07 May 2013

My April Book Watch Column For The New Zealand Herald

Here is my second "Book Watch" column from the NZ Herald, published in the Herald on Sunday on 28 April. The first three reviews were used, but one of the advantages of reprinting the column here is that I can include all four!

My first column is also available on Books in the Trees.

Book Watch Column 28 April 2013

Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, by Shehan Karunatilaka (Vintage, 2012) - see http://www.amazon.com/Chinaman-Shehan-Karunatilaka/dp/0099555689 (US $9.99 Kindle ebook; also available in paperback and hardback)

Shehan Karunatilaka, who is a guest at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival 2013, studied at Massey University. Perhaps this is why this entertaining picaresque about the greatest and least recognized Sri Lankan cricketer, Pradeep Mathew, a Tamil spinner whose imaginary exploits often echo the real exploits of Muttiah Muralidaran, is full of references to New Zealand – from the expected (Hadlee, the Crowes, Dipak Patel) to the less expected (Anchor Milk). And the denouement of the book takes place in and around Whanganui!

This novel weaves a rich tapestry of cricket, politics, corruption, the Sri Lankan civil war, and a dogged journalist with a dodgy liver determined to track his elusive quarry down. Highly recommended.

PS: Shehan Karunatilaka is a guest at this year's Auckland Writers & Readers Festival - something I didn't know when I started writing the review!

Amigas, by Elena Bossi and Penelope Todd, published by Rosa Mira Books (2012) – see http://rosamirabooks.com/books/index.html#Amigas (US $10.00 ebook)

Argentine writer Elena Bossi and New Zealand writer Penelope Todd wrote this bilingual novel (that is to say, the novel exists in complementary but not identical English- and Spanish-language versions within one ebook) after meeting at the University of Iowa Writing Programme in 2007 - and it's an interesting and enjoyable novel, though sad at times. It follows the chance meeting of two teenage girls, one from New Zealand and one from Argentina, at Rome Airport in 1969; their developing friendship, in person and then by letter; and the threat that hangs over that friendship. To say any more would be to enter spoiler territory – check it out for yourself!

Enter Night: Metallica: the Biography, by Mick Wall (Orion, 2011) - see http://www.amazon.com/Enter-Night-A-Biography-Metallica/dp/B007K4FIGA/ (NZ $29.99 paperback)

Mick Wall's biography of Metallica is very strong on their early years as progenitors of thrash metal, and on the musical and personal significance of bassist Cliff Burton, killed in a bus crash in 1987. But as the years and the albums go by, the book becomes less and less informative. There's a lot more to be gleaned about their struggles as adults from the excellent documentary Some Kind Of Monster than there is from Enter Night. All the same, for its eyewitness account of 1980s Metallica, this is good reading for all Metallica fans.

Names: Poems, by Marilyn Hacker (Norton, 2010) - see http://www.amazon.com/Names-Poems-Marilyn-Hacker/dp/039333967X/ (US $23.95 hardback, 11.66 paperback)

Marilyn Hacker is a distinguished American poet whose work I had not previously read. Contrary to my perception of her as a “difficult” poet, and though many of the poems in this collection are long, I found them to be moving, engaging, beautifully written and full of meaning. There is a sureness of voice which I enjoyed, but without the dogmatism that can be its shadow. These poems were a very pleasant surprise to me, and are worth the attention of any poetry lover.

Tim Jones is a Wellington author, poet and editor. His latest book is poetry collection Men Briefly Explained. Find out more at http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.co.nz/


Kay said...

Thanks for these reviews. I'm particularly interested in the Marilyn Hacker poems as I have enjoyed the works of her former husband and still good friend, SF writer and English professor Samuel Delany. His autobiography tells how he and Marilyn ran away to be married in a different state because they were young and of different races. At that time only two states in the USA permitted mixed race marriages.

Kathleen Jones said...

Haven't read Marilyn Hacker, for much the same reasons you mention. But maybe now I'll give her a try.