Bum! Bum! Bum! Bum!

If you think books called “The day my bum went psycho”, “Bumageddon : the final pongflict”, and “What bumosaur is that” are not for you then definitely DON’T come to our Andy Griffiths author event on Wednesday.

Andy Griffiths is the most popular Australian children’s author  going at the moment and we are very pleased (and a little grossed out) to have him speaking as part of our 150th celebrations.

The second best part of our event is that is is FREE! Call the Library on 941-7923 to get some tickets sent out to you and come along to the Town Hall on Wednesday 12 August from 6:30 – 7:30, bringing along any children who like all things annoying, stupid, gross or disgusting, and any adults who would like to hear a hilarious speaker and possibly a story of a baby-to-dinosaur-head-transplant.

The art of Shag

The works in Shag: The art of Josh Agle have a well-defined aesthetic.  It’s wood panelled interiors and martini glasses. It’s the tiki lounge.  It’s poodles.  It’s mods on scooters. The worlds that Agle creates are at once retro-kitschy whilst entirely modern and 21st century.  And he is full of mischief and surprises.  Just when you think you’re in for another party scene interior peopled with heavily eyelinered women and jauntily quiffed men…in comes a pink elephant with a bottle of Seagram’s and a cocktail shaker…wearing a fez.

It’s the presence of mythical creatures, man sized grasshoppers, yetis and even the rubella virus that keeps the lounge singers, beatniks, and spies in check. A cosmic balance of sorts.

Agle had every intention of being an illustrator, and you can see how “advertising friendly” his work is, but then his original works started to be snapped up by galleries and collectors.  Known as Shag (from joSH AGle) he’s now an industry, with fans able to purchase everything from prints to lunchboxes, calendars to zippos and everything in between.

Agle’s subject matter is very much of the same era as the television series Mad men and one can imagine those angst-laden advertising execs rubbing shoulders with Agle’s boldly coloured bouffant beauties. A new internet toy that lets you Mad Men Yourself has a little bit of the look of Agle’s look but sadly, no pink elephants bearing liquor. Enjoy!

Winter Arts

Despite being hellishly busy co-directing a theatre/film piece (“Love You Approximately” by the clinic) for this arts festival, I have been lucky to make it to four ticketed events so far:

  • Slava’s Snow Show … well, I don’t watch TV but I hear there’s been television advertising for this, so most people probably have a good idea of what it’s like. Beautiful costumes, fantastic physical clown characters, a lot of humour and some neat special effects. Lacking a story or any sort of through-line, we simply witness slava and his very tall friend in a bunch of different comical situations. What awed me and my 6 year old companion was the fantastic audience participation, both at intermission and the end: a sweet, simple invitation to be part of the magic and play with the cool toys.
  • Love Letters in the Margin, a collaboration between 3 bands (Ragamuffin Children, Le Mot Cafe, The Eastern) and 3 poets (Ciaran Fox, Marissa Johnpillai, Ben Brown), in the TelstraClear tent, which is a lovely warm, red place to hang out and listen to great sounds and words.
  • The Intricate Art of Actually Caring, a highlight of the Wellington Fringe this year and a latecomer to the festival programme. Two young white Wellington guys with nothing better to do journey to Jerusalem to visit James K Baxter’s grave. Fantastic use of overhead projectors made this show really low-tech slick, giving me heaps of little smiles as well as outright laughter.
  • Finders Keepers, Raewyn Hill’s latest dance piece, so far the highlight for me. I admire the way Raewyn chooses collaborators, drawing on the best of all elements to make dance pieces that are so much richer and clearer for their incorporation of theatre, script, great set and costumes in a simple colour pallette excellently complemented by beautiful lighting by Marty Roberts. The piece is based on her experiences at the bird market in Hong Kong and is easily as good as any international dancetheatre piece I’ve seen in international arts festivals.

Other shows I plan to see include:

  • Once and for all we’re gonna tell you who we are so shut up and listen, a Belgian theatre piece about being a teenager.
  • Winded, the latest dance performance created by Christchurch troupe Scrambled Legs.
  • Happy Home Road, a circus/theatre show which was featured in this morning’s Press.

Image of the week

A cycling novelty, 1898.

A cycling novelty

The Christchurch cycling brass band is pictured on their Star cycles. The band claimed to be the only one of its type in the world. They held instruments in one hand and steered their cycles with the other. Pictured from left are H. Woods (euphonium), A. Gordon (cornet), H. Flanagan (trombone), F. Taylor (cornet), W. Crawford (side drum), T. Dalton (trombone), F. T. Hopkins (drum), F. W. Painter, Bandmaster (cornet), Arthur James Watts (1863-1956) (bass), G. Lake (horn).

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And the winners are…

So who were the notable winners at the Montana Book Awards (notable in that I actually managed to make a note of what they said)?

Readers’ Choice Award:
The 10 pm question by Kate de Goldi, who thought it was amazing to be asked to the grown-up table and then get dessert. Also a great night for Longacre, who had the two runners up in the Fiction category and the best dressed publisher.

New Zealand Society of Authors Best First Book Award
The rehearsal by Eleanor Catton, who beamed in from Iowa in both senses of the word and whose mind was boggled by the fact that “there exists an award for first time authors”.

Novel about my wife by Emily Perkins, who thanked her long-suffering partner as ‘novelists are not easy to live with”.

Perkins also won the Montana Medal for Fiction or Poetry and shared the best-dressed author kudos with Jill Trevelyan, who won the Biography category and the Montana Medal for non-fiction for Rita Angus: An artist’s life.  Trevelyan noted that there would never have been a book if  Rita Angus hadn’t written letters to Douglas Lilburn, if the famously private Lilburn hadn’t kept them and the Alexander Turnbull Library hadn’t both preserved them and made them accessible.

Collected Poems, 1951 – 2006 by C.K.Stead – “I’m not sure who I am…the anonymous editor of the collected works of the late C. K. Stead?”

The rocky shore by Jenny Bornholdt, who found it odd to be in France and giving her thanks long distance.

Lifestyle and Contemporary Culture
Ladies a plate: traditional home baking by Alexa Johnston, who thanked Montana for “giving us wine and giving us money”, as well as her mother and her husband and the bakers who created our history.

Len Castle: making the molecules dance by Len Castle, who said the book gods had been kind, but so they should be to a man who has been a giant of New Zealand artistry and craftsmanship for over 60 years. He mentioned the wonderful Lopdell House Gallery in Titirangi, which reminded me of what a great gallery it is, and lead me to resolve to drop by next time I’m out that way searching for the West’s house.

 And the Robyn Stewart kiss of death record? Not so bad this year.

Essential reading for rockstar wannabes

Okay, so I’ve always wanted to be a rockstar.  I know, I know, not a very original aspiration to have and librarian-rockstars are few and far between but that’s why they’re called “dreams”.  So naturally my eye was taken by the following recent acquisitions to the library collection.  For what hath a librarian-rockstar if not the urge (and skill) to research her dream profession?

Battle of the band names : the best and worst band names ever and all the brilliant, colorful, stupid ones in between – This is required reading because there’s no way I’m going to be able to coast to rockstar supremacy on the back of my own mediocre talent. I will need a band and getting the name right is trés important.  To be fair this is a bit of a one joke book and the sort of thing that you can just dip in and out of but having said that there are plenty of noteworthy additions.  My personal favourite?  John Cougar Concentration Camp.  Oh, and Kiwi bands like The Formyula are included (for bad spelling probably, tsk).

Crap lyrics : a celebration of all the very worst pop lyrics of all time– ever! – Once I have my imaginary band we will necessarily have to write some songs (though we won’t be so much “pop” as synth-dub-barbecue reggae-neopunk). It might be nice to know what to avoid in terms of lyricism. When you think about it most pop lyrics seem to be a bit crap, don’t they? I mean even the hallowed Beatles were fairly banal in their day.

Love love me do, you know I love you, I’ll always be true. So ple-ee-ee-ease, love me do.

Now that I think about it, even the syntax is a bit skewiff in that one.  So even the rock greats can pen some howlers from time to time and this book is just the one to point at the naked rock ‘n’ roll emperor and tell him to get his kit on.

The complete idiot’s guide to starting a band – ‘Nuff said?

So, any nominations for worst band name or crappest ever lyrics?

Man Booker prize longlist is out …

And what do you reckon? Here’s the longlist.

As yet I haven’t read ANY of these, but am intrigued especially by How to paint a dead man by Sarah Hall. I interviewed her at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in 2008 and she talked about the percolating process of this novel:

… very loosely based around the life of Giorgio Morandi, Italian still life artist, “a very weird character who painted the same series of objects over and over again his whole life. A recluse, very well respected in the field of art but lot of rumours flew around about him and also speculation about the work. He painted bottles over and over again on the table and he never answered anyone’s artistic theories about them. There is a character loosely based on him and four narratives. Art/Death/Existential matters. It’s going to be a hard sell!”

Others on my to-read list are The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt (blogged about Sue earlier this month) and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It’s set in one of the most interesting times in English history – the reign of Henry VIII – and told largely through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. 

Another novel with a historical bent that I want to read is The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds. The description read to me like a Peter Ackroyd-esque blend of historical figures and intense lyricism – a good thing:

After years struggling with alcohol, critical neglect and depression, great nature poet John Clare finds himself in High Beach Private Asylum. At the same time another poet, the young Alfred Tennyson, moves nearby and becomes entangled in the life and catastrophic schemes of the asylum’s owner, the peculiar, charismatic Dr Matthew Allen. This intensely lyrical novel describes his vertiginous fall, through hallucinatory episodes of insanity and dissolving identity, towards his final madness. Historically accurate, but brilliantly imagined, the closed world of High Beach and its various inmates – the doctor, his lonely daughter in love with Tennyson, the brutish staff and John Clare himself – are brought vividly to life. Rapturous yet precise, exquisitely written, rich in character and detail, this is a remarkable and deeply affecting book: a visionary novel which contains a world.

  • Man Booker longlist press release
  • Heavyweights clash on Booker longlist – The Guardian
  • What have you read from the longlist? What might you want to? What glaring omissions are there?

    Goodbye and Good luck

    The 13th year of Montana’s sponsorship of the New Zealand Book awards was lucky for some on Monday the 28th July. The vines have truly been nurtured  but 2009 is the last year of Montana’s sponsorship and the valedictory speeches were heartfelt. There were few surprises in the winners, although there may have been some in the nominees.

    Beautiful mihi opened proceedings, appropriately for Te wiki o te reo Maori, and strains of Blue Lady and Dominion Road (very exciting for me as I consider Mr Don McGlashan to be one of our greatest living writers)accompanied nominees and winners to the stage.

    The Governor General greeted us in many languages and endeared himself by confiding that he was missing his own book club night to be present at the biggest book club dinner going.  He endeared himself to Emily Perkins by being an old boy of Richmond Road primary, the school her children attend.

    I can report that Jennifer Ward-Lealand is as gorgeous as ever and that her presence of mind and professionalism equals her beauty. When judge Jane Westaway listed only two of the three nominees in the Lifestyle and Contemporary Culture category before inviting Alexa Johnston back to the stage to accepte the award, Ms Ward-Lealand pointed out in the nicest possible way that there was in fact one more nominee.

    Westaway coped with the sort of  mistake that would see me still waking up in the middle of the night 20 years hence with enviable sangfroid by saying that she hadn’t been at the rehearsal.

    I cannot report any bad behaviour, although Mark Williams, convenor of the judges’ panel, had to turn a bit waspish and chide some of the audience for being  rowdy and making it hard for him to concentrate.

    At least the 2009 convenor got to loll about on a Rose and Heather sofa rather than stand painfully on special Montana shoes as Morrin Rout had to do a few years ago.

    One nominee forgot her glasses and had to be escorted to the stage in mortal fear of a wardrobe malfunction and Emily Perkins dropped her Montana medal but recovered by observing that it “won’t be the only clanger I’ll drop tonight”.

    And an era came to a close.

    Wall of winners – The Montana New Zealand Book Awards

    10pm questionNovel about my wifeAcid SongRocky ShoreRita AngusA continent on the moveBuying the landLen CastleLadies, a plateCK SteadHe pataka kupu
    The RehearsalEverything talksMates and lovers

    Montana New Zealand Book Awards

    Montana New Zealand Book Award winners

    Congratulations to the winners announced tonight at a gala dinner ceremony at Auckland War Memorial Museum. The 10PM Question by Kate De Goldi (Longacre Press) won the Readers’ Choice Award.

    Fiction and winner of Montana Medal for Fiction or Poetry: Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins (Allen & Unwin)

    Runners up:
    The 10PM Question by Kate De Goldi (Longacre Press)
    Acid Song by Bernard Beckett (Longacre Press)

    Poetry: The Rocky Shore by Jenny Bornholdt (Victoria University Press)

    Biography and winner of Montana Medal for Non-Fiction: Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life by Jill Trevelyan (Te Papa Press)

    Environment: A Continent on the Move: New Zealand Geoscience into the 21st Century edited by Ian Graham (Geological Society of New Zealand)

    History: Buying the Land, Selling the Land by Richard Boast (Victoria University Press)

    Illustrative: Len Castle: Making the Molecules Dance by Len Castle (Lopdell House Gallery)

    Lifestyle & Contemporary Culture: Ladies, A Plate: Traditional Home Baking by Alexa Johnston (Penguin Group NZ)

    Reference & Anthology: Collected Poems 1951-2006 by CK Stead (Auckland University Press)

    Te Reo Māori: He Pātaka Kupu te kai a te rangatira, (A Storehouse of Words – the food of chiefs)

    New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) Best First Book Awards

  • Fiction: The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton (Victoria University Press)
  • Poetry: Everything Talks by Sam Sampson (Auckland University Press)
  • Non-Fiction: Mates & Lovers: A Gay History of New Zealand by Chris Brickell (Random House NZ)
  • For media reactions see:

    And it looks like Robyn (who is at the ceremony tonight) has broken her hoodoo and picked some winners this time!