Thank goodness for our local authors

CoverNew Zealand Book Month is time to appreciate our books, our literary heritage and our authors. We are indebted to writers. Not only do they provide us with hours of entertainment, but they answer our questions about all sorts of things, inform us about our world and document all sorts of things that would otherwise be lost.

Right now we are particularly indebted to some of them in Christchurch because they have preserved for us a heritage that would otherwise be forever lost. I’m talking about the local authors who have documented our architecture – buildings we have walked past all our lives and often appreciated only in the sense that we know they contribute to our pleasant environment.

Our local authors have taken the time to research and photograph them leaving us with permanent record of their contribution to our city and you’ll find quite a selection of their books at your library.

The books range from the unpretentious series called The Architectural Heritage of Christchurch, with short profiles of buildings accompanied by line drawings (also available on our website), through to full colour coffee table books.

One beautiful browsing book is City and Peninsula byCover John Wilson. He has also been responsible for a number of other valuable books about Christchurch architecture including Lost Christchurch and a book on the Provincial Council Buildings .

One book I’m particularly happy to note on the catalogue is Judith Hamilton’s Early Churches in and around Christchurch which was published, with excellent timing, in 2008.

If you looking for our more recent architectural history some of it makes it into the prosaically named, but nevertheless appealing Selected Architecture by Gavin Wills. New Territory documents the work of Warren & Mahoney who made such a contribution to modern Christchurch, including designing the Central Library, which may be one of only a few of their public buildings to survive.

Houses are perhaps not as well represented, but quite a number of well known dwellings are sketched in Christchurch Heritage Houses.

If you want to get right up with the play and missed Bruce Ansley talking about his book Christchurch Heritage a celebration of lost buildings and streetscapes it’s not too late – you’ll find a copy at your local library.

We also have a great selection of Christchurch places on our website – including memorials, statues, and architectural plans.

Ihaka’s back

Cover of Death on DemandIt’s been a decade-long wait, but rogue detective Tito Ihaka is back solving murders and really annoying his superiors in Death on demand, Paul Thomas‘s latest novel.

An award-winning, internationally published New Zealand author whose work has been translated into several languages, Thomas is a journalist and has written several sports biographies, however he’s best known for the three popular thrillers that make up the Ihaka trilogy.

Out of condition, insubordinate in the extreme but unstoppable in his pursuit of the bad guys, Ihaka is a great character, and Thomas’s ear for New Zealand speech, his humour and his deft plots make these books a pleasure to wolf down in one sitting.

When hCover of The Ihaka Trilogye appeared at Writers and Readers Week in the 2012 International Arts Festival, the brochure said Thomas had “dragged local murder mysteries into modernity”. Fresh from his appearance with other New Zealand crime writers in Wellington, he will be appearing at Tommy Chang’s in Lyttelton on Wednesday 21st March from 5.30 – 7pm as part of New Zealand Book Month.

Don’t miss out – book now!

P.S. And there’s another treat in store: Devilish Mary & the Holy Rollers will provide the music.

Growing local: take a leaf from New Zealand books

"Growing gardens for free" book coverI have a tiny, tiny garden, most of which is devoted to growing food. However, when we bought our small property, I was determined to have some native plantings as well. Now, nearly five years later, home-grown cabbage trees, pittosporum, kowhai and flaxes fill a corner too shady for vege, and we’ve squeezed a line of corokia in alongside the drive, thanks to the advice of Trees for Canterbury. I was struck (sorry for the pun) by how easy it is to grow many native plants, either from seed or from cuttings, and Growing gardens for free by New Zealand author Geoff Bryant is now my propagation bible.

A healthy population of insects now make their undisturbed homes in my microscopic little patch of native bush and last year, for the first time since I moved in, I saw waxeyes and fantails. (At first all I encountered in the initially lawn-filled garden were sparrows and blackbirds.) It’s such a little planting but I was amazed by how quickly even this had a noticeable effect on my garden’s ecology. Imagine if we all just planted a little corner of natives: we could create a green corridor for so many creatures across out garden city. If you’re keen and seeking like minds, there are many individuals and organisations working towards greening Christchurch/Otautahi, and you can find out about them on CINCH, our community information database.

The library has many good books on planting native plants in your garden – why not celebrate New Zealand book month by leafing (sorry again!) through a few?

Alison Holst – cooking saviour to the nation

Like many New Zealanders, I grew up eating  Dame Alison Holst’s recipes that my mother made, watching her on TV, and then  using her cookbooks myself.

She is a rare breed of cook in today’s world of reality chefs where it’s more about drama than food. Not for her, the art of fusion or artfully arranged tiny mouthfuls that take days to prepare using ingredients I’ve never heard of.  She has always believed in good healthy food, being aware of budgets and using ingredients easily found in your pantry or local supermarket. She also helped us over the years to make sense of new equipment such as microwaves, food processors and slow cookers.

I am reading her 100th book;  A Homegrown Cook, and the way she has lived her life, throwing herself into challenges with so much skill, endless energy and humility about her achievements she makes me wonder what I’m doing with my time. It’s simply and warmly written with no artifice, just like her cookbooks.

She’s written books and newspaper columns and appeared on television and radio. She has taught,  given demonstrations raising money for charity and travelled the world promoting New Zealand produce. Her first books, Here’s How in 1966 and Meals with the Family in 1967, became absolute classics. (Christchurch City Libraries have copies in our Aotearoa New Zealand collection, perhaps they’ll be republished one day). Her books often ended up stained and dog-eared from use, just the way Alison says she likes them, it shows they are used not just looked at. My most used recipes are often hers and I gave my son her Very Easy Vegetarian Cookbook when he went flatting. Favourites in my collection would be The Food Processor Cookbook Marvelous Muffins and her Bread Book.

The Library has over 65 of her titles to lend, do you have a favourite Alison Holst recipe, book or memory?

My New Zealand Book Month 2012

A New Zealand Book Month Q & A (here’s the 2009 version with comments)

Apparently “our literary heroes may never challenge the glory and respect given to our All Blacks” (view the Listener article on this). To which we say “Phhhhhft”.

Who are your literary heroes?
Tusiata AviaArohanui to those who have written so eloquently and honesty about the earthquakes.

Writers gave us their Words for Christchurch and poets like Joanna Preston, Fiona Farrell and Tusiata Avia started putting words to the feelings and their words became an intrinsic part of mourning. The words that came to mind for the first anniversary on 22 February 2012 were these that Jan Kemp wrote in i.m. Victims of the Christchurch Earthquake, NZ, 22nd February 2011:

‘Perilous’, precious, this life, these lives, these deaths for which
we now all gather under the sky’s great cloak to mourn.

Writers, journalists and bloggers explored their quakey realities in unflinching ways. Some examples are:

CoverWhat New Zealand book are you reading?  Twelve minutes of love – an autobiographical journey in tango by Kapka Kassabova. I picked it up and all of a sudden it was approaching 11 and I was on page 129. Tango factoid: a cortina is a short piece of non-dance music.

What New Zealand books do you recommend?
Everyone should go graphic with Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks and Kimble Bent Malcontent by Chris Grosz. And it is blooming awesome to see Kimble Bent is nominated in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, though I wouldn’t have thought of it as a kids book. More of an illustrated New Zealand history with lots of blood and guts.

CoverCover

Who are your picks?

Although the label on the hair shampoo said Paris…

After being unable to choose just one favourite New Zealand writer, I’ve been pondering my favourite New Zealand book, somehow a slightly easier task as one book immediately came to mind."The changeover" book cover

The changeover by Margaret Mahy is the one. I first came across it while working at home machining sheepskin slippers; Sharon Crosbie and the National Programme kept me sane.

One day the regular morning reading began with the lines “Although the label on the hair shampoo said Paris…” and I was hooked. I can’t remember who the reader was, but The changeover set me off on one of the best journeys I have ever taken with an author.

So of course I went to the library,  got it out, read it, loved it even more, bought my own copy, studied it at University without coming to loathe it, and still think about it sometimes.

Although I have read all of Margaret Mahy’s books now, The changeover is still my favourite, I’m not sure why. It might be the steadfast love Laura Chant shows for her little brother Jacko, it might be the romance with Sorensen (Sorry – best name ever, probably a blessing I did not have a son) Carlisle, it might be the way the adults are real too, not just the teenagers.

What’s your favourite New Zealand book ?

Recovering Christchurch with Bruce Ansley – New Zealand Book Month

In one of the first Christchurch City Libraries events for New Zealand Book  Month, Bruce Ansley will be at South Libary at 2 pm on Sunday the 4th of March.

"Gods and little fishes" book coverI always think of Ansley as a Christchurch writer,  probably because of his outstanding book about growing up in New Brighton, and because I read him for years in The Star as he managed that most difficult of journalistic gigs, the regular column. He was also part of the Christchurch talent producing those fondly remembered TV shows, A Week of It and McPhail and Gadsby.

"Christchurch Heritage" book coverAnsley’s latest book is Christchurch Heritage, a beautiful commemorative work on buildings that were lost and damaged in the earthquakes, but Christchurch isn’t his only subject. He also wrote for The Listener for years, and has written other works of non-fiction on undercover police work, and on his year cruising the canals of France.

In a long and distinguised writing career Ansley has ranged widely over subjects and styles, but stories are the basis for all of his work; I’m looking forward to hearing him tell a few on Sunday. Why not join me?

Who’s your favourite New Zealand author?

March has rolled around again and so has New Zealand Book Month. Time to think about favourite New Zealand authors, books and characters.  An idle few minutes brought these authors to mind.

Fiona Farrell. How lucky are we that this woman is living and writing in our general neighbourhood?

Janet Frame. Yes she can be hard to read, especially if you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the autobiography, but who can resist her words? She said herself  “a word which is exciting to look at and say and doesn’t slop its meaning over the side is good’, and she knew lots of them.

"The trouble with fire" book coverFiona Kidman. She’s written over 30 books and is always so good it’s almost easy to take her a bit for granted. Which is not a trap whoever is responsible for the cover of her latest book of short stories, The trouble with fire, has fallen into. It’s as beautiful as her work.

Margaret Mahy. Truly a national treasure. It seems like yesterday that we celebrated her 70th birthday in Our City O-Tautahi, but it was 2006.  This woman has won the Carnegie Medal (twice) and the Hans Christian Anderson Award. All New Zealanders can bask in her reflected glory.

Ronald Hugh Morrieson. ‘”The same week our fowls were stolen, Daphne Moran had her throat cut.” Surely one of the top ten best opening lines in literature. Plus they pulled down his house and put a McDonald’s on the site.  “Who wants to remember that old drunk?” said one of his fellow Haweraeans to attempts to save the house. I like to think R.H.M. would have liked that.

C. K. Stead. Dauntingly distinguished and more than a little bit scary in person at literary festivals (I’ve longed to ask questions but never quite dared), C.K. Stead writes books that are clever, subtle and surprisingly funny.

Paul Thomas.  The first New Zealand crime writer I read and I think he is still one of the best. His ear for how we speak is unsurpassed. And he’s written a new book and he is coming to Christchurch during New Zealand Book Month.

Who is the first author that pops into your mind when you think of New Zealand books?