would never cook anything from”. Seems to defeat the purpose of a cooking book, however they did look pretty.

For the history buffs amongst us, Queen Victoria features in The Queen, Her Lover and the Most Notorious Spy in History – “an unbuttoned history of Queen Victoria’s loves and intrigues” – and in the less salacious Victoria: A Life by the respected historian A. N. Wilson.

Two of my favourite children’s authors feature this year.  Libby Gleeson with The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and the Present and Alison Lester with Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach. Both look great.

Which of these titles would you like to find in your Christmas stocking?

Luscious Lemon DessertsI love dessert! Sweet, delicious dessert! Chocolate raspberry torte… New York cheesecake… spiced pumpkin crème brûlée… even good old rice pudding — I love them all!

Dessert is my favourite thing about going out for dinner, but somehow the fates (usually in the form of fractious children) always seem to conspire against me. On the rare occasions that we do go out, more often than not, we end up having to go home without dessert.

The absolute worst meal out was the time Mr K and I were invited out by The Boss. It was the first time we’d been out sans kids since Miss Missy arrived in our lives (would it sadden you to know that she was 2?). Herculean efforts had gone into arranging a babysitter and negotiating sober transportation. You’d think since we had no kids I’d have a good chance of getting dessert, wouldn’t you? Well, think again!

I’m vegetarian, so my menu options tend to be a little limited. On this occasion, I was pleased to see that I could order a pizza…that is, until I realised that at this restaurant “pizza” actually meant “oversized-cracker-with-a-smear-of-sauce-and-a-meagre-sprinkling-of-cheese.” It wasn’t exactly unpalatable, but it certainly wasn’t satisfying! Towards the end of our meal Mrs Boss suggested we order coffee, which sounded fine until she said with finality “Since we’re having coffee, we won’t want dessert.”

Book cover of Modern Art DessertsSay what!? Since when does “let’s order coffee” mean the same thing as “let’s not order dessert” ?? Like I said: Worst. Meal. Ever. (Except the time I had a caterpillar in my dinner, and then got charged for it…but that’s another story!)

I was thinking the other day that fancy dinners without dessert are rather like books with bad endings. Even if the dinner was delicious (or the book was great) if there’s no dessert at the end of it, you just don’t feel satisfied.

I have just finished reading three books in a row with endings that I found completely unsatisfying. One was too ambiguous, one made a horrid character even worse, and one was just so sad. This got me thinking about conclusions and how important it is for authors to get them right.

Slow Waltz in Cedar BendFor me, the literary equivalent of “cracker-pizza-and-no-dessert” is Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend by Robert James Waller. It’s been years since I read it, but I can still remember how thoroughly disappointed in the ending I was! We’re talking intense-desire-to-hurl-the-book-across-the-room disappointment. I can’t really remember much about the story, except that the main character was chasing after the beautiful and exotic Jellie (I couldn’t help thinking of a packet of Gregg’s Jelly crystals) who had mysteriously disappeared. Except that she hadn’t mysteriously disappeared! When he finally finds her, it turns out she’d just gone to India to visit family, just like she did every year! What the heck?! If you’re going to write a mystery, you’d think you’d include an actual mystery in it, right? All that suspense, all that build up, and then… no dessert!

The Stag and Hen WeekendI had high expectations of Mike Gayle‘s The Stag and Hen Weekend. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his books before, so I was pretty excited when I found it on the shelf. I really liked the way he told two sides of the same story. Helen’s friends were rather like a string of paper dolls which I could barely tell apart, but I didn’t let that bother me because Helen and Phil were such great characters. Sometimes it’s good to read a book about decent, ordinary people, with regular, everyday sorts of problems. Seriously, I could not put it down. I had to know how everything was going to work out in the end. And then… he didn’t finish the darn story! I felt sooo ripped off!! This book was a great meal, where the waiter brought me a dessert menu — and then whipped it right out of my hands. If you like a good love story where everything works out at the end, and the couple who should be together end up together, then don’t read this book. It’s not that the wrong people end up together, it’s that you don’t know who ends up together! Mike Gayle himself says he hates ambiguous endings

What’s the point of reading all the way through a novel just to be told the ending “might be this or it might be that?”

I couldn’t agree more!!

So tell me, what’s on the top of your “books with bad endings” list? Do you agree that the ending makes or breaks a book? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Cover of Daughter of Smoke and BoneI kicked off a very full weekend at the WORD festival with some good old oral storytelling. Listening to stories read aloud is one of my earliest memories and my memories sitting in early intermediate school captivated by The Giver and terrified by Goosebumps are much easier to recall than what we learned in class afterwards…

Creating Young Adult Worlds was a great session, with five authors writing for young adults reading aloud from their work. Karen Healey, Laini Taylor, Meg Wolitzer, Elizabeth Knox and Tania Roxborogh gave us all a taste.

Laini Taylor read “the most embarrassing” chapter from the first book in her incredible fantasy trilogy Daughter of Smoke and Bone, in which art student Karou gets a satisfying revenge on her ex-boyfriend. The passage went from hilarious to heartbreaking in the space of a sentence, and included some pretty excellent life advice from a monster:

But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles–drug or tattoo–and…no inessential penises either.

Karen Healey read from a short story ‘Careful Magic’ which will appear in an up-and-coming anthology Kaleidoscope. Within minutes she crafted an intriguing magical world and a few really fascinating characters that I can’t wait to read more about. Kaleidoscope is a collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories featuring diverse characters, from disabled superheros, time-traveling Chinese-American figure skaters, to transgendered animal shifters. It’s is not in our library yet, so while you’re waiting why not catch up with Karen Healey’s other novels and short stories?

Elizabeth Knox read a passage from her historical-fantasy novel Mortal Fire, based in Southland, an imaginary country similar to New Zealand, which will be known to readers of her Dreamhunter series. Mortal Fire won the New Zealand Post Book Awards this year for best Young Adult Fiction. The story features some really interesting characters, though my favourite is Canny, daughter of a war heroine, Pacifica maths whiz and stubborn as anything.

“People get over things, cultures don’t.”

Cover of Mortal Fire Cover of Third Degree Cover of Belzhar

Tania Roxborogh read from the 2005 novel The Third Degree. The story is based on the author’s real experience of being badly burned when she was young and strongly features her relationship with her mother. Though the story begins when main character Ruth is starting university, many of the themes will be familiar to anyone who had to spend time in hospital as a child. There were some excellently gruesome medical scenes!

If I had to choose out of the five, I’d say that I am most excited to read Meg Wolitzer‘s new book Belzhar. I couldn’t describe it better than Karen Healey did in her tweet:

Intrigued? We have Belzhar on order so get your name on the waiting list!

Find these authors on our catalogue:

WORD Christchurch

Next Page »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 840 other followers