Books


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
Mr George Bernard Shaw. Crown Studios Ltd :Negatives and prints. Ref: 1/2-195145-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23159238

Mr George Bernard Shaw. Crown Studios Ltd :Negatives and prints. Ref: 1/2-195145-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23159238

80 years ago, one of the greats was visiting New Zealand, with crowds hanging on his every Shavian word.

George Bernard Shaw visited New Zealand in 1934 for a month, from 15 March to 14 April. He spoke at a civic reception in Christchurch on 10 April 1934.  His speeches and activities were closely tracked by the media, and a book of press reports published called What I said in New Zealand: The Newspaper Utterances of Mr. George Bernard Shaw in New Zealand, March 15th to April 15th, 1934.

Here are some quotes from “What I said in New Zealand” with a Christchurch perspective:

G.B. Shaw and Dr Thacker

Dr. H. T. J. Thacker, of Christchurch, sent him a reply-paid telegram asking for 12 words about his diet. Mr. Shaw’s reply was: “Dr. Thacker, Christchurch. Vegetarian 50 years. Tee­total always. Milk, butter, eggs. Shaw.” (p. 12 )

A Moa Bone Problem

There was a pause here and an impressive voice from the audience asked what its owner, D. H. T. J. Thacker, evidently con­sidered a question of great importance. “Do you know, sir, that we have in the museum here the largest moa skeleton in the world?” Mr. Shaw (looking momentarily a little surprised): Well, no, I didn’t. I’m afraid. I don’t even know what a moa is. Dr. Thacker: It is the largest wingless bird in New Zealand, sir. (p.18)

Intellectual Christchurch

Amazing in his vitality and health Mr. George Bernard Shaw entertained half a dozen reporters and twice as many listeners and spectators at an impromptu levee in the lounge of the United Service Hotel for more an hour after his arrival on Saturday afternoon. “Well, what do you want me to talk about?” he asked as he approached the group of reporters. “What’s it to be today?”  He began with a remark typically Shavian. “Someone has sent in some questions to me —was it ‘The Press?’—yes, ‘The Press’— which are about the most intelligent I’ve had since I came to New Zealand.” He turned to the reporter of “The Press.” “But, my dear fellow, it would take me 150 years to answer them all. I don’t expect to have another 150 years, you know.” The important question of why Mr. Shaw came to Christchurch was simply settled, lie threw back his head and laughed. Christchurch claims to be the most intel­lectual city in New Zealand, and I was most disappointed when the itinerary planned for me did not include it,” he said.

New Zealand Brunelleschi and the Catholic Cathedral

When Mr. Shaw saw that Catholic Cathedral he suddenly thought of Brunelle­schi, and he went in and looked at it. He saw that they had already produced a New Zealand Brunelleschi. They had the classical style with all its merits and nevertheless, the arrangement was very original. It was not a mere copy as he regretted to say the Church of England Cathedral was. There was nothing in that. It was absolutely academic. The other cathedral was originally and beautifully treated.

“But why have I dragged in this?” Mr.Shaw asked. “Not because I was bribed by the architect, because I do not know his name, but because I suddenly saw it without anybody telling me to go in and look at it—it is not in the guide books—and it pro­duced that impression on me. Then I began to think: They have here in New Zealand a man who is capable of doing that work, but what an awful time he must be having! Just imagine! Suppose yourself born here in New Zealand, a Brunelleschi, and that your business is to produce cathedrals of that kind. New Zealand might make a great effort and give you one commission and one cathedral to build. That is pretty hard lines. That man wants to be building cathedrals all his life. There should be cathedrals like that in every town in New Zealand. It should be an attraction just as the church or cathedral is a great attrac­tion in almost all the towns of Europe, the first things you go to see … (p.23)

Communistic New Zealand

Thanks to your communistic institutions you are to some extent leading world civilisation to-day. You are second only to Russia. (p.27)

Holiday reading: Mein Kampf and 22 other books

In the library of the Rangitane, which is now at Wellington, and in which Mr. George Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Shaw travelled to New Zealand, there are 23 books given to the ship by Mr. Shaw after he had read them during the voyage. (p. 27)

The titles included My Struggle by Adolf Hitler.

More about George Bernard Shaw

Bye the bye, some of you may have noticed Shaw’s Major Barbara features in season 3 of tv show Girls (Adam is playing a role in a Broadway production of it).

George Bernard Shaw and Sir Joseph James Kinsey at Kinsey's home `Warrimoo' on Papanui Road, Christchurch. Ref: 1/2-020830. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22899021

George Bernard Shaw and Sir Joseph James Kinsey at Kinsey’s home `Warrimoo’ on Papanui Road, Christchurch. Ref: 1/2-020830. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22899021

When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you. ~George Saunders.

I have always enjoyed reading short stories, most probably because I have the attention span of a gnat coupled with a huge need to dissect and psychoanalyze given situations to their ‘bare bones’. Well, nobody’s perfect…

Cover of Summer LiesAt a recent Book Discussion Scheme Bookclub the members (including myself) were given Summer Lies by Bernhard Schlink to read – a very good example of this genre – several short stories of exceptional quality.

Schlink’s characters are all so believable that it is quite frightening at times. They have lived the majority of their lives; spun their dreams; lived through their hopes, fears and ambitions – they have a history which, given that the majority of them are in late Middle Age or the ‘Autumn’ years, naturally provides the platform for reflection in these stories. I proceeded with the last story first – just love to live my life ‘On The Edge’! – and was instantly gripped by The Journey to the South.

I could understand and – if not exactly empathize – certainly see how Nina had become disappointed in life because of the decisions she’d made at an earlier time. The wistful ‘If only’ factor is such a common human behaviour when diverse personalities start to reflect on their earlier years. Her inability to face the truth behind her earlier decisions in life now unsettle her. It is only when she forces herself to view her actions objectively that she does become happier.

Cover of Don't Panic, Head for the HillsThe library has short stories literally throwing themselves off the shelves.  Simply typing in ‘short stories’ in the catalogue search box brought up a staggering 4356 results – I was so overwhelmed I quickly started applying ‘filters’ to keep the whole exercise manageable.

I immediately relate to the catchy, pithy titles  such as Don’t Panic, Head for the Hills or Shallow Are the Smiles at the Supermarket (what a truism), but always make time tor revisit my perennial favourites  such as The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham; The Grass Harp by Truman Capote and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. What a choice!  And not only in book form – for those of you who prefer listening to reading, short stories on audiobooks in a number of different formats abound.

Who else out there in ‘reading land’ has a particular short story favourite they might want to share with others?

Cover of CarthageCarthage by Joyce Carol Oates is about the Mayfield family, who on the face of it are a small town family going about their daily lives pleased with what they have achieved.

Zeno Mayfield, the confident father, is an ex-mayor and now town lawyer who is doted on by his wife and daughters. Arlette Mayfield, the protective mother, is adapting to her daughters growing away from home. Juliet Mayfield, the eldest daughter, is the “good sister” whom everyone in town likes. Cressida Mayfield, the youngest daughter, is the “smart sister” who makes others feel uncomfortable. And lastly, earnest Brett Kincaid, Juliet’s fiancée, who is a disabled war veteran recently returned from the Iraqi War. They are a strong band of characters and create a dark and powerful story.

The story begins with Cressida who goes missing in the local mountains after last being seen in the company of a traumatised Brett. What happens to her and Brett? What are the effects of her disappearance on the family? Who and what do they all become? This poignant story is told from the perspective of each character, and whilst this style can seem at times seem disjointing, it does create further tension.

Carthage is not an easy read. How does a traumatised ex-soldier fit back into daily life in a small conformist town? How does this family cope with inner and outer conflict? What are the effects of violence and trauma on their lives? The good sister vs the smart sister, what are the long term effects of their sibling rivalry? The plot takes the reader on many twists and turns and by the end the characters have all been radically transformed. Is their transformation for the better or worse? Take time to read Carthage to find out.

Some picks from our March Kids’ Books newsletter:

Cover of Children's Book of Mythical Beasts & Magical MonstersCover of The Ghosts of Tupelo LandingCover of Ophelia and the Marvelous BoyCover of The Lego MovieCover of Ice DogsCover of Canterbury QuakeCover of The Monster Fun Joke BookCover of The Sea of MonstersCover of The Pirate's Eye

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight to your inbox.

For more great reads for kids, check out our Fun to Read page – it links you to reading lists, if you likes, interactive quizzes and lots more.

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 690 other followers