Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What I’m reading #79



Bill Manhire’s Selected Poems (VUP), $35. Amazing value – it’s a hardback of 160 pages. Nice cover – matches my copies of  his earlier, slimmer volumes The Elaboration (1972) and The Old Man’s Example (1990). It’s a portrait of Bill by Ralph Hotere. Doesn’t look much like him if you ask me, but then we’ve all changed a bit since 1971.

The sexual politics of pre-Treaty New Zealand were “quite a minefield”: Vincent O’Malley, a finalist in this year’s CLNZ awards, retells a Northland love story.

Blog comment of the day, on this silly column by George Monbiot which contains the sentence “But if ever there was a case for the precautionary principle, here it is.”:
There rarely is a valid case for the precautionary principle. Had the pernicious concept been around earlier in history, we would never have left the trees.
Want to see Julian Assange putting on the moves? You can! He has complained that showing this clip is an invasion of privacy. Seriously.

Naomi Wolf’s book Vagina has received a decliner from every reviewer I have read. When she spoke at the Auckland Writers’ Festival in 2001 I thought she was a narcissistic idiot and it seems many people now share my view, even the Guardian and New Statesman. Here, for example, is Laurie Penny in the latter. Quote unquote:
Then there’s the sudden five-page diversion to a women's rape shelter in Sierra Leone, plonked weirdly in the middle of the book like a vitamin pill on top of a cupcake. The women and men Wolf meets here, on a trip for western reporters organised in 2004, are not substantive figures in the book – she spends far longer interviewing a banker-turned-tantric-healer who specialises in massaging women to orgasm with special oils, flowers and incantations to welcome their inner goddess to a really great wank. The women in Sierra Leone feel like an afterthought, as they do in so many contemporary pseudo-feminist tracts, but they must be mentioned, even if that mention only draws into sharper focus the fact that the book’s field of vision rarely leaves upper Manhattan.
It’s always good to hear an arts graduate – especially an MA (Hons) in political science – on economics and real science. Former Green Party MP Sue Kedgley presents a novel concept of private property and argues for expensive food. I’d like to see her explain the former to a farmer – it is “our farmland”, apparently, not theirs – and the latter to anyone from Africa, India or China. Let the starving millions eat organic! It’s better for them.

Which country had the best athlete-to-medal ratios at the Paralympics and Olympics? A clue: it wasn’t China, not even Belarus.

Manglish: why we are lucky to have our alphabet.

The NZ bestseller list: I know I bang on about it, but the latest list has Nicky Pellegrino’s When in Rome at #8 – on the international fiction list, because the book was first published overseas. It was the same for Emily Perkins’s The Forrests. If Nicky was on the NZ fiction list she would be #1. Emily would probably be #2. I’m pleased for Brian Turner that he is rated as #1 on NZ fiction for Elemental – has a poetry book ever been #1 before? – but Nicky’s novel is selling vastly better. The bestseller list is very misleading, and it is high time that it included books by local authors who are lucky and talented enough to be published overseas. Nicky and Emily both live here; readers here buy their books. It is absurd that they are not counted as NZ bestsellers when they so clearly are. 

2 comments:

Linda Olsson said...

When I first arrived in New Zealand I couldn't understand why it was so hard to find the NZ books in bookstores. Inevitably, they were found in a dark corner far inside the store. In Sweden, where I come from we have to separate Swedish literature in stores because of the language issue. We do not, however, separate them on our best seller lists, where fiction is listed on one list, irrespective of where it was first published. I do think that this artificial separation distorts the picture completely, overvaluing as well as undervaluing NZ literature.

Stephen Stratford said...

I agree. The big Dymocks store in Auckland was I think the first to place NZ books alongside overseas ones - there was a small NZ stand at the front but in the main section you would see Lloyd Jones on the same shelf as Henry James. Quite rightly. And yes re the bestseller list - if it truly recorded sales of NZ authors, Nicky Pellegrino would be #1 on the fiction list and Emily Perkins would be #2. Probably wouldn't affect the non-fiction list. Does anyone know?