Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A new (old) sensation

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  • giovanni tiso, in reply to 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...

    Yes, I mean that regular commercial publishers don't do it anymore. I don't mind spending a bit more for a nice hardback edition back home, but they tend to be properly bound.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7386 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Agreed, Giovanni, agreed – the reason is price (and tough shit, readers who find the spine of their expensive paperback cracks the first time you open it, and the leaves fall out.)

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

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Sue McCauley

    +1

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

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Islander,

    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.

    Yes, Royce, Royce, etc.... - that was another one I read, and laughed at. And also felt ghastly about. The fish!

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

  • Islander, in reply to Jacqui Dunn,

    Yet he described it so beautifully while it was lying in an AirNZ hold...missing the mermaid hair quality of it's tail (I'm quoting from memory so may not be exact...)

    Fishing does involve a torturous death - especially in big, quite long-lived animals like bluefins - which is why I now never eat them. Nor does Peter.

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

  • Rob Stowell,

    Sue McCauley

    +2. Loved her (last? it was ages ago!) book of short stories, the name of which escapes me. Terrific.
    Don't think she's writing these days.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1574 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    That would be a great pity. The last of Sue's writing I read was in a rather gorgeous book called "Cherries on the/a Plate", with a picture of two pretty little girls looking a bit put out about getting their photo took. Turned out it was a picture of Fleur Beale and sister Marilyn Duckworth. Sue McCauley's piece was about her sister (the whole book was about sisters) who was killed in a road crash. I was angry on her behalf when I read that.

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

  • Islander, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    I theeeenk it was "Life on Earth" - but I'd have to go out to the book-storage shed, which is a hazardous journey in daylight, but now - with thunderstorms & plus 20cm of rain due - unwarrantable, even for the sake of literature...

    "Cherries On a Plate" is a really interesting book - worth the reading-

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

  • Lisa Black,

    Hooray, hooray for this thread arriving after my book voucher gift and before I've spent it! It's been a while since I knew what I'd like to buy.

    I do love that libraries have all the books I can't afford to purchase, but my legacy to my unfortunate descendants is going to be more books than anyone ought to have. My home tends to resemble a library with a house tucked into it. I dream of high ceilings and ladders on runners.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Lisa Black,

    My home IS a library*!*
    With a really good kitchen and sorta other places attached…

    (My kitchen equipment, with my brain attached, is second to none. My library apertaining to food/cooking/seafood is – I understand- way better than CHCH Library. It is certainly better than anything here on the West Coast. Without brain attached…)

    *Go to Andris Apse galleries, and you can see I am real- and right-

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

  • Emma Hart,

    I dream of high ceilings and ladders on runners.

    Everyone has fantasies about ladders on runners, right?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Urm, some of us have fantasies about additional brains & bigger bookshelves...each to our own-

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

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Jolisa,

    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.

    I do so agree. Most people I know that have read this really enjoyed it, but I just found it infuriating. But The Night Watch was sensational, I thought.

    Together with my little lad we have read quite a lot of pre-YA NZ fiction - of the boy-oriented variety. David Hill, Des Hunt, Jack Lasenby and co. I'll have to say I find them quite uneven - when they're on they're on, but there are a fair number of disappointments in there too.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 662 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Everyone has fantasies about ladders on runners, right?

    I know I do.

    After reading Neil Gaiman's blog about Diana Wynne Jones i am rereading Deep Secret which is familiar and silly enough to creep into the dusty corners of my brain and remind it that reading is fun and not just something I do because it's part of my bedtime routine.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Diana Wynne Jones can hardly put a word wrong round here. We all enjoy her- from the 75-year-old grandmother to the 11-year-old twins. However, we have lost the second tape of Witch Week, and the first got stuck in the car's tape-deck. I can't bear hearing the first half, ahem, more than once- without the resolution. :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1574 posts Report Reply

  • webweaver,

    It’s funny, I’m usually the most voracious reader in my bookclub – I generally turn up with a great pile of ready-to-review novels each month – but since the Feb earthquake I haven’t read a single page. I’ve been doing logic puzzles and crosswords in bed instead.

    We buy quite a few NZ novels at bookclub, but I think the last one I read was The 10pm Question which I lovedlovedloved. It’s one of the few books that every single bookclubber who’s read it has completely adored – which is very unusual, because we all have pretty varied tastes normally.

    Apart from that, I absolutely devoured the Dragon Tattoo series when I was in the UK over Xmas (I had the third book saved up for the flight home, which consequently went by in a flash – yay!) and before that I was on a rather extended re-read of all my Terry Pratchetts. Maybe I should go back to those to ease myself into reading again (sorry not Kiwi but never mind).

    Alternatively – and now I confess my guilty pleasure reading – I see that the final book in Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children / Clan of the Cave Bear series is out, so maybe I’ll get that instead. Hopefully it’ll be better than book 5 which was AWFUL and desperately in need of a very ruthless editor. Prehistoric sex and inventing stuff! Woohoo!

    I think I can safely say that, like some others here, my reading requirements at the moment are to provide me with comfort and familiarity – like a glass of warm milk and a cookie at bedtime.

    I’m definitely not looking to be challenged by my reading material right now, nor am I enthusiastic about reading anything that, as my friend Mary at bookclub puts it – has a “sense of impending doom”.

    Maybe on that note I should go back to some of my beloved children’s books – perhaps The Borrowers or Swallows and Amazons or The Secret Garden. Sadly, again (apologies Jolisa) not Kiwi, but then I was a child in England, so there you go.

    ETA: Speaking of The Little Stranger – same here – couldn’t get through it at.all. To be honest it frightened the pants off me with all the house-being-a-sentient-being thingy (or whatever it was) and I just couldn’t carry on with it. And I, too, thought The Night Watch was completely awesome. Bawled my eyes out at that one, I did.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 329 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to webweaver,

    perhaps The Borrowers or Swallows and Amazons or The Secret Garden. Sadly, again (apologies Jolisa) not Kiwi

    Oh, never apologise for books like those! They're are part of the imaginative landscape, no matter where you grew up.

    I missed S & A as a child but got to enjoy discovering them with my oldest son. I have a fond memory of him reading aloud the bit in Secret Water in which Bridget begs to be allowed to be a human sacrifice; we were in a fast-food joint in Salt Lake City at the time, drawing looks of horror from nice clean folk at neighbouring tables...

    You know what else: if we all hold hands and say "Arthur Ransome" three times, backwards, I believe David Haywood will manifest in this thread.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1411 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    Loved this, thanks Jolisa. You mention 19th-century sensation novels: one of the great things about the internet and digitization is that it can open up the forgotten canons of the past. We can now, at the click of a button, compare contemporary New Zealand literature with NZ novels in their 19th-century settler phase. [Full disclosure: the Nineteenth-Century New Zealand Novels project was my baby, back in my NZETC/digitization days. Anyway.]

    There's a lot of awful, cringeworthy dross there, but some lost gems, too. Like H. B. Marriott Watson's Web of the Spider, which is a pretty good Rider Haggard facsimile with pace, atmosphere, and a genuinely complex attitude to the problems of colonization. It seems to me this stuff is no less "New Zealand literature" than contemporary novels, and deserves excavation. I've got a piece on gothic themes in these novels coming out soon in Journal of New Zealand Literature which I'd be pleased to send to anyone who's interested ...

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Jacqui Dunn,

    a picture of Fleur Beale and sister Marilyn Duckworth.

    Fleur Adcock, probably? In any case I must look that book up. I have a vague memory of reading it, but not for ages.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1411 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Caleb D'Anvers,

    Caleb, that's a great resource, thank you! The opening chapter of the Web of the Spider is promising indeed:

    "...As for the women, they are wonderful. How can a man know their ways?" said the Maori philosophically.

    And I love that you've preserved even the clippings that people tucked into books. I have always done that, and often wonder whether subsequent readers will keep them or toss them.

    One of the exciting things about e-books, for me, is the chance to rediscover all sorts of treasures as these rare old gems, once digitised, become magically available.* (Also, most of them are out of copyright and thus more or less free, which is hard to argue with!).

    I’ve got a piece on gothic themes in these novels coming out soon in Journal of New Zealand Literature which I’d be pleased to send to anyone who’s interested …

    I'm interested :-)

    * well, magically, inasmuch as someone spent hours and hours making it possible. I hope you are compensated for your work!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1411 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    Thanks, Jolisa! I'll email you a copy of the paper when I get into my office tomorrow morning.

    Yeah, I was pretty keen to include as much "paratext" as I could when digitizing these novels. So that included publishers' catalogues, if those were in the same binding as the main text, and anything tipped in as well. Since a lot of the books we digitized came from the Horace Fildes collection at VUW, and Fildes (good bibliographer that he was) annotated and extra-illustrated his books with useful information, it made sense to include those textual extensions as part of the digital edition. I only wish that we had the time and resources to finish what we started. But this is the ongoing, quiet tragedy of the digital humanities. Sigh.

    One of the exciting things about e-books, for me, is the chance to rediscover all sorts of treasures as these rare old gems, once digitized, become magically available.

    Oh, absolutely. I was just thinking about this today, actually. I'm writing a conference paper at the moment about some early 20th-century marginalia, and it's amazing how much I was able to find out about the annotator from simple Google Books searches. Connections and leads that would have been completely invisible before the internet are now, as you say, just magically there. For a book historian, it's like manna from heaven.

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Connections and leads that would have been completely invisible before the internet are now, as you say, just magically there. For a book historian, it’s like manna from heaven.

    It is magical, isn't it? And yet methinks A.S. Byatt's Possession would be a different (and perhaps poorer) book if it were written today. There is something ineffable about obscurity.

    (I say that having googled for the picture of Islander's library mentioned above, only to discover I will have to go and get my hands on a hard copy of the book, which is, I think, a good thing).

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1411 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Related to this thread: William Deresiewicz serves up on a platter Marjorie Garber's academic-o-centric ideas about the use-value of literature.

    NB I haven't read Garber's book, but as a recovering academic (and one who still harbours some sympathy for what goes on in literary anatomy classes, all of us scrubbed-up and working ghoulishly but hopefully over the cadaver of yet another classic, looking for signs of life, yearning to capture and weigh the escaping soul of the piece as it flees the room), I found the review refreshing and to the point.

    Here's a nice bit:

    The answer to the use-pleasure conundrum is not neither, but both. What is more, they are the same thing. "Use" does not mean instruction, as it did to Horace or the Victorians, the inculcation of virtue through the presentation of moral exempla. It means awareness. Literature is "useful" because it wakes us up from the sleepwalk of self-involvement—of plans, anxieties, resentments, habits, the fog that clings to our eyes as we stumble through the day, stumble through our lives—and shows us the world, shows us ourselves, shows us life and experience and the reality of other people, and forces us to think about them all. The pleasure of serious literature is not escape or fantasy, it is this very shiver of consciousness, this troubling exhilaration. Reading is thinking and feeling, both at once and both together, simultaneous and identical. Pleasure is use, use pleasure.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1411 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Does Janet Frame’s posthumous novel Towards another summer (2007, although written in 1963) count as recent NZ fiction?

    I'm pretty sure it does -- and it's on my TBR list -- but I've got to admit that I've got two problems with raiding a writer's desk drawers after they die. One ethical and the other critical. If Frame didn't steer Summer into print while she was alive, and I suspect after the success of her autobiography she could have published a best-selling book of shopping lists, perhaps there was a good reason?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia,

    Why do we all love the 10 PM Question so much? Is it because of its warmth? It's gradually revealed psychological truth? The way we can definitely relate to the main character? Is this what we're missing, "relatable", characters as Jolissa says in her conclusion? I loved Emily Perkins' first book of short stories. The protagonists of my favourite stories were lovable in their quests for identity. One story is written entirely in the second person but is such a fabulous slice of childhood (and adulthood) that I can't sing its praises enough. Subsequently I have gone off her novels because they lack that warmth, although I really enjoyed Novel About My Wife. I was left cold by Alison Wong's "As the Earth Turns Silver" although it gained rave reviews. For me it was too thin; I couldn't relate closely enough to the characters. It's that cool despairing tone or something. I love it in JM Coetzee but other writers don't seem to be able to get away with it in my book!
    Decades ago I read Albert Wendt's Under the Banyan Tree and can remember nothing about it except that I wanted a Maori village to be given the same novelistic treatment.
    And on a completley different note. The Last Werewolf reviewed in last week's Listener sounds like a must-read.

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 523 posts Report Reply

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