Books


Ngaio Marsh

Ngaio Marsh photographed during the 1940s : “Ngaio in the spotlight” [194-]

Many people think of Ngaio Marsh as the crime writer. But how many realise how much Ngaio Marsh enriched the cultural life of Christchurch with her devotion to theatre production and mentoring young people with dramatic aspirations.

People like Ngaio make a huge contribution to their communities as their influence lingers on in the people they have encouraged. It seems appropriate that her name lived on in a theatre – the Ngaio Marsh Theatre at the University of Canterbury (sadly closed due to earthquake damage), as well as in the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel.

For more:

Wending my way between libraries I invariably used to spend the travelling time with the radio on, listening to myself trilling a completely unnecessary accompaniment to Kenny Rogers’ Coward of the County and The Gambler (seemingly the only two songs on the radio station).

It got to the stage where, similar to the Pavlov Dogs experiment (luckily without salivation being involved), as soon as the music commenced I would be ‘lyric and intonation perfect’. Yet when it stopped I wouldn’t even remember what the lyrics were, let alone having drawled along with them convincingly.

Realising that drastic action was needed, I decided to listen (and perhaps accompany) some other form of entertainment. That’s when spoken word CDs came to my attention.

Cover of Murder in the TitleSimon Brett’s Charles Paris character has been adapted for radio with the amazing Bill Nighy playing the title role (just as I envisaged him sounding when I was reading the books).

Charles is a middle-aged jobbing actor who, when not attempting reconciliations with his ex-wife Frances and indulging in both pithy and acrimonious verbal exchanges with his long-suffering agent, appears to stumble upon ‘murders’ with more regularity than his often lamented ‘potted’ acting jobs.

My time spent with Murder in the Title and Cast, in Order of Disappearance was brief but memorable and I am looking forward to listening to the other four spoken word CDs in this series in the library collection… The contemporary settings and authentic sound effects combined with the very witty dialogue really had me feeling I was THERE experiencing the story with them.

Cover of The Inspector McLevy MysteriesSticking with my murder/mystery genre, I then embarked on David Ashton’s  The Inspector McLevy Mysteries. Again, originally a BBC radio play, but now I had a chance to relinquish my South East Counties accents and polish up my rusty Scottish accents!

Inspired by the real-life memoirs of a Victorian Inspector in Scotland, James McLevy prowls the dark streets of 1860s Edinburgh bringing criminals to justice, with the assistance of Constable Mulholland.

With dour, dogged, determination, Edinburgh’s ‘Finest’ and I foiled an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria; lamented the death of a novice team member of the Force and brought a vicious serial killer to Justice –  and all achieved whilst behind the wheel of a car with my newly acquired and authentic Scots accent! Note to Mel Gibson, should he ever decide on a sequel to Braveheart

OK, so you don’t need to ‘react’ with them like I choose to do, but they are still really good to listen to – funny, realistic, poignant. Have you tried any? Which ones would you particularly recommend?

9781444720396Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock recently, you’ll know that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in town last Monday. I joined the throng at Latimer Square with high hopes and low expectations. You see, I’ve been to Royal Walkabouts three times before and come “this close” to a conversation with Royalty. “Maybe this will be the day!” thought I, “But, lets face it, it probably won’t be.”

Back in’77, when I was just a toddler, my family went along to the Silver Jubilee Walkabout. The Queen stopped to speak my sister, telling her what a pretty dress she was wearing. My sister, with the honesty of a four-year-old, replied “It’s my nightie!” (She had flatly refused to get dressed that morning).

I slept through the whole thing.

1929049935Fast forward to 1981. Charles and Diana were engaged, and I thought Lady Di was like Cinderella and Princess Aurora all rolled into one. I treasured my scrapbooks full of carefully clipped pictures of her. The highlight of my childhood was getting to watch The Royal Wedding at our neighbour’s across the street – they had a colour TV! Oh, the dresses! The beautiful horses! The fancy uniforms! I loved it all (Except the Queen Mum’s outfit. I wasn’t impressed. I thought she had some crazy green punk-rock hairdo. Didn’t realize that fluffy nonsense on her head was actually a hat!)

Imagine my excitement when Charles and Diana came to Christchurch in’83. We all headed off for the Walkabout. I was beside myself! My sister didn’t really care. She went along with a “whatever” pre-teen attitude. In fact she was so bored by it all that she brought a book. I had a fantastic spot right at the front, Diana was walking on my side of the street, I was actually going to see her in person! Then, when she was just moments away from me, she swapped sides, and Charles was walking towards me instead. And he walked up to my sister, noticed the book in her hand (it was probably a Jinny and Shantih or something by Christine Pullein-Thompson) and asked her if she rode. They had a whole conversation about horses and show jumping… And once again, I missed out.

While I’m no longer that star struck little girl, I thought it would be pretty neat to see William and Kate, and since Monday was my day off anyway, why not? Miss Missy and I managed to find ourselves a pretty good spot, and once again I waited for the chance to see the Royals. We cought a glimpse of them as they came out of the Cathedral, the crowd was shouting, flags were waving, everyone was craning to see, people were leaning so far over the fence they were practically planking on it. The police officers were literally holding the fence up against the crush of the crowd as Kate was coming slowly closer and closer down our side of Latimer Square. I managed to get some lovely pictures of her, and shook her hand (yes, I have washed it, since) … kateBut no, I didn’t talk to her. The girl standing right beside me though, Kate asked her all sorts of questions. Yip, once again I was “this close!”

9781846073946If that isn’t enough Royalty for you, today is the Queen’s birthday. No, not the holiday, her actual birthday.

Have you ever wondered why Queen’s Birthday weekend is in June when her birthday is in April? Well it turns out it is all because George VI’s birthday was 14 December. I guess everyone thought that was a silly day to have a holiday, so they decided to have the first Monday in June off instead, and when Elizabeth became Queen, I guess everyone was so used to it, they figured why change it? Her Majesty “was graciously pleased” to let us all have a day off in June in honour of her birthday.

I’ve put together a list of my picks from our catalogue in honour of Her Majesty’s big day. And this year we even get to have a day off anyway for Easter.

 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez One Hundred Years of Solitude Of Love and Other Demons
Love in the Time of Cholera Strange Pilgrims The Autumn of the Patriarch
Chronicle of A Death Foretold The General in His Labyrinth The Story of A Shipwrecked Sailor

Gabriel García Márquez was considered one of the greatest Spanish-language authors, best known for his masterpiece of magical realism, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The 1967 novel sold more than 30 million copies and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

Record Store Day is on Saturday 19 April 2014.  For New Zealand events and releases, check out Dubdotdash’s listing of Record Store Day events and Public Address’s post.

In Ōtautahi, Galaxy Records has X-Ray Charles live instore and rare and collectable vinyl from the vaults. Pennylane Records have pushed their Record Day stuff out to the afternoon of Friday 25 April.

From top 20 stuff to second hand 12 inch 80s vinyl, from the hottest French electropop to Kiwi dub – it’s all good at your local record store.

Some record store related reading:

Cover of Facing the other wayI am also keen on reading about record labels – hoping to finish Facing the other way: The story of 4AD by Martin Aston over the Easter break. It is a splendid book.

The Library caters for music lovers well, we send you off to the record store better informed and give you the chance to try before you buy. See our Music pages for more information – and don’t forget next month is New Zealand Music Month and there will be performances in our libraries to liven up your May.

What do you think of record shops? Are you all about online music purchasing, or do you still love that vinyl?

Photo of road works

Road works in Hercules Street, Shirley.
Photo by Valerie Livingstone.

Some people might think that I love road works with all the road cones, big trucks and stop’n’go men.

I do, sort of. It is a sign that things are being repaired. There is a great website to help you get around the city and suburbs. With a bit of planning, you should be able to get to where you want to go without too much difficulty.

What I don’t like is being detoured down streets I have never been down and sent off in a direction I don’t want to travel in.  When I find I’m speeding down the road at a top speed of 20 km/h, I try not to stress over the fact that I’m going to be late. Sometimes, no matter what road I go down, I get stuck in a slow line of traffic, going the wrong way.

My solution is talking books. I get to hear quite a few on my way to work. At the moment, it’s Three Men in a Boat, but I have listened to Agatha Christie and Torchwood.

When you are delayed by road works, what do you listen to?

P.S. Not enough road works in your life? CTV have turned our road cones into an entertaining short film.

Cover of Oxford Dictionary of National BiographyI was six when my Grandmother handed me a cut out picture of Lady Diana Spencer from the Southland Times that announced her engagement to Prince Charles. She told me to keep a hold of this as the lady in the picture was going to be a Queen. I can remember the picture was in color which was rare for newspapers at that point. Lady Diana was wearing a red dress and I remember thinking how sophisticated she was. I have no idea of what happened to that photo but I do know that there was to be no happy ending for the lady in red.

We consciously and unconsciously “people watch” all the time. It was probably based on an evolutionary need to establish friend from foe but it continues to this day in our everyday habits and the media we watch. As a library we are here to cater for even your evolutionary requirements! If your needs are for research or pure evolutionary based interest then we have the online resources for you in the form of:

There are stories of courage, malice and romance capturing the diversity of human conduct. All you need to examine the lives of people from nuclear physicists to royal mistresses is a library card number and password/PIN.

Happy gawking.

Cover of We're going on a bear huntIt seems to be a year for anniversaries of children’s books and lucky for me it has included the indisputably cute Alfie and now the perennial read aloud We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. This Interview with author Michael Rosen and illustrator Helen Oxenbury gives some lovely insight into how this book evolved and is a delightful exchange by two icons of children’s book publishing. I especially enjoyed hearing how the author (Rosen) envisaged a totally different set of characters than Helen Oxenbury created, yet the book still works wonderfully well.

This was the story that we read over and over again, I only wish I could have made the wonderful squelching noises that Michael Rosen can produce.  The line

We’re going on a bear hunt, it’s going to be a big one, we’re not scared

still resonates in my mind and is equal to

and along came Hairy Maclary from Donaldsons Dairy

in terms of repetition that never grows tiresome. Michael Rosen says he has told this story thousands of times, and at times I feel that I wasn’t far behind him as night after night all sorts of squelching, wooshing and sploshing noises emanated from my childrens’ bedrooms.

They are are older now, but I would love to know what are today’s great re-alouds, perhaps I will be able to put some aside for the hoped for grandchildren!

 

Cover: Breakfast with LucianThe latest title off my list of seven books from The Guardian Best Books of 2013 was the most challenging so far. William Boyd thought that Breakfast with Lucian by Geordie Greig was “fascinating, intimate… a revelation. Every question I had about Freud – from the aesthetic to the intrusively gossipy – was answered with great candour and judiciousness.”

Candour, yes. Judiciousness, I’m not so sure about. I really struggled with this book; not with reading it, but with reconciling my admiration for Freud’s paintings, my horror at his behaviour and my guilt at finding myself judging a great artist for the way he chose to live his life.

“Judge the art and not the artist,” I kept telling myself. None of us is perfect. He stayed friends with some of the women he treated so badly. Most of his acknowledged children loved him. He never pretended to be anything other than what he was.

But somehow none of it worked. I read it through to the end; it’s well written and I never considered not finishing it, but I was constantly gasping at Freud’s behaviour. Actually gasping out loud. Sometimes I had to put the book down to have a really good gasp. Next I’ll be reaching for the smelling salts.

Cover: Man with a Blue ScarfPerhaps it was what Greig chose to concentrate on. Freud’s relationships with women as lovers and models are covered in detail, while his friendship with the Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery and the amazing works he produced using Bowery as a model are hardly alluded to at all. It may be that reproducing images featuring Bowery is problematical or too expensive. Or it could be that no-one except me is very interested in Bowery any more, whereas sex will always sell.

A few years ago I really enjoyed reading Man with a Blue Scarf, which was all about Freud’s practice, not his life. I think I’ll re-read that and get over myself.

What do you think about separating the art from the artist? Are there authors you won’t read because of what you know about their lives or their politics?

cover of Rifling through my drawersSome well-known people who have died recently:

  • Tony Benn, 1925-2014
    British Labour Party politician, orator, campaigner and diarist, recognisable by his pipe, tape recorder and outsized mug
  • Clarissa Dickson Wright, 1947-2014
    Bombastic, outspoken lawyer who was brought to her knees by riches and alcoholism then rose again as a cook on Two Fat Ladies
  • Ann Howard, 1934-2014
    Opera singer who portrayed ‘witches and bitches’ and excelled as Carmen
  • Bob Larbey, 1934-2014
    Scriptwriter who mined the comic potential of suburbia in The Good Life, and Ever Decreasing Circles
  • Kate O’Mara, 1939-2014
    Actress best known for her role in Dynasty in the mid 1980s
  • Alain Resnais, 1922-2014
    French New Wave director celebrated for tackling in film Proustian themes of time and memory
  • Richard Vaughan, 1927-2014
    Medieval historian and ornithologist who studies bird life from Europe to the Arctic

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