Book of the Month
Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered
by Nikki McClure
˜Painstakingly beautiful’ barely describes the intricate maze of artistic genius from the mind of Nikki McClure. She puts a cutting knife to black paper and uses a white sheet to contrast the image. The colour gets added in the production of her work. She is well known for her annual calendars and also produces cd and book covers for other artists. An ensemble of her work, Collect Raindrops, is now available in book format. Nikki has her beliefs clearly rooted in nurture and nature. She delivers strong commentary on social and political issues by the simple use of a word accompanying the picture. This is truly a work of art with its old-school cloth spine binding.
Nothing to Be Frightened Of
by Julian Barnes
This strange grab-bag of anecdote, reminiscence and literary appreciation is probably as close as Julian Barnes will get to writing an autobiography or memoir. All of this is organised around one theme: Barnes’ morbid and intense fear of death, and his efforts to overcome it. Even if this might not appeal to everyone, Barnes doesn’t know how to write badly, and this is another elegant, erudite and witty book by a great writer with a lot to say, and a wonderful way of saying it.
The Universitas Project: Solutions for a Post-Technological Society
conceived and directed by Emilio Ambasz
This weighty collection finally issues the papers and ideas first presented at a MOMA-curated seminar in 1972, and attended – amongst many others – by heavyweight intellectuals as diverse as Jean Baudrillard, Hannah Arendt, Henri Lefebvre, Manuel Castells and Alain Touraine (who of course coined the phrase ‘the post-industrial society’). This interdisciplinary seminar set out to radically rethink “the relation of man to the natural and sociocultural environment” in ways relating to, but not limited to, architecture and design. There are more than thirty essays, seminars and postscripts presented here, with a fascinating breadth of ideas and vision.
Travels with Herodotus
by Ryszard Kapuscinski
The late Ryszard Kapuscinski was often regarded as the greatest traveller-writer of his generation, and in this – his last book – he has left a wonderful testimonial to that talent. In his introduction, Kapuscinski explains how Herodotus’ Histories had exercised a complex fascination for him from a young age, and in this loving tribute to this great, tremendously interesting, and tremendously interested Greek, Kapuscinski follows not just the physical, but also the intellectual and spiritual lead of his predecessor. The result is a feast of a book for anyone with a nose for good writing, or just a shred of curiosity about the world: ancient and modern; geographical and spiritual; sensual and intellectual.
A People’s History of the World
by Chris Harman
Chris Harman is the editor of the journal International Socialism, and in this magisterial new work, he provides a sorely-needed updated world history from a Left perspective. Explicitly contesting both the ‘Great Men’ theory of historiography as well as Fukuyama’s influential End of History, Harman provides, instead, a sweeping and synthesising account of history “from below” from an avowedly Marxist perspective. As part of that tradition, the intent here is very much to “use the past to criticise the present” and this is indeed a book that does much to sweep away much of the complacency that sometimes characterises contemporary history. At more than 700 pages, it is an engrossing read, and comes equipped with a thorough index, a detailed glossary of terms and biography and recommendations for further reading.
Porn for New Moms
photographs by Susan Anderson
Repeating and adapting the formula of her hilarious and witty Porn For Women, Susan Anderson has brought out another tongue-in-cheek gem, with handsome men (don’t worry, they are all clothed!) saying and doing all the things new moms wish they really would! As an example: “Well, Inga, the 19-year old Swedish au pair is sweet and all, but I’d prefer an older nanny with more experience.” And “If I promise to do all the laundry and diaper changing for the next few years, can we have another one?” All accompanied, of course, by Anderson’s beautifully shot pics of handsome young men being, well, distinctly dreamy.
Black Bull, Ancestors and Me: My Life as a Lesbian Sangoma
by Nkunzi Zandile Nkabinde
Coming from a culture which is often seen as assigning very strict traditional gender roles, Nkunzi Nkabinde has managed to carve out a niche for herself between the traditional and the modern, the living and the dead. While living as a young urban lesbian in a context of horrific homophobic crimes, Nkabinde is simultaneously an important conduit to the traditional Zulu culture from which she comes. This is a remarkable story of a remarkable woman who is living South Africa’s attempt to move forward without renouncing the past in a fascinating way.
The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS
by Elizabeth Pisani
This controversial book is already raking in the newspaper inches. It is sure to make uncomfortable but essential reading for anyone interested in the great epidemic of our time. Pisani is certainly well-qualified to write about AIDS – not only does she have a Ph.D in infectious disease epidemiology, but has worked in AIDS-prevention programmes with the World Bank, the WHO and UNAIDS. This book is above all an analysis (and often an indictment) of precisely the role these institutions have played (and not played) in controlling the spread and treatment of AIDS.
The Gone-Away World
by Nick Harkaway
When a James Bond-like Kung Fu-fighting hero has to be rescued from ninjas by a troupe of mimes and a gang of souped-up Ford-driving pirates in the monstrous post-apocalyptic wasteland created by the devastating superweapon he helped develop, you know this is no ordinary novel. This breathtaking debut novel may sound pulpy, but be assured that it’s anything but – alongside all these elements (and then some) there is also Hobbesian political theory, Fregean logic, a razor sharp sense of humour, and a magnificent sting in the tail. It is just that this novel is, purely, simply, an absolute pleasure to read. Harkaway is a major new talent and The Gone-Away World is already ample proof. Watch this name closely, and give this a go.
Jambula Tree and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing Collection 2008
Local author HenrÃ¯etta Rose-Innes won the prestigious Caine Prize this year, for her story Poison, included here along with the rest of the shortlist (the book was published before the winner had been announced). Additionally, last year’s shortlist and winner Jambula Tree by Ugandan author Monica Arac de Nyeko are included, as well as a number of stories resulting from the Caine Prize Writer’s Workshop. This is a great place to start getting a grip on what contemporary African literature is all about, and to get acquainted with some of the rising young talent on the continent.
The One that Got Away
by ZoÃ« Wicomb
Born in Namaqualand, ZoÃ« Wicomb moved to the UK in the 70s. Through her characters she travels between these countries and creates a course in which collision of culture is inevitable. This, her second collection of short stories, after You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, portrays the ordinary lives and interaction of people with wit, insight and intelligence. Wicomb questions conventional certainties through her ironic twists and playful ambiguities and leads the reader on a path of self-exploration with the rewards of exhilarated reading. Wicomb is also a great novelist, with Playing in the Light being a regular Book Lounge recommendation.
by Vikas Swarup
Swarup caught the world delightedly unawares with his charming and unconventional debut Q&A. In his second novel, he dishes up more of the same effortless storytelling. Here the story revolves around the eponymous six suspects to a murder. Swarup has already showed his penchant for the multiple storyline and his ability to create elaborate and wonderful back stories for his interesting characters, and this book is no disappointment. Join investigative journalist Arun Advani as he tries to prise each suspect’s story from them, and in doing so, tries to solve the murder of playboy ˜Vicky’ Rai – himself the subject of a murder enquiry in the distant past.
by David Guterson
In his previous novels (especially Snow Falling On Cedars) Guterson has proved himself extremely adept at delicate dissections of the entanglements and conflicts that result when people of different backgrounds are thrown together. In The Other, Guterson once again returns to this terrain, though this time his two protagonists are merely from different classes within his beloved American Northwest. Neil Countryman is a working class boy whose unlikely friendship with the upper class John Barry is founded on their shared love for the out-of-the-way and most remote parts of Washington State. However, their paths start to diverge as they start to grow up, and this novel charts their relationship in typically lyrical style.
I Play the Drums in a Band called okay
by Toby Litt
Syph, Clap, Mono and Crab are in a band called okay – lower case, italics, always. They’re Canadian and they’re doing pretty well. Clap plays the drums and this book is his memoir. He’s seen it all and done it all, or – more accurately – he’s seen Syph do it all. But he’s been there and he’s sort of disillusioned by it all. So, he writes about the road, the gigs, the drugs and the girls and he tries to be truthful. Toby Litt, the hippest British writer on the block is back, and like most writers he’s really always wanted to be a rock star. I play the drums… is a novel in short stories. Those who have read his earlier short story collections Adventures in Capitalism and Exhibitionism will recognize the first few as the old ones originally published as tourbusting 1 to 4. But there are 22 new stories and they’re crammed with drugs, sex, rock and roll, pathos and fun.
The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal
by Sean Dixon
This is, first and foremost, a book about a book club. But this is no ordinary book club, it is a women’s only club and there is, for the most part, very little reading going on. It is also a story of family, of friendship and support, where the characters find a common ground, share their pain, love and loss and learn – in the process – to cope not only with life, but with each other as well. Voted one of the best books of the year in Canada this one is funny, off-beat and ultimately very moving. It was originally published as The Girls who saw Everything.
by Janis Cooke Newman
Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of America’s 16th President is declared insane by the Cook County Court on May 19, 1875. The 57-year-old widow sets about preparing her own sanity defense from the Bellevue Place Sanatorium where she is incarcerated. Her non-conformity, strong political opinions, her huge debts and the fact that she attends sÃ©ances and seems very involved in the occultism of the times means her defense will not be an easy one in a society where women are still marginalized. Mrs Lincoln is Mary Todd’s story, giving voice to the convoluted tale that was her life. Janis Cooke Newman’s debut novel is a thought-provoking and carefully considered look at one of the 19th century’s more controversial and misunderstood women.
Evening is the Whole Day
by Preeta Samarasan
Preeta Samarasan debuts with a novel set in her native Malaysia. The book looks into the cultural divide between Malay, Indian and Chinese through the lens of personal relationships. The novel follows the fates of a prosperous Indian immigrant family and what happens when Chellam, the slave girl, is dismissed for unnamed crimes.
“Samarasan’s novel is multi-layered: it includes a child who can communicate with ghosts, a brother who tries to make sense of the world through humour, a mother never happy with herself, having risen above her class, and a ne’er-do-well cousin who knows much but can tell little and is misunderstood. The plot gets complicated as it attempts to interweave private miseries with public histories, shifting the story backwards through flashbacks. The technique is promising… There are stylistic nods to other writers, but the novel redeems itself by avoiding being derivative.” Salil Tripathi – The Independent on Sunday
Hoekie vir Afrikaanses
Die dag toe ek my hare losgemaak het
deur Willemien BrÃ¼mmer
˜n Debuut bundel kortverhale wat inderdaad jou armhare laat regop spring van opgewondenheid. BrÃ¼mmer wat werk as a joernalis, boet definitief nie haar fyn prosa-hand in haar skryfwerk in nie. Sy skep een hoofkarakter, Mia Albertyn, wat deur die kronologiese verloop van die verhale haar kinderlike onskuld inruil vir volwasse gewaarwordinge en die gepaardgaande sinisme. Die idÃ©e van ˜n hoofkarakter in ˜n bundel kortverhale blyk ˜n interessante tendens te wees wat kop uitsteek – dink aan Margaret Atwood se Moral Disorder. Die dag toe ek my hare losgemaak het is ‘n delikate en intense versameling; tegelykertyd literÃªr en toeganklik en beslis ˜n skitterende begin van ˜n literÃªre loopbaan vir BrÃ¼mmer.
Aural Poetry, or CD of the week
Seattle-based pop combo Math & Physics Club released their self-titled debut album last year, following a wonderful EP. With their fluid guitar sound – sometimes augmented by splashes of piano, trumpet, violin and organ – charmingly witty, wide-eyed lyrics delivered in a mellifluous baritone and perfect pop song structures, it is no wonder that they’ve been described as the perfect middle ground between The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian.
For Lovers of Children’s Books
English illustrator, Sir John Tenniel (1820-1914), used to draw many cartoons and caricatures for Punch Magazine and drew most of his work from photographic memory. Tenniel was blinded in one eye while fencing with his father in 1840, but this did not affect the quality of his work. In 1865 he illustrated the first Alice in Wonderland edition and thereby put his work amongst the most famous illustrations of our time. He got precise instructions from Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), so the Alice we all know is most certainly the Alice that Dodgson imagined, although Alice Liddell (the real little girl to whom Dodgson told his fantastical tales) was not the Alice of Tenniel’s pictures. Tenniel’s illustrations for the ‘Alice’ books were engraved onto blocks of wood, to be printed in the woodcut process. The original wood blocks are now in the collection of the Bodleian Library in Oxford after being discovered in the eighties in a bank vault! Over the years many great illustrators, such as Helen Oxenbury and Anthony Browne, have illustrated Alice in Wonderland, but Tenniel’s images remain the pictures our mind’s eye conjures up when thinking of Alice and the White Rabbit.