Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

I’ve been on a beat reading binge lately. I do this every now and again. I think it started when I read an essay [.pdf] comparing Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and finally seeing the 2011 Walter Salles movie.

I then read a biography of Neal Cassady and Carolyn Cassady’s Off the Road and on and on. I’d really like to read this book about LuAnne Henderson – MaryLou in On the Road.

However the revelation this time was Big Sur… I thought I’d read it but I can’t have as it is just devastating. A term that sounds dramatic, but really I was so moved by Kerouac’s story. The enormity of it perhaps. There is a moment when Jack, feeling positive, takes a “huge deep Yogic breath” on the beach but instead of sea air is overcome with “a horror of an eternal condition of sick mortality…I see myself as doomed, pitiful

It’s worth a read


I have also been quietly working on a long-time project to be able to recite Ginsberg’s Howl. To this ended I follow @howltweeter on twitter which recites the poem endlessly in small chunks.

I have also been working on simply noticing

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Warts and all

Here is a photo of a random (I swear its not set up) pile of books in my room. I have many such stacks. I like this because it is NOT my top 10. It includes some of my most favourite books, but also those that reflect my mostly failed attempts at reading popular stuff, some about where I am at, a couple that were recommendations,  some that were life changing at the time but I now finds embarrassing.



Books on my spinning chair. In no particular order

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It is my birthday and coincidently I wonderful little handmade/hand drawn/hand painted book arrived for me from Sarah Laing.

My full list of inspirational people is/was

  • Tom Waits
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Sam Hunt
  • Jim Baxter
  • Janet Frame
  • Keri Hulme
  • Philip Clairmont
  • Colin McCahon
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Rita Angus

Iggy Pop was on the sidelines


Colin McCahon by Sarah Laing (2013)

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The Book as Object

Good news!!! (and not just shameless self-promotion)

Kilmog Press is back and with exciting plans for 2013. ALso STARCH Vol 2 is out

This might come as a surprise, indeed, also for some of the contributors themselves, but Kilmog Press has returned to publishing and has just this moment published STARCH: VOLUME TWO – 96 pages, hardback, hand sewn & stitched & bound, letterpress cover & titling, letterpress contents page : 18 contributors of poetry, short fiction, etc – Sarah Bainbridge, Iain Britton, Pauline Dawson, Bill Direen, Lynley Edmeades, Martin Edmond, David Eggleton, Henry Feltham, Roger Hickin, Mariana Isara, Hamish Keith, Jessica Le Bas, Maris O’Rourke, Bob Orr, Mark Pirie, Vaughan Rapatahana, Elizabeth Smither & Lani Wendt Young.

RRP $50.00 – For copies: kilmogpress@hotmail.com or Kilmog Press PO BOX 1562, Dunedin.”

You may note I am one of the contributors.

Kilmog books are such beautiful objects, which brings me to a conversation I had with the Editor and another bookish friend recently about e-books. I got a tablet for Christmas. I was wanting an e-reader but decided in the end the tablet would have more use and I hardly ever read outside (something to be corrected probably). I downloaded a few books on a topic I was studying but then I found myself at Scribes (separate post to come about THAT) buying real copies of the books. It seems I have a need to actually handle the book as object, to smell it (and this simply won’t do), to absorb it in a way the e-book doesn’t lend itself to. Also I realised that with e-books there will be no opportunity for second hand purchases and no inscriptions.

I have found reading research journal articles in the .pdf format really good though , so there are uses for my e-reader and I am working my way through Swann’s Way again.

I have friends who love the format, but then I love my bookshelves. which brings me finally to this

What is your ideal bookshelf – your 10 best? Photos are all over the internet of people photographing their top 10

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I recently picked up a clearance copy of Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon“. I like Hemingway  although I prefer his writing when less blustering and more sentimental. My favourite Hemingway book is “Islands in the Stream“, and I wonder if it was not published during his lifetime because it is such a tender book in places, as well as a great fishing/action/adventure yarn. One day I will visit Bimini although the hotel burnt down in 2006.

The photos in “Death in the Afternoon” are quite special, no matter your position on bull fighting. I feel they illustrate the horror of the sport as well as the glory. I particularly “like” the caption of one photo “Granero dead in the infirmary. Only two in the crowd are thinking about Granero. The others are all intent on how they will look in the photograph.

These photographs were in my mind when I happened to be in Wellington of the opening weekend of Michael Parekowhai’s “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” at Te Papa. I managed to have a few hours spare to really spend some time looking around and I also made a point of seeing Fiona Pardington’s Flora,Fauna at {Suite} Gallery which was truly wonderful.

I had read a lot on-line about Parekowhai’s pianos and bulls and was interested in their current incarnation after seeing photos of the Venice Biennale arrangements and the gift to Christchurch of a partially outdoor installation

Michael Parekowhai’s On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, Christchurch 2012

On Sunday afternoon, as I approached the long gallery at Te Papa I was disconcerted to hear a young voice singing Adele’s “Someone Like You” with piano accompaniment. Oh dear! but the cluster of bulls and pianos at one end of the gallery had such great impact, that I forgot about Adele for a minute.

Parekowhai installation at Te Papa

Another player soon took a seat at the red Steinway (He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: Story of a New Zealand river) and launched into a passionate rendition of….well I’m not sure really. I like to think it as Rachmaninov because 25 years ago I worked with a very very kiwi bloke kind  of guy who would sit at any available piano and very play amazing classical music – usually Rachmaninov – and this reminded me of Russell. All the while, a logo’d Te Papa person circled, taking photographs.

My reaction was very similar to that of Best of 3, who wrote about her experience beautifully.

I don’t think I have ever been so moved in a museum. There was something about the way that people’s individual reactions and responses built into a collective experience that just opened my heart. It made me realise just what power artists have, that they can make occasions like this for us. Parekowhai is quoted on the exhibition info panel as saying There is no object I could make … that could fill a room like sound can.”

yes I cried….it was so moving and I felt overcome by thoughts about of my last few years…life the universe and everything. It also reminded me of saying goodbye to McCahon’s Northland Panels at Te Papa when I left the North Island. I cried then too.

There was a small emotional death for me this August afternoon, with a powerful piano soundtrack played on a carved red piano and with 2 large blackened bulls as harbingers of something ominous. Like the photo in Hemingway’s book, I felt that only I am thinking about the future. The others are all intent on how they will look in the photograph.

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I was directed to this post by Cheryl Bernstein today about secondhand bookshops with the quote “A great secondhand bookshop is like a rift opened up in the fabric of time and space“. Like the author of the post I often find myself in second-hand books stores and other used book places and have come up with some wonderful finds; most recently a copy of Alan Mulgan’s Home (at the dump for 10c).

(Photo stolen from here)

I think I gather books because I am an owner not a reader as discussed here . “There is a growing distinction between the book reader and the book owner. The book reader just wants the experience of reading the book, and that person is a natural digital consumer: Instead of a disposable mass market book, they buy a digital book. The book owner wants to give, share and shelve books.”

One of the things I LOVE about second-hand books are the inscriptions. For example I bought a 2 volume copy of Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall ff the Roman Empire this week.

The set once belonged to WH Ellis, a Californian engineer. I wonder how it got to Dunedin? Google only produced this WH Ellis – probably not the same one.

I have books that were high school prizes and doubly inscribed books (below). I wonder how the e-book handles this???

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Washday – 2011

I have recently got my hands on a  copy of ‘Washday at the Pa’. This is the 2011 edition of Ans Westra’s photo essay originally taken in 1963 for the school journal. The exhibition is currently on at Suite Gallery and they have republished the photos with text by Mark Amery and additional 1998 photos of the Washday family revisited.

The original publication created much controversy

 “following protests by the Maori Women Welfare League Washday at the Pa [school journal] was controversially withdrawn from circulation by the Department of Education. The League condemned Westra’s depiction of the poor, rural Maori family living in sub-standard housing as untruthful and inaccurate. “

Interestingly the Welfare league has now withdrawn its objections.

There is a great interview with Ans Westra here [Podcast] from Radio NZ Nights with Bryan Crump

I guess this is a sort of cultural artifiact as well as an artistic one and I like to think (although I am possibly wrong) that we are mature enough now as a nation to see these photos in context. Also I’ve been thinking about women in the arts in NZ and how they had/have such a struggle and often were subject to undue criticism. Watch this space for more on that topic.

Get this book and/or see the exhibition – 26 October – 26 November 2011, Suite Gallery, Level 2, 147 Cuba Street

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