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Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The Children's Book, AS Byatt (Chatto and Windus)
Summertime, JM Coetzee (Harvill Secker)
The Quickening Maze, Adam Foulds (Jonathan Cape)
How to paint a dead man, Sarah Hall (Faber)
The Wilderness, Samantha Harvey (Jonathan Cape)
Me Cheeta, James Lever (Fourth Estate)
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
The Glass Room, Simon Mawer (Little, Brown)
Not Untrue & Not Unkind, Ed O'Loughlin (Penguin - Ireland)
Heliopolis, James Scudamore (Harvill Secker)
Brooklyn, Colm Toibin (Viking)
Love and Summer, William Trevor (Viking)
The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters (Virago)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I don't expect you to break out into hysterical laughter at this one, but a joke written by the playwright George Bernard Shaw has been found in an old cupboard seventy-nine years after it was stowed there. Or so says the BBC section on arts & culture.
It probably helps to know that the joke was written on the occasion of the 1930 opening of the Hall at William Morris House; and it probably assists even more when you know that William Morris was a socialist campaigner. And the last bit of vital information is that it was scribbled across the bottom of a photograph of Shaw himself.
The joke reads: "William Morris and I preached the gospel of Labour together on many occasions. Many respectable persons thought we deserved hanging. I am proud to hang in a hall dedicated to him."
Shaw passed away 59 years ago. It's a nice story, but I think I would choose a different joke to be remembered by.
I'd like a really good, enduring rib-cracking bit of humor ... Any suggestions?
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
I'd seen that piece by Jonathan Lennie, and am very much in two minds. I'm all for clapping a particularly virtuoso bit of showing-off then and there, but it infuriates me when audiences clap throughout a song-cycle, for instance. Interestingly, I was at a Prom performance of Handel's Partenope (salami-and-cream-cheese sandwiches, and a bottle of something white and Australian), and the half-capacity audience clapped regularly throughout. Mind you, we did have Andreas Scholl singing Arsace. But last night the Proms semi-staged the Glyndebourne production of Purcell's The Fairy Queen, and on only two occasions did they clap a display of vocal fireworks; otherwise, as Jonathan Lennie says, the few seconds' silence afterwards was part of the performance. The audience clapped and stamped and cheered when it was over, though, and the place was packed. Oh, and crab-pate sandwiches and a decent French chablis.
Last week we went to Dvorak's Rusalka at Glyndebourne, which was ravishing beyond words even by Glyndebourne standards (chicken in cream-and-lemon sauce, baby leaf salad and rice with cumin, coriander, pine nuts and almonds, and a bottle of Lanson, with raspberries and tarte au chocolat to follow). So intelligently staged, visually lovely, with nothing to come between the opera and the audience as is so often unfortunately the case, and the cast sang like angels. The only things I've been to there which were more beautiful were Hockney's Magic Flute decades ago, and a bewitching Midsummer Night's Dream (Britten), which I can't imagine they will ever better. Can't remember what we ate but it involved a lot of champagne on both occasions.
I can't wait to go to the proms myself!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
NATIONAL LIBRARY SOCIETY
WINTER LECTURE SERIES
THE CHANGING FACE OF
The National Library Auditorium, Aitken Street, Wellington at 5.30 pm
Guests and non-members welcome – gold coin donation
A glass of wine will be offered beforehand. The lectures will start at 6pm.
Thursday 20 August at 5.30 pm
The World of Self-Publishing
Marguerite Renaud will talk about her company, First Edition Publishing, which offers an easy and affordable way of publishing anything from personal memoirs to poetry.
Thursday 17 September at 5.30 pm
Bridget Williams (chair), Jane Connor and Sam Elworthy
Books and Change
Bridget Williams has been publishing in New Zealand for over thirty years – as an editor with Oxford University Press, and as a director of Port Nicholson Press, Allen & Unwin NZ, and the eponymous imprint BWB.
Jane Connor, a founder of Godwit Press, is currently managing director of Craig Potton Publishing, after some years as executive vice-president and publisher of Timber Press in the US.
Sam Elworthy is the director of Auckland University Press, after many years as editor-in-chief with Princeton University Press. This group, all with international experience and all passionate about excellent New Zealand books, explore the challenges and opportunities facing publishing today.
Thursday 15 October at 5.30 pm
The Pleasures of reading online
Digital technology expert and former Business Development Analyst at the National Library, Adrienne Kebbell, will draw on her extensive knowledge of internet publications to demonstrate the ease and joy of reading your favourite newspapers and journals online.
Thursday 19 November at 5.30 pm (venue tbc)
Writing and Researching Family History
Historian and author, John MacGibbon, will share some of his expertise on discovering and writing social and family history. John is the founder and owner of the Ngaio Press, a boutique publisher specialising in books about New Zealand and New Zealanders.
It is about the perennial problem of when to clap at a classical music concert -- something that was wonderfully satirized in the 2005 short movie The Clap, where an obsessional music fan spent hours studying scores so that he could clap at the precise second the work ended.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
It has to be published in English. Well, I suppose, considering the multiplicity of languages and dialects on the African subcontinent, that has logic behind it. But does the future hold a competition for EU writers that have to be published in English, too?
Despite that little quibble, I was delighted to read in the BBC arts and culture magazine that Mr. E.C. Osondu has scooped the award this year. The Chair of judges, New Statesman sub-editor Nana Yaa Mensah, described Mr. Osondu's story as "a tour de force describing, from a child's point of view, the dislocating experience of being a displaced person."
E.C. Osondu was born in Nigeria, worked for an advertising firm in Lagos, and then moved to New York to study creative writing at Syracuse University. He currently teaches literature at Providence Collge, Rhode Island.
The story is called Waiting, and was published in Guernicarmag.com. Read it yourself: http://www.guernicamag.com/fiction/762/waiting/ It is funny; it is shocking; it is tragic; the characters are so swiftly and surely drawn that they are unforgettable. You will come away from it changed.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
According to the publisher's website, this new book reveals that James Cook was chosen to lead the Endeavour expedition to the Pacific in 1768 because by that date he had become supremely and uniquely qualified for the exacting tasks of exploration.
It's quite a gap, but according to the BBC NEWS, a sequel is finally on track. Yes, Vikram Seth is writing the follow-up to his epic bestseller, A Suitable Boy.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
No, not the acclaimed account of the history of whaling in America, also called Leviathan, written by Eric Jay Dolin, which has won the John Lyman Award and L. Byrne Waterman Award, both for excellence in American maritime history.
This particular prizewinner is Leviathan, Or The Whale, the story of a man's lifelong obsession with whales, by Philip Hoare. According to the BBC announcement, Hoare describes his travels about the world in pursuit of whales, an odyssey he compares to Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Or The Whale. Which must account for the coincidence in titles.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Discovering also a woman he assumed to be the "queen," (Purea, aka Oborea), he presented her with a number of things, including three galleances.
Galleances? What the heck were galleances? Some kind of fowl, from the context. I posed the theory that they were guinea fowl: see "Galleances and guinea fowl" for the entire discussion.
And I received all kinds of interesting comments and suggestions -- but now I can triumphantly declare the mystery solved. And I was right! Three guinea fowl, they were.
My evidence comes from the private journal of James Burney, who sailed on the Adventure on Cook's second expedition. It was published by the National Library of Australia in Canberra in 1975, and edited by Beverley Hooper. On page 69, Lt. Burney is in Tahiti, making the observation that "Obreea" (Purea, the so-called queen) had fallen on hard times. "Captain Wallace had given Obreea a great many things amongst which were 2 Geese - 3 Guinea Hens - a Turkey cock & Hen & a Cat - of these the Indian [Omai] on board us, gave the following account. 1 of the Geese died - the Guinea hens were Stole from her & killed - the Turkey hen had 5 young ones but th cat killd them all. the Cat who was kitten miscarried, was stole & carried away to another Island & the Turkey hen is since dead -- So unlucky has Obreea been with these presents."
Those three poor guinea hens were unlucky, too. Doubtlessly they were cooked in an earth oven and eaten. I wonder what they tasted like?