Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A turn-up for the books

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  • Jolisa,

    Ta, Heather - a copy is on its way to me, but it was very kind of you to offer.

    Gorgeous promo for the Book Council, ta Kyle. It's lovely to be reminded of nice things about books. I also have a big bag of library books to work my way through over Thanksgiving (5 day weekend!), to cleanse my literary palate.

    It occurs to me that I may be the only person in NZ (or outside of it) to have read The Trowenna Sea three times already. Dedication! It means I can say with some confidence that I don't buy Stephen Clover's "rumour" from a page or so back.

    The Rhodesian section set in 1980 struck me as having a different voice from the rest of the novel, but I think that is due to the refreshing absence of the faux-Victorian diction that dominates the rest of the novel. Also, one Tasmanian character is significantly more alive than anyone else in the book, but I think that's because he is based on a real and very colourful historical figure (more colourful than the starchy main characters).

    Other than that, pure Witi-isms are sprinkled throughout the novel in an integral sort of way, which suggests to me that the whole thing was written by him. I would be deeply unhappy to be proved wrong on this point.


    In between eating turkey and reading my library books, I'll be working on a follow-up/ round-up post assembling the most interesting questions raised over the last couple of weeks -- but feel free to keep adding thoughts here.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Oh look, even The Onion has weighed in on this whole novelling palaver!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaire BookieMonster,

    That is so many parts of awesome.

    "It makes me wonder how I ever kept track of my friends and their symbolic prose examinations of universal human experiences before this," user Joyce Carol Oates said. "I'm like, did we really ever actually go to libraries? Weird, right?"

    Looking forward to your round up Jolisa. :)

    At the foot of Mt Te Aroh… • Since Nov 2009 • 173 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Since Nov 2006 • 6227 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Whoops - thanks Kyle.

    (Still waiting for mod privileges that will enable me to time travel more than 15 mins into the past to fix things).

    Those who Novel on a daily basis claim to love the challenge of the utility's 140-page minimum...

    I'm assuming it has a ReNovel button, too.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • stephen clover,

    Wow. There's news of some more bad -- no, appalling -- behaviour coming down the pike. Not my place to tell you, but it should be public soon enough.

    Dying here.... ;)

    wgtn • Since Sep 2007 • 354 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    While you're waiting for that, can I upset you with the news from Booksellers NZ that The Trowenna Sea was the best-selling New Zealand novel for the week ending Nov 21 -- that's three weeks at number one now.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 646 posts Report Reply

  • Heather W.,

    For those who take their novels more seriously or is it a sport? - November is International Novel Writing Month.

    North Shore • Since Nov 2008 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    I really really like the end of that ad - it works-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    So I heard a "rumour" on the weekend -- and it's not the first time that I have heard it, and from sources as reputable as you would want -- that Witi Ihimaera "farms out" the grunt work of writing his novels to a collection of minions*.

    Witi has been quoted as saying he is yet to write his best work.

    Someone jokingly suggested that he is yet to find his best work.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1510 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    For those who take their novels more seriously or is it a sport? - November is International Novel Writing Month.

    I really think it's the opposite. Getting to the back cover by any means, no matter quality, structure, or polish.

    You only have to look at the books published as a result to realise this. (Very few as of last year, and who knows this year, probably still very very few indeed.)

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • Heather W.,

    While you're waiting for that, can I upset you with the news from Booksellers NZ that The Trowenna Sea was the best-selling New Zealand novel for the week ending Nov 21 -- that's three weeks at number one now.

    Figures now out for week ending Nov 28 - same book at number one. Book still appears to be freely available. NZ Listener again has an article (Dec 12-18) on the issue, including a quote from Penguin -

    From this point, we do not give the Listener permission to quote any further extracts of any kind from The Trowenna Sea by Witi Ihimaera.

    So the magazine have listed some more "borrowings". Since it is getting to be more of the book they may be getting to the limits of the "fair dealing provisions" of a certain act.

    North Shore • Since Nov 2008 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    So the magazine have listed some more "borrowings". Since it is getting to be more of the book they may be getting to the limits of the "fair dealing provisions" of a certain act.

    I'm glad they've done this. If the fair dealing exception for "purposes of criticism and review" means anything, it has to mean this.

    And I'm fairly appalled by Penguin's attempt to withdraw permission.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Hannah,

    Ignoring criticism and review, surely Penguin can't stop the Listener printing quotes from non-Penguin books that just happen to be also 'quoted' in a Penguin book.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 224 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Great point Tim.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7412 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    They've only withdrawn permission for the extracts by Witi Ihimaera, doesn't that leave it open some what?

    Snapped.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1147 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    And I'm fairly appalled by Penguin's attempt to withdraw permission.

    That's a PR cock up. Who ever thought that the Listener would follow that directive, and who didn't say "this will just draw more attention to us, and not of the good sort"?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6227 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Yes, I believe that technically Penguin only has jurisdiction over those bits actually written by their own author.

    I'd have been tempted to say "All right then, just tell us which bits on which pages we are allowed to quote."

    It would have saved me an hour or two.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Ignoring criticism and review, surely Penguin can't stop the Listener printing quotes from non-Penguin books that just happen to be also 'quoted' in a Penguin book.

    They've only withdrawn permission for the extracts by Witi Ihimaera, doesn't that leave it open some what?

    Yes, I believe that technically Penguin only has jurisdiction over those bits actually written by their own author.

    *Wild applause*

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1574 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    From this point, we do not give the Listener permission to quote any further extracts of any kind from The Trowenna Sea by Witi Ihimaera.

    Hum... in Listener books editor Guy Somerset position, I'd be replying along these lines (and "accidentally" c.c.-ing it far and wide):

    "From this point, The Listener won't be commissioning or publishing any more reviews of Penguin NZ titles. Attached is our policy regrding the separation of editorial and advertising."

    I'll have to dig it up, but I recall reading a lengthy bitch from Geoff Walker about the lack of serious "cultural journalism" in this country, but when it comes along... Aw, fuck it -- I'm doing my Christmas shopping (a lot of books) and I'm consciously boycotting Penguin NZ. They seem determined to just pile insult onto injury.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    I note the book is still for sale on several overseas websites, and listed as being shipped from NZ; Penguin might want to send an update to its retailers.

    In today's ODT, a very gentle thinkpiece by Prof Lawrence Jones.

    The key quote:

    Theft involves the calculated attempt to deceive, while probably the most Ihimaera can be accused of is carelessness about sources, excessive haste, and maybe taking a few shortcuts.

    Weirdly, after reading this sentence I was suddenly overcome by an urge to re-watch Goodbye Pork Pie. (For our overseas visitors: also a classic NZ tale of carelessness about sources, excessive haste, and maybe taking a few shortcuts).

    And elsewhere, a positively glowing review by Cathie Koa Dunsford. Blimey, did we read the same book?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Jolisa - I'm bemused by that review too.
    I know Cath, like her a lot (she's a gutsy academic/writer/artist with an intense & genuine interest in things as disparate as indigenous rights, permaculture, and AANZ lit - whoa, maybe these matters arnt so disparate?)

    But this review reads sort of like an haigiography - not one by a Ph. D
    holder of longstanding & experience-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Heather W.,

    I note the book is still for sale on several overseas websites, and listed as being shipped from NZ; Penguin might want to send an update to its retailers.

    Memo would seem to be - still keep selling. Maybe the reprint run will be the new edition. It seems all publicity is good for sales.

    Flyer from Booklovers received on Sunday had the book advertised.

    Some of the public libraries will be getting the book in the next couple of weeks - for the ones that have it already, all copies are either in transit or out on loan.

    North Shore • Since Nov 2008 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • Heather W.,

    Apparently the booksellers.co.nz best-selling NZ fiction (adult) book counter is stuck - for yet another week the same book leads.

    Someone bought TTS on TradeMe at the weekend for $50 plus postage - The Warehouse online has it at $33.

    Contrary to belief of some, Penguin did not issue a recall and book not rare. The losers in this situation would seem to be the other authors trying to sell in the same market and probably students at University of Auckland will be subject to greater checks.

    North Shore • Since Nov 2008 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Contrary to belief of some, Penguin did not issue a recall and book not rare.

    My understanding was that they offered that they would take any books back that booksellers didn't want. Be interesting to find out how widely that was put around the actual booksellers, and how many took it up.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6227 posts Report Reply

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