Cover of The LuminariesEleanor Catton The luminaries has just won the Man Booker Prize. This is news, this is big news and is PHENOMENAL!

Congratulations Eleanor!

I am watching her make a beautiful and graceful acceptance speech.

Here is the 2013 shortlist for the Man Booker Prize

Cover of We need new names Cover of Harvest Cover of The lowland Cover of A Tale for the time being Cover of The testament of Mary

Cover of The LuminariesNot long now until the winner of the Man Booker Prize is announced. Kia ora Eleanor Catton and best of luck. From me and all of us at Christchurch City Libraries – librarians and library users alike. I wonder what the Man Booker equivalent of Break a leg is -  Bust that Man Booker?

The Luminaries is a bloody BRILLIANT piece of fiction.

The Man Booker Prize will be announced at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday 15 October 2013 – 7 to 11pm (BST).  So we will be at our desks or having breakfast here in NZ – the event starts at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 7am.

NZ Listener will be there:

  • Check out the 2013 shortlist on our page listing previous nominees and winners of the Man Booker Prize

A beaming Sam Elworthy was the enthusiastic host for “The  Politics of Prizes”. On the panel: birthday girl Stella RimingtonJenny Pattrick of Denniston Rose fame and “literary super-judge” New Zealander Stephen Stratford.

The panellists presumably accept the value of prizes as there was no discussion regarding the rationale behind prize giving, or the impact of elevating some titles over others. The discussion instead focused on the mechanics behind prizes such as The Man Booker and the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

The perfect short-list size?  The consensus was that 5 titles gave enough scope.

The qualities desirable in a judge? Stephen Stratford likes common sense judges from a variety of backgrounds and careers. “Academics are terrible judges”, he said, as they worry too much about their reputation. Stella Rimington quoted the Man Booker mandate “to appeal to average, intelligent readers” and the judges likewise she felt should be average, intelligent readers outside of the established literary milieu.

What are the challenges of being a judge or chair? Stella Rimington said the recruitment process for the panel “was like joining MI5, someone sidles up to you and says “pssst, do you want to be a judge?” ” Stephen Stratford aims to be in a compatible group and found it frustrating that initially there is so much secrecy about the panellists. He had to hide mountains of submitted books around his house so no one would twig he was a judge. Ok if your house is big but Elizabeth Smither has such a wee house that she eventually stopped letting any one through the front door! The role of Chairman both Rimington andStratford agreed is to keep an eye on factions,  prejudice and to ensure no single voice dominates the discussion.

What are the impact of prizes on sales? Stratford rearranged a few feathers when he declared that from the point of view of small town and mall-based booksellers there was very little. “WOFT” (Waste of F***ing Time) was the delightful phrase a “friendly, local bookseller” chum of his used but Stratford also acknowledged the situation may be different in “brainy book shops”

Rimington talked about the publicity machine surrounding the Booker prize and its need to generate controversy and therefore column inches. The 2011 Man Booker long-list, short-list and eventual winner Julian Barnes’s Sense of an ending were the highest selling titles of any previous year.

A one-eyed but highly entertaining look into the world of prize-giving.

Book CoverI’m the sort of person who studies literary form like a seasoned horse-racing enthusiast – who’s won what, who’s been rated by whom, who’s appeared on the shortlist, who’s got the best looking cover (okay, I’m shallow). I select what I hope will be winners and, even if they’re not, I take comfort from the belief I’m up with the in-crowd.

Last year however I totally lost track of what was hot and what was not. My concentration went away with my ability to sleep and I found myself reading crime. Elizabeth George, Benjamin Black, P.D. James and Ian Rankin were favourites and following the antics of their intrepid sleuths kept me diverted from the bumps in the night.

Now things are settling down a bit (hopefully, fingers crossed), I’ve decided to get back into something a little more challenging. I’ve perused the Literature guides at Christchurch City Libraries. I have caught up on the Literary prize winners, scanned the 100 most meaningful books of all time and found the Best reads 2011 list to be a cornucopia of literary delights.

I’ve started my re-education with Major Pettigrew’s last stand after a recommendation by robertafsmith. It’s an insightful story, light but beautifully written. I’m enjoying every word. It’s great to be back in the literary saddle again.

Now that I’m back, what do you recommend to keep me there?

CoverI like to read a bit of New Zealand fiction, but lately I have run out of ideas on what to read next, so I decided to have a bit of a poke around on our website in search of inspiration.

Book awards are always a good place to start of course and being a bit of a crime buff  I started with the latest Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. This year’s winner, Blood men by Paul Cleave, looks like a starter to me.

Then I moved on to the New Zealand Post Book Award for fiction. The Hut Builder by Laurence Fearnley won the Fiction prize in 2011. This author is entirely new to me. The book is described in the Sunday Star- Times reviewer  as having “enormous integrity, is beautifully written and quietly proud of its Southern roots”. Sounds interesting. The New Zealand Book Council site described an earlier novel as ‘exquisitely realised… exact, sparing, lovely’

Taking a look in the new BiblioCommons catalogue, I found a lists on topics from New Zealand crime novels to New Zealand historical fiction (many new authors). The great Kiwi novel list introduced me to an earlier novel by Fearnley and a fantasy novel set in Christchurch.

There were also some hidden gems. A search for the Auckland Readers & Writers Festival in our blog led me to an interview with Vincent Ward mentioning his book The Past Awaits – not fiction but I thought it looked interesting. I also picked up a reference to Christchurch writer Tusiata Avia. Another entirely new author to follow up.

NZ on screen also opened up a new approach with its New Zealand Book Month Collection which allowed me to view a 1996 documentary on Hone Tuwhare and a selection of  films based on New Zealand books, including State of Siege, a Vincent Ward adaptation of one of Janet Frame’s novels.

All together I thought it a pretty useful experience and I’ll know where to go next time I need to branch out.

CoverThe Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement have been announced. The winners are:
Cilla McQueen for poetry; James McNeish for non-fiction; and Joy Cowley for fiction.

These awards are New Zealand’s most prestigious and recognise an entire body of work by those who have made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature.  They are worth $60,000 each.

At the presentation ceremony, Creative New Zealand Chair Alastair Carruthers thanked the writers for the outstanding contribution they had made to New Zealand literature. “These three writers represent the essence of New Zealand’s literary heritage.  Through their work New Zealanders can celebrate this nation’s cultural identity,” he said.

Tonight is the big night in New Zealand’s literary calendar – the New Zealand Post Book Awards awards ceremony.

If you want to get all the gossip and hot of the press awards news, Noel from the New Zealand Book Council will be live tweeting from the event via http://twitter.com/nzbookcouncil.

Here are the finalists in the running:

(more…)

The New Zealand Post Book Awards (formerly the Montana New Zealand  Book Awards) have just been announced.
We’ve got a page listing the finalists.

The Best First Book Award winners have already been revealed:

  • NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book of Fiction Award winner: Relief Anna Taylor, Victoria University Press
  • NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award winner: Fast talking PI Selina Tusitala March, Auckland University Press
  • NZSA E.H. McCormick Best First Book of Non-fiction Award winner: Trust: A True Story of Women & Gangs Pip Desmond, Random House New Zealand

Search the catalogue for Relief Search the catalogue for Fast Talking PISearch the catalogue for Trust

It looks like New Zealand non-fiction is getting the nod with five finalists in the general and illustrated non-fiction categories, and only three each for fiction and poetry.

The famed Bookman Beattie has revealed his picks on Beattie’s Book Blog. He chooses Alison Wong As the Earth Turns Silver for the fiction category, saying “For me it was not only the best NZ novel in 2009 it was also one of the best I read from any quarter.” High praise indeed.

See also: First novel in line for award, New Zealand Herald

The People’s Choice Award offers you a chance to vote for your favourite finalist and be in to win $1,000 of Booksellers Tokens! So have a vote,  and have your say…

Writing handHave you always aspired to be a published novelist but haven’t quite achieved it yet? Do you have an unpublished (or possibly unfinished) manuscript lying at the bottom of your drawer?

Well, there is hope for all aspiring writers. The news is out. Terry Pratchett & Transworld Publishers have teamed up to create a new award for aspiring novelists, to have their debut novel published. The title of the award is The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now Prize and the deadline is 31 December 2010. And there is money involved.

Read about the full details, and read up on the terms & conditions terms & conditions.

If you need ideas, inspiration and/or writing exercises, then try these on for size:

So get your creative ideas flowing, put fingers to keyboard, put pen to paper, use a dictaphone, whatever it takes to get that first novel finished and good luck to all your seek fame & fortune.

CoverThere are five Young Adult titles shortlisted for the NZ Post Book Awards. Tonight I will be on a panel discussing them at the opening of the new Te Tai Tamariki premises in Victoria Street.  It seems trite to say the standard is very high, obviously they wouldn’t have been nominated if they weren’t excellent books! Suffice to say, after reading all five, I didn’t have a sense of one particular book as being a clear favourite for the top spot. Each one has its own star appeal. But I think it would be hard to overlook Mandy Hager’s The Crossing and Tanya Roxborogh’s Banquo’s Son for emotional punch.

The Crossing is described on the cover by Margaret Mahy as “1984 for teenagers”. Conceptually it is a brilliant dystopian sci-fi fantasy. The survivors of an ocean liner that has grounded on a tropical island during a world-wide plague outbreak have gradually enslaved the locals. They prey upon them for new slaves and their plague-free blood. It is an appalling vision of what a powerful elite can achieve when morality is thrown out the window. The hero, young Maryam, is the equivalent of Winston Smith – she gradually realises that being one of the privileged chosen is a two-edged sword. And she decides not to stay around to be slowly bled to death.

To be honest  I didn’t find the comparison to 1984 to be particularly relevant when trying to convey to someone else the emotional climate of the story. It is far more like The Handmaid’s Tale than Orwell’s great classic. And it does read like a winner – not surprisingly, because Mandy Hager has already won the LIANZA Esther Glen Award for fiction in 2008 for her novel Smashed.

CoverYesterday, I was privileged to hear Tanya Roxborogh speaking at Avonside Girls’ School about her novel Banquo’s Son. I had intended reading it anyway, but started unenthusiastically with the thought: I have to read five books by … so I had better get moving … My plan was to read a chapter or two, then switch to the Lee Child on my bedside table that constitutes my real reading pleasure. But I found pretty quickly that I didn’t want to put Banquo’s Son down. Like Tanya I had taught Macbeth for years in the classroom and always wondered how Banquo’s children got to be the rulers of Scotland, when the play ends with Malcolm and Donalbain (the dead king’s sons) firmly back in the running. Tanya explores the “what if” raised by the Scottish play and introduces us to a Fleance any mother would be proud to call her own.

She mentioned in her talk that the young man’s face on the cover is not the perfect Fleance she imagined in her dream of him. But I don’t think there were razor blades in medieval Scotland, let alone hot showers and deodorant. It’s a great cover image and it manages to convey the dark elements of the narrative. Although, not a tragedy – in the strictest sense, it is a tale full of sound and fury. Plenty of action for boys and a strong romantic thread for lovers of that genre. It is the first of a trilogy, the next is about to go to print.

So in conclusion, the world of YA literature in New Zealand has plenty to write home about. Although I wondered whether one of these two novels might be the eventual winner, the one that kept me up late on a Saturday night turning pages as quickly as I could, was End of the Alphabet by Fleur Beale. It is a deceptively simple tale of Ruby Yarrow, who decides one day after talking with her friend, that she is not going to be a doormat anymore. If you want to find out more, I recommend you get a copy … it’s not surprising that Fleur’s book is so readable because she is also a past LIANZA Esther Glen Award winner: Juno of Taris in 2009.

But of course, half the fun of literary competitions for readers is trying to guess the winner and I am sure you will have your views on who it should be. I am content to wait and see.

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