The Beauty of Lists

Cover of The Librarian's Book of Lists Memory – as you get older – seems to fail you at the most inopportune moments…  And if, heaven forbid, you are a little ‘distracted’ or ‘stressed’, then it completely goes out of the window.

Once upon a time I could remember the titles of books and authors’ names without having to play mental ‘charades’  with myself (or rope in increasingly bewildered colleagues) to acquire them! Ah, those were the days…

Thank heavens for our catalogue’s nifty little function entitled Lists. I was asked a question the other day: ‘what books could I recommend’. Well, this time I was prepared. I had a List, you see. Quick as a flash I went into My Account on BiblioCommons, clicked on My Lists and there they were – my top books (in no particular order) that I have access to via the library collection.

Cover of PersonalYou don’t have to make lists public if you are of a reticent nature; whilst I make my own private  lists, I also peruse the public list titles on the catalogue page and find that some of them are really rather quirky and/or list very unusual topics. I’ve actually found quite a few books to place reserves on via this method.

Who could fail to be impressed with titles such as If you like… fiction for hipsters or If you like… Chick Lit – Beyond Bridget Jones and Marion Keyes? And, if you are desperate to find Lee Child-like books by different authors, THEN miraculously there is a list called If you like… Lee Child which puts forward 21 different authors to try. Yeah!!

Have you ever created or made use of a list? Check out the Staff Picks lists created by our librarians (you can choose from Adults, Kids and Teens) – I guarantee you’ll be surprised by the range they cover.

2014-10-05 14.20.13

This month’s special – The 10pm Question by Kate De Goldi – the eBook!

On Friday 22 August we are having our Community Read 2014 : One book one community with The 10pm Question by Kate De Goldi.

For this month thanks to Allen & Unwin and Wheelers everyone can read the 10PM Question as an eBook at the same time!

10pm Question cover

You can read the 10 pm question as an e-book from our Overdrive collection and Wheelers collection.

10 pm question  is also available as a paper book and an audiobook.

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?

Confessions of an Author Obsessive

Cover of The Crane WifeI’ve got a bit of a obsessive personality at the best of times (to my shame, I have been known to tidy DVDs at shops without even being aware of it), and when it comes to favourite authors, it manifests in a need to read every book they have ever written. This has often been frustrated by choosing authors who seem to only write one book a millennium or have written so many, my task seems Herculean.

When I read a writer who just ‘does it for me’, I then set about reading every thing they have ever written. Those who have written just a few I can mark off quickly, others are proving to be a life’s work for me.

It’s interesting how some vary in their skills from book to book, and others nail it every time. I sometimes start with their first book and work through in order of publication, or just randomly pick them in a crazy ‘throw my hands in the air like I just don’t care’ kind of way.

So, like a true obsessive, I will now list a few of the authors I have read completely or am working on. I’ll also give my tips, for what it’s worth, on how I think it is best to approach them:

Cover of Close RangeAnnie Proulx

Start with The Shipping News, then Accordion Crimes, Postcards, Close Range (which is a collection of short stories including the excellent Brokeback Mountain), and then move on to her other excellent titles. I’d leave Bird Cloud to the end. This is a non fiction account of her building her dream home in Wyoming and is possibly the least interesting, but that may just be me.

Patrick Ness

Start with the amazing Chaos Walking Trilogy, move onto A Monster Calls, then More Than This, and finish up with The Crane Wife and The Crash of Hennington. Mr Ness is one of those writers who needs to write more prolifically to keep me happy! There is a title of his not in the library:  Topics about which I know nothing – I’ve filled a request an item form (a useful form to use if you want the library to buy something).

Cormac McCarthy

Cover of Outer DarkThere are eleven of his titles in the library, and he is my slow and steady author. I love his work, but it is not always easy going and rarely light, so I pepper his works in among my other reading.  I’d suggest starting with All the Pretty Horses, then move onto Outer Dark, The Road, No Country for Old Men,  Suttree and then his other works. I’ve still got a few to read, and the added bonus with McCarthy is his works have such depth and strength of narrative and character (I’m not biased or anything), that they make great movies… so read the book, watch the movie of  The Road, The Sunset Limited (a play), The Counsellor and No Country for Old Men. 

John Steinbeck

An early obsession for me when in my teens, I think I started with Of Mice and Men, then moved onto Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath, but perhaps it is time to finish that list off too.

Carol Shields

This writer’s works are only partly read by me, but Unless got me hooked, which led to The Collected Stories, Duet, Stone Diaries, Small Ceremonies and Larry’s Party. I still have several more to tick off the Carol Shields list.

Do you have authors you love with a passion, whose latest novel you are hanging out for? And who would you see as your ‘must read all’ authors?

Recent necrology, April 2014

Some well-known people who have died recently:

  • Rubin Carter, 1937-2014
    Boxer wrongly convicted of murder who found Bob Marley fighting his corner
  • Cover of Love in the Time of CholeraAlan Davie, 1920-2014
    Artist who won the admiration of Rothko and Pollock and later embraced ‘magic symbolism’
  • Bob Hoskins, 1942-2014
    Actor who excelled as the tough but engaging anti-hero of Mona Lisa and The long good Friday
  • Richard Hoggart, 1918-2014
    Commentator and academic whose Uses of Literacy lamented the impact of mass culture on traditional working-class life
  • Doris Pilkington, 1937-2014
    Aboriginal author whose story of Australia’s stolen generation inspired a film starring Kenneth Branagh
  • Cover of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4Mickey Rooney, 1920-2014
    Icon of American youth and energy who was as prolific in his marriages as he was on screen
  • Patrick Seale, 1930-2014
    Author who deputised for Kim Philby in Beirut and became the pre-eminent expert on Syria
  • John Shirley-Quirk, 1931-2014
    Former science teacher turned bass-baritone whose talents proved an inspiration to Benjamin Britten
  • Sue Townsend, 1946-2014
    Writer whose diaries of spotty teenager Adrian Mole became a publishing sensation
  • Owen Woodhouse, 1916-2014
    NZ jurist and chair of government commissions, notably workers’ accident compensation

Recent necrology, January 2014

cover of Julius HaastA list of well-known people who have died recently

  • Claudio Abbado, 1933-2014
    Shy but steely conductor who crafted some of the great performances of the last century
  • Percy Blandford, 1912-2014
    Canoe designer who got Britain boating with his post-war do-it-yourself designs
  • Colin Burrows, 1931-2014
    Former University of Canterbury ecologist who spent his life studying, protecting and teaching others about NZ’s native plant life
  • Elizabeth Jane Howard, 1923-2014
    Novelist who drew on her miserable childhood and spectacular misfortune with men
  • Michael Jacobs, 1952-2014
    Quixotic travel writer who celebrated the sounds and tastes of Spain and Latin America
  • Kenneth Rose, 1924-2014
    Telegraph columnist and historian who chronicled the Establishment with wit, style and occasional asperities
  • Thomas Rosenthal, 1935-2014
    Flamboyant publisher who also made his mark as art historian, broadcaster and connoisseur
  • cover for Pete Seeger at 89Pete Seeger, 1919-2014
    Godfather of folk music who was revered as the voice of political protest for more than half a century
  • Ariel Sharon, 1928-2014
    Israeli leader famed for bold, brash, ruthless manoeuvres both in politics and on the battlefield
  • James Siers, 1936-2014
    Pioneering Wellington photographer and writer

Recent necrology, October 2013

A list of well-known people who have died recently:

  • cover of Anthony Caro a life in sculptureAnthony Caro, 1924-2013
    Britain’s greatest sculptor who assumed the mantle of Henry Moore
  • Patrice Chereau, 1944-2013
    Film director and enfant terrible of the French theatre who staged a controversial production of Wagner’s Ring
  • Tom Clancy, 1947-2013
    American author and inventor of the techno-thriller who predicted 9/11
  • Nigel Davenport, 1928-2013
    Versatile actor whose magnetic gaze marked many memorable roles for stage, film and television
  • John Hopkins, 1927-2013
    British-born conductor who devoted 50 years of his career to music in Australia and New Zealand
  • Christopher Koch, 1932-2013
    Australian author best known for his 1978 novel, The year of living dangerously
  • Trevor Lummis, 1930-2013
    Social historian who drew on word of mouth to illuminate accounts of the past
  • Frederik Pohl, 1919-2013
    Publisher who launched Isaac Asimov’s career and then became a highly respected sci-fi writer himself
  • Mark Brandon Read, 1954-2013
    Notorious Melbourne criminal and author
  • Lou Reed, 1942-2013
    Rock and roll star with the Velvet Underground who influenced a generation of musicians

The Stuff of Life

Books as a single entity are all very well, but I’ve been thinking lately about the individual words that make up the things I read.

cover of Outer Dark

Cormac McCarthy will do that to you. Pick up any of his books, from The Road, the 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner,  to No Country For Old Men, Suttree, and the two that are coming out as movies this year, The Counsellor and Child of God and there is a wealth of wondrous words throughout.

Then the sun buckled and dark fell like a shout – Outer Dark

I’m currently reading Outer Dark, written in 1968. It is set in the last part of the 19th century, as near as I can tell, and this bleak, gut wrenching book is filled with wonderful words that fit this period and I found myself writing some unknown words on my bookmark to check later in the dictionary. He is known for making up words and I love this about him, he feels unfettered by just the English language, despite having a rich love of it.

…the house was grown with a rich velour of moss and lichen and brooded in a palpable miasma of rot. – Outer Dark

It had me thinking about how each word crafted into a piece of writing adds to the whole, some you don’t notice, but some leave you amazed or confused or thoroughly impressed. Does Mr McCarthy for example, go hunting dictionaries for words that are obscure to colour this prose, or is he just incredibly well read? His turn of phrase and the pictures he conjures in my mind are just beautiful sometimes, well, often. I often hear myself saying words like ‘cool’, or ‘awesome’ out loud to myself as I read, obviously I don’t share his breadth and depth of language.

By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp – The Road

So I’ve compiled a little list of some of the discovered words from Outer Dark:

  • moiled – whirled or churned ceaselessly; twist; eddy.
  • penduluming: what a pendulum can be caught doing when it feels inclined to.
  • palmoutward- not a new word, he must have decided to run the two words together, just because he could.
  • malediction – the utterance of a curse.
  • recrements – refuse separated from anything; dross.
  • consubstantial -of one and the same substance, essence, or nature.
  • moonwraught – another lovely combo-word.
  • revenant – a person who returns as a spirit after death; ghost.

My two favourite words at present would have to plinth and moist, just for the way they sound when you say them.

McCarthy is rarely interviewed, avoids book tours or signings, and said about this:

I don’t think it’s good for your head, you spend a lot of time thinking about how to write a book, you probably shouldn’t be talking about it. You probably should be doing it.

Do you have favourite words, or authors whose use of language you find inspiring?

Lloyd Jones, I am ready to be heartbroken

Photo of Lloyd JonesLloyd Jones is talking about A history of silence, his memoir, on Wednesday 11 September.  This is a Press Christchurch Writers Festival event at the Christchurch Arts Festival. I’m going and hopefully will see plenty of you are too.  Why? Because Lloyd is one of New Zealand’s top writers. And also because has written about us Christchurchy people and our earthquake experiences as well as himself.  Text Publishing says:

A History of Silence is a book about a country and a broken landscape. It’s about the devastation in Christchurch, after the 2011 earthquake. It’s about how easily we erase stories we find inconvenient.

Cover of Mister PipLloyd is also in the news as the movie version of his popular Mister Pip (starring Hugh Laurie) is about to hit cinemas.

I didn’t know we had an interview with him!

Do you have a nickname and if so what is it?
As a kid I was known as ‘Jones the bag of bones’!
What was your most embarrassing moment?
There are too many to remember. Covering Philip Rush’s Cook Strait swim as a reporter, and eating by mistake his bananas and biscuits rates highly.

I’d recommend also reading a pair of excellent recent interviews in The Age and The Press.

More Lloydia

PS The title of this post derives from a favourite song (by Camera Obscura) Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken which is an answer song to Lloyd Cole’s Are you ready to be heartbroken? A whole lotta Lloyd.

Recent necrology, August 2013

cover of My music in London 1945-2000A list of well-known people who have died recently

  • John Amis, 1922-2013
    Musical impresario who worked with Myra Hess and Donald Swann and became a regular on My Music
  • Eydie Gorme, 1928-2013
    Singer who formed a successful double act with her husband Steve Lawrence
  • Elmore Leonard, 1925-2013
    Master of crime fiction who transcended the genre with novels such as Get Shorty, and, Glitz
  • Julie Harris, 1925-2013
    Actress of remarkable versatility whose six Tony Awards have not been equalled
  • Marian McPartland, 1918-2013
    Classically-trained, British-born pianist who made her name on New York’s jazz scene in the 1950s and presented a long-running jazz series on radio
  • cover of A river in the skyBarbara Mertz, 1927-2013
    American author who wrote under her own name as well as under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels
  • Cedar Walton, 1934-2013
    Pianist and composer behind some of the finest pieces in ‘hard bop’ jazz
  • Yoram Kaniuk, 1930-2013
    Jewish novelist who fought for the creation of Israel but did no like what the state went on to become