Amy Poehler is one of those actresses I was vaguely aware of but to whom I’d never really paid much attention. She occasionally cropped up in movies like ‘Blades of Glory’ and Mean Girls, usually playing someone blonde and kooky.
It wasn’t until I started watching sitcom Parks and Recreation, that I truly came to appreciate the comedy genius that is Amy Poehler. And by the time she and Fey formed The Ultimate Funny Lady Tag Team to host the Golden Globes I was a solid fan.
It’s from this perspective that I came to read her book Yes please.
I’d already tried Fey’s autobiography Bossypants, and despite a love of the 30 Rock creator’s humour, I found the book something of a letdown. Yes, there were reminisces about SNL. Yes, I learned some things about her childhood (like how she got that scar on her chin – random knife attack by a stranger), and yes there were jokes, and feminism, and a chapter devoted to Poehler, but it was all a bit, er, cold? I felt, as a reader, that I was being kept at a respectful distance. Stand-up as an arena show, with Fey present but rather far away.
In Yes please Poehler covers similar territory but, hey reader, wanna bring it in for a hug first? Come on, tough guy. Get on over here.
If Fey’s book is a gig at Horncastle Arena, Poehler’s is a small, intimate, comedy club where the tables are so close to the stage performer and audience can see each other sweating.
And “Yes please” is not at all a straight out autobiography. It’s that but it’s also part self-help manual in which her experiences (which include waitressing, improv, performing a rap number live on TV a few hours before going into labour, motherhood, divorce, visiting an orphanage in Haiti) all feed into reflections and wisdom, all with a sharp, self-deprecating, “I know what my crap is and I own it” attitude.
You feel as if you just made a new best friend and she’s dishing all her dirt to you and you love her because of it. Poehler admits her mistakes, celebrates her triumphs, and tries not to be too hard on herself. And she encourages you to do the same for yourself.
You may not have come across these elegant, unassuming ladies in our library shelves, well groomed in dove-grey covers and creamy-white spine labels. Don’t be misled by their quiet twinset and pearls demeanour. Take a chance and have a browse! You might be seduced by their petticoats, their gorgeous end papers.
Who are Persephone Books and what have they to say for themselves? Let me have the pleasure of introducing you.
The name is a clue. In Greek mythology Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, being rather beautiful, is stolen away by her Uncle Hades to become his wife and queen of the underworld. She emerges only in spring, thus becoming goddess of Spring and Vegetation.
Persephone publishers chose this imagery for their mission of rescuing twentieth century works published over 60 years ago, largely by women, which have been neglected and in danger of falling into obscurity. Intelligent, thought provoking and beautifully written fiction and non-fiction, focusing on women’s lives in the difficult and changing world of the first half of the last century. They talk about relationships, sexual politics, domesticity, war, separation, austerity, single women, work, social comedy. They are often subversive but in a quiet way; feminist before Women’s Lib kicked in.
These are books written about people and places and a way of life that no one seems to write about nearly as well anymore. The kicker, of course, is that they are all just flat out great to read.
The collection currently stands at 110 titles. Christchurch City Libraries have 13 of them. Personally I’d push for more. A further mention of their petticoats! For the lovely endpapers Persephone have cleverly chosen prints of fabrics current in the era of the books’ original publication and which complement the emotional tone of the books. For me these greatly add to the retro appeal and sensual pleasure of these publications.
In her mother’s day a pregnant woman spent a good deal of time on a sofa, thinking beautiful thoughts and resolutely avoiding unpleasant ones; people took care not to speak of anything shocking or violent in front of her. Nowadays shocking things turned up on the doorstep with the morning paper; violence was likely to crash out of a summer sky on a woman who could move only slowly and who was not as spry as usual at throwing herself on her face in the gutter.
The stories portray the lives of Londoners, mostly women without men, who have normal, day to day human concerns while coping with the deep anxieties of living through the continual bombing, with gas masks, blackouts, lack of sleep, food shortages, the evacuation of their children, fear for their menfolk overseas. The “stiff upper lip” was their way of handling such a ghastly time. Did you know that the death toll for British civilians in WWII reached 62,000?
Ruth is a housewife trapped in a commuter suburb, and heading quietly for a nervous breakdown while her husband, sons at boarding school, and daughter at university live their lives elsewhere. The women around her are…
Like little icebergs, each [wife] keeps a bright and shining face above water; below the surface, submerged in fathoms of leisure, each keeps her own isolated personality. Some are happy, some poisoned with boredom; some drink too much and some, below the demarcation line, are slightly crazy; some love their husbands and some are dying from lack of love; a few have talent, as useless to them as a paralysed limb.”
Dorothy Whipple in “They were Sisters” They Were Sisters (1943) explores the very different marriages of three sisters (shades of Chekhov) Lucy, Charlotte and Vera. On the surface a gentle read but lurking underneath is the shadow of domestic violence.
Others titles are much more light hearted and fun. I especially enjoyed romping through Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day by Winifred Watson (1938). Miss Pettigrew, a staid middle aged, recently laid off governess, is mistakenly sent to work for night club singer, Delysia Lafosse, glamorous, ditzy but generous hearted, and in the course of 24 hours finds her life transformed. A truly “ripping” read full of comedy, poignancy and loose living 1930s-style.
In Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (1932) Julia Strachey writes about truly awful things that can happen in the last hours leading up to a wedding. The bride-to-be fearing she has made a dreadful mistake, drinking a lot of rum, her ex boyfriend arriving, her mother constantly praising the weather, peculiar relations abounding and who knows what’s going to happen next!
Both of these have recently been made into films, which shows the extent of their contemporary appeal.
I’m hoping, Dear Reader, that something here piques your curiosity and you have a real good winter read.
29 June 1951
First regular South Island trans-Tasman flights begin from Melbourne to Christchurch.
30 June 1849
Canterbury’s first “industrial action” – Maori road workers in Evans Pass (constructing a road across the Port Hills) go on strike as a reaction to verbal abuse and dismissals.
30 June 1975
TV2 transmission starts.
1 July 1862
New Zealand’s first telegraph in operation between Christchurch and Lyttelton.
1 July 1865
Lyttelton Harbour breakwaters begun.
1 July 1935
Evening papers “Star” and “Sun” merge to become the “Star Sun”, ending a 6 year newspaper war, the longest and most bitter in New Zealand’s history. The “peace” agreement between the 3 companies concerned also saw the demise of the “Christchurch Times” (once the “Lyttelton Times”), the oldest daily paper in the country.
4 July 1977
Hundreds evacuated as serious flooding affects City.
Matariki means it’s my mother’s birthday. I love the connection of her birth with the arrival of Matariki. Apart from that, Matariki is a time for me to reflect on how much I have yet to learn about Aotearoa.
Congratulations! We will be in contact soon – your prize is a Kobo Glo eReader each.
Thanks to you all for sharing your lovely Matariki thoughts.
If you want more Matariki fun, don’t forget to go to Rehua Marae, 79 Springfield Road, St Albans tomorrow Saturday 27 June – 10am to 3pm. See Rehua Marae’s Facebook page.
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, the book that introduced us to Percy Jackson, Camp Half Blood and the modern day Greek gods, turns 10 this year. It’s hard to believe that this series has been around so long but it certainly seems to be as popular as ever. It’s been good to see Rick Riordan writing new series featuring different mythologies (Egyptian mythology in The Kane Chronicles and Norse mythology in the soon to be released Magnus Chase series) which really hook kids in and get them interested in mythology. One of my sons absolutely loves Percy Jackson and is an expert in Greek mythology!
Time magazine’s 2014 List of 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time
A bestseller here in New Zealand
Borrowed thousands of times from libraries across New Zealand
Plus a major movie!
To celebrate 10 years of Percy Jackson Rick Riordan and his publishers have put together an event kit so you can host your own Percy Jackson party. The event kit includes ideas for games and some activity sheets for kids. Download the kit and host your own party!
Do you love Percy Jackson? How will you celebrate Percy Jackson’s 10th Birthday?
The winners of the 2015 Carnegie and Greenaway Medals were announced on Monday in the UK. Tanya Landman was awarded the CILIP Carnegie Medal for Buffalo soldier and William Grill was awarded the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for his debut picture book, Shackleton’s Journey. They each received a medal and £500 of books to donate to their local library and William Grill also received the Colin Mears Award of £5,000.
Charley, a young African-American slave from the Deep South, is freed at the end of the American Civil War. However her freedom is met with tragedy after her adopted mother is raped and lynched at the hands of a mob, and Charley finds herself alone with no protection. In a terrifyingly lawless land, where the colour of a person’s skin can bring violent death, Charley disguises herself as a man and joins the army. Trapped in a world of injustice and inequality, it’s only when Charley is posted to Apache territory to fight “savage Indians” that she begins to learn about who she is and what it is to be truly free.
The judges said: Engrossing from the very beginning, the strong narrative voice engages the reader in the world described; perfectly conveying raw emotions without the overuse of sentimentality. This is a beautiful, powerful piece of writing that will remain with readers long after the last page.
In the last days of the Heroic Age of Exploration, Ernest Shackleton dreamed of crossing the frozen heart of Antarctica, a place of ferocious seas, uncharted mountains and bone-chilling cold. But when his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the deadly grip of the ice, Shackleton’s dreams of crossing Antarctica were shattered. Stranded in a cold, white world, and thousands of miles from home, the men of the expedition set out on a desperate trek across the ice in search of rescue.
The judges said: This beautiful non-fiction book seems to effortlessly bring a modern and fresh feel to the story of Ernest Shackleton, whilst remaining traditional and classic. This is an exciting, quality book which provides a true experience and reminds us that it is the people, not the journey, that truly matter.
After reading two bleak stories I needed a complete change. For this reason I chose an historical first novel by Anna Freeman titled The Fair Fight. It turned out to be a rollickin’ good yarn from beginning to end.
When I read historical fiction I want to be transported to another time and place. I want true characters that I can commit to and stories I can believe in. I want real voices and language that evokes the period of the time. I was lucky as Anna Freeman skilfully and naturally blends these elements to create a story that comes alive.
From the first pages I was immersed in 18th century Bristol where pugilists, brothels, brawling and gambling rule the day. I enjoyed discovering and absorbing new/old words like “mollies”, “pugs”, “cullies”, and “swells”.
Three of the main characters, Ruth, Charlotte and George, are the storytellers with each voice adding suspense and vibrancy to the drama. This is a well realised and oftentimes brutal tale.
I found an advertisement from Oct 1st, 1726, about a Mary Welch and Elizabeth Stokes. They talk up their fighting skills to excite readers and announce they will “mount at Four” and “fight in cloth Jackets, short Petticoats coming just below the Knee, Holland Drawers, white Stockings, and Pumps”. Cor blimey!
A fascinating account that all started with historical fiction.
“Why does my chain make that sound every time I change gears?”
“How can I adjust the break levers on my son’s bike so they fit his hands?”
“I have this ‘friend’ who has sort of neglected their bike – what should I … I mean they do?”
These were just some of the questions fielded by our local bike shop owner Graeme Taylor from The Bike Shop on Burwood Road (and now also in Redwood). Parklands Library was transformed into a bike shop last Thursday as fifteen brave and dedicated cyclists left the comfort of their homes on a frigid night to attend our latest Orange Chair event – the Bike Maintenance Evening.
Graeme generously donated his time to host a really informative, interactive and fun 90 minute session. Our guests were full of praise for Graeme and learnt new bike maintenance skills that they are already putting into practice – from changing flat tyres and adjusting gears to altering seat heights.
Our message was spread far and wide through our own efforts and those of the Ministry of Awesome and women’s cycle advocacy group Frocks on Bikes who “exist to help you get on a bike – no stress, no fuss, no need for lycra, just freedom, convenience and fun – in your own style!”
We received great feedback on the night and all guests went home with a free puncture repair kit from Graeme.