Holiday Book Club

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  • tim kong,

    But where they really work, at least for me, is that you never get the sense that Gaiman is self-consciously writing "for children" -- by that, I mean there's no dumbing down or condescending in the language or the story itself.

    Definitely Craig. He has a remarkable way of capturing the clarity of a child's POV - and writing from that POV, while avoiding the obvious "kidspeak" that some books for children succumb too.

    I particularly like the way that many of the central figures in the books he's written are girls - or in the case of "Goldfish" the voice of gently sardonic reason. (Without just stating the obvious "I told you so.")

    I guess he's writing mainly for his daughters - and it shows - but I know that in my classes the girls really enjoy being able to relate to the main character - a character that's smart, sensible and still very definitely a girl. Not that the boys are alienated by that approach - as there's plenty of action and intrigue, and a need to solve the conflict in the books. And as you say - moments of sheer terror, suspense and emotion.

    But never saccharine sweet or thickly laid on. Because in my experience most children don't do over dramatic - unless they're pandered to - or expected to. That is key to Gaiman's work - it never panders to his audience. He's always respectful of his audience.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Jean Devanny's 'The Butcher Shop' (originally published 1920s reprinted 1988) is worth tracking down for those interested in NZ literature. Was banned as indecent, communist and too shockingly feminist.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Since it's 200 years since Darwin's birth may I recommend a good Darwin biography which concentrates more on the family man, written by a member of the Darwin whanau.

    Randal Keynes, 'Annie's Box: Charles Darwin, his daughter and human evolution'. (2001)

    Annie was one of his daughters who died as a child. Its loose narrative device hangs on the artifacts found by descendants in a little box belonging to Annie.

    It's also a good excuse to quote another of David Bader's One hundred great books in haiku:

    'The Origin of Species
    Charles Darwin

    Galapagos finch-
    the same beak as Aunt Enid's!
    A theory is born'

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    O Geoff Lealand? Bill Pearson didnt live long enough on the Coast to get his whitebaiting right

    I can't vouch for Pearson's whitebaiting expertise but I do remember Coal Flat as being evocative of other aspects of life on the Coast--life in a burg like Granity, with a politics which has largely disappeared. . But it was years ago when I read it and I may be giving it undeserved praise.

    I took a second year course in New Zealand Literature, in the first year it was offered (1980?) at the Univ of Canterbury. I wonder if it still on the programme.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2537 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Rob - if you liked James Woods (as did I, although the man can't see the forest for the trees), you might like Colson Whitehead's parody of him even more.

    And a moment of silence for John Updike, who died today. Good god, the man could write (I was a fan of his reviews and essays and short stories more than the novels but there's no shortage of any of these). It's hard to believe that ceaseless stream of golden prose has, well, ceased. It's like hearing that Old Faithful has stopped erupting.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And a moment of silence for John Updike, who died today. Good god, the man could write (I was a fan of his reviews and essays and short stories more than the novels but there's no shortage of any of these). It's hard to believe that ceaseless stream of golden prose has, well, ceased. It's like hearing that Old Faithful has stopped erupting.

    Meh... In a way, I feel the same about Updike as I do about his beloved Nabokov -- all too often both failed the "yes, very clever but so what?" sniff test.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Can I suggest Danielle if you're on a NZ reading binge that you tackle Witi Ihimaera - especially the Matriarch and on. And if it's NZ women writers, can you go past a certain PAS contributer who lives in the south island, and is one of our finest authors, IMHO? I think not.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    One out of left field:
    "Goodstuff" by Mike Paterson (c1986, Hard Echo Press)
    A fun read, for the most part, and some of the included poetry ain't bad either. Still doesn't quite work as a novel though; some plot development is rushed through, and the conclusion is a postmodern mess that doesn't (but possibly, isn't intended to) wrap anything up.
    Typos abound, but mostly add to the "homemade" atmosphere of the work. It's also self-referential (to the point of inserting advertisements for the typesetter), but even that works on occasion.

    And one further out of left field:
    "Rock n Roll Babes from Outer Space" by Linda Jaivin.
    A lightweight guilty pleasure, this one, but enjoyable as.
    Both are books where the writer obviously had fun in the process, and it's infectious.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1889 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And re: Updike. Damn shame The Widows of Eastwick ends up being his final bow. Anyone else read it, and if so was I the only one who thought "It must really suck being a heterosexual male who doesn't much like women, and finds female sexuality somewhat grotesque".

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    And re: Updike. Damn shame The Widows of Eastwickends up being his final bow. Anyone else read it, and if so was I the only one who thought "It must really suck being a heterosexual male who doesn't much like women, and finds female sexuality somewhat grotesque".

    I read this in the holidays, Craig. It was the first Updike book I'd ever read, and I found it somewhat unnecessariy wordy.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    that would be unnecessarily

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I read this in the holidays, Craig. It was the first Updike book I'd ever read, and I found it somewhat unnecessariy wordy.

    And how... You know, John, you can spin all the metaphorical candy floss you like but there's a nasty after taste when you've read a lovingly detailed description of a woman of a certain age gagging on semen while performing oral sex. Take that you ridiculous old hag!

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    BTW, do you think any of the obits are going to list the Lifetime Achievement gong he received at the Literary Review's prestigeous Bad Sex Prize? (The Widows of Eastwick was shortlisted for the grand prize, but Updike lost out to Boris Johnson's sister. Couldn't make it up if you tried...)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Granted, there are fewer misogynist blowjob scenes in the book reviews and essays. Which is why I preferred them.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Littlewood,

    I got up to quite a bit of reading, even if a lot of it was merely catching up on classics that I shamefully hadn't read yet.

    Ernest Hemmingway- Fiesta: The Sun Also Rise

    On the one hand, there's no denying the tough delicacy of Hemmingway's first great novel, or the way he's able to observe the four principle characters who slowly but surely drive each other to distraction, but some of the character's casual anti-Semitism was a bit hard to take even if (of course).

    That said, the love triangle between Brett, Michael and Jake was beautifully observed in its suffocating oppression- the sense that any moment they expressed their real feelings for oneanother they would tear each other asunder. And on a superficial note, I loved Hemmingway's descriptions of the bullfighting and the fiesta activities, and the novel made me want to go to Spain and act all louche and decadent.

    Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    Hard to tell whether the fact the film shifts the POV from the Indian to Jack really changes the thrust of either. I suppose the book is slightly more rhapsodic, and probably not as broad in its depictions of its characters, but finally reading the novel merely goes to show how close to perfect as makes no difference the film's adaptation was. It got the tone right, above all else, even allowing for the fact it skimped on some of the flights of fancy.

    Ray Davies- X Ray

    I love the 60s-era Kinks, me, ( particularly that run of albums from The Kink Kontroversy to Village Green Preservation Society, to say nothing of their peerless singles from that era), so I enjoyed Ray Davies's recollections of how the Kinks started, but I think the format, where Davies casts his the autobiography as a sem-fictional novel, only sometimes worked. He's an interesting stylist, but too in thrall to himself, and there were times I wish he'd stop dicking around with the characters and actually tell the story of his life.

    On the other hand, there's a bit of fun to be had in the way he fucks with people's perceptions, and you're never totally sure whether he's telling you the whole truth. Certainly it's not your run of the mill rock bio, which is nice.

    Cormac McCarthy's The Road- superb, taut, and at once utterly despairing and strangely moving. And you can just tell that like No Country for Old Men, it's got the potential to be a winner of a film. He practically writes the script for it right here.

    There were a couple of others, but this post is long enough!

    Today, Tomorrow, Timaru • Since Jan 2007 • 445 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Littlewood,

    "....but some of the character's casual anti-Semitism was a bit hard to take even if (of course)"

    Oops, not quite sure what happened with that sentence there. Forget the "even if (of course)" bit.

    Today, Tomorrow, Timaru • Since Jan 2007 • 445 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    ...but some of the character's casual anti-Semitism was a bit hard to take

    I caught most of (searching through Wikipedia...) what must have been the TV Movie Prisoner of Honor a number of years ago, about the role Georges Picquart played in the exoneration of French Military officer (and Jew)Alfred Dreyfus.

    At the end of the film one person remarks that Picquart's tireless efforts on behalf of Dreyfus show him to have been basically perfect as a human being. The other notes he wasn't perfect, because he didn't like Jews (which was shown earlier in the film). An odd case of using someone's casual anti-Semitism to show that they were in fact more awesome...

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Llewellyn,

    Cormac McCarthy's The Road superb, taut, and at once utterly despairing and strangely moving. And you can just tell that like No Country for Old Men it's got the potential to be a winner of a film. He practically writes the script for it right here.

    On its way to a cinema near you I believe, with Viggo as the Man, with John 'The Proposition' Hillcoat at the helm, and with the Aussie outback likely to feature at some pont as the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Like you Matthew, I also thought it was a fabulous and moving book.

    Mt Albert • Since Nov 2006 • 399 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    A bit off the topic--and another medium--but I would welcome any advice....

    I intended to spend a chunk of my summer (the late, dark hours) watching The Wire (described by Tom Frewen in the NBR last week as "the best television drama ever made"). We bought season/series 2 from JB's as they were out of season one. Watched one episode* with great interest but also with some bewilderment, as it was difficult to fully understand connections and back-stories. Do I really need to start with season one?
    * which ended with the discovery of the bodies of young women, suffocated in the inner recesses of a shipping container).

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2537 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Geoff - it would definitely a good idea to watch season one first.

    You could get a fair bit of the story of season 2 without it, but you'd be missing A LOT without the season 1 background.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    You need season one. Particularly as season two is sort of a separate entity. (I thought it was great, but it's also probably the least popular of the five seasons, too.)

    I wish to warn you, without spoilage: season four will rip your heart out and leave you lying awake at night, in a warm puddle of your own social conscience, worrying about fictional characters. Oh god. I have never had my guts kicked that much by television in my life.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Oh look people.

    I finally own all 7 series of West Wing, got three out of four for Lost, and after seeing about 8 shows, thinking that I should look at Sopranos, as well as Outrageous Fortune (I hate picking up shows part way through, so was ignoring them because I missed the first season). I found BSG season 1 for $30 at the warehouse, and I know that I'll probably need to complete that set once I find the time to watch it.

    Adding other shows to the list is just going to confuse me! Lalalala I can't hear you.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Aaron Sorkin isn't fit to lick David Simon's boots. Just sayin'.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Munro,

    Watched one episode* with great interest but also with some bewilderment, as it was difficult to fully understand connections and back-stories. Do I really need to start with season one?

    Danielle answered that one - but it’s a feature of the style of ‘The Wire’ that the characters and connections unfold slowly and sometimes it’s not till several episodes later that a particular connection comes clear. If you have the time to take in several episodes at once that can be very rewarding. Also be aware that after series two I think, it was not produced in zone 4 format so you have to get creative about getting hold of the rest of the series.

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 418 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    On 'The Wire' vibe...does anyone know if we're going to get 'Generation Kill' out here? Or is that something I'll have to look elsewhere for?

    I found BSG season 1 for $30 at the warehouse, and I know that I'll probably need to complete that set once I find the time to watch it.

    Yes, you will. BSG is the only TV series of recent times I've decided I actually need to own, rather than just renting.

    I got the first half of series 4 for Christmas, and watched the series 4.5 webisodes on youtube, so I'm more or less caught up.

    Tip for anyone planning to watch the webisodes on youtube - DO NOT scroll down into the comments unless you like spoilers.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

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