You’re gonna need a bigger boat

Close to Shore
Close to Shore

I have a new favourite book, well another book to add to my favourite triumvirate (Yes! I knew that classics degree would pay off!) Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo is the story of the rogue shark that inspired Peter Benchley to write Jaws. It’s a story of shark attacks on the New Jersey shore in 1916. Combining social history, natural science and historical biography in a man vs beast vs the sea type three way.

This is a book full of facts that made me nudge my husband, totally interrupt his reading and say “Listen to this!” If you have read this far I can presume you might by slightly more interested than him in the following info :

  • In the early 1900’s, marksmen stood on the New Jersey beach and shot at passing porpoises to the “cheering crowds” who watched
  • A great white has never been in captivity for more than 6 months. A theory is that they are extremely sensitive to electrical pulses and being enclosed pummels them with too much data.
  • One of America’s first beach resorts was literally washed away in 1927. The entire town of Tucker’s Island/Sea Haven was destroyed by rising seas until finally the lighthouse was toppled and the area was evacuated. It went all Atlantis until 1993 when small amounts of it began reappearing as a sand bar.
  • “The fish appeared gray and white and moved with the precision and trajectory of an enormous bullet, a shot somehow fired in slow motion through the medium of the sea, moving with a purity and suppleness that were eerily beautiful” – that wasn’t a fact, just an example of the descriptive writing in this book

Imagine my dismay when I found out that this is the only book that he has written that we have! Luckily another one is coming out before the end of the year – The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases. 

It joins my other two favourite books – The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsonand The Long Desire by Evan S Connell.

Kate DiCamillo’s latest treasure

I was very excited the other day to discover that one of my favourite children’s authors, Kate DiCamillo, has a new book coming out next month, called The Magician’s Elephant.  Kate DiCamillo has written some truly beautiful stories including The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  Her use of language is stunning and she weaves a unique story that really captures the reader, as well as working with illustrators that portray the essence of her stories.

Here is the blurb from Kate DiCamillo’s website about the book:

When a fortuneteller’s tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller’s mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true. With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be narrated by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo. In this timeless fable, she evokes the largest of themes—hope and belonging, desire and compassion—with the lightness of a magician’s touch.

It sounds like it will be another fantastic story and once again beautifully presented.

Is Christchurch the Motown of New Zealand poetry?

Cover of The Summer King Christchurch poet Joanna Preston has recently launched her first collection. The first-ever winner of the University of Otago’s Kathleen Grattan award, Preston is an Australian living in New Zealand who describes herself as a “tasmanaut”.

Ahead of her performance with Frankie MacMillan at the Central Library on Friday, I spoke with her about daily visits to her bookcase, the vagaries of the writing process and why she calls Christchurch the Motown of New Zealand poetry.  Read the interview.

The local scene is pretty healthy, she reckons. What do you think – is Christchurch a big player on the poetry scene? Does geography make a difference to the poetry?  Or is poetry all a bit flaky for your tastes?

Have a read of the interview, then lob your comment like a poetic grenade!

Preston also has her own blog, A Dark Feathered Art.