Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sam Morgan tweets

Tweet of the month. Amazingly, this may be the real Sam Morgan, son of cat-hater Gareth Morgan:
Have been out hunting kittens all morning. Dad owes me $30.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What I’m reading #92

Heaps, actually. Am currently editing fiction – fortunately, it’s all crime fiction so is enjoyable – but here’s what else.

Books. Yes, books. John Carey’s biography of William Golding, Owen Marshall’s The Larnachs, Helen Heath’s poetry collection Graft, Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco and Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus. All highly recommended.

What I’m writing: a rave review of Maxine Alterio’s novel Lives We Leave Behind is in the works. Plus my new book – 16th, I think – nears completion. What’s two years when you’re having fun? Fortunately my publisher, AUP, is patient.

Elsewhere: Laurence Fearnley, one of my favourite novelists, has a new website about her writing and reading life. It’s all interesting and, I imagine, useful to any fiction writer. Or reader. Quote unquote:
Every time I give a public talk a couple of people are kind enough to thank me and then they mention that they intend to borrow my books from the library.
I love that. After Quote Unquote folded, I lost count of the teachers who told me how much they had loved the magazine and that they and their colleagues always read the school’s copy. Then they would ask, “Why did it fold?”

The two Buddle Findlay Sargeson fellows for 2013 are Hamish Clayton and Tanya Moir. Each gets five months in the Sargeson Centre flat and a $20,000 stipend. None of this comes from taxpayers so shaddap you face, libertarians.

Let’s stop aid for Africa, says Kenyan economist James Shikwati in Der Spiegel. Quote unquote:
Jobs with foreign aid organisations are, of course, quite popular, and they can be very selective in choosing the best people. When an aid organisation needs a driver, dozens apply for the job. And because it’s unacceptable that the aid worker’s chauffeur only speaks his own tribal language, an applicant is needed who also speaks English fluently – and, ideally, one who is also well mannered. So you end up with some African biochemist driving an aid worker around, distributing European food, and forcing local farmers out of their jobs.  
What if Dr Seuss Books Were Titled According to Their Subtexts?

A perpetual-motion argument.

Innumerate journalists have been making noise about food waste, here and overseas, and suggesting that it’s all the supermarkets’ fault. Let’s ask an economist, shall we?

An honest account of a product launch. Quote unquote:
Like most journalists everywhere, I am hungover.
Clementine Ford reads Esquire on Megan Fox and asks: is this the best worst celebrity interview ever? Quote unquote:
So, to recap: Fox is a camouflaged butterfly snowball cascading down the side of a mountain while also crisscrossing over a lake glistening beneath the light of the moon, which glows gently from her northern wintery skin.
How to goodbye depression. It’s to do with, how does one say, clenching your bottom. May not immediately sound convincing but it’s on Amazon so it must be true. Don’t miss the book description.

Making money from the arts: here is Gordon Rayner in the Daily Telegraph on subsidies to Welsh writers. The heading says it all: “Taxpayers fund millions of pounds in grants to keep Welsh authors writing books no one reads”. Quote unquote:
Welsh authors can apply for grants of up to £10,000 to work on any kind of book, and they keep the money even if their work is never published. Some of the money is used to fund advances for Welsh “celebrities” to write their memoirs, even though there is virtually no public appetite for many of the books.
On this subject, yesterday I went to Auckland for a three-hour meeting with Creative NZ to decide some Very Important Things to do with funding of New Zealand books. I like working with Creative NZ. The people there are smart, professional and pleasant – and they pay. It’s a rigorous process, too, which all involved with take deadly seriously – and unlike Wales commercial viability is a factor. I learn a lot from these meetings – what sells overseas, what gets translated, and how local sales figures are so often much higher/lower than I’d have thought. Comment of the day came when we were discussing one well-intentioned non-fiction candidate, and a panel member said, “Is that a book, now? Shouldn’t it be a website or a blog?” Or perhaps an app. There will be a lot more of this.

The Atlantic discusses how to make money from music. Four words: it’s all about iTunes. As one earner, “avant-garde cellist” Zoe Keating, says, streaming is pitiful.

So here are the Bee Gees in 1997 with “Islands in the Stream”, a beautifully constructed song. That’s the late Maurice on the left, rocking the Hasidic look; the late Robin in the centre; and sole survivor Barry on the right. Also contains one of my favourite guitar solos: a three-note phrase, played six times. How punk is that?


Monitors: Gail D’Arcy, Bill Manhire, Penny Wise

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The AUP anthology of New Zealand literature #3

My deep thoughts on the book from last month are here, in case you missed them, and Mark Broatch’s initial response is here. In the latest magazine reviews, Paul Little in North & South likes it (not online) as does Hugh Roberts in the Listener (teaser here) in, I think, the 5 January issue. If my inbox is any indication, the Roberts review has ruffled feathers, particularly his comment that while drama is “woefully under-represented [. . .] you’d have to include some frankly bad plays to tell that story with any completeness”.   

A playwright agrees with me that it would have been better if the editors had omitted drama entirely “rather than their contemptuous selection from five playwrights only”. A poet replies that the idea of including bad work is “academic stupidity” and suggests that “the fiction, non-fiction and poetry ‘stories’ are therefore incomplete without a lot of even ghastlier examples than Stafford and Williams have mustered”. Ouch.

This one will run and run. I hear – this is a sadly rare example of literary gossip at QUQ – that the next issue of the Listener will have a letter to the editor from Playmarket grizzling along these lines. Scorchio!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Promises, promises

Upcoming going forward delivering some more strategically aligned key drivers to strengthen focus on the literary sector value-chain: more material from Quote Unquote the magazine; serious advice for authors on dodgy e-book contracts, based on a recent example where I saved a local writer from a major rip-off; what I’m reading; and, I’m afraid, what CK Stead quite rightly dismisses as “literary gossip”.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The singular they

I have always thought this one of the most useful features of English, but pedants and ignoramuses alike object to it. (David Cohen will be the first to comment here, closely followed by Steve Whitehouse, neither of whom is an ignoramus: all others are welcome to weigh in.) The Economist, whose Style Guide is near-essential for any writing professional, has declared itself to be in my corner, on the grounds that the singular they is the “most convenient solution”. Yes: convenience rules. Quote unquote:
If singular they has deep historical precedent, then it is dispositive on the sub-question of what is traditionally correct.[…] Putting the referent in the plural – “All the students aced their projects” – nixes the troublesome (grammatically singular but semantically plural) each student. 
Read on. You know you want to.

I first heard the singular they on The Archers when I was 12. Someone somewhere in Ambridge had done something wrong and the speaker growled, “When I find out who it was, they’ll be sorry.” Which neatly avoided ascribing a sex to the offender. How useful, how convenient, I thought then and I still do. Avoids all that “he or she” nonsense which the Economist rightly condemns as “ugly and awkward”.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Waikato Times letter of the month

This occasional series gets off to a good start for 2013. Punctuation is as printed in this morning’s newspaper. Happy new year to you all.
Space technology awaited
About 5,880,000,000,000 miles in one light year of travel in space, the infinite journey of travel, not millions but, billions of miles will take lifetimes of space travel at the speed of light. Flight control is the next technology delaying the expansion of spacecraft expeditions. Sky-scraping speeds are attainable, but flight control requires technology not yet developed but impossible without it. No inter-space journeys can be started without revolutionary flight-control development.
Space engineering technology to develop a flying saucer-shaped craft that can travel at speeds unimaginable are theoretically, now possible. The spacecraft design, eg, like a flying saucer is the decisive challenge.
Many UFO sightings can be put down to spacecraft experimentations. Example: some of the experiments in the development of the Concord test flights for wing icing took place in the hot desert of Morocco, but you would think that wing-icing would be trialled in colder climates. A practice not commonly known.
The same thinking on UFO sightings. Test flights are not made public for self-explanatory reasons and are recorded as flying objects at high speeds – just like the Concord test flight of the 1960-70 flight.