With the prospect of a stormy weekend ahead of me I decided it was the perfect time to delve into three delightfully short books I recently received from Bridget Williams Books. The predicted storm never really materialised but it still provided me with the perfect excuse to read these small gems from the BWB Texts series.
Creeks and Kitchens: A Childhood Memoir by Maurice Gee, ISBN 9781927277430, RRP $14.99
A wonderfully evocative short exploration of Gee’s West Auckland childhood and family, as well as the inspiration behind much of his writing. Being a child of the “Under the Mountain” generation I particularly liked that he talks about where the ideas for Under the Mountain came from, and about children’s books and writing being truthful and hopeful but also containing “hard things”. Creeks and Kitchens also reads as a slice of social history, an elegy to 1930′s and 40′s New Zealand where life was necessarily rooted in the land and the water, and at once shiningly bright and disturbingly dark. The creek and the kitchen.
Paul Callaghan: Luminous Moments, Foreword by Catherine Callaghan, ISBN 9781927277492, RRP $14.99
A collection of speeches, essays and interviews with Paul Callaghan, one of New Zealand’s best scientists, who passed away in 2012. His gift was being able to communicate what he knew in a human and truly inspirational way, and Luminous Moments is both genuinely enlightening and personally moving.
But science is not ultimately about the individuals; it’s about the methodology. It’s about the requirement of evidence and consisstency, a process in which the chaff is spearated from the wheat. Through the winnowing process, truth gradually emerges.
Thorndon: Wellington and Home, My Katherine Mansfield Project by Kirsty Gunn, ISBN 9781927277447, RRP $14.99
In 2009 New Zealand (and English and Scottish?) writer Kirsty Gunn returned home to Wellington to be the Randell Cottage New Zealand Writer in Residence in 2009. This text is her project from that experience, a mix of essay, memoir, fiction, history and meditation. It has a wonderful cyclical feeling about it, especially when you consider this “notebook” strongly echo the notebooks of Gunn’s subject, Katherine Mansfield. What better place to explore the nature of “home” and Mansfield’s relationship to it than Wellington? As New Zealanders we often have this extremely complex relationship with our own country and the rest of the world, at one and the same time we want to bring it all closer and push it away. Mansfield’s writing was always about the microcosm vs the macrocosm (she wrote a story called The Doll’s House for goodness sakes), which is what New Zealand does to us, and Gunn delves into similar territory.