Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A new (old) sensation

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  • Tamsin6,

    Jackie - I hate feeling like I should read something - it makes me want to not read it. Ever. I tend to read in quantity but not quality lately, and Jolisa's post has me thinking that it might not be entirely my own fault. Thank goodness. I have also noticed lately that I can't construct a proper sentence to save my life. Makes me hang my head in shame when I think my degree was in English Literature. Sigh.

    London • Since Dec 2007 • 123 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    That earlier reply has me nonplussed. Anyway, according to the link above this is hotly debated with 'group 1' and 'group 2' drawing battle lines. Frankly I just wish I had used a different word. Did learn the term 'skunked' though. Although the dictionary tells me this means;

    tr.v. skunked, skunk·ing, skunks Slang
    1. To defeat overwhelmingly, especially by keeping from scoring.
    2. a. To cheat (someone).
    b. To fail to pay (an amount due).

    I'm at a loss.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to recordari,

    Thanks for that Word Routes link - interesting. As someone who has learned English as a second (or even third) language, I probably find myself in Group 1. That's what I was taught, dammit! Native English speakers are allowed to threat their own language any way they please. I like the term skunked words, which I had not heard before. I makes perfect sense though.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 796 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    No sooner had I shut down the computer when I realized that "The Heart's Wild Surf" by Stephanie Johnson was soooo readable and lovely. "Sing to Me Dreamer" - one of Shonagh Koea's fantasies, carried me away. Fiona Farrell was another writer whose short stories I would grab and devour. I really liked "Tasman's Lay" by Peter Hawes.

    However, (hangs head in shame) there are a great many classics (not only, but also NZ) I've failed to read, probably because it was expected that I would. A resistance to doing anything I should. Childish.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    As someone who has learned English as a second (or even third) language

    Oops. Something amiss here. I wrote a few lines, previewed, but my stuff didn’t appear. And still doesn’t.
    ETA: But now has. As one of those anal retentive who rarely posts without reviewing, correcting, rewriting, etc, not being able to see what I proposed to post was uncomfortable.
    My question to Martin was: Do you have an accent? Is it a New Zealand accent, or faintly "other"? And do you (referring to thread "Where you from?" which I'm not going to even try to link to) understand what New Zealanders are saying all the time?

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Does Janet Frame's posthumous novel Towards another summer (2007, although written in 1963) count as recent NZ fiction? It has a theme relevant to the other PA thread of exile and where is home? As usual she draws the reader in to her fascinating, neurodiverse world, and it's one of those books you have to read twice to catch some of what you missed first time. I don't see any successors to Janet Frame coming along.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2068 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Jacqui Dunn,

    Do you have an accent? Is it a New Zealand accent, or faintly “other”?

    Yes, I do have an accent (everyone does!), although I’m told it’s not easy to identify. I don’t believe I have the ABBA-style Swenglish any more. People who guess often think I’m from South Africa, but that’s mostly due to a process of elimination of the other common Anglosphere accents. No, I don’t have much trouble understanding Kiwi English.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 796 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I remember being very excited when Janet Frame's novel The Carpathians came out, and being so bitterly disappointed. I found it unreadable. To me, it was as if no-one had dared to suggest that some of it needed editing. Compared to her earlier work, it was heavy and dull. Haven't read Towards Another Summer, but if it's written in 1960s, it could well be wonderful.

    A successor to her? I'd nominate Pat Grace, although I guess you're wanting more of the "home and away" theme.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Jacqui, I meant a young successor from the new writers.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2068 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Jacqui, I meant a young successor from the new writers.

    See, this may be where I differ from some. I'm not waiting for a successor to Janet Frame, Katherine Mansfield or for Maurice Gee to write more or, according to recent reports, more worthily. They did write wonderful novels with timeless themes and academically rich linguistic nuances (did I use that right?), but I read a New Zealand novel first and foremost because it's a book, not because it's from New Zealand.

    As someone who has learned English as a second (or even third) language, I probably find myself in Group 1.

    As someone who has taught English as a second (or even third) language, I probably find myself feeling like a douche*.

    *Disambiguation.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    the William Morris museum is just up the road

    Wait. There's a William Morris museum?? Fantastic! Where?

    I'm currently reading Bill Pearson's Coal Flat, which took a while to get into but is proving to be quite rewarding. Particularly given the historical context of the novel and knowing the passage of history since then...

    There's been a bit of a mini-boom in terms of NZ non-fiction dealing with specific historical subject matter particularly over the post-war period. For example, I read Cone Ten Down, a history of NZ ceramics from the 1920s to the 1970s. Fantastic read and not at all technical. Then I read Francis Pounds monumental The Invention of NZ Identity: Art and Nationalism 1930-1970 (though he touches briefly on 1980s art), which was a good read and certainly gave life to much NZ art I have seen, and proved to be valuable when recently I visited Te Papa and saw some of the art work Pound talked about.

    I've bought Dress Circle, NZ fashion history in the post-war period, and am making good speed through this, and Angels and Artistocrats: Early European Art in NZ Public Collections, which makes up for not going to see the European Impressionists show at Te Papa earlier this year. I also managed to pick up 99 Ways into NZ Poetry at the Unity Books sale, which I'm enjoying very much, but I see will require me to get poetry books out so I can read the poems referred to in the book.

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 642 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I realised that I entirely missed out on counting Ant Sang's The Dharma Punks and Dylan Horrock's Hicksville as fiction. Which they are, of the very best kind. I didn't really dig Sang's new wuxia, but that's just me. I think it's partly because I couldn't remove BroTown accents from the character's mouths.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2132 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to George Darroch,

    I'd definitely put Dylan's "Hicksville" as the ANZ book (and yes, agree absolutely - it's fiction) that has given me the most pleasure over the past 3 years or so. (My non-fiction list is much larger but isnt relevant here.

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

  • Jolisa, in reply to George Darroch,

    [I've] long stopped reading the Listener, so its books pages are gone to me. Does Metro have review pages that illuminate, dissect and inspire?

    It does (she said modestly). And so does the Listener, if you can bear to pick it up again -- it's won "Best Books Pages" several years running, and its reviewers often capture the reviewing prizes as well.

    Booknotes is reliably great, Landfall has just started a new online review database, and I believe NZ Books is still in print.

    The Good Word on TVNZ7 is fantastic (although alas still geo-blocked online for anyone outside NZ). Check out this year's Good Word Debate, on the subject of whether New Zealand literature deserves special treatment.

    And most of our major newspapers still devote space to book reviews, unlike the shrinking book pages elsewhere.

    It's heartening to me that book culture in NZ is such a rich and passionate thing, despite or because of our small & far-flung population. This place was covered in stories almost as soon as the first waka arrived, and from the early days of the colony, we devoured any reading matter we could get our hands on, whether homebaked or imported. I reckon e-books and sources like the Book Depository will continue to feed that urge, even as we drift away from the traditional novel form, perhaps...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1410 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Perahps we need 'mashed up' NZ classics with added zombies, werewolves, vampires or other such beings. It certainly seems to work well for Seth Grahame-Smith and Quirk Books...

    Craig Y

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 370 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    On specific books mentioned: I loved, loved, loved The 10pm Question (reviewed it in Landfall, alas not online). Its shifting geography baffles any attempt to pin down its location. But maybe that will help it travel: I passed on a copy to our pediatrician, on her retirement, and she's passed it on to her child psychologist daughter.

    Just read Fleur Beale's Juno of Taris - very cool indeed - and am now halfway through the sequel. (Ooh, which, not to be spoilery but: I literally *jumped* at the mention of Christchurch. OMG! It's just a tiny moment in passing but if you're read it you will know what I mean).

    Hicksville is weird and wonderful, and the moving island haunts me still.

    Patricia Grace is a genius hiding in plain sight, full stop. And I loved Tina Makereti's book of short stories , Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa, some of which were breathtaking. I'm really looking forward to her novel.

    Emma mentioned The Warrior Queen by Barbara Else - I loved that, and Gingerbread Husbands. I wish for more warm, funny social tragicomedies of manners! And I miss the novels that, for example, Sue McCauley used to write, about ordinary people doing mostly ordinary things and thinking about them in unordinary ways. Come to think of it, Paula Morris's Queen of Beauty is a good, strong contemporary novel about cities and travel and art and love and people doing things - going to work, even.

    Who's writing a novel about the housing market? I'd kill to read a local equivalent to Jane Smiley's Good Faith.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1410 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Moving overseas, funny Jackie should mention The Pregnant Widow. I was fully prepared – indeed, planning! – to hate it. And then enjoyed it immensely, as the tale of a short, ugly, old man mourning his short, beautiful youth. Yes, yes, it was sexist and improbable and too long and just silly, and basically another splenetic, rude, misanthropic bulletin from AmisWorld. But it made me laugh ( with it, as well as at it) and I think it’s important to read books about other cultures :-)

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who couldn’t make it into or through Byatt’s The Children’s Book. Its gorgeous cover rebukes me from the bookshelf, but alas, I can’t get into it. Purchased at the same time: Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger. I love and have read and re-read everything else she’s written but this one presented a brick wall. Funny that.

    Robyn’s point about non-fiction is a good one, too – it’s so easy to privilege fiction Above All, when really it’s just one genre, and there is TONS of great non-fiction writing out there (see Christopher D’s reading list, above!). And “literary” fiction is one genre among many, as well. If it’s good stories you’re looking for, you’re just as liable to find them elsewhere, as on the Booker list.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1410 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Craig Young,

    Perhaps we need ‘mashed up’ NZ classics with added zombies, werewolves, vampires or other such beings

    Craig, you may have just inadvertently kicked off Public Address Books’ new fiction line-up… I am already making notes for Zombie Alone.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1410 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    I am already making notes for Zombie Alone.

    LOL. But (threadmerge) isn't it a little early for a biography of Phil Goff?
    Love this thread. I think there's a huge amount in this:

    stories about recognisable, complicated people on the cusp of brave action.

    Without wanting to get engaged in a massive discourse about the role of hero and anti-hero in literature and life... if we're addicted to narrative in part because it helps us to explain our lives, understand the world, and glimpse into other people's hearts- there's something dispiriting about those hearts being passive and/or passionless- and however true to experience it may be, what help in making sense of the world do we get from a novel that depicts the world as weird, random and meaningless?

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1529 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Jolisa,

    I so loved Barbara Else and Sue McCauley. Lovely lovely writers. In fact most of the NZ writers I have loved have been women. Funny that. No, Jolisa, I gave Amis another try, and couldn't be bothered. So back he went to the library today to be replaced by some memoir, and a couple of novels. (Douglas Kennedy etc so very very not literary).

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Perhaps we've stopped buying them because poorly formatted paperbacks on cheap paper cost so much? We have other, freer forms of entertainment now. There's a lot to be said for a book that has genuine physical beauty and which is an ease to read, but damned if I have to pay above $50 for the hardback just to experience this.

    Obviously, authors, editors, designers, illustrators deserve a fair amount, but I'm always stunned by the price of books in New Zealand.

    That may soon become true for publishers, too. Printing a 9-by-9-inch, 334-page hardcover book in China costs about 44 to 45 [US] cents now, with another 3 cents for shipping, says Goodwin. The same book costs 65 to 68 [US] cents to make in the U.S.

    source
    Obviously the economics for a small NZ print have differences and I don't expect them to be quite so cheap, but to have two orders of magnitude between this production cost and the retail cost strikes me as bizarre. Perhaps the retailers and publishers have decided low volume - high margin is where their best returns lie? Genuinely curious. How many NZ publishers manufacture overseas anyway?

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2132 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Jacqui Dunn,

    “Tasman’s Lay” is a beauty – but, like some other Peter Hawes’ titles (please dont get me wrong – I admire his writing very much) such as “Royce, Royce The People’s Choice” – are not classifiable – who’d guess this is a very funny book? With excellent background research on the establishment of the blue-fin tuna fishery off the West Coast? It is an uneven work – but by & large should be much more widely recognised, not least because because of the wonderful vein of creative fantasy intermingled with stark facts that runs through all his stories.

    It doesnt help that he’s never been truly enthusiastically reviewed – which he deserves to be.

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

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to George Darroch,

    There's a lot to be said for a book that has genuine physical beauty and which is an ease to read, but damned if I have to pay above $50 for the hardback just to experience this.

    And they in the Anglo-Saxon world books are not properly bound anymore, it's glue all the way. I can't stand it.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7352 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to George Darroch,

    A majority of ANZ publishers have their titles printed & bound overseas: design, layout, etc.
    are done here-

    on other matters, I think the title “the were people” belongs to me!

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

  • Islander,

    There is still high craftpersonship done here insofar as bookbinding (in the traditional sense) is done. Ask my friend Andris Apse, whose wonderful trilogy of Fjordland photographs (a major part of his life's work) was bound in CHCH (at enourmous expense.) A copy of this, gifted by Andris & Lynne, is one of the treasures of my house...

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

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