Friday, September 20, 2013

What I’m reading #100

Arts activist and Waikato Times columnist Joshua Drummond calls on the Hamilton City Council to save the Meteor theatre, “a Hamilton treasure that we’re at serious risk of losing forever” because the council charges exorbitant rent to use it, so it is seldom used. Which makes the council think that it is unwanted. Also it:
remains listed as a potential asset for sale in the 10 Year District Plan. In an exquisite irony, all this happened after HCC released the Arts Agenda, a lofty, aspirational document with the motto “Creativity at every turn: Hamilton, a city that celebrates the Arts”.
Like hell it does.

My former Metro colleague William Chen, magazine designer to the stars, reveals the secrets of Sarawak Laksa paste. Trust him – he is from Sarawak. He also recommends a new Vietnamese restaurant in Surrey Crescent discovered by his Aunty Jenny, who – trust me – knows more about Vietnamese food than pretty much anyone this side of Hanoi.

This is late to the blog but still pertinent: the text of the speech by Sandy Grant, chair of Copyright Agency Australia (their equivalent of Copyright Licensing NZ) and CEO of publisher Hardie Grant, to the Publishers Association of New Zealand, on copyright and the book trade in general. He has a crack at Amazon:
Last week only two of Amazon’s top 20 e-books were priced over $5 – and 16 of the 20 were either $1.99 or free. My company were recently approached by Amazon who offered us a great Christmas promotion – our title would be on their front page and in return we just had to give them a 90% discount off their price – yes that is right – 90% for Amazon, 10% to be shared between the author and publisher.
He also takes on Apple, of course. It’s all great stuff, very robust (“Trip Advisor is a pile of shit recently judged by an English court to be content mainly created by hotel owners and their friends”) in the best Aussie tradition. Quote unquote:
I am not sure the e-book is going to sweep us away. I just had a fortnight in New York and did dozens of subway trips and undertook an e-book survey. Books were still winning – 10 to 1 – and of the e-users they were universally older men. Kids use their phones all the time, but they were still reading print books. There is a strong demand for e-books but isn’t simply generational and we’ll be wiped out when the current kids grow up. They are the Harry Potter generation or Twilight. We’ve just sold one million Billy B Brown books to 8–10 year olds in twelve months. So our challenge is to sustain their interest and to give them things they’ll be proud to collect and have on their shelves.
I doubt it will include some of the average books – produced on shit paper, overhyped that were such a big part of our business for twenty or more years.
Matthew Green on the benefits of coffee. Quote unquote:
Remember — until the mid-seventeenth century, most people in England were either slightly — or very — drunk all of the time. Drink London’s fetid river water at your own peril; most people wisely favoured watered-down ale or beer (“small beer”). The arrival of coffee, then, triggered a dawn of sobriety that laid the foundations for truly spectacular economic growth in the decades that followed as people thought clearly for the first time. The stock exchange, insurance industry, and auctioneering: all burst into life in 17th-century coffeehouses — in Jonathan’s, Lloyd’s, and Garraway’s — spawning the credit, security, and markets that facilitated the dramatic expansion of Britain’s network of global trade in Asia, Africa and America.
David Thompson on a coffee-related outrage, in which a Guardian contributor tries to order “a venti, white chocolate mocha without the whip cream” but the Starbucks counterperson struggles to spell her first name, Icess. As does Microsoft Word’s spellcheck. Quote unquote:
Sometimes the endless quest for name validation, even in my own Word document, was exhausting.
From the Sunday Star-Times vaults, former QUQ contributors Mark Broatch (now deputy editor of the Listener) and Rob O’Neill (now elsewhere) interview Chad Taylor in 2009 about his excellent novel The Church of John Coltrane, which features the same protagonist, Robert Marling, as his 1994 novel Heaven. Quote unquote on being an expat:
Being away helps me to write. I’m a homebody. I like the security of belonging but I’ve never had that, really. Wish I did, but that's just how things have worked out. Travelling forces me to think. Distance gives you licence to push things further. Which is why Robert Marling goes away – he just has to move.
Update, exclusive to QUQ: Chad Taylor is no longer an expat. He lives an hour’s drive from me, on the coast: east or west, I’m not saying. Here he is interviewing Tama Janowitz about the movie of her short-story collection Slaves of New York in, I guess, 1989. Quote unquote:
“I’m reading Joe Orton and some Pinter and Sam Shepherd and Beckett. And I like George Orwell and Nabokov and Saul Bellow. It depends on what style I need. I read Marquez for his style. I read a lot of true crime books. And I like to read News Of The World.”
News Of The World—that’s the classy one, isn’t it?
“It’s a little different over here. It has a lot at stories about Siamese twins and women impregnated by aliens.”
Is that a source of ideas?
“It makes you kind of ashamed, because if those things aren’t true then somebody out there has a fantastic imagination. If they are true then all the better. If they are true, then why bother to write anything at all?”

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