Reading Crusade: Picturing Canterbury

Reading Crusade prizegiving

Photo taken during the 2011 Reading Crusade. The Reading Crusade is on again for 2013 so get in amongst it.

A sad tale of the librarian who stopped reading New Zealand fiction

As New Zealand Book Month comes to an end and I read of the death of Barbara Anderson I have realised that I used to read a lot of New Zealand fiction with Barbara Anderson being one of my favourites, alongside Fiona Kidman, Barbara Else, Marilyn Duckworth, and Patricia Grace, and Shonagh Koea. They were all women writers and they were all writing about things that were meaningful for me at the time: home, family, relationships and children.  Every now and then I branched out into the male domain and enjoyed the likes of Witi Ihimaera, Owen Marshall and Jack Lasenby but would then scuttle back to my old favourites.

Over the years I have read and enjoyed Charlotte Grimshaw and Charlotte Randall but some of my early experiences with newer writers have not been so enjoyable. I have found them almost too clever and self-conscious, and sadly I have gradually given up.

So, here is the challenge!  Help me get back into reading New Zealand writers, get my literary juices flowing again and let me know who I just have to read.

Boys in the library: Picturing Canterbury

Schoolboys in the non-fiction section Canterbury Public Library

Schoolboys in the non-fiction section Canterbury Public Library ca. 1953-1960

St Albans Primary School and Zac: Picturing Canterbury

Year 4 of St Alban's Primary School with librarian Zac
Year 4 of St Alban’s Primary School with librarian Zac – having fun with the Winter Reading Club 2012.

The word-eater by Margaret Mahy: Picturing Canterbury

The word-eater by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Bob KerrThe word-eater written by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Bob Kerr. This story and illustrations were first displayed as a ‘big book’ in the children’s section of the Central Library during Christchurch’s Books and Beyond Festival in 1998. Margaret Mahy set the story in and around the library. Bob Kerr painted the pictures during the time the book was on display.

New Zealand’s Most Sexy Book Cover and Desert island Kiwi reads

New Zealand’s sexiest book cover?
When it comes to fleshy delights, I do recommend this cover for A Breed of women Dame Fiona Kidman. A perfect breast, a curlicued font and a glimpse of New Zealand heritage-esque landscape gets a Phwwoar! from me.
But I do have a major hankering for old illustrated covers like these two beauties:

It is easy to get revved up about book covers. I’ve documented my 2012 favourites. The PANZ Book Design Awards is a great resource for checking out the best in Kiwi book design.

See also Coverup: the art of the book cover in New Zealand.

What’s your desert island Kiwi classic read, and why?
Search the catalogue for Secrets and TreasuresDang it, how do you ever decide? We have compiled a list of favourite NZ books. It has a good range of kids, fiction and non-fiction. Emma of BooksellersNZ has done a post on great NZ books.

The Edmonds cookbook might be annoyingly teasing in a desert environment, so I am plumping for Secrets and Treasures: Our Stories Told through the Objects at Archives New Zealand by Ray Waru. I could happily dip in and out of this beautifully illustrated tome for years.

More NZ Book Month Q&As

What do you reckon is NZ’s sexiest book cover?
And what book would you take on your desert island jaunt?
Do tell!

Ngaio Marsh wanted to be a painter

Hamlet, produced by the University of Canterbury Drama Society and performed at the Civic Theatre 11 July 1958

The 2013 Ngaio Marsh Memorial Lecture “Painting in a Writer’s Landscape” takes place on Sunday April 28, 5–6 pm, Christ’s College Old Boys’ Theatre. Ngaio is well-known as a writer of detective fiction and nationally respected as a director of Shakespearean theatre, but her early ambition was to be a painter. Christchurch art historian Julie King will discuss how Ngaio Marsh’s work as an artist found expression in her novels.

Tickets $15 from Philippa Bates, 16 Hounslow St,
Please pay by cheque made out to The Friends of Ngaio Marsh, and enclose a stamp-addressed envelope for delivery of your tickets.

Information from The Press Christchurch Writers Festival.

Find out more about the fabulous Dame and view our photos.

Show us a story

CoverAnd Joe the Roundabout Tavern regular took his eyes half hopingly, half warily around his bar just in case he saw a mug or two he and his pals could beat up on, and just in case yesterday’s madman had returned to back up.  Then he clapped his hands together: So. So who else’s got a story to tell?

This is a paragraph from Alan Duff’s One night out stealing. It caught my eye when I was doing some booky housework along my fiction shelves here at Central Library Tuam, and started me thinking about stories, and bits of stories. We are launching ourselves into New Zealand Book Month here, and celebrating all things EnZed. And I thought to myself (because I have a mind like a mayfly), how much fun would it be to just dart around the shelves, picking up New Zealand books at random, and finding fabulous paragraphs that tell a story all their own.

Now obviously, it’s always nice to read a whole book, and get a complete story; but I reckon sometimes you can tell a story in just a paragraph or two. I’ll show you what I mean – here’s an extract from one of my favourite books here in the Aotearoa New Zealand Collection:

One night in the early 1850s, an odd event took place at a Christchurch ball. JT Peacock, a shipping man, had a partner for a quadrille, but they were without a pair to dance opposite to them. This caused a man named Joseph Longden to stand and stare contemptuously, and after the ball Peacock pulled his nose. Longden was a partner in Canterbury’s first stock and station agency, and could not ignore the affront to his dignity. He brought an action against Peacock, who was fined 2 pounds, but said that he thought the money well spent.

See? Worlds and layers of story, history and back-story, all in just a few sentences.  How cool is that?

So here’s my NZ Book Month challenge to you – either pick your fave Kiwi read, or make like a mayfly and cruise the shelves. Find a story that tells itself in just a few lines, and post it here. And let’s see how many New Zealand stories we can tell …

Ngaio Marsh: Picturing Canterbury

Ngaio Marsh

Ngaio Marsh photographed during the 1940s: “Ngaio in the spotlight” [194-]

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.


Who are your picks?