Thursday, December 18, 2014

What I’m reading #121

At Tuesday Poem Helen McKinlay interviews Poet Laureate Vincent O’Sullivan. Quote unquote:
New Zealanders, for all our self-flattery about being independent and the rest of it, can be pretty timid souls, and to say anything too directly can rattle our assumptions about ourselves. We don’t like being uncomfortable, we don’t like being thrown into responsibility, hence a soothing political blandness, as we well know, immediately appeals to us. What I was getting at in that poem is that if we sign away our conceptions of good and evil, this can lead to a fairly colourless or deluding life. It doesn’t mean one has to embrace absolutes, but it does mean deciding where one’s boundaries reside. I dislike our easy ‘middle of the road’ sloppiness about certain issues because taking a considered stand isn’t always ‘nice’ or agreeable.

One of the Poet Laureate’s job requirements is to blog. Vincent generously invites guests to share the space. The latest guest is Emma Neale with four unpublished poems. Quote unquote:
These seem to me the kind of poems that begin with readers but end with partners, in their take on how things are, and how we talk of them. This is poetry in that ancient tradition of ‘speaking for us all’, of making scenes and events that we find are about ourselves all the time, even when they may at first move so confidently in that Rilkean dimension of ‘beauty and terror’. Good poems to end one year, and to begin another.

For anyone who ever wanted to punch Steve Braunias in the head, someone beat you to it in the Alhambra of blessed memory. Quote unquote:
His punch was fast and hard. I got a black eye. I thought it best to wear dark glasses the next day when I was a guest on Kim Hill’s radio show. “I don’t want listeners to see,” I explained.

An open letter to Russell Brand, about his recent megaphonic protest outside the Royal Bank of Scotland, from Jo Reeves who lives in Northern Ireland but works in the City. Quote unquote:
You turned up and weren’t allowed in. Big wow. You know what would have happened if a rabid capitalist had just turned up unannounced? They wouldn’t have been allowed in either. You know what I have in my pocket? A security pass. Unauthorised people aren’t allowed in. Obviously. That’s not a global conspiracy, Russell; it’s basic security. Breweries have security too, and that’s not because they’re conspiring to steal beer from the poor. And security really matters: banks are simply crawling with highly sensitive information. Letting you in because you’re a celebrity and You Demand Answers could in fact see the bank hauled in front of the FCA. That would be a scandal. Turning you away is not. I’m sorry, Russell, but it’s just not.
Your response to my complaint that a multimillionaire was causing my lunch to get cold was... well, frankly, it was to completely miss the point, choosing to talk about your millions instead of addressing the real issue, namely my fucking lunch.

Tina Shaw on how she self-published her terrific novel The Children’s Pond, which was, I think, the first self-published novel to make the NZ top ten bestsellers list. It debuted at #4. Quote unquote: 
These days, self-publishing has become almost respectable. I say ‘almost’ because there is still a wee stigma involved in publishing your own work. And I think that has actually come about because many self-published projects are not great on quality. So it’s understandable that Creative New Zealand is hesitant to fund such projects – even though it would be enormously helpful to the diversity of New Zealand literature if they did so. Funding for such projects would go some way to raising the level of independent publishing in general.

Brian Clearkin in Landfall Online reviews the second novel in Graeme Lay’s Captain Cook trilogy, James Cook’s New World. It is a model review: thoughtful, thorough and true to the book. Quote unquote:
Bernard Cornwell has set the bar at an Olympian height in the field of historical novels, and on first impression Graeme Lay’s work seems a little low-key in comparison. I would prefer to see this as an observation rather than a criticism, since readers will soon find themselves subtly drawn into Cook’s world as the newly promoted captain sets out to make his second historic and lasting contribution to cartography and exploration.
 Almost two and a half centuries later our concept of unexplored and uncharted portions of the globe is limited to a few undersea trenches. Even the moon is relatively familiar territory. Lay transports us back into Cook’s world where fact and fiction intertwine assisted by scientific ignorance coupled with earlier explorers’ exaggeration and imprecise navigation. Lay also captures Cook’s personal situation as an outsider amongst the scions of privilege who rule and control his world. His portrayal of the naturalist James Banks as a lascivious womanising rake is a colourful departure from that noble gentleman’s generally held public image – but quite plausible given the recorded activities of many of his peers.

Finally, Maurice Shadbolt’s Voices of Gallipoli has been translated into Chinese and now into Turkish. “Hats off to David Ling!” as my Gallipoli veteran grandfather would say. I have seen the Taiwan-published Chinese-language edition, which is the one in the middle of the photo below, and it is lovely:

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