Satirists at large – Steve Braunias and David Slack

Writer and editor Stephen Stratford (@stephenstra) (blogging at Quote Unquote) joined two of Aotearoa’s top satirists to discuss satirical writing at the Auckland Writers Festival. The aforementioned satirists:

And what a sharp-witted triumvirate they were.  Stephen kicked off with a great potted history of satire – Juvenal, Jonathan Swift, Private Eye, The Thick of it – into New Zealand’s own history – John Clarke,  A week of it – McPhail, Gadsby, A. K. Grant, Chris McVeigh (in the audience apparently).

He riffs a bit more:

Steve Braunias is the finest satirist Mount Maunganui has ever produced.

And not only that:

Fielding is the epicentre of New Zealand satire.

Steve Braunias explains his Secret Diairies. They have an inbuilt narrative:

I regard them rather pretentiously as motifs.

How do they choose their victims? David Slack says you don’t punch down, you punch up:

Who’s asking for it? Who apart from John Key?

Discussion turns to left wing /right wing satire, and Braunias wryly imagines:

Bomber Bradbury but with nuance and jokes, or Chris Trotter with a laugh track.

Cover of Madmen Cover of Smoking in Antarctica Cover of Fish of the week Cover of Civilisation

How do people respond to having the mickey taken? Unexpectedly well sometimes. David Slack ended up getting some work from Gareth Morgan:

Sometimes satire is a sort of LinkedIn thing.

and at the Beehive:

Every minister’s office is full of cartoons of themself.

We gained insight into writing satire. Steve spoke of:

long slow lugubrious magic … I don’t have a first draft, every line is written one line after the other.

There were SO MANY cracking anecdotes in this session – complaining letters from Judith Collin’s family, a tattoo of Paul Holmes,  upsetting Julian Assange, giving it but not being able to take it …

And as a finale, a well-deserved award for Steve:

Top stuff, satirists. As you were.

David Mitchell Über Novelist

Portrait of DavidMitchellDavid Mitchell uber novelist is addictive, it’s official.  Cloud Atlas stays with you long after you have read it, and makes you question the way the world works, what it could become and the part individuals play in that. The series of ethical journeys the characters traverse through the book explore how people prey on each other and corporations prey on societies. The themes of interconnectedness and cause and effect heightened by reincarnating the main character.

Cover of Bone Clocks by David MitchellNow after reading The Bone Clocks – only my second David Mitchell novel – I begin to see his recurring themes of power, communication or miscommunication and connectivity. The consequences of random and considered actions we all make on a daily basis underlies much of his work, such as Holly Syke’s young actions.

David says his work explores how random or crafted connectivity powers reality. His skilled craftsmanship blends several different genres into one great novel in The Bone Clocks going from the realism to futuristic and fantasy elements, sometimes it feels like you are reading several books at once. The different styles – together  with the different voices to narrate each section – mean you’ll need to keep your wits about you so you don’t miss that crucial references, but I’ll give nothing away.

This author really loves language. You see that he finds it an ally, a trusted friend, and it is a joy to read – but sometimes he criticises himself.  The character and novelist Crispin Hershey’s ideas make you think the author himself he is having doubts about novel’s structure, or is he just making us think?   You can imagine I am very excited  to see him at WORD Christchurch tonight (Sunday 17 May).

Fans can follow breadcrumbs to pick up on references to characters from other works, tying them together.  Search out his fan site for insights into his works.

Here are some clips:

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards 2015

The shortlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards 2015 is here and there are some gems among them!

2015 shortlist

Find out more: Ten books shortlisted for 2015 Award.

Cover of Americanah Cover of Horses of God Cover of Harvest Cover of The Narrow Road Cover of Burial Rites Cover of Transatlantic Cover of Someone

This award is presented every year for a novel written in English or translated into English and is now in its 20th year. Nominations are submitted by libraries in major cities throughout the world and it’s fascinating to see what favourites other librarians have picked.

Christchurch City Libraries nominated three books:

  • The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton (and to prove we’re not just favouring our own, the list of other nominations comes from all around the world: Belgium, Canada, Croatia and the UK.)
  • Life After Life, Kate Atkinson (also nominated by libraries in Australia, Canada, Beijing, Ireland, Russia, UK, USA.)
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt (also Austraia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, USA.)

Cover of The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton Cover of The Goldinch by Donna Tartt Cover of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Other libraries in New Zealand getting in on the action nominated:

Cover of The Blind Man's Garden, by Nadeem Aslam Cover of The Last Days of the National Costume, by Anne Kennedy Cover of The Infinite Air by Fiona Kidman Cover of The Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann

It’s also really interesting to see what books are highly regarded by libraries all over the world.

  • And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini is hugely popular with nominations from Beijing, Tallin, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Russia, UK and the USA.
  • Canada is particularly taken with The Orenda, Joseph Boyden, with seven different Canadian nominations.
  • In Times of Fading Light, Eugen Ruge has been chosen by libraries in Hungary, Ireland and 4 nominations from Germany.
  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, with nominations from Canada, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and the USA.
  • A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki, with nominations from Canada, Ireland, The Netherlands, and 4 from the USA.
  • And nominations for Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi, a tale about ‘the simple devastating ways in which families tear themselves apart’ come from Belgium, Germany, South Africa, and the UK.

Cover of And The Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini Cover of In Times of Fading Light, by Eugen Ruge Cover of Americanah https://christchurch.bibliocommons.com/search?&t=smart&search_category=keyword&q=orenda%20boyden Cover of A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki Cover of Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi

The final winner will be announced on the 17 June. Watch the official International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award website for details. Do you have a favourite among the nominees?

It’s Oscar Time!

Cover of American SniperOscar nominations have been announced, you can catch up on lots of them from the Library before the February 22 ceremony (Monday 23 in NZ), as well as the books they are based on:

Best Picture nominees

American Sniper (based on this book by Chris Kyle) is up for six awards including Best Picture & Actor.

In Birdman (up for nine awards) an ex-superhero actor tries to mount a play based on the Raymond Carver story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

Boyhood is on its way to the Library, get on the reserve list and watch this landmark Richard Linklater movie that was filmed over 12 years!

Haven’t seen The Grand Budapest Hotel yet? It’s been nominated for nine awards (tied for the most nominations with Birdman) and is beautiful.

Book cover of 85 years of the OscarThe Imitation Game may not be historically accurate, but hopefully the play it is based on (Breaking the Code) is, or the book that the play that the movie was based on (Alan Turing: The Enigma) is.

Selma is based on voting marches led by Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. Read Marching for Freedom for an introduction to this topic, or listen to the music of the marchers online.

The Stephen Hawking bio-pic The Theory of Everything (also nominated for Best Actor and Actress) is based on Travelling to Infinity, a memoir by his first wife.

Whiplash is an original story based in the world of jazz. You can listen to thousands of jazz tracks on Freegal and our other Music eResources.

Best Actress

Book cover of Still AliceJulianne Moore has been nominated in the Best Actress category for Still Alice, based on the novel by Lisa Genova, about a professor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Rosamund Pike is nominated for Gone Girl. We have the fantastic novel as well as the movie in our collection.

Reese Witherspoon has been nominated for her turn as a women who embarks on a huge solo hike after some personal tragedy. The movie was based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir – Wild.

Best Actor

Steve Carrell has been nominated for Foxcatcher, which is a bit of a feat for someone whose only other entry in the Library database is for Anchorman 2. We have the recently released book in now.

Best Animated Feature Film

We have The Boxtrolls, How to Train your Dragon 2, and the not nominated but phenomenally popular The LEGO Movie, although I was always more of a Torro girl myself.

Challenge Confessions

O.K. it’s confession time. I have been an abject failure at meeting my reading challenges for 2014.

A Year in Reading started out well; January, February and March have ticks beside them. But then things went to pieces. By April I was trying to make Mary Poppins do double duty  – as a book that has been made into a movie (already checked off in March) and a re-read from childhood. Cheating on my reading challenges – that’s what it came to.

There were some books I did read, but not in the month assigned to them: Cover for Sydney

  • A book from another country – Sydney by Delia Falconer. (I think Australia counts as another country).
  • An award winner – Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín (actually it’s only been nominated for the Costa so far, but if there is any justice in the world it will win every literary prize going in 2015.) Cheating again – it’s a slippery slope.

Reading Bingo was marginally better, but again with the cheating.

  • A book with a blue cover – Middlemarch by George Eliot. Double cheat. Also June A Year in Reading – read that classic you have never read.
  • A book that is more than ten years old – Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger.  Double cheat –  January A Year in Reading – a book that was published in the year you were born.
  • A book that became a movie – Mary Poppins. Actually a triple cheat. There are no depths to which I will not stoop.

What challenges will I fail in 2015 I wonder? Should  I make not reading Ulysses an annual non-event?

Best book covers of 2014 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

This awards ceremony starts with the winners. My two favourites of the year:

Cover of Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks. I could have picked any of Dylan’s four covers represented below. The man is a massive New Zealand talent, and deserves all the kudos. Onya Dylan.

Cover of Creamy Psychology

Creamy Psychology
A survey of the work of photographer Yvonne Todd. Artists and photographers – like cartoonists – often have a head start when it comes to good covers. They have the images. And this is hypnotically creepy and yet alluring. Love it, and the title.

Let’s continue the awards ceremony with two strong Christchurch-focused titles. Potently distinctive, and both representing well what is inside.

Cover of Shigeru Ban Cover of Once in a lifetime

Last year I praised the array of fantastic cartoony covers on New Zealand books. I’m pleased to see more goodies this year. I feel like a Dylan Horrocks cover is so damn good, and generally indicative of an excellent book too. Two of them this year are his own collections.

Cover of Wake Cover of Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen Cover of Empty Bones Cover of Incomplete Works

More proof that artists give good cover. As do poets.

Cover of Creamy Psychology Cover of Waha Cover of Cinema Cover of Edwin's Egg Cover of There's a medical name for this

Beautiful fiction.

Cover of Of things gone astray Cover of The Drowning City Cover of Landscape with Solitary Figure Cover of Where the Rehoku bone sings

Some super covers for kids and teens.

Cover of Construction Cover of Doctor Grundy's undies Cover of NZ shore and sea Cover of Dappled Annie Cover of Sage. Cover of While we run Cover of A treasury of NZ poems

Very New Zealand. And evocative.

Cover of Reach Cover of Autobiography

Typographical delights.

Cover of How to be dead Cover of Arms race Cover of Infidelities Cover of Vertical Living Cover of Tell you what Cover of The Bright side

There is a boom of publishing in the area of First World War history. This has an appropriate solemnity and gravitas. As do some others employing black and white photography.

Cover of How we remember Cover of Prendergast Cover of Berry Boys Cover of Deadline Cover of Frank Worsley Cover of Iggy's airforce tales Cover of Patient Cover of The Mighty Totara

I love this one. Love love LOVE.

Cover of Peter Smith

A lineup of stuff can make for an attractive cover.

Cover of Pills and Potions

Book of the year. But though the cover is distinctive and recognisable (it looks a bit like the Shroud in Turin?), I kind of wish it had a Sharon Murdoch cartoon on the cover. She is on Twitter as @domesticanimal and is all kinds of awesome.

Cover of Dirty Politics

For more book cover and design, see the PANZ Book Design Awards.

The Great NZ Crime Debate – WORD Christchurch

The Great NZ Crime Debate and Ngaio Marsh AwardI confess to feeling a little weary sitting in my seat at 8pm, after a full day of thought-provoking sessions at WORD Christchurch. “You’ll have to take notes for me, I’m too tired,” I said to my neighbour, slumping over my bag.

Well, if I didn’t take notes it certainly wasn’t because I fell asleep, it was because I couldn’t possibly keep up with the fast-paced repartee and banter exhibited by all the debaters. Full marks to all contestants! Some may have lost the debate, but all were surprising, hilarious, bawdy, and full of snark and self-mockery. Joe Bennett was as always an entertaining MC, despite enduring much slander from both debating teams. (Who knew our Mayor had such a raunchy sense of humour?!)

Arguing the moot that crime doesn’t pay were lawyer Marcus Elliott, crime novelist Paul Cleave and amateur bank robber Meg Wolitzer.

The opposition put forward the idea that crime is profitable, headed by Mayor Lianne Dalziel (which seems a little worrying for Christchurch). Even more disturbingly, she had journalist Martin van Beynen at her side, with Timaru Police Notebook fan Steve Braunias bringing up the rear. As Marcus Elliott argued, if the government and the media are in cahoots, what hope is there for democracy? Luckily reason prevailed and crime was voted to not be worth the bother. Debate attendees are doubtless spreading peace and goodwill over the city even as I type.

Cover of Where the Dead Men GoAt the end we were privileged to hear the results of the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, winner being Otago lecturer and crime writer Liam McIlvanney for Where the Dead Men Go. A big congratulations to all the short-listed finalists, especially Liam McIlvanney, as well as a really big thank you to the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival organisers for creating such an entertaining event.

We need new names: WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival

We need new namesZimbabwe came as close as it is ever likely to get, in having one of its daughters win the Man Booker Prize, when in 2013, NoViolet Bulawayo was shortlisted for her first novel We Need New Names.

I loved this book long before I read it, I concede maybe for all the wrong reasons.

I loved the author’s name – even if you do nothing else, say the word Bulawayo several times. Let it roll off your tongue, a slight stress on the “way” syllable, feel its roundness roll out like the Matopos Boulders that, as a tourist in Zimbabwe, you would most certainly visit. Beautiful.

I loved the title. It is a book in which names are very important.The names of characters, like Prophet Revelation Bitchington Mborro; Paradise, the squatter camp; DestroyedMichigan for Detroit; Bastard and Godknows who are Darling‘s friends. In politically volatile Africa, even the names of streets and buildings can change almost overnight. To this day, my Durban taxi trips require some verbal fancy footwork: If I say “Can you take me to Aliwal Street”, the driver will answer : “Do you mean Samora Machel?” If I ask for Samora Machel Avenue, he will always reply: “Oh, Aliwal Street”. But we get there in the end.

I also loved the book cover, so funky, so bright, so youthful. Because, NoViolet Bulawayo, born in Zimbabwe, is young and this is her first novel and it is quite brilliant.

And then I read it.

It is a book of two halves, the first part set in the euphemistically named Paradise, a squatter camp in Zimbabwe. The second half is set in America where Darling, the main character, has been taken  by her Aunt – with the promise of a better life.

NoViolet Bulawayo

As with all fiction, there is what is happens and there is how what happens is described. Many awful things happen. Do you want to read about a botched attempted abortion with a wire coat hanger on a young girl impregnated by her grandfather? No you do not. Do you want to read about the words Blak Power smeared in faeces on the bathroom mirror of a house that has been broken into? No you do not. Do you want to read about a lonely father, estranged from his daughter, dying of AIDS in a shack in Paradise? Probably not. But read it you will, because it is beautifully written and finely observed and has nuggets of joy and laughter and empathy the likes of which you may not have beheld for a very long time.

For me it is mainly a book about leaving a place where you were born, your homeland, and making a life in a new place and all the excitement and yearning that  accompanies this migration. The fullness of lack is contrasted with the emptiness of abundance. For make no mistake, people left and are leaving Zimbabwe:

Look at them leaving in droves, arm in arm with loss and lost. Look at them leaving in droves.

And then there is the writing. Interspersed with staccato juvenile backchat,  there are long repeated sentences whose Biblical cadence make you feel those passages could be sung. Her writing has few conjunctions and she favours repeated words for emphasis. She has killer similes and metaphors and for all the sadness of the subject matter, you will laugh. She is doing something different with English and you should read it to see what you think. As the Nigerian author Things Fall ApartChinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart) is quoted as saying:

Let no one be fooled by the fact that we may write in English, for we intend to do unheard of things with it.

It is a book with a forcefield all of its own. When I went to place it on my shelves, first I put it between The Lord of the Flies and Things Fall Apart. No, not there. Then I tried it between The Lower River and Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs To-night. No not there either. Finally I placed it between The Grass is Singing and Cry the Beloved Country. Two classics. And that is where it belongs.

But I have saved the best till last. NoViolet Bulawayo is appearing at the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival  in Christchurch this weekend. Sure you can read the reviews, of course I recommend you read the book, but you could actually meet her and hear her speak.

Writing comets like this do not often traverse our skies.

 

What is your 10pm Question? Get on board with our Community read

Community ReadI spied a poster in the library that has put a real spring in my step: Community Read 2014. The reason for this spring is a visit to Christchurch City Libraries by Kate De Goldi. She is coming to talk about her novel The 10PM Question and I can’t wait.

I read this book a number of years ago and at the time it struck a real chord. Frankie Parsons, a twelve year old boy, is on the verge of change. He has a head full of worries and Frankie’s Ma listens patiently to his 10pm questions. I had a son who also had a head full of worries and at the time I found The 10PM Question a reassuring read. Kate De Goldi deals sensitively and perceptively with the issue of anxiety and the challenges faced by Frankie and his family.

Kate is an award winning writer who cannot be missed.

Knowledgeable

Articulate

Thinking

Engaging

Dazzling

Enthusiastic

Gem

Observant

Lover of Literature

Dynamic

Insightful

I had the pleasure of listening to Kate a number of years ago and I promise you will not be disappointed. Come along to this free event on Friday 22nd August, 11-12pm, at the South Library Colombo Street, Christchurch. In the evening (7.30pm to 9pm), join the Court Jesters for some 10pm questions. Share your 10PM question and be in to win an iPod touch. The Court Jesters at South Library will improvise your 10pm questions!

Kate de Goldi – and many more authors – will also be appearing in a variety of sessions at the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.

I don’t have a 10pm question but I do have plenty of 2.30am questions! What is your 10pm question?

Going clubbing

Cover: The LuminariesWhen one of my Book Clubs decided to read the Man Booker 2013 shortlist I was a bit sceptical. Yes, we could then decide if  The Luminaries deserved to win, but we would also have to read it. And – this just in – it is very long. Anyway, it all turned out swimmingly and I read and loved books I would never have looked at if they hadn’t been on the list.

Reading from a list was so successful we’re  casting around for another one. My suggestion was to consult the handy Literary prizes and book awards  page on our very own Christchurch City Libraries web site.  The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 looks promising,  mostly because of the judges:

  • Mary Beard, author, hugely entertaining television presenter,  blogger and admirable human being who has risen above some very nasty verbal abuse without being insufferable about it
  • Denise Mina, “the Queen of Tartan Noir” and owner of one of the best quiffs ever
  • Caitlin Moran, very funny, very rude and a woman who is is unafraid of the word feminist
  • Sophie Raworth, one of the BBC presenters at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Truly impressive
  • Helen Fraser, the chair of the judging panel and former Managing Director of Penguin U.K. She may not have written a book, but has surely read a few good ones

Cover: A girl is a half-formed thingA list chosen by this crew must be preferable to the system my other Book Club uses, where the members tick titles on a catalogue at the start of the year.  They then shiftily deny any knowledge of the books that arrive each month and steadfastly refuse to read them. Or perhaps that’s just me.

The winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 was Eimar McBride, who must be good, because if she could be a literary character she would be Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch and because she chose Anne of Green Gables as the defining book of her childhood. Although the book she always recommends is Ulysses –  “why don’t more people listen?” Because it’s impossible to read, that’s why.

Using the Baileys list also offers the opportunity to swig down the sponsor’s product (or rather sip it in a genteel fashion) while discussing the finer points of literary fiction. A winning combination.