Extraordinary Anywhere, Edited by Ingrid Horrocks and Cherie Lacey

cv_extraordinary_anywhereAvailable now in bookshops nationwide.

We all have our own idea of the meaning of ‘Place’, whether it is our house, or home town – or even a page in a book, or seat in the theatre. Victoria University Press has published this collection of seventeen essays, all of which offer glimpses into where we are now in New Zealand in the 21st Century.

This collection of personal essays, a first of its kind, re-imagines the idea of place for an emerging generation of readers and writers.

It was while the editors were on a road trip, and stopped for a break at Paekakariki that the idea for the book began. As the book states, “The writers are interested in the obsession, fascination, wonder and often intense unease experienced in relation to particular spots in this country. They are interested in how lives are actually lived in very specific places and how these lives – and places – have changed over time.”

The collection is divided into three parts. The first, ‘Any Place might be extraordinary if only we knew it’, focuses on a single location. In the second section, ‘You take place with you as you go on’, we read stories of mobility and the reasons why people migrate to different areas in the country. And the third section, ‘The meshing of thought and world’, wrestles with how global issues and modern technology influence place.

“In the final essay Tim Corballis seeks to negotiate how we might live in the complexity of new places, suggesting that we need to hold on to at least two perspectives: a local individual view…. ,: but also a larger perspective, one that might include an image of the whole Earth, for example, and imaging of place adequate to confront climate change.”

As well as editors Ingrid Horrocks and Cherie Lacey, contributors include Tony Ballantyne, Martin Edmond, Tina Makereti, Giovanni Tiso, Ian Wedde, Ashleigh Young, and more.

Jo Bailey and Anna Brown have designed an intriguing dust cover for this paperback book which deserves to be studied as it adds a visual dimension to the publication.

Extraordinary Anywhere needs to be devoured slowly as the essays are all vastly different in style and content, reflecting the diversity of our place, Aotearoa-New Zealand and the World. There is something in this book for everyone, and I particularly enjoyed the essays about places I was familiar.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Extraordinary Anywhere- Essays on Place from Aotearoa New Zealand
Edited by Ingrid Horrocks and Cherie Lacey
Published by VUP
ISBN 9781776560707

Book Review: Trifecta, by Ian Wedde

Available in bookshops nationwide.cv_trifecta

Family dysfunction and multiple life failures make great themes for a novel, especially when written by a writer such as Ian Wedde.

There is nothing dull or boring here, the writing is engaging, as are the characters: you may not like all of them, but you will find each one has emotional resonance. As a reader, I have often enjoyed books where all I wanted to do with the odd character was strangle them.

Martin and Agnes Klepka are raising a family of three until Martin, a refugee from Nazism who brought with him Modernist Architecture and real coffee suffers an early age heart attack. Our book begins many years down the track with his adult children, who between them are struggling to cope with a bundle of woes: divorce, disgrace, job dissatisfaction, a failing business venture, an alcoholic husband, gambling, even sex and meth addictions.

Martin, while a talented man, was overbearing and ruled the roost with a rather harsh hand. Never particularly warm to Agnes, he had strong opinions about each of his children and he stamped the imprint of these opinions on each with ultimately hellish consequences; Sandy was disliked by his father, Veronica bored her father and Mick –  who was given the poisoned chalice of being Daddy’s favourite – is the one with the multiple addictions.

There is a richness and depth to this book in its explorations of the Klepka children’s struggles, an understanding of how the actions of the adult can so affect a child and how intuitive children are with regards adults’ feelings about them. It explores the whole question of expectations that are placed on a child right from birth for his/her futures and how searingly wrong a life under a weight of expectation can turn out even when the protagonist parent is dead.

This was an engrossing read. I really enjoy this type of book: it would make a fantastic book club read. There is just so much to discuss and this book is more than equal to the American books that are such a book club staple. I will certainly have my book club read it, and I have the person who is leading at our next book club evening reading it first and coming up with two or three questions to kick things off.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

by Ian Wedde
Published by VUP
ISBN 9780864739834

Book Review: The Lifeguard: Poems 2008-2013, by Ian Wedde

This book is available in bookstores now and is a finalist in the Poetry category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards.LIFEGUARD_ART

‘You have to start somewhere / in these morose times …
begins Ian Wedde’s poetry collection The Lifeguard. And he begins with a cycle of poems about said, albeit symbolic, lifeguard, sitting up on the towering chair overlooking New Zealand’s coastlines – past, present and future – while dipping his feet in Greek mythology. You can almost smell the coast in these poems.

The two parts that follow – ‘Help!’ and ‘The look’ – still see the poet observing from a more or less stationary position, exploring the fragrant and the sensual.  Wedde weaves his grandchildren into his poetry, creating a common memory.

Next is a group of elegies on the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who died in 2008. Wedde spent some time travelling in the Middle East in the 1960s. From these travels he is said to have taken his inspiration to become a poet.

In the last section the poet is on the move, in circular motion. In ‘Shadow Stands Up’ we accompany the poet on a tour around Auckland, mainly on the link bus; memories springing from roadside detail. I cannot help but wonder how long the man spent on that bus. Did he observe all this in one loop? Can you still go round and round for one fare these days? Daydreaming on the bus, one of my favourite pastimes as well. A 40 years younger Ian Wedde once said in a contributor’s note for the anthology Young New Zealand Poets: ‘I think I seldom tell; I enquire’. Observation and enquiry. To me this sums up the genre of poetry. Maybe add distillation. Five years worth of poetry distilled into the fine essence that is The Lifeguard.

And so this collection ends …
… the motorways / restless traffic going west.’

Thus concluding a  journey from the abstract to the specific, wisdom embedded in detail, the minutiae in the majestic mudflats of Aotearoa.

The publication of The Lifeguard marks the conclusion of Ian Wedde’s  two-year tenure as New Zealand’s poet laureate. The poet dedicates the collection to his grandchildren.

Reviewed by Melanie Wittwer

The Lifeguard: Poems 2008 – 2013
by Ian Wedde
Published by Auckland University Press
ISBN 9781869407698

Book review: We Will Work With You: Wellington Media Collective 1978-1998

work-with-youThis book is in bookshops now.

A cursory glance through We Will Work With You suggests it might be a somewhat light-hearted accompaniment to last year’s exhibition of the Wellington Media Collective’s (WMC’s) work at the Adam Art Gallery. But the colourful poster plates with their catchy slogans and designs belie the activism at work. Indeed, this title works in the same way as the WMC’s best campaigns, capturing readers’ attention with expert aesthetics, and then demanding an engagement with far more serious and complex socio-political concerns.

We Will Work With You is about the two decades in which the non-profit WMC operated, providing media, design, marketing and advertising support to a myriad of local organisations and causes. The WMC were careful about the way their working relationships were defined, and to ensure that projects operated collaboratively with mutual opportunities for learning, rather than the client service model adopted by many groups today. Their mission statement? We will work with you, not for you.

Eclectically arranged, We Will Work With You comprises two plate sections of the WMC’s posters, separated and book-ended with essays about the WMC’s social, design and activist history.

Polly Cantlon’s essay Design Democracy is particularly fascinating for anyone interested in the use of design as a means of political dissent, and she ends it with the most pertinent question posed in the book, ‘don’t we need another Wellington Media Collective today?’

The present moment is as turbulent a time for New Zealand as the revolutions of the last 40 years, and it’s worth considering the value of such a group to keep pace with the changing technologies and economic factors affecting all parts of society. And yet, with mass access to computers and social media, today’s political activists are arguably more engaged than ever, as the Arab Spring and worldwide occupation movement have attested to. Perhaps, with the reinvigoration of grassroots community organisations, we are moving closer to a shared learning environment once more.

Three short essays at the back of the book are easy to miss in this treasure trove, but worthwhile digging out to understand the WMC’s work in an international context, alongside other political histories such as Cuba’s which have played out through poster design. The inclusion of more first-person accounts might have brought the bold history of the WMC to even greater life, but it’s nonetheless an engrossing and visually appealing read, certain to intrigue anyone with an interest in design or New Zealand history.

Reviewed by Caitlin Sinclair

We Will Work With You: Wellington Media Collective 1978-1998
Edited by Mark Derby, Jennifer Rouse and Ian Wedde
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN: 9780864738837