Sunday, December 30, 2012

What I’m reading #91

Just back from five days on a high-country sheep station (Lake Heron, a lovely place and totally recommended to anyone looking for a terrifying 4WD drive across river beds), just a range away from the setting of Mona Anderson’s A River Rules My Life. Yes, that is us above.

A Financial Times profile of German chancellor Angela Merkel. Quote unquote:
She went into politics, she says, because she was convinced that eastern Germany needed more people in parliament who had never been politically active.
Toby Manhire in the Listener outs Alan Bollard, former governor of the Reserve Bank, as a novelist. The Rough Mechanical: the man who could is available as a download from Amazon. Stephen Franks likes it. So do I, having read it in manuscript a few years ago: when I met Alan subsequently I badgered him to publish it, so I hope I may claim a small degree of credit for its e-appearance. The protagonist is closely based on the New Zealand-born economist Bill Phillips, deviser of the Phillips curve which traces the relationship between inflation and unemployment. Some say that if Phillips had lived (he died at 60 in 1975) he might have won the Nobel for economics. Be that as it may, it’s quite a feat to make economics interesting, and even more so to make engrossing fiction out of it.

Lunch with Les Murray. He likes Greek food, not so much the wine. And his new book is a must-buy. I spent a couple of hours with him a few years ago as his minder. Best job I ever had. (h/t Bill Manhire)

Ten vids of great jazz performances: Holiday, Brubeck, Baker, Ellington, Reinhardt, Coltrane, Davis, Monk, Evans, and Mingus with Dolphy.  

Philip Matthews on hope in Christchurch, plus a diary of the year. Quote unquote:
An official earthquake memorial, as outlined in the blueprint, is still years away, but local artist Pete Majendie took the initiative and presented a more spontaneous and low-budget one. He collected 185 chairs, one for each of the dead, painted them white, and put them in rows on the grounds of the Oxford Tce Baptist Church.
You could read it either of two ways. Either the chairs had been recently vacated by the 185 people who lost their lives last year or the empty chairs waited for the people to return, perhaps in a kind of general resurrection of the dead. Or, as Majendie said, you could simply sit in one of the chairs and contemplate.
The poor will always be with us. Let them see trees. From the same source, why recycling paper doesn’t work.

The soul/gospel singer Fontella Bass died on Boxing Day. She is best known for “Rescue Me”, a 1965 hit which she co-wrote and fought for decades to be paid for. Here she is with Lyle Lovett – yes, Lyle Lovett, because country and soul are a natural fit – performing a sparkling version of “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing”:

A wonderful piece about wood carving. David Esterly was engaged to recreate a work by Grinling Gibbons destroyed in the 1986 fire at Hampton Court, and wrote a book about the process. When in London I always visit St James Picadilly which has some of his finest work: see here for photos. It is astonishing. (h/t Grahame Sydney)

Dear diary: a review of Ruth Winstone’s anthology of 20th-century political diaries. Quote unquote:
Beatrice Webb, a founder of the London School of Economics and the Fabian Society, and married to a Labour MP, mused in 1922 on whether when English children were “dying from lack of milk”, one should extend “the charitable impulse” to Russian and Chinese children who, if saved this year, might anyway die next. Besides, she continued, there was “the larger question of whether those races are desirable inhabitants” and “obviously” one wouldn’t “spend one’s available income” on “a Central African negro”.
A brilliant crime novel, Gun Machine by Warren Ellis, published on 1 January 2013 by Mulholland (in New Zealand, it’s Hachette). Fantastic premise: minutes after his partner is killed beside him a New York cop finds an apartment full of guns, nothing but guns, arranged on the walls and floor in rows and spirals. Turns out that each one is connected to an unsolved murder – and then it gets really weird, in a First Nation way. Fast, funny and inventive, with great characters. I hope it’s the start of a series.

So here is Warren Ellis with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds performing “The Weeping Song” at Glastonbury in, probably, 2009. That’s Ellis on violin and beard:

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