Junot Diaz, as those of you who caught our coverage of last year’s Auckland Writers and Readers Festival will know, scored a literary hole in one with his debut novel The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao.  Expansive, multi-generational and totally enthralling, the book recently won the Morning News Tournament of Books.  The book follows the trials and tribulations of a Dominican family, especially the hapless son, the eponymous “hero” of the title.

Though this was Diaz’s first novel, it’s not his first book and hungry for more of his work I asked nicely of them-that-buy-the-stuff and so now we have copies of Diaz’s 1997 short story collection, Drown in the library collection.  So is it any good?  Does it have the “Wao-factor”? 

Does a Dominican male have swagger?

If you liked Oscar Wao then you’ll enjoy Drown too.  It has a lot of the same elements; depictions of poverty and family life in the Dominican Republic, not-as-innocent-as-you-would-hope childhoods, gritty urban characters with dependencies and turbulent love lives and so on.  It also features a handy glossary at the back for most of the Spanish terms that liberally pepper the stories.

The only problem is that at 166 pages it’s a mere slip of a thing compared to the robust Oscar Wao and the stories are short enough to be digested rather quickly.  This makes it more of a snack than a banquet which means I’ll be hungry again in no time at all.

News Flash

Not a book and yet available from a library!
Not a book and yet available from a library!

The award for most obvious headline of the week goes to…The Washington Post who tells us “Libraries are not just for books” 

Really? I’m going to get myself down to that library and see if they have LPs for my gramophone yet.

If you are interested in the mysterious non-book holdings of the library, check out this info about our latest tech offering.


Christchurch City Libraries’ cataloguing team has many responsibilities, but one of the most unusual is updating author entries in the catalogue with the date of that person’s death. They monitor news sources and websites daily, and pride themselves in getting the changes made as soon as possible after the death becomes public news.

Why bother, you might ask? A date of death helps better identify the writer, performer or subject of the book, album and so on and makes it easier for people to find exactly what they are looking for at the library. There may only be one John Updike in our catalogue for example, but there are several entries for John Martyn.

This necrology – a list of notable people who have died recently – will become a regular feature on our blog. It will make fascinating reading.

January 25 to February 1 2009