Book Review: Beside Herself, by Chris Price

Available from bookshops on 21 March 2016.

cv_beside_herselfChris Price’s forthcoming collection, Beside Herself does wonders for the imagination. The mask-like face on the cover evokes the masks used in Greek Theatre; tragedy, comedy and tragicomedy all taking their turns to appear. A playful atmosphere is created throughout the book, where these different styles merge together and flow from one to the other.

There are moments where the poems skip off the tongue and reading them aloud adds a new level of enjoyment to the page. In ‘Trick or Treat’ we are given rhyme after rhyme, hold or sell / kiss or tell / stare or blink / hood or wink – / then / it’s / my air-guitar / your whammy-bar. ‘Antipodean’ plays with opposites and other contrasts, I am the wrong / way round, my north, / your south, my up, / your down, your Krone / my Crown. These poetic moments are not only enjoyable to go through, but they bring a lightness to the poetry, a comedy of sorts.

In contrast there are some more serious moments that balance out the more light-hearted pieces. ‘Paternity test’ starts out with the lines Here is how it is: / if I cannot kill you / I will kill myself. / As I cannot kill you / I will kill myself. Price easily exchanges one mask for the other, moving from comedy to tragedy between the pages, but it doesn’t feel forced, more like a natural progression that goes back and forth. This movement keeps each poem fresh, and as you continue to read, more and more voices and characters appear.

Perhaps the most interesting characters, and one that is given a lot of space, is the medieval thuggish Churl form the long poem ‘The Book of Churl.’ This poem spans twenty-eight pages, dealing with the life of this strange figure from the past. He is not like the knights commonly found in medieval literature, carrying a cudgel instead of a magic sword or lance, and his princess turns out to be a girl he finds in the forest at night. If he were a hero, something / would happen now. Instead, he lives / a long unhappening. Unadventure, / unbirthdays, unrest. But his ‘unheroicness’ is endearing in a way, and his character sticks out and feels whole, and the drawing that follows the poem seems to capture his essence.

The drawings by Leo Bensemann that bookend the different sections of Beside Herself really help to give even more character to the pages. The figures come to life in the words, both directly and indirectly. It is a refreshing collection, a good mixture brought forth by the different masks, the different voices and characters. At times it is fun and light, at others serious and intense. But above all it is an interesting study of the different personae created by Chris Price.

Reviewed by Matthias Metzler

Beside Herself
by Chris Price, drawings by Leo Bensemann
Published by AUP
ISBN 9781869408466

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Book review

Book review: His Own Steam: The Work of Barry Brickell, by David Craig and Gregory O’Brien


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Book review: Waiting for Later by Tina Matthews

Waiting for Later is in bookshops now.

Waiting for Later is a hardback children’s illustrated book, which was a finalist at the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. In Waiting for Later, Nancy the main character ‘knows she is big but feels small’ and is repeatedly met with the response “later” when she asks family members to do things with her.

Nancy eventually climbs a tree while she waits for “later” to arrive and her imagination runs wild. Nancy proclaims ‘I know I am small, but tonight I feel big’ just before she climbs down the tree and returns to her family who were wondering where she was, given that ‘later’ had finally arrived.

After reading this book, I can appreciate why this was a finalist at the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. The illustrations of this book are eye-catching.

The storyline is simple for children to follow and engaging. Children will definitely relate to the fact that Nancy keeps getting told “later” – what children hasn’t heard the words “later”, “soon”, “shortly” or some variation of this, at some point?

In my household, this book has served as a great bed-time story, which even after reading it several times, my child still enjoys listening to it. There was nothing that I didn’t like about the book.

Reviewed by Joanne Redgwell, Facebook fan.

Book review (part one): The World’s Best Street Food

The World’s Best Street Food is in bookshops now.

Somehow I missed out on my OE; in high school I was an exchange student (to Saginaw, MI, USA) but following that it was Art School, university, work work work.

I also grew up as an unadventurous eater although I’ve since seen the error of my ways and regularly scarf down chilli and curries and olives and feijoas and avocados and other things I’d never heard of before leaving home.

Opening Lonely Planet’s new title The World’s Best Street Food  was like taking the round-the-world trip I’ve never had. It was exciting flipping through pages of exotic foods, learning about places I’d never been and imagining myself in the hustle bustle of the marketplace or making small talk with street vendors.

But any old monkey can be excited by pretty pictures and delicious looking food so I thought I’d better stump up and cook something. This is the first of my attempts …

For my first cook up I went with Spinach and Cheese Gozleme (a savoury traditional Turkish hand made and hand rolled pastry) that I thought would work well with tomato soup for a dinner.

How much flour?
The World’s Best Street Food is handy in that it gives you a guide of skill-level required for each recipe and a glossary, but for me it’s failing is that it doesn’t tell you how many portions something will make.

I’m not actually running my own vending cart so when the recipe called for over five cups of flour I balked. Some quick calculations (and notations onto the book for next time) and I’d knocked the recipe back to half, which was a much more reasonable amount.

Make your own adjustments - unless you're running a street food business

The recipe and it’s method were super-easy to follow and while I don’t often bake bread (or cook for that matter) it was easy to follow. I do recall some light kneading (the one thing that stops me making bread more often) but it’s nothing strenuous.

It was pretty easy to make a nice, good-looking dough.

The thing I liked about the recipe – and you’ll appreciate if you’re a busy person – is that the dough needs to rise, which allows the perfect amount of time to wash some dishes or to cook other things if you’re making this as part of dinner.

Once the dough was ready to work with (it rose exactly as the recipe said it would) it was onto rolling and filling. One thing I HATE is when dough sticks all over the bench and makes a giant mess. I countered this by using a little extra flour (as the recipe suggested) as well as oiling my hands before pulling it out of the bowl.

Half way through rolling and stuffing

I’d recommend paying attention to how well rolled out your gomeze are because the thinner the better once you get to cooking. Spinach and feta was a fine combination but this recipe (for a little less of a street food flavour) would equally lend itself to using whatever you have in the fridge.

Sadly I was a very bad reviewer and didn’t take a photo of the finished product (it was delicious).

What can you use this recipe for?
I found that this recipe in The World’s Best Street Food lent itself well to my everyday life. In fact, one of the selling points of this book is that it recommends common ingredients that can replace some of the more exotic ones if you can’t find them.

I thought this would be a great upgrade on toasted sandwiches, would be a good use of leftovers from the fridge and would also – if you made mini versions – be great party food.

9/10 for this recipe. It was delicious (the leftovers the next day were equally good) and easy to follow. My only gripe was that a) the quantities were HUGE and b) I had no idea what the end product should look like.

The World’s Best Street Food
by Tom Parker Bowles et al
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781742205939

Reviewed by Emma McCleary, Web Editor at Booksellers NZ