This book is irritatingly mediocre with a side of sexism
Ferrante’s new book about writing is a journey through the fragments of experience.
Two big things happened while I was reading this book: the US elections and the Kaikoura earthquakes. They bashed my reading sideways. Suddenly, everything – even an esoteric discussion about the nature of literature, translated from Italian – was about politics and disaster.
Reviews of In the Supplementary Garden by Diana Bridge (Cold Hub Press, 2016), Fish Stories by Mary Cresswell (Canterbury University Press, 2015), Anatomize by Natasha Dennerstein (Norfolk Press, 2015), for Landfall Review Online
Read my reviews of In the Supplementary Garden by Diana Bridge (Cold Hub Press, 2016), Fish Stories by Mary Cresswell (Canterbury University Press, 2015), Anatomize by Natasha Dennerstein (Norfolk Press, 2015).
Review of Work / Sex, with Kate Holden, Leigh Hopkinson, Jodi Sh. Doff and Julie Hill, from WORD Christchurch, 2016
If Ivan E. Coyote did one of the best things a literary festival can do – broke my heart and then put it back together again made better – this session did another: forced me to examine my own unconscious bias and realise I was wrong.
Review of Marcus Elliott's interview with mortician and author Caitlin Doughty at WORD Christchurch, 2016
Death is an odd thing to be chipper about. LA-based mortician, ‘death positive’ advocate and YouTube star Caitlin Doughty is definitely chipper, though: she has that extreme chirpiness that I’m going to assume is compulsory for anyone living in Los Angeles.
Review of Joanna Norris' interview with Tara Moss at WORD Christchurch 2016
At the 2050 session yesterday about climate chaos, panellists spoke about the danger of going from denial to despair. I was thinking about that a lot as I watched author and feminist activist Tara Moss give a presentation on sexism in the media, politics and society.
For me, literary festivals are a massive intellectual high. I like to pour myself into them and demand stimulation. They fizz me up; I start bouncing around, talking very quickly, and gesticulating as energetically as I can (given that I am usually holding a bag, a laptop, a coffee and several books). I arrived at the Strangely Human session in a state of high excitement, keen to hear Paula Morris interview Michel Faber. And then something happened.
Bletchley Park – and the stories of the women who worked there during World War Two – is of keen personal interest to me. My Gran, Irene, was one of those women. She took the Official Secrets Act very seriously, and never told me much about it. So I jumped at the chance to read Tessa Dunlop’s book The Bletchley Girls and learn more.
Here we have a trio of historical novels that, with varying degrees of success, bring characters and environments from our past (real and imagined) to life: The Naturalist by Thom Conroy, Lives We Leave Behind by Maxine Alterio, and The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr.
I get it: books don’t just happen. A novel is a collection of words actively written by a person, it is a writer’s deliberate construction of images and tales, places and emotions. Plot, world-building, style and characterisation are the results of thousands of decisions made by an author, decisions that are weighed up with an editor and often revised before being stilled in print.
I know this, but I don’t want to be reminded. I want the act of reading to take me to an exclusive truth the author has created; I want to be lulled and excited by thoughts that my brain hasn’t experienced before. I want to be able to fall into the book’s world without seeing the scaffolding – the discarded false starts, the second thoughts, the mutterings of the author’s voice. As a publisher, I understand that those things all happen; as a reader, I want them to be cleared away before I arrive; I want the world of the novel to be fresh and whole.