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Archive for May, 2012

Competing with Kathy

By Scott Hamilton

Book festivals will always be poor relations to gatherings of film and music lovers. It takes about ninety minutes to watch a film, and half an hour or so to see a band, but books can’t be consumed at such speed. Where film buffs and music fans use their festivals to watch movies and sing along to bands, gatherings of bibliophiles are necessarily dominated by talk about books.

Authors are accustomed to working in the cluttered solitude of their studies, and to expressing themselves through a pen or a keyboard, but at a book festival they are forced onto a stage, handed a mike, and asked to become, for an hour or so at a time, raconteurs, comics, and lecturers. Because some of the best scribblers are indifferent talkers, and some wretched writers do a good stand-up act or give a good lecture, festivals tend to offer a somewhat distorted picture of the literary world.

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Making Heavy Weather of the Rena

“Black Tide: The Story Behind the Rena Disaster”
By John Julian. Hodder Moa. (2012.) $40

Review by Alison McCulloch

Oil is still washing up along the Bay of Plenty’s beaches. Head out near my place at low tide without jandals and you’re likely to come back with black splotches decorating the soles of your feet. Sure, they’re not the big stinking oil patties of last October, but these freckles of tar make it clear that although it’s been more than six months since the Rena hit the rocks on 5 October 2011, the oil is still out there. And no one really wants to know about it anymore.

As a Tauranga resident who took an active role in the Rena clean-up, I was eager to read “Black Tide”, John Julian’s new book about the wreck. According to its subtitle, the book tells “The story behind the Rena disaster”. But actually, it only tells part of that story. The focus of “Black Tide” is primarily off shore, on shipwrecks and salvage operations and the men of the sea – the mariners and salvors – for whom Julian clearly has both close connections and the highest regard. Read more »

Review: Beastly Things by Donna Leon

Beastly Things by Donna Leon (Random House 2012)

Review by Ruth Brassington

Leon’s crime writing discloses Venice in all her glory – and gory – as we wander with Police Commissioner Guido Brunetti through myriad alleys and canals in search of clues. Beastly Things populates this labyrinth with a gentle man, an amoral woman, a wronged woman, an innocent child and corrupt officials against a backdrop of politics, corruption, prejudice, societal changes and family life – a family you feel you’d like to know. Not all the foul deeds take place in Venice; the double entendre title refers to happenings in a slaughterhouse 20 km away where “It’s not a nice place: they kill animals and cut them up”.
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