Seeing Red

CoverLife dealt me the recessive gene MC1R (only achievable through both sides of the family) and I arrived with a ‘reddish’ hue to my hair – together with the obligatory pale skin and, a few years later, a mass of freckles.  I managed to avoid the ‘Tudor’ blue eyes so I actually have discernible eyebrows.  Phew…

When I found this book on the shelf recently it screamed ‘Read Me, Read Me’.  So I did.

What a revelation!  Little did I know about my heritage and what different cultures felt about my red/auburn/ginger ancestors and modern-day counterparts.

Stereotypes of redheaded women range from the fun-loving scatterbrain to the fiery-tempered vixen or the penitent prostitute. Red-haired men are often associated with either the savage barbarian or the redheaded clown.

I’ve never been a great fan of ‘stereotyping’ and especially not of this negative variety.  My only negativity was related to the pitfalls endured on summer holidays where I always ended up swimming in more clothes than I normally wore, in addition to ‘slip, slap & slopping’ in a frenzy and still missing bits that needed TLC in the evening by use of cotton wool balls and calamine lotion. All this angst whilst my so-called friends gambolled and frolicked in the surf like slippery little seals and acquired golden overtones by the minute!

CoverAnne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables was one of my childhood heroines (for obvious reasons) and when she finally walloped Gilbert Blythe for pulling her pigtail and teasing her mercilessly – OK so she might have been fiery but he certainly had it coming!!

Maureen O’Hara was famous for her fiery nature and red hair in the films but she always had to endure John Wayne – so who wouldn’t want to vent their spleen!  Can you see where I am going with this – provocation.  Tease a blonde, brunette and any other hair colour under the sun and you would get the same result.

CoverDwelling in the past isn’t good for you so I quickly read on and sure enough, there were also positives such as redheads being considered the darlings of the Renaissance period.  Acclaimed artists such as Degas, Titian and Rossetti couldn’t do without their favourite ‘red-haired’ muses – the first one of note and possibly the first supermodel of her time being Elizabeth Siddal.

I was unaware that many differing cultures to mine (Northern Hemisphere Celt) such as Russian, Italian, Chinese and even some Pacific Islanders also have the recessive gene that sits on Chromosone 16.

But true amazement came in the form of googling – apparently there is Calendar of Redhead Events, Ginger Pride Rallies all over the world and Melbourne has been voted as Host City for the 2017 Ginger Pride Rally which is being held on 29 April – the event raising funds and awareness for, both children’s anti-bullying and skin cancer non-for-profits.

That’s more like it – Go The Reds!!

Do you judge a book by its cover?

9780356505381Everyone knows you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, right? But we do, of course. I mean, when you’re browsing the library shelves, it’s the cover that attracts you to a book, isn’t it? I’ve heard that you’re supposed to read to page 90 (!) of a book before you decide if you should read it, but I sure don’t have time for that!

So anyway, when I saw Resistance is Futile the other day, I was sure this was just the book for me. Anyone who’s read my blog posts before will know that I’m a bit of a Star Trek nerd (just a wee bit!) so I was really excited to read this geeky love story with a Trek reference in the title. It looked like it was going to be the perfect read.

But I was wrong. It wasn’t that the story wasn’t any good–I enjoyed it well enough–it just wasn’t what the cover had lead me to believe. I was expecting a kind of Rosie Project-ish story, but with a geek-girl protagonist and a few Star Trek references thrown in. But what I got, was an X-Files-ish murder-mystery-come-alien-romance story. There was not so much as a single “Beam me up, Scotty” or “Live long and prosper” to be had. I think there might have been a vague reference to the Prime Directive on page 265. Maybe. Or maybe I’m just clutching at straws.

Of course, sometimes it’s the other way around.

Cover of The Round House by Louise ErdrichWhen I read the blurb of The Round House by Louise Erdrich (“A mother is brutally raped by a man on the North Dakota reservation where she lives… Traumatized and afraid, she takes to her bed and refuses to talk to anyone – including the police…”) I groaned inwardly. “Who chooses these books anyway?” I grumbled. But it was for book club, so I had to at least attempt to read it. Grudgingly I began…

…and instead of the abhorrent, disturbing tale I was expecting, I discovered an arresting, thought provoking story of a young man’s search for justice for his mother. Although the story was often upsetting, it was not gratuitous. I learnt fascinating and shocking things about life on a Native American reservation. I was amazed that Erdrich, a (then) 57 year old woman, could create a teenage-boy-character so utterly believable and real as Joe. I laughed at the oddball characters of his extended family. And I cried as the conclusion approached, knowing, without knowing, what was about to happen.

And… I reveled in Joe’s love of Star Trek! Both for its own sake, and because it was so unexpected! Joe and his friends idolised the super-strong, fully-functional android Data; they wanted to be Worf, the Klingon warrior* (they were also Star Wars fans, of course–but I forgave them). A few chapters in, I suddenly realised that each chapter shared its title with an episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation (yes, I am that much of a Trekkie that I know the titles of the episodes, and I only had to check the synopsis of a couple of them to be sure what they were about). I then had a sudden desire to watch all those episodes, and analyse the connections with each chapter. In fact, I found myself wanting to write whole essays on this book. Back in the dim reaches of history, I actually did a degree in English. I was even invited to do Honours (though I didn’t, for reasons which I’ve now forgotten). I loved studying, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book since that I so wanted to write academic essays about. The more I think about it, the more I think this book deserves the “Missbeecrafty Best Book” award. I’m sure that’s almost as prestigious as the American National Book Award for Fiction which it actually won in 2012.

Literary prize winning books aren’t for everyone, I know, but don’t judge this book on its prize-winning-ness. And don’t judge it on it’s Trekkie-ness! If you’re not a Star Trek fan, don’t worry, I’ve read a bunch of reviews, and hardly anyone else seems to have even noticed it, and they still loved it. And don’t judge it by its cover, either!

Just read it.

*I always had a soft spot for Data myself. And Worf too, once the make-up department gave him a decent hair do.

 

Christmas on Zinio

Read Christmas issue eMagazines on the go – Check out the titles available via Zinio.

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Best of 2016 – Staff Pickles

Our team of Staff Pickles pick their faves of the year:

Alina

Alina

Alison

Alison

Dan

Dan

Donna

Donna

Joyce

Joyce

Katherine

Katherine

Moata

Moata

Roberta

Roberta

Memoir, biography and non-fiction

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The Villa at the Edge of the Empire. One Hundred Ways to Read a City by Fiona Farrell (Bronwyn’s pick)
100 tiny pieces of perfect writing about the city we live in.

The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts Joshua Harmer (Donna’s pick)
This is the true story of manuscripts gathered in Timbuktu, Mali & how they are threatened when jihadis take over the city. This is an utterly brilliantly told story about brave and bold librarians and citizens. Better than any thriller.

The Seven Good Years Etgar Keret (Dan’s pick)
The best autobiography I’ve ever and am ever likely to read!

Lab Girl: A Story of Trees, Science and Love Hope Jaren (Alison’s pick)
It is an awesome biography about a woman who loves trees, and her science-soulmate assistant Bill who used to live in a hole. They’re both incredible stranger-than-fiction characters, both passionate about science, both with a few tips about how to be very, very poor and still manage to run a lab. Stories of plants echo events in her own life – growth and roots, pollination and sex, endurance and survival. This one’s inspiring, fascinating and very well written.

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Watching and listening

Black Lotus Shogun Orchestra (Music) (Dan’s pick)
Such groove & feel, almost reminiscent of Mulatu Astatke.

45 Years (Film) (Robyn’s pick)
Ultra-jumbo sized box of tissues required but worth the pain.

Orange is the New Black (TV series) (Robyn’s pick)
Came late to it but love it – highly addictive. Great performances, great stories, Piper is mad annoying but perhaps that’s quite accurate. And she’s in the background more as the series progresses.

Fortitude (TV series) (Dan’s pick)
Cool Scandi-Crime drama.

Fiction

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The Vet’s daughter Barbara Comyns (Joyce’s pick)
Written in the 1950s this slim volume is domestic, sinister and soaked in sadness. Alice is the vet’s daughter and a very unhappy creature. As her life takes turn after turn for the worst she literally starts to untether. Weird but wonderful.

My struggle Book Three: Boyhood Karl Ove Knausgaard (Robyn’s pick)
This is my best book of the year so far, just as Book One, A death in the Family, and Book Two, A Man in Love were my best books of the year I read them in. I have to be on holiday to read them because once you start you cannot stop. I am not a man and I am not Norwegian and I am not a genius (and I think I’m a lot nicer person than Karl) but I have felt every emotion he describes, I just wouldn’t be able to express my feelings with such incredible skill.

American Gods Neil Gaiman (Bronwyn’s pick)
Re-re-reading this fabulous tale in preparation for the upcoming TV miniseries (so I can be all showy-offy when it’s on …)

Speak Louisa Hall (Joyce’s pick)
Humanity’s relationship with technology is told through a variety of narrators in this complex but gripping novel. Alan Turing, a Seventeenth century pilgrim girl, a robot and a variety of imagined scientists narrate their hopes and dreams of connection to the past, present and each other. Poetic and profound I so much wanted Mary Bradford travelling across the waves to her new life in the Americas to be real. Beautiful.

The Broken Earth series N K Jemisin (Alison’s pick)
The Obelisk Gate because it was a stunning sequel to The Fifth Season, delving deeper into the way this fantasy world works (or doesn’t work, as the case may be, as this world is intrinsically broken) full of tragedy, hidden histories, desperate grasps at survival, and utterly fantastic powerful women.

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More of the best

Best book covers of 2016 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

2016 has seen the publication of a bunch of great and interesting New Zealand books, with plenty of strikingly attractive covers. Here are my picks for New Zealand’s best book covers of the year:

Number one is Mansfield and me: A graphic memoir by Sarah Laing, published by Victoria University Press. The cover, as drawn by Sarah, is a thing of beauty. It also draws you into the compelling counterpointing of Sarah and Katherine Mansfield – the very heart of the book.

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Here’s what Sarah had to say about her cover design:

It’s quite a different proposition designing your own book cover as opposed to designing for others. I had a couple of other options but it was pretty easy to settle on the one I liked the most. I took Mansfield’s profile from a famous 1915 photograph, and tried to draw my own to match it. I wanted to echo the vase/profile illusion, and also to have us facing each other, when, in so much of the book, our stories run in parallel. Later in the book, Katherine and I share a cup of coffee, and I used to print from my coffee cup as a motif in the background.

Katherine Mansfield. Ref: 1/2-003106-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23065921
Katherine Mansfield. Ref: 1/2-003106-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23065921

A close runner up is Can You Tolerate This? Personal Essays by Ashleigh Young. It’s also published by Victoria University Press. The difficult second cover on Ashleigh’s blog Eyelash Roaming explains how the cover came to be:

Well, for my second book, I asked Elliot Elam to draw me a picture, though I didn’t know what the picture should be … Maybe more importantly, a stranger is picked out of the anonymous crowd and made knowable. Without getting too lofty… in a way that’s what I wanted to do with this book of essays: attempt an impression of things that otherwise would have rushed by.

Can you tolerate this?

Bronze medal goes to Hera Lindsay Bird’s eponymous book of poetry. An interview with Hera by Ellen Falconer in The Wireless has a bit about how that distinctive cover came to be:

Ashleigh Young [my editor] has a friend called Russell Kleyn who is a really great photographer and she set me up with him. I had quite a different idea; I have quite a funny portrait of myself and I wanted a really Dorian Gray thing, where there was a portrait of me holding a dorky portrait of myself, but it actually didn’t turn out that well.

He saw this yellow raincoat in this weird attic I was living in and he just wanted to take a few photos of that, so it was kind of a random shot. But I really like the way it turned out and that it obscures my face. What I told him was that I kind of wanted [it to have] an Yvonne Todd vibe about it – feminine but also a bit creepy and off.

Hera Lindsay Bird

Fergus Barrowman, VUP publishers comments on the triple victory:

The books make the covers (that is, if the books weren’t great and successful no one would be noticing the covers); all three were ferociously art-directed by the authors with only gentle pressure from the publisher.

So my three picks for best book covers also happen to be books I loved inside and out. They also are all published by Victoria University Press. So I think I can officially say it – VUP gives good cover. They have cannily produced postcards to show off them fine looking jackets. Next stop, VUP badges and tshirts??

More standout covers from 2016

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Cool covers for kids

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Special mentions

Let’s take a walk

C1 Book launch
Artwork from Let’s take a walk

A Christchurch book that deserves a special mention is a picture book produced by C1Espresso, and edited by owners Sam and Fleur Crofskey. Let’s take a walk looks at Christchurch places before and after the earthquakes. It was written by Nicole Phillipson, and the exquisite illustrations are by Hannah Beehre. The design and layout – with all its fascinating fold outs – is by Alec Bathgate & Tahlia Briggs.

Have a read of Moata’s interview with Sam Crofskey about this poignant pop-up book.

Gecko Annual

The cover of the Gecko annual is a zingy orange red with a dash of gold on the cover. But it’s the contents that are a symphony of beaut design work. Have a look at Kim’s blog post for some pics from inside the annual. It’s a stunner.

Best book covers of previous years

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

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Longlist 2017

It’s out. The longlist for New Zealand’s most prestigious book award. Plenty of options here for reading over the summer months. A shortlist for the awards will be announced in March next year and the winners in May.

Ready, set, make your reserves.

Fiction

Cover of The Wish Child Cover of Love as a stranger Cover of Tail of the taniwha Cover of My mother and the Hungarians Cover of Billy Bird Cover of Deleted scenes for lovers Cover of The name on the door is not mine Cover of Dad art Cover of Strip

Poetry

Cover of Back with the human condition Cover of Fale Aitu: Spirit House Cover of Hera Lindsay Bird Cover of In the supplementary garden Cover of Thought horses Cover of As the verb tenses Cover of Fits & starts Cover of This paper boat Cover of And so it is Cover of Beside herself

Illustrated Non-fiction

Cover of Mansfield and me Cover of New Zealand wine Cover of A beautiful hesitation Cover of Futuna: Life of a building Cover of A whakapapa of tradition Cover of Bloomsbury South Cover of 101 works of art Cover of A history of New Zealand women Cover of Ann Shelton: Dark matter

General Non-Fiction

Cover of Can you tolerate this? Cover of This model world Cover of Big smoke Cover of Being Chinese Cover of The great war for New Zealand Cover of The world, the flesh and the Devil Cover of My father's island Cover of New Zealand's rivers: An environmental history Cover of The broken decade

See previous winners of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Carpe Librum: Seize the book – WORD Christchurch

Art BoxIn the unlikely event that at some stage in the WORD Christchurch Festival, you find that you have overindulged in word richness, fear not, because an ideal palate cleanser is on hand.

Carpe Librum: Seize the Book is a exhibition of art created out of decommissioned books at Ara City Campus ArtBox. It is a great little event to sandwich in-between all the other WORD gorgeousness you will be experiencing and it’s fun to take in with a friend. Masha and I visited to-day.

This exhibition knocks your average scrapbooking right out of the ballpark. It is essentially concept art for the book lover. Each and every exhibit will challenge you to work out the creative process that went into the making of it; to bounce off one another what you would have done instead and to seriously consider taking a bookbinding course. And it’s OK if you go on your own as well, as the Artist in Residence at Ara has her studio off the end of the venue and she is a chatty lady who is producing amazing art from images of slices of her brain.

And once you’re in that part of the city, there is so much more to explore – great cafe’s, excellent outlets to buy gorgeous stationery and Central Library Manchester  to visit.IMG_0137 I will let Masha (shown here feigning terror at a giant squid in one of the exhibits) have the last word on this exhibition, she can always express things so eloquently:

More beautiful things for me to love and do.

Which all just goes to prove that WORD Christchurch 2016 offers so much more than words, while you are in town, give this free event at ArtBox a visit!

View more photos of Carpe Librum on Flickr

More WORD Christchurch

Haere rā Peter Gossage

Haere rā to Peter Gossage who died last weekend. His stories and art are familiar to many New Zealanders, and Peter was renowned for retelling the myths of Aotearoa.

His Storylines profile delves into his career:

Peter Gossage has worked as a display artist at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and as a graphic designer and scenic artist at TV2. His first job on leaving school was at an ad agency, and his drawings of Māori motifs on a television commercial drew interest from a publisher. This led to a career retelling and illustrating Māori legends for children.

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His work was striking and unique. We interviewed him back in 2002, and Peter’s advice to aspiring writers was:

Read everything you can. Be simple and plain. Simplicity is the essence of good design.

Trump vs Clinton

It’s on. Man vs woman. Republican vs Democrat. You may well be fed up with the whole thing by now but if not, we have plenty of reading material on the presidential hopefuls, including Trump’s The Art of the Deal.

Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of this immensely popular “memoir” of the real estate tycoon gave an astonishing interview with The New Yorker this week in which he expressed regret at having written it.

Cover of The art of the deal“I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

Whoa.

But The Art of the Deal is by no means the only book about, or purportedly by, Trump in our collection.

Cover of Never enough Cover of Crippled America Cover of Trump never give up Cover of Trump University Real Estate 101

Find more titles about Donald J. Trump

But by sheer volume Hillary Rodham Clinton is in the lead…

Cover of H R C Cover of Hard choices Cover of Living history Cover of A woman in charge Cover of Her way Cover of Leadership secrets of Hillary Clinton Cover of The secretary Cover of Hillary

Find more titles about Hillary Rodham Clinton