Irish king of crime, John Connolly coming to Christchurch

In amongst all the Children’s and Young Adult books I read, I also like to read some actual grown-up, adult books.  Usually these are crime or thrillers, such as Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, anything by Dean Koontz, and one of my favourites, John Connolly.  Like a lot of crime writers, Connolly has a central character who pops up in nearly all of his books and his name is Charlie Parker.  Throughout the series, which starts with Every Dead Thing, you learn a little more about Charlie Parker (a private detective) and his shady past.  There are two main things I like about Connolly’s Charlie Parker books; he’s a private detective who works alone, but often with the help of his dubious friends Angel and Louis, so you don’t have all that annoying Police procedure getting in the way of the story, and his books are dark and often have a supernatural element.   His characters are genuinely creepy and he makes Maine sound so eerie that I never want to go there.  I can’t wait to read his new book, The Whisperers.

However, he’s also incredibly versatile, and recently crossed over to Young Adult fiction with his book The Gates.  I am amazed at how he can switch from writing horrific scenes in his thrillers to something so hilarious that I’m laughing out loud.  The Gates is about a boy called Samuel and his dog Boswell who witness their neighbour opening a door to Hell in her basement, but it’s more funny than frightening as a myriad of weird creatures come through the gates and collide with the human world.  My favourite character has to be Nurd, the Scourge of Five Deities, but there are plenty of others to keep you laughing.

If you want to meet John Connolly and listen to him talk about his books (I know I’ll be there) you can come along to ‘An Evening with Irish crime writer John Connolly.’  See his publisher’s website, Hachette NZ, for more details of the event.

It’s all Pandemonium at Central Library

If you thought our renovations in Central library were pandemonium wait until you see who we have in Central Library this Sunday.  The fabulous Christchurch percussion group, Pandemonium, are going to join us in the Centre for the Child for a musical spectacular, especially for families, to celebrate NZ Music Month. 

You can bring the whole family for this interactive Junk Jam concert where you can listen to Pandemonium perform some weird and wonderful music on their recycled instruments and then you can have the chance to join them in bashing and clanking some junk.  They supply all the instruments and will teach you how to use them so you can help create a musical masterpiece and try to bring down the library roof.

This is a free event so just come down to the Centre for the Child in Central Library, this Sunday 23 May from 2-3pm.

Imperial psychopaths, Microsoft with an Army

cover of The Last MughalWilliam Dalrymple’s presentation The Last Mughal was the last major session of the festival and what a way to go out. The man is a wonderful writer and a great performer. His voice swoops up and down in emphasis, his turn of phrase is dramatic and the history he recounts is fascinating and tragic.

The court of the last Mughal emperor in Delhi was a place of little political power or financial wealth in 1857 but it was a place of great cultural wealth. Dalrymple described it as like the age of Shakespeare for South Asia. The emperor himself, now very old, was a fine poet. It was also a place where Muslim and Hindu cultures met harmoniously.

The rise of religious fundamentalism and the arrogance of conquerors that beset the British East India Company (think Microsoft with an army says Dalrymple)  lead to actions which precipitated a calamatous uprising and the eventual destruction of the Mughals and their beautiful city Delhi. The British, lead by people whom he describes as imperial psychopaths were ruthless in their crushing of opposition.

Backed by some lovely slides illustrating the art, the people and the places Dalrymple held us absorbed in his tale and finished by reading a beautiful poem attributed to the emperor as he lay in a British prison and one which is still widely read in India today.

Thomas Keneally – Storyteller

Thomas  Keneally took the plunge as a writer by sending his first novel to an English publishing firm whose address he got from the copyright page of a book. Publication was his salvation as he says here:

What has followed is a prolific writing career of novels and histories centred around a rich vein of stories. The people he writes about tell stories that make history and our lives a bit more explicable. He prefers writing novels where you can be “so intimately in the character” but he loves history too and his mantra is “If you tell the story of one you tell the story of all in the way imagination can get a purchase on”

A wicked laugh punctuates his stories. Talking of doing the schools session he said it was “very hard to be a hip geriatric” but there is always the miracle of well read kids. He clearly remembers what it was like to be a teenager. He lived in Homebush which for him was “the epicentre of Australian boredom”. He describes how he desperately wanted to “compete with the jocks and run with the nerds”.

Books were important  from an early age.   Libraries featured in his attempts to impress the girls. Hear it in his own words as he describes the Mitchell  Library

I think Thomas Keneally will go on telling stories till he dies and we are all the richer for it.

Another electronic musical resource for Music Month

Christchurch City Libraires is not just about books – we can bring you electronic resources that as an individual you could not access.

One of these many resources is Music Online which brings together on a single cross-searchable platform, the entire suite of Alexander Street Press music products that we subscribe to. Music Online can potentially cross-search all of these or using the drop down box, any of these individual databases:

  • American Song – an eclectic collection of music from America’s past and present. Songs from American Indians, slaves and singing cowboys! Content includes protest songs, folk, blues, Motown, funk and more….
  • Classical Music Library – Tens of thousands of licensed recordings that users can listen to. The audio selections are cross referenced to a database of supplementary reference information. Hear the music and also understand what they are on about.
  • Contemporary World Music – Global sounds? How about some Arab swing or Balkanic jazz? Perhaps the flamenco and a bit of Bollywood to have us dancing in the aisles.
  • Jazz Music Library – An Alexander Street strength. Provides online listening to thousands of jazz artists, albums and genres. Listen to New Orleans Jazz, Big Bands, Acid Jazz and more (am I the only one who knew nothing about Acid Jazz?)
  • Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries – A virtual encyclopaedia of the world’s musical and aural traditions. Includes more than 35,000 individual tracks of music, spoken word and natural and human made sounds.

This database complements our music collection such as the  Naxos Music Library.

You can access these resources and many others  from home with your library card number and PIN, or at our community libraries through our premium sites.

Enjoy New Zealand Music Month and “get down” with Christchurch City Libraries music resources!

Sunday @ the festival : Festival highlights

Festival imageSo the festival has come to an end, after another full day. The magnetic strip on my Bank of Adjectives card as worn thin, and my verbal credit limit has been reached. Here’s the under ten-minute audio wrap up:

  • Roberta went to Yi Yun Li, a creativity workshop, Rick Gekoski and William Dalrymple;
  • Marion sampled Marti Friedlander, John Carey at the Michael King memorial lecture, Rick Gekoski and William Dalrymple;
  • Bronwyn went to a session asking what good was religion, John Freeman on shrinking the world and libraries, and Rick Gekoski;
  • Richard had real world day – digital publishing in Read any Good Bytes lately, and Jeffrey Paparoa Holman’s Best of Both Worlds session, as well as a chat with Bernadette Hall.


And, once you’ve digested that, get a feel for the overall buzz of the festival with our selection of highlights in this six-minute clip, complete with the gravelly laugh of Thomas Keneally …

We hope you have enjoyed the coverage and we look forward to your comments as we continue our conversations in the days ahead. Remember there are photos on the Christchurch City Libraries flickr and that you can view all of the festival posts on a single page.

Religion, War, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood

CoverOver breakfast this morning, today’s session titled Religion: What is it good for? led inevitably to impassioned discussion regarding Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Bruce Springsteen, and the (mis-)appropriation of pop music for literary purposes.  Sadly, our lot failed to reach consensus, unlike the panelists in the real Festival session.  Adrian Wooldridge, Michael Otterman and Antony Loewenstein were remarkably united on several fronts, not the least being their disdain for Richard Dawkins.  I’ve already outlined some of the main points about these three guys here, and for Michael Otterman’s session, here, and told you it’s impossible to cover their topics in a short blog post, so won’t revisit, but I will attempt to provide a bit of the flavour of this combined session, before you rush off to find the books.

Chair Sean Plunket led off with a request for each speaker to make his own personal declaration of their beliefs.  In their own words – Antony Loewenstein identifies himself as a Jewish atheist who is agnostic about whether religion is good or bad; Michael Otterman is an agnostic cultural Jew from New York, which means he loves Seinfeld and eats bagels on Sundays; and Adrian Wooldridge, having been born C of E, is therefore an atheist who is relatively sympathetic to religion, and who also enjoys Seinfeld.

Whether or not you believe in God, Wooldridge says, current research shows that religion itself is Continue reading