Matariki – the Māori New Year – will take place on Pipiri 25 June 2017. During Matariki we celebrate our unique place in the world. We give respect to the whenua on which we live, and admiration to our mother earth, Papatūānuku.
Matariki 2017 is a fresh look through old eyes at Māori oral traditions, practices and customs associated with the Māori New Year. Over the next three years the Christchurch City Libraries will be re-introducing ‘Te Iwa o Matariki – the Nine stars of Matariki’ beginning with Te Kātao o Matariki – the water stars of Matariki, Waipuna-ā-rangi, Waitī, Waitā.
Matariki Toi – Community Art Project in the Library
Each year a community art project runs in all our libraries for all to explore their creative side. This year the project is weave a star. Materials are supplied, all you have to do is bring your creativity.
Matariki Wā Kōrero – Matariki Storytimes
In addition to our normal Storytimes we have Matariki Storytimes. Come celebrate and welcome the Māori New Year with stories, songs, rhymes and craft activities. All welcome, free of charge.
Our Learning Centres are offering special Matariki Connect sessions for schools, introducing students to the key concepts of Te Iwa o Matariki with a focus on the three water stars, and involving a range of fun activities. This programme is now fully booked.
Naxos Music Library Jazz has over 9000 jazz albums from over 32,000 artists including luminaries like Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, and Ella Fitzgerald. It features music from some of the most renowned jazz labels including Blue Note Records, Warner Jazz, EMI, Fantasy and Enja. Use at a library or enter your library card and password/PIN.
Growing up in a house where jazz was often the music of choice, I found all the music from my childhood — Miles, Oscar, Ella, Charlie Parker, Nina Simone …
If you are not sure where to start, there are some great playlists. Depending on your jazz tilt, you could try Thelonious Monk from the Piano Legends, or John Coltrane if a saxophone is more your thing. If you’re looking to Take the “A” Train, Take Five, or My Funny Valentine they are all here — and boy do these cats know how to play. Can you dig it? Yes you can.
We are pleased to introduce our latest eResource Rosetta Stone Library Solution, an online language learning tool. Whether you are looking to lean a brand new language, or brush up on a language for an overseas trip, Rosetta Stone Library Solution is the perfect solution.
Rosetta Stone Library Solution is an interactive language learning resource that uses proven immersion method. This eResource includes 30 languages to meet a range of cultural interests. Learning is structured around core lessons to build reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills and also includes focused activities to refine grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and more. Languages include:
It takes the average learner 50 hours to complete a chosen language with the Rosetta Stone Library Solution. If you set aside five 30-minute sessions a week, the average learner would complete their learning in 20 weeks. There is a great mobile app for those wanting to learn on the go.
It is for his prose that I love the writing of Laurie Lee, although it’s darn near poetry anyway. Cider with Rosie was what started this love affair, the flames were fanned by Village Christmas, a slim little number that had me wanting to be ‘carol-barking’ with the young Laurie and the boys from the village choir, trudging through the snow and being given food and hot drinks.
That speaks to his power of writing. I mean who in their right mind would want the poverty and the poor accommodation of his early life? He was happy though, he knew what to expect with each season as behoves a true countryman. His Mother loved him and his siblings, his Dad having left Lee’s Mum with children from his previous marriage and the children they had together, then departed the scene only to show up occasionally and send money at about the same rate. Village Christmas does cover a wide range of other subjects besides Christmas, festivities and seasons: Things I Wish I Had Known at 18, Chelsea Towards the End of the Last War, The Lords of Berkeley Castle, The Lake District, and the Lying in State of Churchill to name a few.
As I Walked out One Midsummer Morning has Laurie leaving his beloved Slad and walking slowly to the coast and eventually London and the next stage of his life. Becoming a builder’s labourer keeps him in food and shelter until the building work is finished.
By this time he’s keen to see abroad and has learned to ask for a glass of water in Spanish, so the choice is obvious. Arriving in 1935, he makes his way from north to south, living with the people (especially the girls). Laurie witnesses the dissatisfaction and poverty which led to the start of the Spanish Civil War, and when war starts he is rescued along with other expats by a British warship.
These delightful books are written from the retrospective of an exile. Laurie has been accused of an incurable leaning towards nostalgia and to quote the man himself “The only truth is what you remember”. This fan is delighted with nostalgic excess.
Another poet, another nostalgic read — Dylan Thomas‘s A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Thomas’s writing is also evocative of another time and place and gives such a warm glow – despite the snow which arrived from the heavens each and every Christmas without fail. Firing snowballs at cats and writing naughty snow messages were a regular event. Written as an adult with sly humour, this creates pictures in my head that make me laugh aloud.
More grown up — but even more entertaining — is Under Milk Wood. The library has it as a narrated play, a talking book to lose yourself in, and play form in a book. Join the dreamers of Llareggub:
No Good Boyo a lazy young fisherman who dreams peevishly of “nothing”, though he does fantasise about Mrs. Dai Bread Two in a wet corset and is known for causing shenanigans in the wash house,
Myfanwy Price and Mog Evans who conduct a romance entirely by correspondence and dreams,
Mrs Organ Morgan wife of Mr Organ Morgan who plays the organ constantly,
Mr and Mrs Willy Nilly, he’s the postman and together they open the mail each morning, so they can spread the news around the village.
Mr Pugh, the schoolmaster who would dearly like to murder the domineering Mrs Pugh and hopefully orders the book “The Lives of Great Poisoners”,
Dai Bread the bigamist baker who dreams of harems,
Mrs. Dai Bread One, Dai Bread’s first wife, traditional and plain and
Mrs. Dai Bread Two, Dai Bread’s second wife, a mysterious and sultry gypsy.
Prepare to lose yourself in Llareggub as your narrator takes you from dawn to dusk with a host of exuberant, very human and memorable characters.
Milkwood was 20 years in the writing and is viewed as the best radio play ever written.
I’ve been stumbling around in my head for words to describe Thomas’s and Lee’s hold on me and why their work brings me such pleasure, but was bowled over completely and failed. I think silver-tongued, spellbinding weavers of words gives you an idea of their work — but read and listen for yourself, and see what you think.
Despite all of these books being written later in the author’s life, and being set long before my time, they reach me still. Do you find yourself reading nostalgia from before your time? Of your time? Do you revel in a read that makes you smile and feel good?
I was really disappointed to miss Ivan on their last trip to Christchurch last year, so as soon as I learnt they would be back this year, I made sure to get my ticket in my hot little hand. I have been a fan of Ivan’s work since reading Missed Her several years ago, and have only become more of a fan with Gender Failure and Tomboy Survival Guide.
The audience who attended An Evening with Ivan Coyote was – to quote one of my neighbours – ‘quite an eclectic crowd’. Despite any differences in age, gender, or any other identifier, however, everyone was completely drawn in by the stories of growing up in small-town Canada: What’s it like to be the only little girl in the world who didn’t want to grow up to be Princess Di on her wedding day?Why open the door to someone empty-handed when there is plenty of road-kill around to offer? What songs would you include in the soundtrack of your life? And how cool is it to live near a World Record-holding giant squash?!
Much of the material was from TomboySurvival Guide, Ivan’s most recent book, but the fact that I’d already read the stories did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the evening. Ivan’s portrayal of different characters had me laughing out loud, nodding in agreement with their observations of life, love and public toilets, and feeling like I was watching more than just one person. The elderly grandmothers, the best friend from childhood, and the ball players and sports coaches – Ivan’s storytelling and use of voices brought these characters to life, and it was a parade of the weird and the wonderful that we saw up on stage.
With a large number of gender-diverse audience members, Ivan also had words of encouragement and support for those who don’t look or act the way boys and girls ‘should’ look and act – be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and embrace what it is that makes you individual and unique. Be yourself, and know that asking people to use the ‘singular they’ pronoun to refer to you is not going to cause the end of the world!
Ivan is a fantastic storyteller, with some great stories to tell, and I look forward to hearing more from them. With sold-out audiences this year and last, Ivan has said they will be back, and I know that there will be keen interest in their next show. Until we hear about their next visit down to Aotearoa New Zealand, however, have a read of Ivan’s books available here at the library.
I could almost be in Dublin right now. It’s 13 degrees and in the freezing rain I bike up to the beautiful Piano venue on Armagh Street, for the last event of the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season. Anne Enright, first Laureate for Irish Fiction, is here to talk about her book The Green Road.
Winner of Irish Novel of the Year, The Green Road is a family saga, reminiscent of Jack Kerouac’s ‘Great American Novel,’ The Town and the City. Is this Enright’s Great Irish Novel? Well she did get her prize…
Family, says Enright, are a common focus in many of her novels. The Gathering, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2007, is about a family of nine who reunite for a funeral. Other common themes are the drinking father, the difficult mother, and the death of a parent or sibling.
There’s nothing brings a family together like a good funeral.
Often splitting her stories between characters before gathering the threads back together, Enright insightfully examines different perspectives of a common experience or issue.
The Forgotten Waltz, (a lyrical story about a love affair), is more introverted. Both lyrical and ironically funny, it follows Gina as she navigates her way through an affair, and the death of her mother. Apparently it has long been illegal in Irish culture to talk in the first person: “It’s not about you…!”
Enright is part of a new canon of Irish writers who “write what they like”. She discovered women writers were overlooked in Ireland, and figured no-one would read her… so wrote for her own pleasure.
The landscape is a strong character too. Quietly dominating the prose at times, foreshadowing perhaps a storm to come in story:
“The sky was full of weather.” (The Green Road).
Enright felt she could not write about it at first but remembered a connection with the cliffs around County Clare.
Enright is the first to say that she doesn’t want to be “abouty”. She means that she doesn’t want each book to be about the same theme, though issues do inspire her. The drinking father persona of Ireland, the difficult mother…
When asked what inspired the story for The Forgotten Waltz, I was blindsided by her answer: the economic boom and bust of Ireland… the dishonesty and financial fallout of the affair being a vehicle for Irish investment in a failing property market… So there you go.
Enright‘s narrative voice charms the reader from the first paragraph. After a week of reading The Forgotten Waltz, my mind was speaking in brogue. So it was a pleasure to hear her read Hannah’s trip along the Green road with her Da, and the dramatic scene around Holy Thursday dinner.
Her observations of human experience have been described as an unblinking eye. I see it more as winking. Like the Catholic Church, (nurturing, but subversive, ‘you can’t get out of it” she says,) her work is poignant, with the humour that comes along with the dramas of life.
The author of numerous books of a scientific bent is careful with his words and keen not to ruffle any feathers. It’s speculation on my part, but I wonder if his experience is that, on the topic of Time Travel, passions might sometimes become inflamed?
A curious full house gather at the Piano for this WORD Christchurch session featuring Gleick and fellow New Yorker Daniel Bernardi (erskine fellow, film and media studies scholar, science fiction expert and documentary filmmaker). They discuss the ins and outs, twists, turns and paradoxes of Time Travel. Before long there is, as is the new tradition when two educated Americans speak in the presence of non-Americans… a jocular swipe at the current US president.
Fortunately this science-loving audience is not in the least offended by the joke.
Gleick’s book Time Travel: A history is an exploration of the literature, science and zeitgeist of Time Travel. It’s far-ranging, smart and brain-expanding.
But what made him want to write on that topic in the first place?
I discovered this weird fact – that Time Travel is a new idea. That didn’t make any sense to me.
Why did it take until H. G. Wells’s novel The Time Machine for people to explore that as an idea? It seems a few things came together: photography and cinema were showing people a slice of the past in the present; instantaneous communication was suddenly possible making the lack of temporal alignment in different places more obvious; and time standards became a thing for the first time. As Gleick puts it, “the way people thought about Time was up for grabs”.
Then Einstein came along and things got really interesting.
Though Einstein’s theories allowed for the possibility of a sort of Time Travel, Gleick is quick to point out that it’s not the punching-a-date-on-a-machine or opening-a-portal-to-another-era kind. It’s really just the acknowledgement that there is no universal time. Everyone’s experience of time is personal and given the right set of circumstances (speedlight travel, for instance) your version of time can slow down relative to everyone else’s. This means that the Time Travel stories of the “Rip Van Winkle” (or Futurama) kind become technically possible. But Gleick doesn’t believe the imaginary, sci-fi type Time Travel that continues to excite our imaginations exists, or that it will. Though he seems apologetic about it, as if he’s mindful of deflating the aspirations of wannabe Time Travellers in the audience.
On the enduring appeal of Time Travel in literature and popular culture, Gleick feels that it lets people explore many things about families and relationships – it gives you the ability for “a do-over”. Like the movie Groundhog Day. He points out that a lot of Time Travel stories are about fathers and mothers, families and parents.
Take Back to the Future – isn’t this really just a movie about looking at your parents and realising they were once young like me, and wondering “what was that like?”
This is far from the only reference to Time Travel in popular culture, and many in the audience probably come away from this talk with a reading/watching list that includes:
A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – indicative of pessimism about the future of “our benighted country”.
Doomsday book – H. G. Wells never wrote about going into the past but Connie Willis does.
Looper – Movie that nicely skirts over the paradoxical plot difficulties by having Bruce Willis tell his younger self “If we’re going to talk about Time Travel sh*t we’re gonna be sitting here making diagrams with straws all day”.
Interstellar – Bernardi’s pick as the film that best visualises the science of Time Travel.
Arrival – A film that Gleick feels works very well in performing a “subtle trick” on the audience. All Time Travel stories have to do this but in this film you barely notice it happening.
Twelve Monkeys – Another Bruce Willis film that deals with a Time Travel loop and deals with a death.
“Blink” – Gleick’s favourite episode of Doctor Who, in particular a scene set in a spooky old house, “old houses are great time travel machines”. It’s also the first episode in which the phrase “timey-wimey” is used.
Gleick is at great pains to try and describe these stories in a way that does not reveal any important plot twists. In the case of Planet of the Apes this is… is adorable the right word? The movie came out in 1968. But no spoilers!
Another appealing aspect to Time Travel is that it’s a way of escaping death. After all, (spoiler alert!) Time will kill us all in the end.
When we hear Time’s winged chariot it’s not delivering good news.
But what is Time (other than universally deadly)? Scientists may tell you that Time is the 4th dimension and that it’s similar to the other physical dimensions in that we inhabit one spot and the rest stretches out away from us, both backward and forward. This rather flies in the face of what Gleick says we know “in our guts” about Time i.e. that the past has happened and the future hasn’t.
It seems an oddly obvious statement to have to make, and Gleick says it’s not a scientific one but a religious one.
Some of the audience questions delve into this idea of religious thought versus Time Travel and at this point I get lost, draw a spiral in my notebook and label it “loop of confusion”. Questions like “is God in Time with us?” and “doesn’t an interventionist God imply that the future isn’t set?” do somewhat “screw my noodle”. Given the heady topic, it seems inevitable that I lose the thread of the discussion at some point in proceedings. Perhaps it always has, and always did happen?
Other questions posed include one from my colleague Fee (who wrote her own post about James Gleick) and wonders if the future is set, then what about premonition? Which Gleick says (gently) that he does not believe in, though it’s a powerful idea.
Another question asks how it is that Gleick can explain such scientifically complex stuff in ways that non-scientist folk can understand. He says simply that he’s a journalist so he asks lots of questions and that a big part of it is just getting scientists to talk you as they sometimes “live in their own abstruse world”.
I am lucky enough to get the last mic grab of the night and ask my own question (which if I could have a Time Travel do-over for, I would make slightly less waffley). It’s with reference to the way we think about Time in terms of spatial metaphor. In the Western world we conceive of the past as being behind us and the future in front of us but in Māori culture this is flipped around – the past is known and therefore visible before you and it’s the future that approaches you from behind. In the course of researching had he found any other cultures that view Time this way? Gleick replies that the language we use, the words that we use to describe Time really shape how we think about it and that in some Asian languages Time travels on an “up and down” axis or “right to left”.
And if I thought my noodle was screwed before it definitely is now. As I exit the theatre along with the rest of the audience I concentrate on travelling forward through space and backwards/forwards/vertically through time.
Time: The real history of science fiction – BBC programme that discusses several of the films discussed in this session as well as the Grandfather paradox and other Time Travel tropes. (log in with your library card number and PIN to watch online)
David Wiesner And The Art Of Wordless Storytelling This is definitely a book for someone who has an interest in children’s illustration as it contains well-researched and far-reaching essays on the history and development of book illustration as an art form.
David Wiesner is of course the focus, and I enjoyed revisiting his wonderful illustrations. I remember sharing these books with my children, all of us having varying viewpoints about what was happening, delving deeper into each illustration with each reading. This is a beautifully produced book.
From the sublime to the ridiculous! Crafting with Cat Hair is the sort of book you just have to have a look at because it is so unlikely. Taking itself completely seriously, this book gives you in-depth instructions on how to use your moggie’s fluff for felting crafting pleasure. Perhaps if you are so inclined, it could be a way to immortalise your feline friend.
Food Fights and Culture Wars
Chomping away on my couple of pieces of dark chocolate, it was interesting to read about the violent past of chocolate. The chocolate we eat today is barely recognisable as the cacao that was produced by the early Mayan people.
Cadbury (whose Dunedin factory is set to close next year) was founded by Quakers. Their desire to fend off slavery underpinned the chocolate trade. Filled with beautifully reproduced pictures from the British Library, this is a fascinating romp through history and food.
There was an understandably big crowd at The Piano last night for A. N. Wilson in conversation with Christopher Moore. Part of the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season, we were treated to insights about the eminent novelist and biographer’s new and upcoming works, as well as his distinguished career.
As you can see, I was quite a long way back!
Wilson – or Andrew as I think we’re allowed to call him – was inspired to write biography after reading Lytton Strachey‘s Eminent Victorians and wanting to write as well as him. While he is generally commissioned to write biographies, he chose to write about the lives of Leo Tolstoy and Walter Scott. Scott was pretty much the father of historical fiction, with his tales of the Scottish Highlands allowing people to imagine what it was like to live in the past instead of simply regurgitating facts.
One of the things that fascinated Andrew about Tolstoy was the fact that while we know him as a great novelist, in Russia he was more known for his political beliefs – including his idea of passive anarchy which went to to inspire people like Gandhi. However, after digging into Tolstoy’s domestic sphere he concludes that:
he would not like to be Mrs Tolstoy.
Andrew’s latest novel is Resolution, about the German botanist Georg Forster who travelled with Captain Cook on his second voyage and later became a revolutionary in France. Interestingly, in Communist East Germany Forster was seen as a champion of class struggle and became a national hero. It’s great to hear about different and interesting people and I’m looking forward to reading this book.
An obvious favourite of Andrew’s is Queen Victoria who he describes as “taking being an embarrassing mother to new heights”. However, he is now researching Prince Albert, who is quite a different kettle of fish. Indeed, Andrew describes him as being
deeply strange and complicated.
He also believes that although Victoria was madly in love with Albert, he never fell in love with her and controlled her to a great degree. Look out for this biography in 2019, as its going to be fascinating!
Andrew obviously has a passion for the people he writes about and it was fabulous to have the opportunity to listen to his great storytelling here in Christchurch – which, he reminded us, is very much a Victorian city.
Stella Duffy: writer, playwright, actor, improviser, founder and co-director of Fun Palaces, and general multi-tasker extraordinaire. How, asks interviewer Liz Grant, does she have the energy?
I like working, and I know I’m really lucky to be able to do it — my parents both left school at 14, had very hard working lives, the only time off my dad had was when he was shot down in World War II and became a POW — so when artists talk about how it’s such hard work, and they have to suffer, it makes me want to punch them. What’s hard work is raising seven children like my mother, or being a brilliant man with no opportunities like my dad. I work really hard at my job, but it’s not hard work. I know I’m fortunate to be able to do it.
Duffy’s family history is fascinating — like all families it is complex and messy. While researching she discovered a great-grandmother who had given birth in Holloway prison. The reason for her spell inside? Manslaughter; “I didn’t realise the baby was so ill,” she said in court, “and neither did my (12-year old) daughter.” She worked from 9pm-6am every night (“charring” is the occupation given, scare quotes intentional), providing for her children so that she could be home to get them ready for school, only to lose a child and be imprisoned while pregnant with the next. It’s a far cry from Downton Abbey, that’s for sure, and can be seen in the hard working lives of the families in Duffy’s London Lies Beneath.
“There’s no place like home”
Probably the most interesting for me was the talk of home/not home, how once you move away from the place you grew up you effectively lose it — always missing home, but when you visit it has changed without you. This really resonated as someone who grew up in a small town but now lives in a city, with family across New Zealand as well as far away in Europe, who has lived overseas and now feels the tug of home/not-home wherever I am.
Christchurch in particular has that double-layered effect, walking down streets that have changed beyond measure in only a few years. In cities such as London and Rome the juxtaposition of past and present is even more noticeable, everything built on and around and between the layers of its own history. Duffy loves being swallowed up by such a vast, full and vibrant city, being “a small fish in a very big pond”, keeping the taniwha in the Thames fed with Kiwi accents and secrets:
You know what they say about the taniwha, don’t you, girl?
She shook her head.
He smiled as he said, It’s homesick, of course, but the Thames is too busy and it can’t get by the ships for fear of being seen and lauded and brought ashore for our pleasure again. It doesn’t like to be looked at, not directly. And it’s bigger, much bigger now, grown full on the secrets we tell to the water. That taniwha lives off our whispers, eating up the fears and tears we tell over the side of a bridge. It’s grown fat on what we hide from in the dark, beneath the bedclothes. There’s no getting away from it either, it will follow you along the Effra or the Neckinger as easy as it rides the tide from Tilbury to Teddington.
— London Lies Beneath, Stella Duffy
When I first read about Money in the Morgue I was under the impression that Duffy was simply finishing an already mostly-completed manuscript, but no: Dame Ngaio Marsh only left three sketchy chapters with some rough notes and no ideas of whodunnit, where it was done or how. Helpful!
Duffy talked a little about how to recreate the tone of Marsh’s writing without the less desirable -isms that permeate 30s era novels (how to make it seem as if it were written in that time but not of that time, if you see what I mean). The answer? Steal a few of Marsh’s writing tics. “Alleyn rubbed his nose.” “His ascetic monk’s face.” “His long, elegant fingers.” Perhaps we’ll see some of New Zealand’s “primordial landscape”, too. All jokes aside, Duffy is careful to avoid any sense of pastiche or mockery in her writing, being an avid admirer of Marsh’s work.
I look forward to reading Money in the Morgue when it’s published in May 2018, and in the meantime reading Duffy’s recent thriller, The Hidden Room. If you’re interested in learning more about the historical setting of London Lies Beneath, Duffy recommends Round About a Pound a Week, written in 1913 by the trade unionist, Fabian and feminist Maud Pember Reeves. If you’re new to Ngaio Marsh’s writing then she recommends starting with Died in the Wool, a country house mystery set on a high country sheep station in New Zealand.