Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Murder in my heart for the judge

After the long Easter weekend chilling in the warmth of Waihi Beach, it’s back into reading for the NZ Post Book Awards, the glittering prize formerly known as the Montanas. The shortlist of 16 (chosen from 160+ entries) has already been chosen and will be announced on 22 June. The job now of us five judges is to re-read the finalists and prepare for the meeting when we decide the winners – I can’t tell you where and when, obviously, but it will be in a secret location somewhere, someday before the big announcement on 27 August.

It is hard work for us, but good work: the discussions are stimulating; at this stage all the books under discussion are fantastic (as are many of the books no longer under discussion); the other judges are experts in their fields and knowledgeable in several others; each of us can be persuasive and get the others to reconsider their judgements; and, as one of us said, amazed, after the first meeting “Everyone listens.”

As I re-read the books in the four categories – poetry, fiction, general non-fiction and illustrated non-fiction – one song keeps going through my mind. It is by Moby Grape, a band that is now largely forgotten but was a big deal in San Francisco in the late 60s. “Omaha”, “8:05”, “Changes”, “I Am Not Willing”, “Truly Fine Citizen” are probably the best-known. But the one that keeps going through my mind is “Murder in My Heart for the Judge” from their 1968 album Wow/Grape Jam.

There are few clips of Moby Grape performing live and none that I can find of this song. But here is – I don’t know what one calls these things, a visualisation? Anyway, someone with a lot of time on his hands has put some moving images to the original recording.

Play it loud.


Helena Handcart said...

I take it that you expect some grief from the non-winners, and from the non-shortlisted. Surely not.

Stephen Stratford said...

"Surely not."

Going by previous form - I have done this four times before (one Goodman Fielder Wattie and three Montanas)- there will be grief. Though not as much as I got when I was a judge for the food writers' guild book awards. Talk about vicious.

Helena Handcart said...

I see in the Sunday Star Times that CK Stead is calling for you to be sacked. He probably knows this song off by heart.

Stephen Stratford said...

Possibly he does now, Helena, but the last time I was at his house the only music I noticed was a set of Wagner LPs, something from the Ring cycle. (This was 20 years ago.) Nothing wrong with that - I have the same album myself - but CK is probably not a fan of Moby Grape. To be fair, the band is a bit of a specialist taste.

Dave Hillier said...

Moby Grape were briefly fantastic. Thanks for the reminder. Three guitarists, five singers and some great songs. I've read a bit about them - seems a classic 60s story of bad drugs and even worse management.

Peter Robert Jordan said...

Thank you Stephen and the judging panel.

I have read that the judging of the Fiction section was extremely hard and I appreciate that.

I take my hat off to you that you have managed to achieve such a difficult decision. Of course I am disappointed that my book was not in that decision, however we are blessed in New Zealand with great writers and I am sure you and your panel are quite justified in their choice.

However, that stated, I hope you enjoyed my book as much as the others and I pray you have a good year ahead.

Peter Jordan