Friday, May 27, 2016

In praise of: Auckland University Press

I was surprised, talking to some authors yesterday, that they didn’t know about Auckland University Press’s big international win. I shouldn’t have been: authors often don’t have a clue about what’s happening in publishing. So here is the news: Auckland University Press won big-time at the London Book Fair.

The London Book Fair is a very big deal, one of the biggest of the very big international book fairs, and these awards are run in association with the UK Publishers Association. So it’s the heavyweight division. AUP won in its category, Academic and Professional Publisher, beating shortlisted publishers from China (Higher Education Press) and Argentina (Teseo). Again, I shouldn’t have been surprised – AUP is a fantastically good publisher – but it is tiny compared to most others in its category. The full report from the LBF is here.

AUP’s Sam Elworthy said: “At the London Book Fair, you’re surrounded by thousands of publishers from around the world – big to small, trade to education, Africa to America. In the midst of all that great work going on, it’s humbling to have our work at Auckland University Press recognised by the international publishing community. Getting back up the morning after, finding publishers around the world excited about co-editions of books like Robyn Toomath’s Fat Science and Warren Moran’s New Zealand Wine, you realise again that we can play a full part in the international life of the mind from our small islands.”

Next month AUP will publish CK Stead’s sixth (by my count) collection of literary criticism, essays, interviews etc, Shelf Life, a sequel of sorts to 2008’s Book Self (I am particularly fond of that one because I am listed three times in the index). I spent some happy hours on the sofa with Shelf Life over the last few days and found it to be, much like the author himself, very congenial company: alert, intelligent, amusing, often surprising, never boring. There is also, if you look carefully, a lot of practical advice for writers. But.

But there is one piece that disappoints. It is not that “Some Railway Journeys in NZ Literature”, a paper presented at a conference in Italy, has the least promising title possible. It is not that the paper is as dismal as its title – it isn’t at all. What disappoints is that CK makes no mention of Peter Cape’s classic “Taumarunui on the Main Trunk Line”. All together now:

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