I love Leonard Cohen (and literary events in Christchurch)

Christchurch has a stellar selection of book-related events coming up in May. Take a look!


Tuesday 14 May sees two events: Max Hastings and Sylvie Simmons will be talking at Middleton Grange.

I’ve just finished reading I’m your man: the life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons. It is brilliant. Sylvie talked a lot to Cohen and those who know him. We delve into his family, personal life and history, and Cohen’s creative process is also unfurled and explored.

Her wealth of knowledge doesn’t get in the way of a  great story. I loved the anecdote about Iggy Pop and Cohen. Leonard spotted a personal ad in which a woman wanted to meet a man who combined the energy of Iggy and the class of Cohen. He thought they should reply as a double act – married Iggy was less keen – but the result is a fab photo of Iggy and Leonard on the couch. The Personal Ad woman must have flipped out.

PS If you want more Cohen stuff – CDs, DVDs, and books – the library has quite an impressive collection.

Max Hastings will be fascinating too. He is an author, journalist, and broadcaster who has written many books of war history and some great memoirs (I am in the throes of Did You Really Shoot the Television?: A Family Fable and it’s a witty and compelling read).

Sorry to report the Ben Goldacre event is cancelled …
Search catalogue for Bad scienceMonday 20 May: Another must-see is Ben Goldacre talking Bad Science, Bad Pharma at the Aurora Centre. Goldacre is the enemy of illogical baggy thinking. Bad Science is the kind of book that gets you all riled up. It stimulates your critical thinking and makes you look at the media’s reporting in a more jaundiced way. Crappy infographics! Science research corralled by advertisers! GGGrrrr.

His follow-up is Bad Pharma and it tackles the actions of pharmaceutical companies. Lots of library customers (including me) are keen to get their mitts on this.

These three authors will also be appearing at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

Want more literary stuff? Try The Press Christchurch Writers Festival workshops:

  • Workshops on e-publishing with author Felicity Price and publisher Jenny Howarth.
  • The Good Prose – a two-day session with Lyttelton-based columnist and author Joe Bennett.

Auckland Writers and Readers Festival – a literary bubble bath

Crowds at the 2012 AWRF FestivalOnly one month to go until I can plunge into the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival and immerse myself in four wonderful  book-filled days overflowing with author talks, workshops, book signings and gala events. Glorious! It will be like sinking into a literary bubble bath and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

This year I’m looking forward to seeing Anita Desai. I first came across this author back in the 80s when she wrote A Clear Light of Day and was moved by her deceptively simple story of a brother and sister in post-partition Dehli. Desai has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize three times. I’ve just read The Artist of Disappearance and it’s apparent the author has lost none of her skill. Her stories are insightful and her characters stay with me. I hope to interview her so keep checking the blog in May if you’d like to hear more about this talented writer.

The Prisoner of Heaven at Christchurch City LibrariesCarlos Ruiz Zafon is also on my most-wanted-to-meet list. He has written a trilogy of novels around the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and his website list of favourite books is similar to mine so I feel we may be kindred spirits. He writes stories ‘in exchange for a penny, a smile or a tear, and a little of your time and attention’ in which he combines elements of the great nineteenth century novels he admires with twentieth century cinema, multimedia and popular motifs.

Kate Atkinson will be there. Need I say more!

Poet Fleur Adcock has released a new collection, Glass Wings. The poems explore themes of identity, memory and what it means to belong (or not). High Tide in the Garden and The Inner Harbour are favourites of mine. I’m really looking  forward to learning more about the woman who is one of New Zealand’s most influential poets.

I hope to find a few surprises at the Festival too. I like to go along to an event I know nothing about and learn something new. Last year I saw Chris Bourke talk about the Auckland music scene in the 1960s and now have a whole new appreciation of Kiwi jazz. This year I could explore live book valuing, war correspondence, or cricket. It’s the variety of the events on offer that makes the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival such a great occasion.

Twenty six days and counting down! I might even see you there.

Reach for the stars

Search the catalogue for AstronomyI’ve been doing a lot of navel gazing lately. You know the stuff – Who am I?, What am I doing with my life?, Why am I here?, etc, etc, etc. I guess it’s all to do with my age (isn’t it always) and the fact that I’ve come through a massive great earthquake and lived to tell the tale. One of the DIY self-help books I read recently made me pause for thought. It asked, “If money was no issue and you had all the time in the world, what would you do for work?”

Now, I’m a very happy and contented librarian but there is a small part of me that yearns to know more about astronomy. I visited the Mt John Observatory last year and was overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of space. If I had my time over, I’d conquer my irrational fear of physics and study the stars.

However, it’s never too late to learn and Christchurch City Libraries has many resources for those of us who want to explore new boundaries and expand our extragalactic knowledge.

It seems the more astronomers discover about space, the larger and more complex it becomes. No one believes there’s much chance of bumping into Vulcans or Klingons by traveling at warp speed to the next galaxy any more. Now we’re talking of globular clusters, cosmic strings, and quasars kiloparsecs away. The search for the meaning of life continues in a universe vast beyond measure.

Although poles apart in dimension, it seems to me that self-engrossed introspection and extraterrestrial investigation have a lot in common. Both ponder the mystery of time and existence. It’s only the scale that varies.