Never judge a book by its cover

Tea ObrehtTea Obreht bounced on stage at the 2011 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, looking for all the world like a stereotypical cheerleader – thick long blonde hair, shiny white teeth in a large smile, standard American TV accent. But hang on, hasn’t she written a world famous novel? Yes, it’s called The Tiger’s Wife, she began it at 19 and finished it at  22.

She spoke with Paula Morris about her Balkan heritage and how she comes from a tradition of rich storytelling, where even a trip to the shop is retold as an epic event. She is a fan of grand layered narrative and wrote this novel out of sequence – choosing to write sections at separate times, then wove them together later to make a seamless whole, that is virtually three dimensional in its complexity.

Her inspiration for the novel came from a National Geographic documentary she watched one snowy winter about Siberian tigers,  then combined that with traditional stories she’d grown up with, and she’d also loved reading The Jungle Book and Just So stories as a child. She is a zoo fanatic, has visited Auckland Zoo whilst here, and proclaimed it one of the best she’d seen.

Before starting this novel, she was commissioned by Harpers magazine to go to remote Serbo-Croatian villages to gain information for an article on vampires (this being the start of the Twilight era). She knocked on many doors, had a few slammed in her face, but at others was invited in and she listened to nonagenarians talk about their first hand experiences with these bloodsuckers. Not the average temporary job for a teen, and you can only admire her level-headedness at such a young age.

Tea has a second novel under way, but is making slow progress on it. The Tiger’s Wife was written as her grandfather was dying (Obreht is his Slovenian surname – he made a deathbed request that she dedicate her book to him, and she has, as well as taking on his name), and the novel was cathartic for her. Consequently it has taken her a while to come up with another idea that will be equally as meaningful to her. I wish her all the best for it because, let’s face it, she’s certainly got time on her side.

Summertime, and the living is easy …

Hugh Campbell and Jon Hooker… or so it seemed for a lazy hour at South Library last Saturday. The sun streamed in through tall windows and it was easy to forget that winter is just around the corner as local duo Hugh Campbell and Jon Hooker treated book browsers and music lovers to the gentle sound of fingerpicking, slide and blues guitar.

It was great to see people hunting for books while tapping their feet to the rhythm of the blues. And one elderly couple was spotted jiving in a stately fashion as the Cannonball Rag twinkled over the non-fiction shelves.

I’d like to think that one or two young people were inspired to pick up a copy of Guitar for Beginners by Minna Lacey or to grab The Devil’s Music: A History of the Blues by Giles Oakley. I borrowed a CD called Ragtime Memories and I’m almost sure I saw that elderly couple leaving with a copy of Peggy Spencer’s The Joy Of Dancing tucked under an arm.

Hugh and Jon are playing at New Brighton Library at 2pm tomorrow and at Shirley Library at 2pm Wednesday, 25 May. Head on down, grab a sofa and enjoy a slice of summer.

Get into overdrive, the world of e-books at your library

Find out more about OverDrive at your library

OverDrive is a free and popular digital media platform which now allows library customers to download audio books and e-books – and it’s available right now!

There’s fiction and non-fiction items for adults, young adults and children, with regular additions of new material to inspire you. By downloading and installing the free OverDrive software, customers can use their library card and PIN to:

  • Download fiction and non-fiction titles from home at any time using an “online shopping-like” experience;
  • Transfer audio and e-book titles to your computer or portable devices such  as an MP3 player or e-book  reader;
  • Avoid late fees — the items self expire. You can also check e-books in early if you have  finished with them.

Over 2,000 best-selling and classic titles form our current e-book and audio book collection. Half of these are now e-books in Adobe EPUB and Adobe PDF formats – the main formats supported by most portable devices.

At this point the service can only be offered remotely to library members – it is not available for use in libraries. Help pages on how to use this resource are available on our website. OverDrive is just one of many  amazing electronic resources that library customers can access through the Source.

Music on the interwebs, or down the rabbit hole we go

Neil Gaiman Press conference
Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman

Yay for New Zealand Music Month, and yay for live performances, and for hearing new musicians and old favourites!   On TV! On the radio!  In libraries!  But also yay for the particular brand of musical insanity that can be found on the internet.

A friend and I recently spent a few nights emailing each other bizarre and fantastic music clips from YouTube.  It was so much fun, not to mention distracting – every clip we found led to dozens more.  Which is the coolest thing about the internet; it just seems to go on forever.

Much like me, in fact.  Because what I really wanted to share with you today is a wee project I discovered through Twitter.  It’s called the 8in8 project, and was organised by a few of my favourite people.

Superstar author (and my ultimate superhero) Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer (of Dresden Dolls fame) recently got together with Ben Folds and Damian Kulash (from OK Go), and attempted to write and record 8 songs in 8 hours, as part of Boston’s Berklee College Rethink Music event.  Described by Gaiman on his blog as being the ‘world’s least super supergroup’, they were initially inspired by Kulash’s question:

“Can the album cycle actually be reduced to a single day? If the recording industry is supposed to be a means of connecting musicians to music listeners, well, then, here it is – spontaneous and circular.”

They nearly managed it – 6 in 6 being the eventual output, all presented on an album called NightyNight, which you can buy online, with all proceeds going to charity.

The songs are crazy and funny and charming, and witty and sad and clever, and get stuck in your head like the best kind of earworm.  And the icing on the cake?  Because they ran the whole project through Twitter, hundreds of people online got to have a say on possible song titles, AND THEN hundreds more went straight off and made music videos for all the tracks.  My favourite so far?  The Problem with Saints, I think, but I also loved I’ll Be My Mirror.  Ooh, and Nikola Tesla and …

So while you’re waiting for the next New Zealand Music Month performance at your local library, jump on our free internet computers and search Twitter or YouTube for “8in8”, then sit back and enjoy, and then tell me your favourite!