Risk anything! Remembering Katherine Mansfield on the centenary of her death

Katherine Mansfield, backdropped against Wellington harbour, with a photo of book by Redmer Yska 'Katherine Mansfield's Wellington"

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Katherine Mansfield

Below is a blog and book list by Louise, one of our librarians, remembering Katherine Mansfield on the centenary of her death. Louise talks about her wide influence as a New Zealand writer and her connections to Karori and to our city, as well as a recent Wellington City Libraries connection…

Katherine Mansfield
Archives New Zealand, ref Reference: ABKH W4437 NF 316. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

On my shelf sits a ragged and much-loved Penguin edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield given to me by my parents in 1986 when I was 17.  I consumed and adored this book. Mansfield’s writing was delicate but strong, subtle, with a focus on stream-of-consciousness and (that gem of a phrase from high school English) reflected a ‘slice of life’. And she was a New Zealander like me! I was inspired and enriched immediately.

I took this book with me on a six-week language exchange to Tahiti between sixth and seventh form. I was horribly homesick, and somehow the representations of New Zealand (to me often containing a pang of her own homesickness) and the tiny worlds she created in a few pages were soothing and beautiful, even when describing sadness and cruelty. The Doll’s House remains affecting nearly 40 years after I first read it. That summer was the start of my great love for Katherine Mansfield who challenged the literary world with her modernity (both in writing and her approach to life) and left a legacy that drew admiration from the likes of her contemporary Virginia Woolf right through to the Italian great Italo Calvino. My heart always sings when I am reading about a writer and they mention Mansfield as an influence – she is still relevant today and her writing continues to fascinate and entertain.

Karori Library has some of our vast collection on her life and works on displayThis week marks the centenary of her death, at the young age of 34, on 9 January 1923 in Avon-Fontainebleau, France. I now work at the Karori Library, near the corner of Beauchamp Street, named for Mansfield’s family who lived in Karori at the time of her birth. We have a new courtyard outside the library and there is a line from her short story Prelude in relief on one of the walls: “And then at the first beam of sun the birds began”, very apt for the start of a day near Zealandia. This week we have a display in the library commemorating her death. This morning, when I went to get a coffee at the cafe next door to the library I saw a man at the counter with a book he had just borrowed from our display. I told him I was writing a blog about Katherine Mansfield and he told me his name was Phil and that he had attended Karori Normal School where there was a memorial to Mansfield. Having seen our display, he thought it was about time he read some of her stories. I love the idea of Phil sitting in a cafe in Karori reading Mansfield’s stories in the suburb of her birth as we commemorate her life and death in Europe.

Wellington City Libraries has a strong connection to Katherine Mansfield and you can read about the discovery of a previously unknown short story, His Little Friend, by a then 11-year-old Kathleen M. Beauchamp (her given name), which was published on the children’s page of the New Zealand Graphic on 13 October 1900 and found a few years ago in our collection by our New Zealand History Specialist Gabor Toth and the Wellington writer Redmer Yska.

We have many items by and about Katherine Mansfield in our collections. Her writing sparks and her life was fascinating, intersecting with many interesting characters such as Maata Mahupuku, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Bertrand Russell, and Dora Carrington. See below for just a few items that we recommend from and about an author who wrote: “To be alive and to be a ‘writer’ is enough”:


Bliss: and other stories / Mansfield, Katherine
” This edition includes a modern introduction and a list of suggested further reading. Bliss and Other Stories represents the range of themes and concerns for which Katherine Mansfield is known. Besides the great number of marriage and couple’s narratives, this collection also includes “woman alone” stories about unmarried women exploring hopes, dreams, trials, and fears. Mansfield’s greatest skill is her ability to capture accurately the tender life of the human psyche and soul. ” (Adapted from our catalogue)

A strange beautiful excitement: Katherine Mansfield’s Wellington, 1888-1903 / Yska, Redmer
“How does a city make a writer? Described by Fiona Kidman as a ‘ravishing, immersing read’, this is a ‘wild ride’ through the Wellington of Katherine Mansfield’s childhood. From the grubby, wind-blasted streets of Thorndon to the hushed green valley of Karori, author Redmer Yska, himself raised in Karori, retraces Mansfield’s old ground: the sights, sounds and smells of the rickety colonial capital, as experienced by the budding writer” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Katherine Mansfield’s New Zealand / O’Sullivan, Vincent
“A stunning, fully illustrated guide to the country and times that shaped our greatest short story writer — a feast of images and relevant excerpts from Mansfield’s stories and journals. Katherine Mansfield was born in Wellington in 1888 and died in France in 1923, regarded as one of the finest short story writers of her time. Her country of birth, initially a source of frustration for her, in time came to influence her writing. From Kezia’s Karori journey in Prelude, to the landscape of The Woman at the Store, the images of colonial New Zealand are a distinctive and compelling part of Katherine Mansfield’s writing. A fascinating section of the book details her expedition to the Urewera and thermal regions. The first (monochrome) edition of Katherine Mansfield’s New Zealand appeared in 1974; this edition has been extensively revised, with colourful new images and vivid excerpts from Katherine Mansfield’s writing.” (From our catalogue)

Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf : a public of two / Smith, Angela
“Long after the death of Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923), Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) described being haunted by Mansfield in dreams. Through detailed comparative readings of their fiction, letters, and diaries, Smith explores the intense affinity between the two writers. Their particular inflection of modernism is interpreted through their shared experience as `threshold people’, familiar with the liminal, for each of them a zone of transition and habitation. Writing at a time when the First World War and changing attitudes to empire problematized boundaries and definitions of foreignness, we see how the fiction of both Mansfield and Woolf is characterized by moments of disorienting suspension in which the perceiving consciousness sees the familiar made strange, the domestic made menacing.” (From our catalogue)

The Bloomsbury Handbook to Katherine Mansfield / Martin, Todd (EDT)/ Keuss, Jeff (EDT)
“Through her formally innovative and psychologically insightful short stories, Katherine Mansfield is increasingly recognised as one of the central figures in early 20th-century modernism. Bringing together leading and emerging scholars and covering her complete body of work, this is the most comprehensive volume to Mansfield scholarship available today. The Bloomsbury Handbook to Katherine Mansfield covers the full range of contemporary scholarly themes and approaches to the author’s work, including: New biographical insights, including into the early New Zealand years, responses to the historical crises: the Great War, empire and orientalism, Mansfield’s fiction, poetry, criticism and private writing, Mansfield and modernist culture – from Bloomsbury to the little magazines, her contemporaries – Woolf, Lawrence and von Arnim, Mansfield and the arts – visual culture, cinema and music. The book also includes a substantial annotated bibliography of key works of Mansfield scholarship from the last 30 years.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

New Zealand stories / Mansfield, Katherine
“Katherine Mansfield is New Zealand’s most celebrated writer, and one of the key figures in the history of the short story in English. This is the first time the stories set in her own country have been brought together and published in the order in which she wrote them. The Mansfield that emerges from this fresh perspective is both familiar and unexpected.” (From our catalogue)

Something childish and other stories / Mansfield, Katherine
“A collection of stories that span the length of Katherine Mansfield’s writing career.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Distant shores: New non-fiction

Many of the books below involve ideas of heritage: what we inherit from our families, from the cultures we grow up within, and from the complex histories of our world as a whole. In Motherlands, Amaryllis Gacioppo goes searching for a homeland she only knows through stories, while in Hidden Heritage Fatima Manji uses six forgotten relics as a guide to a lesser-told history of the British Empire. Looking into the future, beach-comber Tracey Williams considers the inheritance we are leaving for our descendants in Adrift, as she finds pieces of sea-themed Lego amongst other modern detritus – a ship full of the plastic toys sunk in the 1990s and pieces are still washing up to this day. 

If those don’t sound like your cup of tea, why not check out Don’t Let It Get You Down or All the Women in My Brain, two excellent collections of essays focusing in on identity. Or perhaps you’d like to take a literary tour without having to leave your chair? In that case, Around the World in 80 Books is the one for you.

Motherlands / Gacioppo, Amaryllis
“Australian writer Amaryllis Gacioppo has been raised on stories of original homes, on the Palermo of her mother, the Benghazi of her grandmother and the Turin of her great-grandmother. But what does belonging mean when you’re not sure of where home is? Is the modern nation state defined by those who flourish there or by those who aren’t welcome? Is visiting the land of one’s ancestors a return, a chance to feel complete, or a fantasy? Weaving memoir and cultural history through modern political history, examining notions of citizenship, statelessness, memory and identity and the very notion of home, Motherlands heralds the arrival of a major talent that opens one’s eyes to new ways of seeing.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Adrift : the curious tale of the Lego lost at sea / Williams, Tracey
“In 1997 sixty-two containers fell off the cargo ship Tokio Express after it was hit by a rogue wave off the coast of Cornwall, including one container filled with nearly five million pieces of Lego, much of it sea themed. The pieces are still washing up today. Writer and beachcomber Tracey Williams has always been intrigued by chance finds and the stories and folklore behind them, from shells and sea glass discovered on childhood holidays in Cornwall to flints and fossils unearthed in fields. In 1997, she became interested in the changing nature of beach combing and began to research the age and origin of many of the man-made items she discovered. Her plastic finds have since been described as “a colourful catalogue of our times.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Don’t let it get you down : essays on race, gender, and the body / Nolan, Savala
“An incisive and vulnerable yet powerful and provocative collection of essays, Savala offers poignant reflections on living between society’s most charged, politicized, and intractably polar spaces: between black and white, between rich and poor, between thin and fat – as a woman. It is these liminal spaces that give the essays their strikingly clear and refreshing point of view on the defining tension points in our culture. Each of the twelve essays are rife with unforgettable and insightful anecdotes, and are as humorous and as full of Savala’s appetites as they are of anxieties. Perfect for fans of Heavy by Kiese Laymon and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, this book delivers a fresh perspective on race, class, bodies, and gender, that is both an entertaining and engaging addition to the ongoing social and cultural conversation.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Hidden heritage : rediscovering Britain’s lost love for the Orient / Manji, Fatima
“Why was there a Turkish mosque adorning Britain’s most famous botanic garden in in the eighteenth century? And more importantly, why is it no longer there? Throughout Britain’s galleries and museums, civic buildings and stately homes, relics can be found that beg these questions and more. They point to a more complex national history than is commonly remembered. These objects, lost, concealed or simply overlooked, expose the diversity of pre-twentieth-century Britain and the misconceptions around modern immigration narratives. In her journey across the country exploring cultural landmarks, Fatima Manji searches for a richer and more honest story of a nation struggling with identity and the legacy of empire.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Around the world in 80 books / Damrosch, David
“David Damrosch set out to counter a pandemic’s restrictions on travel by exploring eighty exceptional books from around the globe. Following a literary itinerary from London to Venice, Tehran and points beyond, he explores how these works have shaped our idea of the world, and the ways in which the world bleeds into literature. In his literary cartography, Damrosch includes compelling contemporary works as well as perennial classics, hard-bitten crime fiction as well as haunting works of fantasy, and the formative tales that introduce us as children to the world we’re entering. Taken together, these eighty titles offer us fresh perspective on enduring problems. Around the World in 80 Books is a global invitation to look beyond ourselves and our surroundings, and to see our world and its literature in new ways.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

All the women in my brain : and other concerns / Gilpin, Betty
“Betty Gilpin has a brain full of women. There’s Blanche VonFuckery, Ingrid St. Rash, and a host of others–some cowering in sweatpants, some howling plans for revolution, and some, oh God, and some…slowly vomiting up a crow without breaking eye contact? Jesus. These women take turns at the wheel. That’s why Betty feels like a million selves. With a raised eyebrow and a soul-scalpel, she tells us how she got this way. She takes us from wild dissections of modern womanhood to boarding school to the glossy cringe of Hollywood. We laugh through the failures and quietly hope with her for the dreams. Stunning, candid, and laugh-out-loud funny, All the Women in My Brain is perfect for any reader who’s ever felt like they were more, or at least weirder, than the world expected.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Beyond measure : the hidden history of measurement / Vincent, James
“We measure rainfall and radiation, the depths of space and the emptiness of atoms, calories and steps, happiness and pain. But how did measurement become ubiquitous in modern life? When did humanity first take up scales and rulers, and why does this practice hold authority over so many aspects of our lives? Written with dazzling intelligence, James Vincent provides a fresh and original perspective on human history as he tracks our long search for dependable truths in a chaotic universe. Full of mavericks and visionaries, adventure and the unexpected, Beyond Measure shows that measurement has not only made the world we live in, it has made us too.” (Adapted from Amazon UK)

Pirate queens : the lives of Anne Bonny and Mary Read / Simon, Rebecca
“Between August and October 1720, two female pirates named Anne Bonny and Mary Read terrorized the Caribbean in and around Jamaica. Despite their short career, they became two of the most notorious pirates during the height of the eighteenth-century Golden Age of Piracy. In a world dominated by men, they became infamous for their bravery, cruelty and unwavering determination to escape the social constraints placed on women during that time. But how much is fact versus fiction? This first full-length biography about Anne Bonny and Mary Read explores their intriguing backgrounds while examining the social context of women in their lifetime and their legacy in popular culture that exists to the present day.” (Adapted from Amazon UK)

Controversial creations: New non-fiction

Do you prefer paperback or hardback? Soft, flexible pages or crisp glossy ones? A book that flops open with ease or a book that tempts you, in its rigidity, to crack the spine? The truth is we can be rather picky about the physical feel of the books we read. But amongst all these variables, at least some things are certain: there will be paper and words and sometimes images. Right? 

Occasionally, something comes along with the audacity to call itself a book despite defying all expectations and instinct. Take, for example, the cheese book. It is made entirely of wrapped slices of processed cheese and it’s in the collection of a number of libraries around the world. The mere fact of its existence riles people up.

Emma Smith explores such controversies and more in Portable Magic, a delightful history of the book-as-object. She also focuses on our relationship with these objects, on the way they have entranced us and changed us. We recommend it for all book-lovers out there! As for the rest of the picks below, not only do they promise to be just as fascinating, we can also confirm that they are assuredly, unequivocally paper-based.

Portable magic : a history of books and their readers / Smith, Emma
“Most of what we say about books is really about the words inside them: the rosy nostalgic glow for childhood reading, the lifetime companionship of a much-loved novel. But books are things as well as words, objects in our lives as well as worlds in our heads. And just as we crack their spines, loosen their leaves and write in their margins, so they disrupt and disorder us in turn. Portable Magic unfurls an exciting and iconoclastic new story of the book in human hands. Gathering together a millennium’s worth of pivotal encounters with volumes big and small, Smith reveals that, as much as their contents, it is books’ physical form that lends them their distinctive and sometimes dangerous magic. Ultimately, our relationship with the written word is more reciprocal – and more turbulent – than we tend to imagine.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The marmalade diaries : the true story of an odd couple / Aitken, Ben
“Recently widowed, Winne, 84, was in need of some companionship. Ben, 34, was looking for a new housemate. As the UK was locked down in 2020, Ben and Winnie’s lives interwove, forming an unlikely friendship, where lessons were learnt (heat the red wine in the oven with the plates; preserve or pickle whatever you can; never throw anything away) and grief, both personal and that of a nation, was explored. Charting both their time together, The Marmalade Diaries is a very human exploration of home, of the passage time, of the growing relationship between an odd couple, told with warmth, wit and candour.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The facemaker : a visionary surgeon’s battle to mend the disfigured soldiers of World War I / Fitzharris, Lindsey
“From the moment the first machine gun rang out over the Western Front, one thing was clear: mankind’s military technology had wildly surpassed its medical capabilities. In the midst of this brutality, however, there were also those who strove to alleviate suffering. The Facemaker tells the extraordinary story of pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gilles, who dedicated himself to reconstructing the burned and broken faces of the injured soldiers under his care. The result is a vivid account of how medicine can be an art, and of what courage and imagination can accomplish in the presence of relentless horror.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Nomads : the wanderers who shaped our world / Sattin, Anthony
“Humans have been on the move for most of history. Even after the great urban advancement lured people into the great cities of Uruk, Babylon, Rome and Chang’an, most of us continued to live lightly on the move and outside the pages of history. But recent discoveries have revealed another story. Wandering people built the first great stone monuments, they tamed the horse, fashioned the composite bow, fought with the Greeks and hastened the end of the Roman Empire. Reconnecting with our deepest mythology, our unrecorded antiquity and our natural environment, Nomads is the untold history of civilisation, told through its outsiders.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A natural history of the future : what the laws of biology tell us about the destiny of the human species / Dunn, Rob
“Biologist Rob Dunn grew up listening to stories of the Mississippi River, how it flooded his grandfather’s town, leaving behind a muddy wasteland. Years later, Dunn discovered the cause: the Army Corps of Engineers had tried to straighten the river to allow for the easy passage of boats. But as Dunn argues in A Natural History of the Future, nature has its own set of rules, and no amount of human tampering can rewrite them. He reveals the surprising complexities of the natural world and offers plenty of simple lessons in how we can make the lifestyle changes necessary to ensure our own species’ survival. At once hopeful and practical, this book offers a vision of our future in which humans and the natural world coexist symbiotically.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The family Roe : an American story / Prager, Joshua
“Despite her famous pseudonym, “Jane Roe,” no one knows the truth about Norma McCorvey, whose unwanted pregnancy in 1969 opened a great fracture in American life. Drawing on a decade of research, Prager reveals the woman behind the pseudonym, writing in novelistic detail of her unknown life from her time as a sex worker in Dallas, to her private thoughts on family and abortion, to her dealings with feminist and Christian leaders, to the three daughters she placed for adoption. An epic work spanning fifty years of American history, The Family Roe is a masterpiece of reporting on the Supreme Court’s most divisive case: Roe v Wade.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The science of murder : the forensics of Agatha Christie / Valentine, Carla
“A mortician and forensic expert explores the real-life cases that inspired Agatha Christie, showing how the great mystery writer might have kept current with the latest advancements in forensic science.” (Catalogue)

Fledgling / Bourne-Taylor, Hannah
“When lifelong bird-lover Hannah Bourne-Taylor moved with her husband to Ghana seven years ago she couldn’t have anticipated how her life would be forever changed. Fledgling is a portrayal of adaptability, resilience and self-discovery in the face of isolation and change, fuelled by the quiet power of nature and the unexpected bonds with animals she encounters. Bourne-Taylor encourages us to reconsider the conventional relationships people have with animals through her inspiring glimpse of what is possible when we allow ourselves to connect to the natural world. She shows that even the tiniest of birds can teach us what is important in life and how to embrace every day.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Bordering on miraculous: New poetry collections

It’s an exciting time to be reading poetry, but don’t just take our word for it; people are saying it’s “the year of poetry”. It seems like a great time to remind everyone that we have a decent poetry collection, featuring many bestselling titles from both Aotearoa and overseas.

Below, you’ll find a selection of new additions to our collection, a lot of which are already in hot demand! Some highlights include; essa may ranapiri’s Echidna (which we are huge fans of, we shared an interview with ranapiri recently), Ocean Vuong’s Time is a mother (from the author who brought us the heart breaking/building novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous) and Night School by Michael Steven (Winner of the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award 2021). You can reserve all of these items via our online catalogue. 

This is also a great time to mention our new YouTube playlist – Poet Interviews. Check out our most recent interview with writer Khadro Mohamed below. If you are a local poet with a book coming out soon, let us know! We’d love to chat with you! 


Anomalia / Chung, Cadence
“Populated with strange specimens, cicada husks and glittering gems, these poems explore the love and cruelty of human nature. Chung is in conversation with her literary ancestors, from Sappho to Byron, bringing their work into the world of sparkly eyeshadow and McDonald’s bathrooms”–Gatefold cover.” (Catalogue)

Night school / Steven, Michael
“Winner of the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award 2021, poet Michael Steven’s Night School explores the gap between fathers and sons, the effects of toxic masculinity, how power corrupts and corrodes, and whether weed, art and aroha can save us in a godless world.” (Catalogue)

We’re all made of lightning / Mohamed, Khadro
“Khadro Mohamed expertly navigates the experience of being a Muslim women in Aotearoa, bringing us along on her journey of selfhood. Shifting between Aotearoa, Egypt and Somalia, we get a glimpse into her worlds, which are rich and full of life. Mohamed has a sense of wonder for the world around her, exploring nature, food, family and identity. This book is a love letter to her homeland, her whakapapa, and herself.” (Catalogue)

Echidna, or The many adventures of Hinenākahirua as she tries to find her place in a colonised world : including throught is the story of Māui-Pōtiki & Prometheus / Ranapiri, Essa May
“Echidna is a dangerous animal; she pokes holes in men just to remind them what kind of monster she is wakes up every single morning and chooses violence cos what choice does she really have? essa may ranapiri’s second poetry collection follows the story of Echidna, their own interpretation of the Greek Mother of Monsters, as she tries to figure out life and identity living in a colonised world. “–Publisher’s information.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Time is a mother / Vuong, Ocean
“Ocean Vuong’s second collection of poetry looks inward, on the aftershocks of his mother’s death, and the struggle – and rewards – of staying present in the world. Time Is a Mother moves outward and onward, in concert with the themes of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, as Vuong continues, through his work, his profound exploration of personal trauma, of what it means to be the product of an American war in America, and how to circle these fragmented tragedies to find not a restoration, but the epicenter of the break”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

Bordering on miraculous / Edmeades, Lynley
“A frame of clouds a slice of sky a window full of doubt-soaked borders. Here we are listening to the hypernated sound of clouds and it is miraculous”–Back cover.” (Catalogue)

The acts of oblivion / Batchelor, Paul
“The ‘Acts of Oblivion’ were a series of seventeenth-century laws enacted by both Parliamentarian and Royalist factions. Whatever their ends — pardoning revolutionary deeds, or expunging revolutionary speech from the record — they forced the people to forget. Against such injunctions, Paul Batchelor’s poems rebel. This long-awaited second collection, The Acts of Oblivion, listens in on some of England’s lost futures, such as those offered by radical but sidelined figures in the English Civil War, or by the deliberately destroyed mining communities of North East England, remembered here with bitter, illuminating force. The book also collects the acclaimed individual poems ‘Brother Coal’ and ‘A Form of Words’, alongside visions of the underworld as imagined by Homer, Lucian, Lucan, Ovid, and Dante.” (Catalogue)

The difference is spreading : fifty contemporary poets on fifty poems
“Since its inception in 2012, the online introduction to modern poetry known as ModPo has engaged tens of thousands of readers, listeners, teachers, and poets with its focus on a modern and contemporary American tradition that runs from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson up to some of today’s freshest and most experimental written and spoken verse.”– Provided by publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine (it’s not) : poems / Alam, Taz
“A raw, honest and heartfelt poetry collection from Taz Alam – for the tough times, the great times, and everything in between.” (Catalogue)

How to burn a woman / Askew, Claire
“Claire Askew’s electrifying second collection is an investigation of power: the power of oppressive systems and their hold over those within them; the power of resilience; the power of the human heart. It licks flame across the imagination, and rewrites narratives of human desire.” (Catalogue)

 

The Literary Legacy of Max Cryer

Max Cryer was many things in his life: a television personality, a musician, and a notable author. Some of his favourite topics to write about were cats and the history of words and phrases, especially New Zealand words. In honour of Cryer’s recent passing at the age of 86, here is a round-up of some of his most notable books:

The Godzone dictionary of favourite New Zealand words and phrases / Cryer, Max
“The Godzone Dictionary is a concise A – Z of the words and phrases that make our New Zealand language and speech patterns so different. Language expert Max Cryer examines a wide range of words and phrases, shedding light on their origin and offering helpful definitions. Slang words and expressions feature heavily, while one of the unique features of this book is the large number of Māori words that have become part of our common language in recent years.”–Publisher information.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Curious English words and phrases : the truth behind the expressions we use / Cryer, Max
“‘Cloud nine’, ‘at the drop of a hat’, ‘spitting image’, ‘mollycoddle’, ‘rigmarole’, ’round robin’, ‘spill the beans’, ‘kick the bucket’, ‘balderdash’ and ‘touch wood’. There are so many curious words and phrases that we often use and yet haven’t you ever wondered why we say them, where they come from and what they mean? Written by language expert Max Cryer, Curious Words and Phrases has all the answers behind some of the most interesting and perplexing words and expressions in the English language.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

The cat’s out of the bag : truth and lies about cats / Cryer, Max
“In this book Max Cryer celebrates cats and all they have given to us. He describes the many words and expressions they have inspired, from ‘catnip’ and ‘catwalk’ to ‘the cat’s whiskers’ and ‘raining cats and dogs’, as well as famous cat characters like Garfield, Felix the Cat, The Cat in the Hat and Puss in Boots, songs as varied as ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ and ‘The Cats’ Duet’, and poems like ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’. In other chapters he explores cats’ attributes, the strength of their night vision and sense of smell, their sleep requirements, life expectancy and much more.”–Publisher information”. (adapted from catalogue)

 

Is it true? : the facts behind the things we have been told / Cryer, Max
“In this revealing book, Max Cryer explores the truth or otherwise of facts and beliefs we may have always been told are true, but which on closer examination may not be. In a wide-ranging book encompassing social history, language, music, politics, food, sport, the natural world and much more, we discover the truth behind some of our most cherished beliefs. For example: Do St Bernard dogs really carry brandy? Does Santa Claus come from the North Pole? Did Winston Churchill coin the term ‘Iron Curtain’? ‘OK’ is an American expression, right? Tulips come from Holland, don’t they?” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Every dog has its day : a thousand things you didn’t know about man’s best friend / Cryer, Max
“Every Dog Has Its Day’ is a unique collection of extraordinary stories, feats and facts that will both inform and entertain. Written with a delightfully light touch, Max Cryer dispels some myths about dogs and confirms why they occupy such a special place in our lives.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Curious English words and phrases : the truth behind the expressions we use / Cryer, Max
“Have you ever wondered where terms like ‘Angostura bitters’ and the ‘green room’ come from? Or why we call some people ‘lounge lizards’ and others ‘sugar daddies’? These are just a few of the words and phrases that language expert Max Cryer examines in this fact-filled new book. He explains where such colourful expressions come from, what they mean and how they are used. Along the way he tells a host of colourful anecdotes and dispels quite a few myths too.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Preposterous proverbs : why fine words butter no parsnips / Cryer, Max
“Max Cryer looks at a vast array of proverbs from around the world. He has chosen some of the most interesting and perplexing, and with his characteristic wry wit he analyses their meaning and truth. A great book to dip into, Preposterous Proverbs will take you from Greece (‘A thousand men cannot undress a naked man’) and China (‘A dry finger cannot pick up salt’) to Japan (‘Fools and scissors must be carefully handled’) and India (‘A fat spouse is a quilt for the winter’)”–Publisher information.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Who said that first? : the curious origins of common words and phrases / Cryer, Max
“We might think we know who first said ‘famous for fifteen minutes’, ‘annus horribilis’, ‘the cold war’ and ‘let them eat cake’, but Max Cryer has a surprise or two in store for you. In this very readable book, Max Cryer explores the origins of hundreds of expressions we use and hear every day – and comes up with some surprising findings.” (Catalogue)

 

In praise of cats / Cryer, Max
“Did you know that the Bible does not mention cats at all? Do you know where the word caterpillar comes from? Why do we think cats have nine lives? How much of our great literature refers to cats–and what do authors say? These are the questions that many cat owners have pondered at one time or another. At last, all the cat references in our language have been gathered in one place to provide a informative, fun, and comprehensive resource on the feline species–it’s the cat’s pyjamas.” (Catalogue)