Hot off the shelf

Prisoners of WarInterviews, letters, diaries and logs combine to give a voice to allied prisoners of war in the Second World War in Prisoner of War. POWs came from all walks of life but they shared the endless battle to survive against brutality, disease, hunger and despair.  

The book follows them from capture, through interrogation, imprisonment (and escape for some) to liberation and homecoming. Told in the POW’s own voices, these remarkable stories of extreme hardship borne with great courage and of hope in the face of seemingly unbearable privations are absolutely compelling.

They also give pause for thought along the lines of counting your blessings and being grateful for warmth, shelter and enough to eat, and of the incredible sacrifices men and women make during times of war.  

Who could resist a title like Unshaven jaws? Those old enough to remember designer stubble might be hoping for Don Johnson in a pastel T-shirt and an unstructured linen jacket with the sleeves rolled up and espadrilles with no socks but those who have moved on since the ’80s would be glad that it is in fact about real men.

You can’t get any more real mannish than the sixty All Black test captains who have led the national team since 1903 and that is what this book is about.  It’s largely made up of photographs and what photographs they are; ranging from so full of action that you might have trouble figuring out what’s going on to the classic static team shot of the boys lined up with their arms folded and their knees on poignant display, they reflect the huge changes New Zealand society has seen in the 100 or so years the All Blacks have existed.

It’s not all about the photographs though, while the words are admirably succinct they still have space for the  telling anecdote like the one about James ‘Jimmy’ Duncan, the first All Black captain, who suffered from alopecia. He wore a cap on the field and was rumored to have whipped it off on more than one occasion, throwing to a support player and confusing the opposition who chased it thinking it was the ball while ‘Jimmy’ got a free run to the line.  

Andy Warhol

A visit to The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh leads viewers through seven floors of drawings, prints, paintings, scuplture, film and video but really no closer to knowing what lay behind the almost catatonic facade Warhol presented to the world.

The four hour film to be shown at the Christchurch film festival this year might shed some light on the enigma that was Andy but then again it might not. Warhol must be one of the most written about artists ever, so those seeking to know about him can choose from plentiful sources, although they may never know the ‘truth’ about him.  

Andy Warhol: the factory years and The velvet years: Warhol’s factory, 1965-67 are  entertaining looks at his milieu during the time of the infamous ‘silver factory’ in the years before he was shot.

Warhol by David Bourdon is the authorised biography, while books like Billy Name: stills from the Warhol films and Andy Warhol photography are an interesting visual record.

As a man who sent a wigged impersonator to fufill his speaking engagements in the 1960s it is doubtful that Warhol actually wrote any of the books that came out under his name but whoever did write them was very funny. The Andy Warhol diaries is probably closest to capturing his authentic voice. Transcriptions of tape recordings he kept, initially to itemise his spending in case he was audited by the IRS, they reveal a knowing wit and an eye for artistic talent that might be surprising to some.

Edie SedgwickWarhol’s life has also been fictionalised on film more than once; I shot Andy Warhol is the story of Valerie Solanas, who shot the artist because he had “too much control” over her, and Basquiat features him (played by David Bowie) as the collaborator of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the graffitti artist of the 1980s. The latest film to examine the Warhol Sixties  is Factory girl, the life story of the doomed Edie Sedgwick, one of his first super-stars.

Warhol was also a world-class shopper, a collector of everything from Bakelite to Swatches to precious stones.  Possession obsession catalogues some of the huge volume of stuff he amassed over the years – as he said of himself “Buying is much more American than thinking and I’m as American as they come”.  After his death just some of these possessions were auctioned, raising over thirty million dollars, while some are still in the museum in Pittsburgh.  

One of the most interesting exhibits, especially to an inveterate hoarder,  is the display of some of Warhol’s  ‘time capsules’, cardboard boxes into which he threw anything that he considered worth keeping, and that was most things. When each box was filled it would be taped up, dated and a new one begun.

There are hundreds of these boxes neatly stacked in storage and the Museum rotates displays of their contents. When I was there they featured receipts, invitations, bills, postcards and some art works by Edie Segwick along with a bill for earrings and clothing bought by her that totalled over $300, a stunning amount considering you could buy a new car for $2,000 at the time. No wonder she ran through her large inheritance in a matter of months. 

Poetry winners for Montana Poetry Day

Secret HeartToday is Montana Poetry Day and the winners of the Poetry Category and the NZSA Best First Book for Poetry have been announced:

Janet Frame has won the poetry category of the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards for her collection, The Goose Bath.

Victoria University Press author, Airini Beautrais won the NZSA Jessie McKay Best First Book for Poetry for her collection, Secret Heart.