Man Booker Prize Longlist

For those of you who follow such things the Man Booker prize longlist is out.  Some of the authors are completely new to me, and the ones I have read I didn’t like – so it’s not looking good for my reading list this year.  Our trusty fiction buyer has been hot on the case however, so you will be able to order any of these titles from the library network if something takes your fancy.

So here they are:

White Tiger
White Tiger

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
From A to X by John Berger
The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

One title that has been getting some attention is A Case of Exploding Mangoes by first novelist Mohammed Hanif.  Apparently written in a similar vein to Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, it is set in the days before the crash that killed General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, president of Pakistan from 1978 to 1988 – one of Pakistan’s enduring mysteries.  Hanif uses satirical humour to build up crazy conspiracy theories, and it could be very good, or it could just be annoyingly clever, hard to tell.

If you wish to test your knowledge about past Booker prizes then have a go at this quiz. You will surely do better than me, I only scored two out of five!

Silver Scroll Top Twenty Announced

In local music awards news, the APRA Silver Scroll Awards top twenty has been announced.  The award celebrates songwriting across musical genres. APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) members vote, and the five finalists will be announced mid August.  The winner will be presented the Silver Scroll Award on 10 September 2008.

Among the candidates are Bright Grey by The Phoenix Foundation, Dreams in my Head by Anika Moa, Tane Mahuta by The Ruby Suns and Gather to the Chapel by Liam Finn.

Visit the APRA website to view the contenders, read the lyrics and listen to the songs.

Sounds like teen spirit

… well, the influx of brill new music has got me a bit giddy.

The Tindersticks are one of my all time top bands. Stuart Staples has the sexiest deep growl of a voice this side of Nick Cave and their new album The Hungry Saw has garnered some good reviews and is due in the library soon.

Santogold is my new artist of the year so far. Her 80s influenced sounds have been compared to M.I.A. but she has her own voice, and it’s incredibly catchy and diverse. Remixes of her work are all over the music blog scene, a sure sign of someone breaking through.

Modern Guilt by Beck is another one to look forward to. The songs I’ve heard from it show Mr Hansen on top form. I’m less certain of Narrow Stairs by Death Cab for Cutie, but the slow burning, tension building “I will possess your heart” is one of my most listened to songs of the year – so I want to see how the rest of the album bears up. Their songs have been on quite a few tv shows such as Californication and The O.C.

In more music news, the Mercury Prize shortlist has been announced. This British prize is worth a look for its ecleticism – it straddles all sorts of music from hip hop to folk. The comments on the shortlist have ranged from “what, no Portishead?” to happiness that dubstep mystery man Burial is on the list. My vote (on what I’ve listened to so far) goes to the super 80s stylings of Neon Neon. A concept album about car star John De Lorean is a pretty unique :

To find out about new CDs in the library, you can look at our new titles list. We also welcome recommendations of music to purchase – just fill out this form.

Confessions of a wannabe Children’s Librarian

I need to confess, admit, relieve myself of a secret …. I have never read Harry Potter, any of them in fact, there is always something more interesting to do. Normally I would fear that such an admission would end my nascent career as a Children’s Librarian, but I have rights as a reader – I have the right NOT to read.

According to Daniel Pennac, in his wonderful book the Rights of the Reader, I have other rights too, so whilst I am celebrating my new found rights here are some more of my secrets

  • I have the right to skip – I have only ever read the beginning and end of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass
  • I have the right not to finish a book – I didn’t finish Joy Cowley’s Snake and Lizard
  • I have the right to read again – I have lost count of the number of times I have read I’m not cute by Jonathan Allen as it is soo cute!!
  • I have the right to read anything – I have read all the Tiara Club series by Vivian French!
  • I have the right to mistake a book for real life – Oh I could so see me as Christina in the Flambards series.
  • I have the right to read anywhere – even whilst walking!!
  • I have the right to dip in- a quick dip into Where the sidewalk ends by Shel Silverstein always brightens up my day, but I don’t think I have read all of it!
  • I have the right to read out loud – The Diary of a Killer Cat by Anne Fine just begs me to read it out loud to anyone, anything that will listen.In fact I am sure the sitting room plants are looking glossier and have sprouted a few more leaves since I read it to them!
  • The right to be quiet – even whilst reading in a noisy café, I want my own sphere of quiet and peace to luxuriate in reading or not!

So be embarrassed no more about not reading a book, celebrate your favourite reading spot, and read that passage out loud to anyone who is passing with gusto and passion, as we readers have RIGHTS!! During Library Week the Centre for the Child is going to CELEBRATE these RIGHTS!! We want to know how you celebrate and delight in your rights as a reader.

Not a book group groupie

Secret scripture
Secret scripture

Are you a book finisher or a giver-upper?  I used to be a dedicated finisher, I would plough my way through long tiresome books, hoping that soon something would happen to make this all worth while – and sometimes it worked.  Shipping News by Annie Proux took me ages to get into, but I’m glad I perservered.  Margaret Atwood’s The Blind assassin and A S Byatt’s The Biographers Tale were two that took their time to impress me – in fact I think I enjoyed both of them more in hindsight!  However of late I have gone off the practice of finishing, and find myself sighing and tossing the book aside if it is failing to impress.  My latest giver upper has been Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture.  It’s had good reviews, but somehow I couldn’t care about the characters and it’s gone on the growing pile of the “not read”! 

This may explain part of my problem with Reading groups.  I have belonged to, and left three!  With each one I have struggled with the idea of reading a book that has to be read, (even if it is one I have willingly chosen myself). I get a feeling of having to read, which somehow takes away the pleasure.  Even the copious amounts of wine and socialising can’t persuade me that reading groups are my thing.  I like to read a book and savour it – on my own,  and I hate it when someone doesn’t like something that I absolutely adored.  Equally as a non finisher, I would often find myself with nothing to say except a lame, “I didn’t like it”.  No reasons, no thoughts or ideas to back me up, just a shrug of my shoulders and a hasty gulp of wine.

If you belong to a fabulous reading group (and I’m sure many people do), then I envy you, but you can breath a sigh of relief because I won’t be knocking at your door wanting to join in the fun!

Tasty Te Reo Tidbits

Ko te wiki o te reo Māori.  It’s Māori Language Week and in the interests of keeping with the kaupapa and adding a bit of te reo to the library blog I thought I’d clue you up on some new and not-so-new but interesting te reo resources.

Launched this week is the first completely te reo online dictionary Pataka Kupu (meaning “word storehouse”).  This internet tool has been produced by Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori, The Māori Language Commission.  It is the first of it’s kind in Aotearoa and is leading the way in terms of indigenous language tools online internationally.  For those of you with not quite enough te reo skill to wade into the “English free zone” you might want to check out the very user-friendly Ngata-base dictionary.

Other online te reo news comes in the form of Google Māori.  Eagle-eyed users may have noticed the addition of “ offered in : Maori” below the usual search box.  If you click through here you’ll find it’s the same Google but different as all the text and searching options are in te reo.  So if you’ve ever wondered what the Māori for “I’m feeling lucky” was this is the perfect way to find out.  Google Māori works and looks exactly like Google “ordinary” so if you’re familiar with the ubiquitous searching tool (and who isn’t?) you’ll be able to use Google Māori irrespective of your level of te reo experience or expertise.

And I’d just like to plug my own personal little favourite gem of a te reo resource for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.  It’s Nga waiata aroha a Hekepia = Love sonnets by Shakespeare and I’m kicking myself for having forgotten about this when we were selecting verses for the Poet Tree.  Anyway, it’s Shakespeare, folks, but not as we know it as various sonnets get the te reo Māori treatment, for example –

Na hoki rātou ka tangi mo nga āhua ra,

Tā te kupu iā koia anō te humārie.

Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,

That every tongue says beauty should look so.

Each sonnet is given in English and Māori so it might not not be “every tongue” but you’ll have the two main Kiwi ones covered!

Prepare to feast Christchurch

Festival poster

The Press Christchurch Writers Festival programme has been launched with a line-up that should have readers and writers alike flocking to the ticket office.

There truly will be something for everyone – from young writers workshops to readings from emerging writers from the Hagley Writers Institute; from the journalistic giant that is Robert Fisk to local poets; from Owen Marshall to song-writing workshops; from chefs to blogs – there is huge range for all tastes and budgets. The organisers have done a great job of timetabling so that there are very few double-ups.

Christchurch City Libraries will be covering the festival on this blog, reporting from different sessions and offering written and audio interviews. From now until the start of the festival we’ll keep you up to date on what’s happening and provide background information on the visiting authors. Try using our RSS feed to keep yourself up to date.

We’ll also be talking to the some of the people behind the scenes at the festival, which has been months in the planning. It’s going to be fantastic, so grab a festival programme, and go buy your tickets!

From The Montanas

Once again the literary set managed to keep a civil tongue in their heads, at least in public, at last night’s Montana  New Zealand Book Awards, but overhearing the question “who is Sidney Nolan?” in the foyer on the way in did make me think they need to brush up their general knowledge.

No-one had to ask the extremely glamorous and competent M.C.,  Jennifer Ward-Lealand, who she was wearing because it was helpfully noted at the bottom of the menu and programme of events (Liz Mitchell in case you’re wondering).

The Prime Minister was greeted several times in absentia before she managed to be in presentia, rushing from one event to another but looking very smart in black and as gracious as ever in her support of the arts. Nicky Wagner, National’s Associate Spokeswoman for Arts, Culture and Heritage, started her day at the Central Library in Christchurch and ended it at the Montanas – obviously a true book lover. 

Charlotte Grimshaw was of course the big winner on the night with Opportunity, despite predictions that she wouldn’t be winning because she wasn’t present.  Via satellite she pronounced herself a proud Labour voter,  announced she had already written a sequel to Opportunity and begun a novel featuring the same characters and was generally a polished and professional performer.

Mary McCallum, whose book The Blue was the winner of the  New Zealand Society of Authors Hubert Church Best First Book Award for fiction was a bit more enthusiastic. She’d  discovered the pleasures of checking out library web-sites to see if her books were all out and was very excited to find there was a waiting list for it in Picton. In what must surely be a first there was also a veiled criticism of the judges from a winner, when the controversy over choosing four novels not five was referred to in an acceptance speech.

And now for my own awards:

Best opening remark of an acceptance speech – “I never thought I’d be on stage with Jennifer Ward-Lealand”.

Best literary witticism –  “I’ve been doing this since C.K. Stead was in short sentences”.

Best editor – Rachel Scott, publisher at Canterbury University Press, who edited both the winner and the runner-up in the fiction category.

Most unnerving moment – being surrounded by black-suited Myrmidons disguised as wait-staff awaiting a signal from their ear-piece wearing leader. I had a nasty moment wondering just what they had planned but all they wanted to do was whisk away our plates in one synchronised movement.

Worst choice of favourites – me – none of mine won.

Montana NZ Book Awards winners

The winners have been announced, here they are in a symphony of colour.


EdwinTe TauBill Hammond

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Everything I have is down in pawn

Elizabeth Cotten’s unique style made her one of the most original guitar players in the history of American folk music.  Like many great blues musicians, she was unknown until fate intervened and she was “discovered” while working as a maid at the home of famed ethnomusicologists the Seegers.  They recorded her and in 1957, at the age of 62, she released her debut album. Her distinctive guitar playing attracted great interest and she developed a following amongst the folk revivalists of the fifties and sixties. Her idiosyncratic left-handed technique (dubbed “Cotten picking”) developed out of necessity; unable to afford a guitar, she secretly used her brother’s, not-restringing but playing  it upside down.  Thus, she formed her way of playing the bass lines with her fingers and the treble strings with her thumb.  The result is a fluid and lyrical style.

Cotten’s classic albums were re-released on the Smithsonian Folkways label a couple of years ago, including her debut Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes.  Freight Train is probably her most famous tune (she wrote it when she was twelve years old but it wasn’t a hit for fifty years or so).  Shake Sugaree features a great version of the title track sung by her twelve year old granddaughter.

The folk revival generated a lot of interest in Cotten.  She became an increasingly popular performer, writing and recording  new material, yet she didn’t retire from domestic work until 1970.  The Smithsonian Institute recognised her as a “living treasure” and she received a Grammy Award in 1985.

Smithsonian Folkways have consistently been providing good introductions to their exhaustive catalogue of sound recordings.  Elizabeth Cotten also appears on the American Roots Collection compilation and another good entry level collection is the Friends of Old Time Music box set.  It is well worth taking a visit to the Folkways website, they have great background information on their artists and you can sample lots of tracks.  If you are intrigued by Elizabeth Cotten, read this 2005 article from The Listener.