Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A new (old) sensation

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  • Jolisa,

    You know, I'm suddenly wondering where all the authors are (save Islander, of course)... Is there a parallel discussion somewhere, in which they are busy swapping stories about the declining quality -- and terrible rudeness! -- of readers these days?

    In any case, I would like to buy them all a drink.

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

  • Cecelia,

    Jolisa, where would we be without authors? But maybe readers have some unpredictable tastes and I think I'm one of them. I'm thinking of buying the Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan because it sounds as if it will break my current novel reading deadlock. Whether to buy online where it seems much cheaper and wait for it or to walk down to Whitcoulls and see if it's on the shelves is my dilemma. And then I thought I should read Wulf first (no connection thematically but you suggested it) - a New Zealand book and therefore a patriotic thing to do.

    However, I have just read extracts from both books. (I've read several extracts from Glen Duncan's books.) Wulf would be a very interesting read I'm sure but it sounds kind of lyrical and Mister Pip-ish and I just don't feel like that. Glen Duncan on the other hand is so witty and precise. The narrative voice is erudite and unforced and funny. At this point in my reading journey I don't want a simple, poetic narrator but something more detailed (?) which will deeply engage me.

    I read Mister Pip in one sitting. I enjoyed it but I wouldn't want to read books with that sort of voice very often. Lloyd Jones has written a rave review. It's his sort of book? I'm sure Wulf it will be a super read for lots of readers and maybe for me at a later date. But for now I want something different. (I did enjoy Guardian of the Dead BTW)

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaire BookieMonster, in reply to Cecelia,

    Wulf - definitely lyrical, I really enjoyed it but I suspect there may be others who would find it overly and self-consciously "writerly".

    I have The Last Werewolf on my "to be reviewed" pile and it looks really good - anything that comes with a Nick Cave recommendation has to be good.

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

  • Cecelia,

    overly and self-consciously “writerly”

    What I was struggling to say ...

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Karen Healey,

    You know, I'm suddenly wondering where all the authors are (save Islander, of course)... Is there a parallel discussion somewhere, in which they are busy swapping stories about the declining quality -- and terrible rudeness! -- of readers these days?

    In any case, I would like to buy them all a drink.

    PFFFT authors never complain about readers, and certainly not over drinks.

    (I just got the VERY BEST terrible review yesterday. I do love an awesome bad review.)

    My thoughts re: the New Zealand novel begin with noting that your definition is somewhat limited, Jolisa, doubtless by word limit constraints as much as anything. If the "New Zealand novel", or even "the NZ literary novel" is "adult contemporary fiction", then okay, my feeling is also that there hasn't been anything that really tickled my fancy for a while. I enjoyed The Rehearsal and its rhetorical trickery, but I'm more looking forward to the hopefully eventual play.

    But genre and young adult snob that I am, I'm not a huge fan of most adult contemporary fiction at the best of times. New Zealanders are writing some fabulous sci fi and fantasy, and our YA writers continue to include some of the best in the world. I'm not a huge fan of gender role essentialism in Nalini Singh's paranormal fantasies, but her worldbuilding is second to none. And then there are the comics! Ant Sang's Dharma Punks and Dylan Horrocks' Hicksville were published not that long ago, and are just incredible.

    (And my Mum swears by Deborah Challinor's historical novels, though I've never picked up up. Subjectivity, it's what we do.)

    Melbourne, Australia • Since Apr 2011 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Sorry for the thread-jack, but bitter-sweet news that Auckland booksellers Roger and Helen Parsons are selling the store they founded thirty-six years ago.

    Bitter for obvious reasons; sweet because they’re at least not being forced into receivership, or driven out by one rent hike too far as so many independent bookstores have been in recent years.

    I’m paying tribute to them in my PA Radio piece tomorrow (Radio Live, 7pm) where I say this:

    I’m as bad as anyone at taking for granted things like decent bookstores — the small grace notes that made life more than mere endurance. So, I’ll take the chance to say thank you to Roger and Helen, and the rest of the remarkable clan.

    Roy Parsons left New Zealand a better place than he found it, and his children will be able to say the same . That’s no small achievement, and one hell of a legacy to carry on.

    Now, does any have a couple of hundred grand they could loan a brother? :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    does any have a couple of hundred grand they could loan a brother?

    The independent bookstore down the street from me is currently being transformed into a community-owned cooperative with $250 shares. You could always do that. Or some for-profit variant.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 457 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Now, does any have a couple of hundred grand they could loan a brother? :)

    Seems the Welly branch of Parsons is still going strong.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4365 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I win Lotto tonight, it's all your's bro'-

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

  • BenWilson, in reply to Jolisa,

    You know, I'm suddenly wondering where all the authors are (save Islander, of course)... Is there a parallel discussion somewhere, in which they are busy swapping stories about the declining quality -- and terrible rudeness! -- of readers these days?

    I sincerely hope they're at a keyboard, fingers flying, minds full of visions, energetically plying their trade. Which would leave them little time for commentary. If reading wasn't so obviously vital to writing, I'd note ironically that if they're here, they're lurking.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Independent bookstore news is never a threadjack in my threads. And Ben, like you, I hope the writers are writing. That's why we pay them the big bucks and, erm, sometimes talk about them as if they're not right here. (Writing about authors who are No Longer With Us is so much less fraught, although even then, I suspect they are lurking. Libraries are full of them).

    But I'm glad Cecelia, Bookiemonster, and Karen popped in to breathe life back into the thread and to speak up for the joys of genre.

    your definition is somewhat limited, Jolisa, doubtless by word limit constraints as much as anything

    Absolutely; and by the sort of books I'm generally given to review -- which are mostly from the genre Stephen Hunt recently dubbed "fiction fiction" -- which was where I started thinking about the whole thing. It was only late in the writing, the point at which I idly enquired about what people had recently re-read, that the genre question raised its head and socked me one. Too late to rewrite the entire piece in the light of it.

    Still, I hope that (dodgy binaristic culinary metaphor ahoy) even while we loooove our literary comfort food, and who doesn't, that we are not also up for the occasional dalliance with molecular gastronomy. I like fiction that is challenging, and self-conscious, and so on (which is also not to say that "genre" fiction can't be that). I just kind of yearn for it to, um, settle down a bit plot-wise?

    Anyway, who am I to say? Maybe what I'm sceptically describing as "new sensationalism" is in fact a brilliant hybrid, the next big thing hiding in plain sight, and once again we're at the cutting edge & punching above our weight as usual.

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

  • Jolisa, in reply to Karen Healey,

    And my Mum swears by Deborah Challinor’s historical novels

    I was re-reading Diana Wynne Jones the other day - a short story called "The Plague of Peacocks," about a pair of do-gooders, the Platts, who move into a village and set about correcting its many "faults" -- and this bit leapt out at me (especially apropos of the comments upthread about parents-who-read-too-much):

    Mr Platt was shocked to see that Mrs O'Flaherty had been reading a book while she cooked lunch. She had two favourite books which she read turn and turn about to keep her sane: this one was The Mill on the Floss; the other was The Count of Monte Cristo. She knew both so well that she could do most things while she was reading.

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

  • Craig Ranapia,

    <i>I like fiction that is challenging, and self-conscious, and so on (which is also not to say that “genre” fiction can’t be that). I just kind of yearn for it to, um, settle down a bit plot-wise?</i>

    Well, I don't think you can get more "self-conscious" than Muriel Spark's 1957 debut The Comforters -- and I find it hard to disagree with Ali Smith's warm (but spoiler rich) appreciation in the Guardian.

    Does plot and formal experimentation really have to be a zero sum game?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Does plot and formal experimentation really have to be a zero sum game?

    Of course not. You have to choose the dimensions along which you are prepared to experiment. Plot can be one of them, but it doesn't have to be.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Here's a fascinating (indeed, disturbing!) New Yorker article by Laura Miller on readers bossing a writer around.

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

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Here’s a fascinating (indeed, disturbing!) New Yorker article by Laura Miller on readers bossing a writer around.

    Ah, yes -- fans with entitlement issues. It is a wonderful if creepy article, and should be followed up with Neil Gaiman's legendary "George RR Martin is not your bitch" blog post.

    Ouch.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Weirdly enough, I’m about three-quarters of the way though Richard Stark’s Butcher’s Moon , the latest in the University of Chicago Press’ wonderful re-issues of the Parker series.

    Moon is a particular coup because this is the first reprint since its original hardcover publication (copies of which are rare and expensive on the collectors market), and was the last Stark produced “resting” the character for almost quarter of a century!

    Some folks don’t know when they’re damn lucky.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Jolisa,

    That is really interest J. Thanks for that. Helps to know what you're in for when you write fantasy.

    Edit I remember Tolkien complaining that his American fans took things way too far. But they were the main reason he made such a lot of money from LOTR too. When some American publisher tried to rip his work off, the fans were what stopped it happening.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    A New Zealand literature thread where fantasy is discussed and noone mentions Hugh Cook or Russell Kirkpatrick? For shame!

    Sure they're not at the "quality" end of the prose scale, but Kirkpatrick has quite obviously been learning as he goes, and elements of his books are startlingly good.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Of course, writers can have "entitlement issues" too...

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to James Butler,

    Of course, writers can have “entitlement issues” too

    Teehee!

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

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Ah, yes – fans with entitlement issues. It is a wonderful if creepy article, and should be followed up with Neil Gaiman’s legendary “George RR Martin is not your bitch” blog post.

    It should be repeated loudly and often though that it's not as if Martin were writing the sequel to the Bible. It's the cumulation of a not-always-good fantasy series, and comments to the effect of "I wish he'd hurry up and get on to it" aren't completely out of place as long as they're read as desires, not demands.

    Personally, I've been evangelising to everyone who will listen (and a good many who won't) for Steven Erikson's Malazan books instead. Ten books (plus more by Ian C. Esselmont and a bunch of short stories) with far more interesting characters and themes than anything Martin's ever written.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    There was quite alot of reader harassment going on back in 2009 over the release of the second in the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, Wise Man's Fear.

    His cartoon on his blog about the online exchanges kind of sums it up.

    What seemed to happen is a first time author made much more of a splash than he, his publishers, or many of the early reviewers, ever expected. Particularly when Ursula K. Le Guin agreed to write this on his blurb;

    It is a rare and great pleasure to come on somebody writing the way (Patrick Rothfuss does), not only with the kind of accuracy of language that seems to me absolutely essential to fantasy-making, but with real music in the words as well.... Oh, joy!
    -Ursula K. Le Guin,

    ...he wisely thought he'd better check the next book was even better. Two years late(r) he released the book this March. I'm just past half way through it, and while it is no grand battle scene epic, I really like the main character, and as fantasy goes, it seems much more rooted in some kind of deep mythology than plain old witchy-poos flying around on broom schticks.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to BenWilson,

    Edit I remember Tolkien complaining that his American fans took things way too far.

    Took him seventeen years to deliver that sequel to The Hobbit, what's it called? :).

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to recordari,

    His cartoon on his blog about the online exchanges kind of sums it up

    Yes, writers don't respond well to being driven like cattle. It's why they became writers, a job that appears to give a huge amount of freedom.

    Took him seventeen years to deliver that sequel to The Hobbit, what's it called? :).

    You think they had a point? Maybe he never would have finished it without all the badgering.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

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