Going off the diet in honour of the wedding

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve ToltzAs someone with a low boredom threshold, an overly busy life, and who travels to work by bus, it has become very necessary over the past few years for me to read fairly short portable books.

Also it’s ideal to choose one that is light enough not to cause too much pain in the evening when I fall asleep mid-sentence and it falls on my nose.  Yet I also demand my reads to be unpredictable and intriguing, so while Mills and Boons are the perfect size for me their content sadly is not.  Lean protein is the thing.

My heart sank when I saw the size of A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz on the holds shelf, after my sister heartily recommended it, claiming she was going to marry its author.  I texted her along the lines of “What are you thinking? I can’t read a book that big these days!”  But she, with possibly a smaller attention span than even me, insisted.  And if Steve was going to become my brother-in-law, I felt I should flex my muscle if I could find it, read on my side and undertake the journey.

And what a ride it is!  A great intriguing unpredictable story, no wonder it was short-listed for the Man Brooker Prize 2008, and no wonder Philip blogged enthusiastically about it.   This is the kind of book that makes you wonder how the author could possible top it.  Go Steve, and stay in Australia where you are safe from ever having to meet my crazy sister.

With my new-found strength in book reading, and the realisation that I can cope with reading a fat book in bed at night, as long as its nutritious, and put a light one in my handbag for the bus trip, I have a more balanced diet.

So which fat books do you think are worth the risk?   I recommended the very weighty tome The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber to a friend recently, and it has been great fun hearing her describe how she manages to read it in bed without damaging herself.

PS I got back at my sister by recommending to her the book by the man I am going to marry.  Any guesses?  Clue: the book is a fat one and is by another Australian.  I think there will be a double wedding.  Just as soon as I’ve finished Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and my muscles are in top shape.

Warning – Spoiler Alert

Legend of a suicideMost reviews of David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide have a warning – do not read a detailed plot summary until after you have read the book. It will spoil the impact of this incredibly powerful story. So I won’t let you in on the secrets of the plot but let me tell you, this is the best thing I have read in a long time.

David Vann, an assistant professor of creative writing at Stanford University, visited NZ recently to promote his book and talk to Kim Hill. He talked about the suicide of his father when he was barely a teen. Based on this relationship with this hopeless Dad, Vann mixes memoir and fiction to exact a stunning but “not so sweet” revenge. It is absolutely mind-blowing and compelling. Lionel Shriver was thinking of suing David Vann for several hours of lost sleep. “I defy you to put this book down,” she says.

Even when you put it down, it haunts you like a vivid dream. The raw beauty of the wilderness, the wry commentary on American middle class families, but, all pervading, is the flawed relationship between father and son. “A father, after all, is a lot for a thing to be,” says Vann. Read it at your peril – it is deeply disturbing, funny, and utterly beautiful. I’d be interested in what you think about it.

Read The Shape of Things by Bill Ralston in the Listener if you are puzzled but only after reading the book.  If you really can’t get your head around it think of it not as a straight narrative but more like a sandwich of short semi- autobiographical stories with a novella in the middle.  But then I like being puzzled…

Voters on tenterhooks – Image of the week

A portion of the crowd awaiting the result of the 1919 election, the results being displayed by lantern on a board in Christchurch.

A portion of the crowd awaiting the result of the 1919 election, the results being displayed by lantern on a board in Christchurch

The weekly press, 24 Dec. 1919, p. 28

Do you have photos of special events or holidays? We love donations. Contact us

Also contact us if you have any further information on any of the images. Want to see more? You can browse our collection here.