Saturday, April 25, 2015

What I’m reading #126

Vincent O’Sullivan’s greatest hits, chosen by him from 16 of his 18 collections so far, plus eight new poems. A hardback, it is a beautiful object – the cover painting is Whenua Tapu Hills (2014) by Karl Maughan and it wraps around to the back – and sells for only $40, making it the bargain of the year. I have no idea how VUP can do it at that price. The poems are, as ever, astonishing. The book was launched mid-April and went straight to #1 in the bestseller list for fiction this week.

In the same list, John Daniell’s debut novel The Fixer enters at #8. That wasn’t his number when he was a professional rugby player, but I don’t think he will complain. Nice for John to have a bestseller, nice for Upstart Press who published it – and also nice for me. It is the sixth (at least) fiction book in a row I have edited that has made the top ten. I am lucky to work with such good writers.

Canadian novelist and poet John Degen on 5 Seriously Dumb Myths About Copyright the Media Should Stop Repeating. Quote unquote:
Anti-copyright activists love to invoke the specter of “big content” in their relentless drive to weaken artists’ rights. They claim protections under copyright really only help the bottom lines of huge corporations who grab rights from working artists. As a working artist, I am concerned about my contract terms with large corporations, absolutely  but at least there is a contract. The existence of a contractual offer for my rights means my right of ownership is being acknowledged and respected. I sure don’t remember being offered a contract for the use of my work when it was pirated online.
Guess who profits the most from this ridiculously inaccurate and misleading line of anti-copyright reasoning  giant corporations who have built a business model on free content.

My favourite first sentence of any book is this from Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, published in 1768 (the last sentence is equally good but too saucy to quote here):

— They order, said I, this matter better in France —

Which is almost always true. But not when it comes to meetings. We all hate them – meetings, not the French – but oil-and-gasman Tim Newman says that meetings there are especially gruesome. Quote unquote:
An inability to answer a random, irrelevant, and often daft question in a French meeting will demonstrate that a speaker is “unprepared”, and thus possibly unsuitable for promotion.  Hence he or she must “prepare” by stuffing their presentation with dozens of slides containing table after table of raw data in Font 8 or smaller, which are preceded by five or more slides of “context” containing sentences such as “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” and “When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force.”  Given French presentations normally consist of the speaker reading the contents of a slide line by line, one after another, it’s no surprise to learn that meetings can run on for hours.
Accidental, suicide, homicide, heart-related, cancer: musicians’ deaths by genre. There is no entry for classical musicians, which is probably just as well. (Via Mick Hartley.)

Irish novelist John Banville tweets:
I don’t really have any interest in Jurassic World. If I want to go and see a bunch of dinosaurs, I can always attend an Aosdana meeting.
Aosdana is an association of Irish artists limited to 250 members and supported by the Arts Council of Ireland: “Membership is now open to architects and choreographers.” God it sounds dismal.

Terence Blacker on the Seven Ages of Authorhood. Quote unquote:
He is teaching creative writing, and so is she. It is not perfect, but they have to earn a living somehow.
On one occasion, they meet on a panel at a synopsis-writing seminar. Later, as they gossip listlessly about the decline of publishing, he wonders whether he has the energy to make a pass at her, while she works on an excuse to get away from him.
Julian Assange writes for Newsweek about How the Guardian milked Edward Snowden’s story. Quote unquote:
The Guardian is a curiously inward-looking beast. If any other institution tried to market its own experience of its own work nearly as persistently as The Guardian, it would surely be called out for institutional narcissism.
Julian Assange making an accusation of narcissism is like… Nope. Words fail me. Pot-kettle doesn’t begin to cover it.

Elizabeth Heritage for Booksellers NZ on Radio New Zealand’s coverage of books through reviews, interviews and readings. Quote unquote:
Marcus Greville of University Bookshop Otago agrees about the power of weekend radio. “I’ll often come into work to discover that a book that has been sitting in on our shelves unmolested for two months has suddenly sold out, and the first thought (and usually most accurate) is that it must have been on the radio over the weekend. I think National Radio reviews have a greater reach, in general, than print reviews; there’s something about the articulation of complex thoughts on the part of the author or reviewer, being able to detect the enthusiasm or excitement in a voice, or the frisson between the interviewer and author that can trump written reviews.”
So here is Donna Summer in 1983 with her 1979 song “On the Radio”:


Anonymous said...

To parrot the "Narcissitic Assange" line is beneath you. Assange, Manning, Snowden. Here, Eleanor Catton, Amanda Bailey. Always the individual being isolated and pinned with an agenda. Surely you're intelligent enough to recognise there is a massive power struggle between the global establishment and public dissidents and it is played out, one-sidedly (which your offhand comment highlights), in the public discourse. Parroting unsubstantiated attack lines does no one any service.

That said, a point to point comparison of the relative "narcissism" of the (appropriately named) Guardian media system v Assange would be interesting.

Natalie Burton said...

Oh please. Everyone who has worked with and been friends with him says he's a narcissist. It's not a political judgement. Have you read Andrew O'Hagan's book "Ghosting" about trying to work with the guy?