I read this in my self-proclaimed New Zealand November, 2015. I saw the movie based on the film a few years ago but only have a vague memory of it.
ThI read this in my self-proclaimed New Zealand November, 2015. I saw the movie based on the film a few years ago but only have a vague memory of it.
The book comes from the perspective of Rawiri, the uncle of the girl Kahu. It is a very readable intertwining story of the modern day characters with the mythology of the gods of New Zealand and the ancient whales within their own societies and rituals. Whereas Once Were Warriors shows the Maori on the margins and struggling with poverty and violence, this novel takes a much more positive approach. The Maori in this novel are active in teaching their native languages and passing down traditions. What once was in danger of being lost - such as the ability to communicate with whales - looks like it might be preserved, if the Maori are willing to change with the times.
Unexpectedly, there is a small diversion where the narrator travels to Australia and then to Papua New Guinea before embracing his Maori identity. This was great for me in my year of reading Oceania because he talks about the differences between the three countries and the treatment of the native populations. In particular that the PNG tribal groups had to live "one thousand year in one lifetime" because of the rate of change in technology and culture....more
I didn't seek this out, but it was in the New Zealand section of my academic library (all literature is shelved first by author origin) and it was shoI didn't seek this out, but it was in the New Zealand section of my academic library (all literature is shelved first by author origin) and it was short so I brought it home for New Zealand November. I don't have a lot to say about it, it was a play that seemed like it would be confusing on stage. One character is sometimes himself, sometimes possessed and does horrible things (so he says) and sometimes embodying his grandfather who taught him about the moon. But in the end he is not the bad guy....
It does seem to have a perspective of New Zealand that is sinister and oppressing.
"We're all prisoners, locked in by those mountains. Even the sky's an enemy. If you try and escape, the stars fall outta the sky like bombs. The wind pushes you face down in the dirt and strips you bare. People go crazy when they don't know what's chasing them."...more
This will be discussed on an upcoming episode of the Reading Envy podcast; in the meantime you can read my review from earlier this year. David MitcheThis will be discussed on an upcoming episode of the Reading Envy podcast; in the meantime you can read my review from earlier this year. David Mitchell is always a pleasure to re-read!...more
I read this book as part of my self-proclaimed New Zealand November. It was in a pile loaned by a professor who worked for years in Australia.
This wasI read this book as part of my self-proclaimed New Zealand November. It was in a pile loaned by a professor who worked for years in Australia.
This was a very difficult read for several reasons. One is the violence - it is set in the middle of the 20th century, in urban New Zealand, where people descended from native New Zealanders - former warriors - are now marginalized and living in poverty. This leads to the usual issues of alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, unsupervised children, death, suicide, gangs. It centers around a couple - Jake and Beth, and their children. It is graphic, it is unrelenting, it is harsh. But from what I understand of that period, accurate. If you think of New Zealand in rolling green hills and hobbitses, even just taking a look at the trailer for the movie version should set you right.
The second reason this is difficult to read is that it alternates between 3-4 characters - the parents, and 1-2 children. As a reader I didn't want to be in any of their heads. The father is a drunk and abusive, violent and feared. The mother is abused but turns her victimization into neglect of her children. At the start of the novel one of her sons is removed from her home. The daughter deals with trying to care for herself and her siblings, while enduring sexual assault, resorting to huffing, etc. The prose is dense yet meandering, very much inside the characters' heads.
From what I understand, while not everything is perfect these days in New Zealand, some effort has gone into raising the standards of the Maori people within the country (although I read a play set in 2000 that expressed disbelief that tourists would hitchhike, believing it to be safe.) Maori culture has been adopted (appropriated? it's hard to know where that line is from the outside!) by everything from rugby to the military. At least in honoring the culture of warriors, perhaps that pulls them from the margins? I'm not certain. But I felt this book raises many questions like that and is worth a read....more
I had been meaning to read Nell Zink for a while but when this novel was longlisted for the National Book Award, I moved her up in my list. She didn'tI had been meaning to read Nell Zink for a while but when this novel was longlisted for the National Book Award, I moved her up in my list. She didn't make the shortlist but I still wanted to read it.
I should also say that I read this book despite the Jonathan Franzen endorsement quote on the cover. Carry on.
The novel starts out at a small women's college in rural Virginia in the 1960s. Peggy, a young woman who has always been drawn to the masculine side of her own sexuality, ends up having an affair and married to a gay male poet who teaches at the school. What starts out seeming like it will be a tale of budding lesbian self-discovery turns into a bizarre story of rural poverty, fluid sexual activity within a pretty condemning and confining setting, and shall we say "modern" marriage.
Because mislaid plans... and Peggy was mislaid... get it.
On the one hand, I felt like I was reading something I hadn't read before. But the characters never felt realistic to me. This isn't the gritty Appalachian hills of someone like Bonnie Jo Campbell or even the very folksy character capture of Scott McClanahan (who writes almost exclusively about West Virginia.) This is poverty within absurdity, a fun read but probably not something that will really stick with me. I will probably still read other novels by the author because she seems to have a unique approach....more
I read Edmond's poetry as part of my New Zealand November project in 2015. I had already read the first volume of her autobiography, Hot October: An AI read Edmond's poetry as part of my New Zealand November project in 2015. I had already read the first volume of her autobiography, Hot October: An Autobiographical Story, but nothing in it intersected with the publication of these poems. In fact, she did not start publishing her poetry until the age of 51!
This collection pulls in selected poems from previously published volumes and a bunch of new poems. They range in topic from domesticity to despair to desire. Apart from a few inspired by her travels to other places (and meeting other poets), most of them are very specifically placed in New Zealand (I have never read another book of poems where the morepork was mentioned at all much less more than once.)
I marked a few favorites:
-Latter Day Lysistrata "...I have no way to conceive the dark maelstrom where men may spin savage currents of power - is it power? - and urn to stone, to steel... Let us weep for these men, for ourselves, let us cry out as they bend over their illustrious equations; let us tell them the cruel truth of bodies, skin's velvet bloom, the scarlet of bleeding. Let us show them the vulnerable earth...."
-At the Gate of Number 89 "I think a city's spirit is always a woman, long tried, grown old in the rain and rust, the brawling winds of the street, knowing that all that's alive can be bruised and flung like a dog to the dark; but that each morning, scuffing the dirty pathways of being, comes again the indesructible new born thing...."
-Prayer to Cydippe, Priestess to Hera "never suppose as I reach towards the morning I have deserved its strange and reckless shining...."
-The Hour "...Love surely is accommodations, struggle, rages understood and survived, a forgiving wisdom -
yes, true. But even failed lovers are permitted their moments ...."
And of course, the very moving Wellington Letter a long form poem written to her daughter Rachel after she committed suicide. ...more
This is a tiny book with a lot to think about. I will have to purchase my own copy as it is something I can see going back to. We are forming a facultThis is a tiny book with a lot to think about. I will have to purchase my own copy as it is something I can see going back to. We are forming a faculty-staff contemplative/mindfulness group on campus, and are considering this as the first group read; I think it has potential!
First ideas that jumped out to me:
-On creating space in the classroom "Writing exercises... can create a spacious moment: at the beginning of class to find a spiritual center, in the middle, to brainstorm; and at the end, to reflect... The final period of quiet is... the most productive, surprising, and moving." "If we allow enough quiet, a diversity of voices begins to be heard."
-On giving yourself permission to take your own time "Permit yourself to stare out the window, to stay in bed, to have lunch, to have tea, to walk the dog, to fingerpaint, to listen to the texts you're teaching and face the consequences. Call it research. In the contemplative mode, your life is always on the line. And if we define our classrooms as sacred space, we can expect that everything will be up for grabs."
-On deep listening "In academic culture most listening is critical listening. We tend to pay attention only long enough to develop a counterargument; we critique the student's or the colleague's ideas; we mentally grade and pigeonhole each other. .. In contrast, if someone truly listens to me, my spirit begins to expand." "Pay attention. Don't be thinking about a solution, or how you should fix it. Just listen hard and try to be present."...more
After reading Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff, I've wanted to read more about Detroit "natives." Flournoy takes a family that is deeplyAfter reading Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff, I've wanted to read more about Detroit "natives." Flournoy takes a family that is deeply ingrained in the city and tells their story alternating between a few weeks in the 1940s and 2008. In 2008, the oldest brother of thirteen children is trying to figure out what to do about his family home. His mother has failing health and she owes more on the home than what it is worth.
I read this book because it was nominated for the National Book Award and while I don't think it is much of a personal favorite as a few of the other finalists, I do appreciate the vibrancy and currency of the setting and the realism of the siblings in the family who have all found different ways of coping (some successfully, some not so much.) The most compelling character to me is Lelah, who tries to hide her gambling problems from her family. The less successful element to me is the haint story line - I think the family stands on its own and didn't even need that element in there. After all, "Humans haunt more houses than ghosts do."...more
While this is "fiction," the author herself spent time in mental institutions in the same time frame as her main character in Faces in the Water. I haWhile this is "fiction," the author herself spent time in mental institutions in the same time frame as her main character in Faces in the Water. I have her three-volume autobiography on the shelf, so hopefully I will have more insight soon.
"I did not know my own identity. I was burgled of body and hung in the sky like a woman of straw."
This book is impossible to put down. The writing is poetic, graphic and nightmarish all at once, with detailed descriptions of mental institutions where people are managed but not treated as very human, during a time where electric shock therapy and insulin shock therapy were standard forms of control, and lobotomies were used for patients who resisted shock therapy. The main character spends a lot of time fearing a lobotomy. Her treatments are out of her control, actions decided on by doctors, nurses, and parents signing off on decisions from afar.
"I tried to forget my still-growing disquiet and dread and the haunting smell of the other ward... that the E.S.T. which happened three times a week, and the succession of screams heard as the machine advanced along the corridor, were a nightmare that one suffered for one's own 'good.' 'For your own good' is a persuasive argument that will eventually make man agree to his own destruction."
I should mention that I read this as part of my New Zealand November during my 2015 year of reading books from Oceania. At times Janet Frame writes beautifully about New Zealand - the disparity in landscape between the north and south, and how about these disturbing metaphors while describing spring from the point of view of the "insane":
-summer is impatient to striptease the sky -purple flowers like intimate folds of bruised flesh -slate-cold sea with its scratches -people danced with good reason
At one point, Janet Frame describes this protagonist as noticing too much, of seeing too many details, and the world not knowing what to do with that. It is impossible not to picture her in those feelings of overwhelmed sensation, writing the words within the book and living out her own life as a very sensory writer. -
I never checked these off as read! Loved these books when I read them - the setting, the strong women, the pagan religion elements - all within the stI never checked these off as read! Loved these books when I read them - the setting, the strong women, the pagan religion elements - all within the story of King Arthur. Even the film adaptation is pretty good....more