Hamilton Book Month 2014 – Good Reads Panel

March is Hamilton Book Month for 2014! And this year I’m taking part in the Good Reads Panel. Here’s a bit about what that is going to entail:

A lively panel chaired by award winning breakfast radio presenter Mark Bunting will speak on “What have you been reading lately? What’s new and coming to us in the next six months?”

Whare Tapere Iti
Academy of Performing Arts (via Gate 1 or 2B)
Waikato University
Thursday 13 March
6.30pm

So I, along with others, will be blathering on about books. Come along, it’s free and will be fun. This is my first time being part of a panel discussion, so be gentle with me! :)

 

The Luminaries, or How Much I Hate Victorian Literature

Before starting it’s important to be clear that this is not a review of The Luminaries. The Luminaries is extremely well written and I can have no criticism of it in that respect that would be worth a jot. Just re-read that last sentence and it’s clear why.

But here’s the thing: I got no enjoyment reading it. I so wanted to love it and I so wanted to be all OH EM GEE RAVY DAVY GRAVY about it but OH EM GEE the reading was a chore. Seriously, I do NOT expect to feel about my reading the same way I feel about vacuuming, and I do not mean like I feel when I see that video of the cat on the Roomba.

It was like vacuuming a house of infinite rooms, every time I thought I’d got to the end of the hallway there’s another room! And another! And another! Ad infinitum.

It’s my own fault. Despite it being a Booker Prize winner (almost guaranteeing my undying devotion because I AM SNOB), despite it being a New Zealand author (Kiwis represent!), there are two words associated with The Luminaries that should have instantly seen me politely clapping from the sidelines but not actually getting involved.

Victorian. Literature.

It’s enough to send a chill down one’s spine.

18th century literature? Love it. Regency lit (Austen, et al)? A measured fan. Victorian erotica? Hilariously tacky, juvenile and often disturbing. Serious Victorian lit, a la Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Trollope, Gaskell… sorry, I snoozed off for a moment there.

Basically I find it tedious and way too self-important, and, ironically, verbose. As with everything, there are exceptions – Thackeray and Stoker – but in general what you find is the literary equivalent of the Mona Lisa reduced to a paint-by-numbers version. Greatness, ruined.

William Makepeace Thackeray photo

This man is a comic genius.

The mysteries are the worst because the “ghostly vision” always turns out to be someone sleep walking and the bad guys are naughty foreigners trying to steal the treasure. They’re like every plot EVER of Scooby Doo.

So my problem with The Luminaries is no matter how well it is written, no matter how much of a “pastiche” it is, no matter how brilliantly it managed to take the Vic Lit format and turn it on its head, by the time it got to that point I was staring at nothing and nodding slightly.

The Luminaries cover picture

It does have a fantastic cover though.

Do I think people should read it? Absolutely, if only to make up your own mind. Do I think it’s an important contribution to books in general and New Zealand books in specific? Yes, there is NO doubt. Did it deserve The Booker Prize? Yes, because they don’t judge it on my taste. Am I going to read other books by Eleanor Catton? Yes, absolutely, and keen to get my hands on a copy of The Rehearsal actually.

But The Luminaries will always remain a big, black hole in my reading life.

It’s important to support minority interests… like rugby

Yet again it amazes me how when it comes to hugely popular and privately-supported sports event the public purse can always be relied upon to somehow find that extra $1,000,000 or so, but when it comes to hugely popular and privately-supported cultural events the public purse can’t find $30,000.

When sport is a success we fall over ourselves trying to give it money but when culture is a success we tell it to stand on its own two feet.

Seriously, it’s hard to believe that the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival only got $50,000 to start with. After all, it’s only the equivalent of 5 second rate All Black wedding photos sold to Women’s Day.

Some days I think this is the better option:

 

BookieMonster writes: The Importance of Being Online: Ten top tips for having an online presence.

This week I was excited to be asked to write a feature article for the Booksellers NZ’s email newsletter. I thought I’d let booksellers know some of my tips for creating an online presence (I know, I should use “brand” but I just can’t, ok?) – have a read and let me know if I got it right!  The Importance of Being Online: Ten top tips for having an online presence | Booksellers NZ.

Media statement – the passing of Bryce Courtenay

From Penguin Australia.

It is with sadness Penguin Group (Australia) wish to advise that Bryce Courtenay AM passed away peacefully at 11:30pm on Thursday 22 November in Canberra with his wife Christine, his family and his beloved pets Tim, the dog, and Cardamon, the Burmese cat by his side. He was 79.

Christine Courtenay said this morning, “We’d like to thank all of Bryce’s family and friends and all of his fans around the world for their love and support for me and his family as he wrote the final chapter of hisextraordinary life. And may we make a request for privacy as we cherish his memory.”

Gabrielle Coyne, Chief Executive Officer, Penguin Group (Australia) said, “It has been our great privilege to be Bryce’s publisher for the past 15 years. We, as well as his many fans will forever miss Bryce’s indomitable spirit, his energy and his commitment to storytelling.”

Bob Sessions, Bryce Courtenay’s long standing Publisher at Penguin said, “Bryce took up writing in his fifties, after a successful career in advertising. His output and his professionalism made him a pleasure to work with, and I’m happy to say he became a good friend, referring to me as ‘Uncle Bob’, even when we were robustly negotiating the next book contract. He was a born storyteller, and I would tell him he was a ‘latter-day Charles Dickens’, with his strong and complex plots, larger-than-life characters, and his ability to appeal to a large number of readers.

“Virtually each year for the last 15 years, I have worked with Bryce on a new novel. He would write a 600 page book in around six months, year in, year out. To achieve that feat he used what he called ‘bum glue’, sometimes writing for more than 12 hours a day. He brought to writing his books the same determination and dedication he showed in the more than 40 marathons he ran, most of them when he was well over 50. Not to have a new Bryce Courtenay novel to work on will leave a hole in my publishing life. Not to have
Bryce Courtenay in my life, will be to miss the presence of a very special friend.”

The last word belongs to Bryce himself. In a moving epilogue in his final book, Bryce said to readers “It’s been a privilege to write for you and to have you accept me as a storyteller in your lives. Now, as my story draws to an end, may I say only, ‘Thank you. You have been simply wonderful.’