Joe Bennett in convo – Thursday 24 September

Cover of Alive and kickingJoe Bennett has written his first novel – King Rich. And you can hear him talk all about it this Thursday 24 September. There was a great article by Eleanor Black in The Press on Saturday: Christchurch a broken backdrop for Joe Bennett’s first novel – and anyone who read this will be uber-keen to read King Rich:

Joe Bennett heard a story at a pub – where else –  that he couldn’t resist. A vagrant had made himself at home in the Grand Chancellor Hotel, the 26-storey leaning tower of luxury that was a leading symbol of the city’s ruin until finally demolished by diggers.

You can also get the word from the horses’s mouth (it’s at the Blossom Lady Lounge at Addington Raceway) at a WORD Christchurch evening with Joe Bennett, Thursday 24 September, 7.30pm. Book now!

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That was then, this is now – 4 September 2010 / 4 September 2015

This morning I took some photos of familiar places, of my old neighbourhood. To see what things look like now.

I used to buy bagels and fruit and vege from here. Here’s what it looked like early on 4 September 2010.

Daily Bagel and Covent Fruit Centre September 4 2010, Kete Christchurch

Here’s what it looks like now.

Victoria Street

Victoria Street, Christchurch. Friday 4 September 2015. Flickr 2015-09-04-IMG_9102

Knox Church was looking poorly on 4 September 2010.

Knox Church, 4 September 2010.

Knox Church, 4 September 2010. Kete Christchurch.

And now, all new and fresh.

Knox Church, Victoria Street

Knox Church. Christchurch. Friday 4 September 2015. Flickr 2015-09-04-IMG_9109

The Central Library on Gloucester Street, soon after the quake.

WiFi users outside the Central Library

WiFi users outside the Central Library Even though the library is closed due to the earthquake customers are still happy using the free Wi Fi, 7 September 2010. Flickr CCL-CE-2010-09-07-DSC01928

And the same spot now.

Old Central Library site, Gloucester Street

Central Library site. Christchurch. Friday 4 September 2015. Flickr 2015-09-04-IMG_9162

Here’s the 2015 photos. There are also photos of the same area from 4 September 2014. There have been plenty of changes since then too.

The Press has done some Then and Now features:

And the CEISMIC crew have revisited five key sites, five years later.

More photos and stories:

Our blog posts looking back:

Michael Robotham – The psychology of crime

Michael Robotham is full of stories. He had a crowd enraptured at South Learning Centre last night with his tales of crime, psychology, writing, and the Ozarks.

He is now a best-selling, award-winning writer, but started out as a journalist. Later he was a successful ghost writer, working on 15 autobiographies (including Ginger Spice, Rolf Harris, and Lulu – he turned down Bryan Ferry though!)

Michael started writing his first novel The suspect when he had some time off between ghostwriting memoirs by Lulu and Rolf Harris. There was a bidding war – he had arrived with a bang. When it was published, he sent a copy to his Mum. After a while, she still hadn’t read it and told him “I had three library books to get through”.  She won a Friends of the Library Award for that commitment to libraries. Her review of his first book? “It took me a while to get into and then I did”.

Michael and author Paul Cleave
Michael Robotham and Paul Cleave. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8920

Michael talked about his road to becoming a writer, and his literary parent Ray Bradbury, as told here in Ray Bradbury is my ‘Father’.

He also shared stories about his dealings with Oz’s most wanted crim Raymond John Denning, It is a ripper of a tale and was sparked his fascination with the psychology of crime.

Michael told us about time with psychologist Paul Britton (who was the basis for the fictional character Cracker played by Robbie Coltrane). This was the man who went to Fred and Rosemary West’s house and when they found bodies in the garden said “they’re in the garden because the house is full”. Very creepy stuff.

His books all have a factual basis. The spark for his latest book Close your eyes was the murder of Janet Brown in Somerset. Life and Death was inspired by a man who escaped from prison the day before he was due to be released – and was never seen again.

I try so hard to write fiction that reads like fact.

Michael Robotham talk at South Learning Centre. Wednesday 26 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8919

Michael told us about his trip to the Ozark Mountains, scouting for a location for Life or Death. The locals were less than friendly. A burly Ozarkian Sheriff sparked good lines like someone being “dumber than shit on a biscuit”.

Not only did we get most excellent anecdotes, Michael also shared some writing tips. Find your own way. Do just enough research so the premise works, don’t let your research dominate.

Michael has just gained a new gang of Christchurch fans.

Michael Robotham and Dennis
Michael Robotham and my Dad.  Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8922

Search our catalogue for Michael Robotham.

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4 September 2010 – 5th anniversary ceremony

Kia ora Christchurchians and Cantabrians, we thought you might be interested in this information from Mayor Lianne Dalziel on a dawn ceremony on 4 September 2015 – it will be five years since we all got shaken out of bed at 4.35am when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck.

The media release: Dawn ceremony for fifth earthquake anniversary

Mayor Lianne Dalziel is inviting Cantabrians to join her for a special sunrise ceremony in remembrance of the September 2010 Christchurch earthquake.

Residents are invited to gather on the beach outside the New Brighton Library from 6.10am on Friday 4 September 2015, the fifth anniversary of the first Christchurch earthquake.

A short ceremony will be held ending with a shared watching of the sunrise at approximately 6.50am.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel says, “This is the time, on the dawn of the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, to gather together as a community to reflect on our city’s journey. It is a chance to remember what we have been through since September 2010 and, as the sun rises, to look ahead to what the future may hold.”

Parking is available in the carpark north of New Brighton Library. Temporary lighting on the beach will lead you to the gathering point just past the pier.

Find out more about 4 September 2010 earthquake.

Pride and Perversion

You are a sexual deviant.

Talk about opening a book with a zinger! I’m looking forward to hearing Jesse Bering in person –  6pm on Sunday 30 August 2015, a WORD Christchurch event in the Shifting points of view section of the Christchurch Arts Festival. His topic? On Perversion. Get your tickets now yo. This is not a session for kids or the squeamish; it’s definitely adult in nature.

I’ve just read his book Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us. As a librarian, I’m an index checker and this is one that’d make your eyes water: sneeze fetishists, autoplushophiles, formicophilia, Miley Cyrus …

This is a book that asks some great questions:

We’ve become so focused as a society on the question of whether a given sexual behavior is evolutionarily “natural” or unnatural” that we’ve lost sight of the more important question: Is it harmful? (p.21)

Jesse takes us right back to the origins of the term:

For the longest time, in fact, to be a pervert wasn’t to be a sex deviant; it was to be an atheist … So if we applied this original definition to the present iconoclastic world of science, one of the world’s most recognizable perverts would be the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. (p.9 /10)

The book is a journey into the world of “erotic outliers” (doesn’t that sound much better than pervert). It contains a good dollop of the personal, as well as science, politics, history, literature, and psychology – and, of course, the nature of sexual arousal. There are also plenty of interesting examples of behaviours; you’ll never look at the yoghurt in your office fridge the same way.

Jesse quotes the Roman philosopher Terence (p. 8):

I consider nothing that is human alien to me.

More understanding. Less judginess.

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Exploring nature’s pattern magic

Cover of Exploring nature's pattern magicPatterns in nature are beautiful. Exploring Nature’s Pattern Magic by Dee and Mike Pignéguy is an ingenious, well designed book that captures those spectacular forms – from spirals to fractals, and crystals to camouflage.

There is a lot of fascinating scientific information in here, presented in neat bite-sized snippets. Here’s some things I learned:

  • The patterns you see in rose petals are equiangular spirals.
  • Spheres are circles in three dimensions.
  • The head of the marine iguana is a study in tessellations.
  • There are Fibonacci patterns in pineapples.

There’s an action point in each chapter, encouraging kids to find examples in nature and lots more activities at the back.

I think adults will like this as much as kids. Yay science!

For more information, visit Dee’s website Feed me right.

Science for kids

A half circle journey – Suki Kim and North Korea

Cover of Without you, there is no usThere are only patchy representations of North Korea in our popular culture – comedians dressed up as Kim Jong-il, Team America, that recent Interview movie. In a world where the Iron Curtain has come down, it is still Unknown. But Suki Kim knows North Korea, she’s been there many times. Suki is coming to Christchurch on Sunday 30 August as part of the WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View events in the Christchurch Arts Festival. Her topic: On North Korea: Inventing the Truth and she’s in conversation with Paula Morris.

Her book Without you, there is no us: My time with the sons of North Korea’s Elite. A Memoir unveils what has been hidden. It starts with the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011 and then goes back into history, and into Suki’s time as a teacher at PUST- the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

If this were the sort of story that invites readers to nod with empathy and walk away both satisfied and educated, I would say that I travelled full circle. But in truth my journey was barely half a circle, a sad one that could never be completed, because those who were at the center of the harrowing history are almost certainly long dead, or old and dying, and time is running out before their stories are lost in the dust of the past. (p. 11)

Suki shows us Pyongyang as a place of rules, bureaucracy, and regimentation. North Korea is full of constraints  – and the constriction is political, emotional, and intellectual. On some of their school trips, there are glimpses of starving people, and forced labour. It is a place where even the sons of the elite have an existence that is controlled, and devoid of freedom.  Everyone is watched, you are likely to be spied upon, and the very words you utter must conform or you might be reported. Suki wants to open the world up to her students, but knows she can’t:

It was a fine dance. I wanted to push them, but not too much; to expose them to the outside world, but not so subtly that no one would notice… Awakening my students to what was not in the regime’s program could mean death for them and those they loved … Awakening was a luxury available only to those in the free world. (p. 70)

Suki teaches, but she is continually taking notes for her book. She observes her students open up,  and how some lie and deceive.  I was swayed by her emotional currents:

And so I went from love to pity to repulsion and distrust, then back to empathy and love again, and these switches of feeling were confusing. I reminded myself that I did not come from a place where mind games were a prerequisite for survival to such an extreme degree, a place where the slightest act of rebellion could have unimaginable consequences. (p. 134)

This is a book that could easily be claustrophic. But it isn’t, because she provides such captivating views of the Koreas North and South, and family history, and her own emotional landscape. Her book will make you understand North Korea in a new way.

Cover of PyongyangIf you want to read more about this strange and fascinating place, I recommend the graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle. It captures that same alienness and constriction found in Suki’s story.

There seems to be a flurry of new books about North Korea. We want to understand.

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Farty pants

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If you like a bit of a giggle with your kids, here’s a couple of great subject headings that lead you down an amusing byway:

And of course … Captain Underpants!

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He is very popular at our house – we’ve just started on book two.

Happy rudey reading!

Nurses at war – Anna Rogers at South Library, Saturday 25 July

Cover of While you're awayWe know quite a lot about  New Zealand men at war. Less is known about the lives of military nurses. Anna Rogers, author of While You’re Away: New Zealand Nurses at War 1899–1948, will talk about the contribution made by these remarkable women and speak about three nurses – two of them from Canterbury – who served overseas in South Africa, the First World War and the Second World War.

Nona Mildred Hildyard  Original Filename: HildyardNM.jpg, Kete Christchurch
Nona Mildred Hildyard, Canterbury Times, 10 November 1915, Kete Christchurch HildyardNM.jpg

More about Nurses at war

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Shifting points of view – WORD Christchurch 30 August and 7 September 2015

Shifting points of view gives you a bumper crop of sessions  from top writers and commentators. It’s WORD Christchurch’s part of the Christchurch Arts Festival and is guaranteed to warm the cockles of your enquiring mind.

There are five sessions on Sunday 30 August – it’s practically a mini-bookfest. Patricia Grace, Anna Smaill, Paula Morris, and Fiona Farrell are among the Kiwi writers on show, and also international writers Jesse Bering (talking about perversion, no less) and Suki Kim about North Korea. And on Monday 7 September there are two evening sessions – one on altruism, and one with novelist Sarah Waters – author of The Paying Guest and Tipping the Velvet. Blimey.

WORD authors WORD Christchurch authors WORD Christchurch authors

Our approach is to show off what’s on offer, but also to link to our catalogue so you can get reading. And book your tickets, because things do sell out! You can either pay $20 per session or buy a $115 Shifting Points of View pass, on sale NOW.

Here’s the programme in full:

Sunday 30 August

Cover of Chappy10am On Belonging: Patricia Grace and Paula Morris

…  Patricia Grace explores issues that permeate New Zealand history and society: racial intolerance, cross-cultural conflicts and the universal desire to belong. Spanning several decades and set against the backdrop of a changing New Zealand, Chappy is a story of enduring love. She discusses her work with Paula Morris, whose On Coming Home explores similar themes of nostalgia, memory and belonging …

Find works in our catalogue by:

Cover of The Villa at the edge of the empire12pm Imaginary Cities: Fiona Farrell, Anna Smaill, Hamish Clayton, Hugh Nicholson, chaired by Lara Strongman

Taking the Christchurch blueprint as a starting point, this panel will look at ways in which we imagine cities, either in fiction, in history, or in contemporary life; whether as utopias or dystopias, cities imagined or reimagined.

Find works in our catalogue by:

Cover of The Struggle for sovereignty2pm The Struggle for Sovereignty: Margaret Wilson

Margaret Wilson argues that the shift to a neo-liberal public policy framework has profoundly affected the country’s sovereignty and that New Zealanders must continue to engage in the struggle to retain it for the sake of individual and community wellbeing.

Find works in our catalogue by Margaret Wilson

Cover of Without you, there is no us4pm On North Korea: Inventing the Truth: Suki Kim, chaired by Paula Morris

A glimpse inside the mysterious closed-off world of North Korea, a country where a military dictatorship exploits the myth of a Great Leader to its own citizens, who are “imprisoned in a gulag posing as a nation”.

Find works in our catalogue by Suki Kim.

Cover of Why is the penis shaped like that?6pm On Perversion: Jesse Bering

Jesse Bering argues that we are all sexual deviants on one level or another. He challenges us to move beyond our attitudes towards ‘deviant’ sex and consider the alternative: what would happen if we rise above our fears and revulsions and accept our true natures? (Adult themes)

Find works in our catalogue by Jess Bering

Monday 7 September

Cover of The most good you can do6pm On Effective Altruism: Peter Singer, chaired by Eric Crampton

Effective altruism requires a rigorously unsentimental view of charitable giving, urging that a substantial proportion of our money or time should be donated to the organisations that will do the most good with those resources …

Find works in our catalogue by Peter Singer

8pm Crimes of Passion: Sarah Waters, chaired by Carole Beu

Sarah Waters’ hugely inventive novels usually have lesbian relationships at their heart, and are always set in the past, when remaining true to oneself came at great personal risk.

Find works in our catalogue by Sarah Waters

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