Suffrage Day / White Camellia Day Friday 19 September

Elizabeth McCombs
Elizabeth McCombs

You might be fed up with Labour and National and the Winston sideshow as the election on November 8 looms, but before 1893 women didn’t get a vote – and the first woman MP Elizabeth McCombs didn’t get into Parliament until 40 years later!

So on Suffrage Day we celebrate the women who fought for their rights and for ours. We’ve just added some brief political biographies of local women in council to the web site – from Christchurch’s “Women in the Council Chamber” exhibition, initiated and co-ordinated by Cr Anna Crighton.

Other ways to celebrate:

Kate Sheppard Memorial
Kate Sheppard Monument

Friday 19th September 12.30 p.m. – All women are invited to bring camellias to Our City O-Tautahi, to place on the Kate Sheppard Memorial. Bring a poem or a personal statement.

You might also like to join Women on Air for their celebration of Suffrage Day at 7:30pm Christchurch Girls’ High School Auditorium – it features authors Megan Hutching, Janice Marriott, Virginia Pawsey and poet Bernadette Hall.

Lucky Linda?

Those Women on Air girls can really pick the authors to bring to Christchurch. Earlier this year they hosted the extremely talented Linda Grant, who has just made the Man Booker short-list for The clothes on their backs. I’ve loved all Grant’s books and she writes for Vogue and she has a blog about clothes so I would have gone to see her anyway but the the smug feeling of having heard her read from a book that might just win one of the biggies on the literary award scene and from having a signed copy is an added bonus.

Grant is an Orange Prize winner but she’s not the favourite to win this one. Even the bookies were surprised when Salman Rushdie didn’t make the short-list and seem to think Sebastian Barry might be the winner this year.

The women writers on the Oranges Are Not The Only Prize panel at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival were generally in agreement that prizes can make a difference to sales and in bringing books to the public’s attention and so it has proved for The clothes on their backs. Just making the longlist saw it jump from selling 11 copies in the week before the announcement to 144 the week after. In library land books on long and short lists certainly generate more reserves, just like a review in The Press or the Listener or a mention on a popular blog.

fascinating piece in the Guardian Online  about Booker deliberations through the 40 years of the prize detailed some of the shenanigans the judges have got up to in picking the winners. The general message seems to be that it’s something of a horse trading exercise so the novels the judges thought should have won but didn’t and their picks as the best of the Bookers are particularly interesting.

More than one judge chose J.G. Farrell’s The seige of Krishnapur as the best winner and Penelope Fitzgerald’s The blue flower as most undeserving loser (‘a grotesque oversight” according to Paul Bailey).

And when The bone people won in 1985 the women’s co-operative who had published it “came up in full island dress to collect it, chanting a Maori praise song”, in Marina Warner’s bemusing phrase.

Book geekdom – new books from Peter Ackroyd and Michel Faber


You know you’re a book geek when you punch the air, yell “YESSSS” and get generally all excited when you find your favourite author is coming out with something new.

And this week I’ve done it twice. First I heard about Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein. Ackroyd is amazing – he combines the rich detail of historical fiction with literary style and technique of the highest order.  The first book of his I read was The last testament of Oscar Wilde, a retelling of the last days of Wilde in Paris. These are novels to lose hours in, and he specialises in endings that are almost spiritual and transcendent.

Ackroyd is very much a man of letters, and has written biographies of figures such as Thomas More and Charles Dickens, and books for children and teenagers. Oh, and a biography of the city of London no less.

The Apple
The Apple

Michel Faber has also written a book set in Victorian times – The Crimson Petal and the white is a big, swirling book detailing the life of Sugar, a 19 year old prostitute. The Apple is a collection of short stories that revisits some of the same characters.

His new book is called The fire gospel. It sounds a bit crazy:

Theo Griepenkerl is a modest academic with an Olympian ego. When he visits a looted museum in Iraq, looking for treasures he can ship back to Canada, he finds nine papyrus scrolls that have lain hidden for two thousand years. Once translated from Aramaic, these prove to be a fifth Gospel, written by an eye-witness of Jesus Christ’s last days …

Continue reading

Sharpen your stencil

Despite how you might feel about having your fence tagged (nobody likes that, do they?) there’s no denying that at the high, and often political end of street art is the stencil.  Really good stencil art is not unlike screen-printing in technique and my favourite examples of this artform are ones that utilise some kind of visual pun to make a point.  British artist Banksy is arguably the most famous exponent of this street art sub-genre but French artist Blek le rat is also a high-profile stenciller from way back.  Here’s Banksy’s take on the elder statesman of street art from the introduction of new book Blek le rat : getting through the walls

Every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it as well.  Only twenty years earlier.

I like to think that being able to appreciate the skill and intelligence that some people put into their street art doesn’t necessarily mean that you condone vandalism, but that’s just my opinion.  For those interested in checking out some of the better stencil art that’s been produced internationally as well as locally, check out the collage of titles (and interesting covers) below. 


Thursdays. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy
Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy

If you know who said those words, you’ll be very pleased to learn that the sixth book in a particular series penned on a small, blue-green planet in the south-western arm of the Milky Way is coming out next October. For the uninitiated, Arthur Dent immortalised the phrase in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the galaxy – the hilarious radio series which became books, TV programmes and films.

Eoin Colfer, best-known for his Artemis Fowl series, will write And another thing … and has described the opportunity to write the book as ‘suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice’.

It won’t be Colfer writing as Adams, the Guardian reports, but it will be great to see the characters given a new lease of life.