Making a scene: New biographies and memoirs

It’s that time again, a bumper crop of new biographies and memoirs are hitting our shelves and we’d love to share them with you. Whether your interest is stars of the screen, literary giants, world history or stories close to home, we’ve got something for everyone.

Making a scene / Wu, Constance
“Through raw and relatable essays, Constance shares private memories of childhood, young love and heartbreak, sexual assault and harassment, and how she “made it” in Hollywood. Her stories offer a behind-the-scenes look at being Asian American in the entertainment industry and the continuing evolution of her identity and influence in the public eye.” (Catalogue)

Terry Pratchett : a life with footnotes / Wilkins, Rob
“At the time of his death in 2015, he was working on his finest story yet – his own. Tragically, Terry ran out of time to complete the memoir he so desperately wanted to write. But now, in the only authorised biography of one of our best known and best loved writers, his manager and friend Rob Wilkins picks up where Terry left off, and with the help of friends, family and Terry’s own unpublished work, tells the full story of an extraordinary life.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Remainders of the day : a bookshop diary / Bythell, Shaun
“The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland is a book lover’s paradise, with thousands of books across nearly a mile of shelves, a real log fire, and Captain, the portly bookshop cat. You’d think that after twenty years, owner Shaun Bythell would be used to his quirky customers by now. Filled with the pernickety warmth and humor that has touched readers around the world, stuffed with literary treasures, hidden gems, and incunabula, Remainders of the Day is a warm and welcome memoir of a life in books.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Surviving Marmite : a memoir of growing up Iranian in New Zealand / MacLean, Anisa
“In 2000, when I was just seven years old, my family immigrated from Iran to New Zealand. Surviving Marmite chronicles our wild Kiwi journey; brimming with serious culture shock to hilarious misunderstandings and everything in between. It features my unconventional family: my overly optimistic taxi-driver father, my overly pessimistic eyebrow-threading mother, and my sister and I, frizzy-haired, confused and clearly incongruous third-culture kids.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

No filter : the good, the bad, and the beautiful / Porizkova, Paulina
“Writer and former model Paulina Porizkova pens a series of intimate, introspective, and enlightening essays about the complexities of womanhood at every age, pulling back the glossy magazine cover and writing from the heart”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

A heart that works / Delaney, Rob
“In 2016, Rob Delaney’s one-year-old son, Henry, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The family had moved from Los Angeles to London with their two young boys when Rob’s wife was pregnant with Henry, their third.  Amid the hospital routine, surgeries, and brutal treatments, they found a newfound community of nurses, aides, caregivers, and fellow parents contending with the unthinkable. Two years later, Henry died, and his family watched their world fall away to reveal the things that matter most.” (Catalogue)

Mussolini’s daughter : the most dangerous woman in Europe / Moorehead, Caroline
“Edda Mussolini was the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s oldest and favorite child. Drawing on a wealth of archival material, some newly released, along with memoirs and personal papers, Mussolini’s Daughter paints a portrait of a woman in her twenties whose sheer force of character and ruthless narcissism helped impose a brutal and vulgar movement on a pliable and complicit society. Yet as Moorehead shows, not even Edda’s colossal willpower, her scheming, nor her father’s avowed love could save her husband from Mussolini’s brutal vengeance.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Lives of the wives : five literary marriages / Ciuraru, Carmela
“The history of wives is largely one of silence, resilience, and forbearance. Toss in celebrity, male privilege, ruthless ambition, narcissism, and a few more factors, and it’s easy to understand why the marriages of many famous writers have been stormy, short-lived, and mutually destructive. looks at the complex and fascinating but tumultuous marriages of five well-known figures in the literary world,and exposes the misery behind closed doors. The wives were often demonized and misrepresented, and paid a price when they achieved recognition and freedom.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

We danced on our desks : brilliance and backstabbing at the sixties’ most influential magazine / Norman, Philip
“At the age of 22, Philip Norman lands a dream job as a staff writer on the Sunday Time’s hugely wealthy and prestigious colour magazine at the epicentre of newly-dubbed Swinging London. Under its indulgent editor, Godfrey Smith, he’s allowed to travel the world on munificent expenses, interviewing the famous and infamous from Stevie Wonder to Libya’s combustible Colonel Gaddafi. And between assignments, he’s caught up in office politics and partying that makes the Borgias seem almost civilized by comparison.” (Catalogue)

Boldly go : reflections on a life of awe and wonder / Shatner, William
“The beloved star of Star Trek, recent space traveler, and living legend William Shatner reflects on the interconnectivity of all things, our fragile bond with nature, and the joy that comes from exploration in this inspiring, revelatory, and exhilarating collection of essays.” (Catalogue)

The light we carry : overcoming in uncertain times / Obama, Michelle
“Mrs. Obama offers readers a series of fresh stories and insightful reflections on change, challenge, and power, including her belief that when we light up for others, we can illuminate the richness and potential of the world around us, discovering deeper truths and new pathways for progress.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

For more new items in the collection, go to: What’s new & Popular / March 2023 (

Jesters do oft prove prophets: Recently acquired crime and mystery

TeaCosyFolk clown knitting fool jester GIF

Image via giphy

Jesters do oft prove prophets.― William Shakespeare, King Lear

Detectives and sleuths have always come in all shapes and sizes, and from every conceivable background imaginable. This month we have the novel Courting Dragons by Jeri Westerson, which features an investigator who comes in the guise of a court jester during the reign of Henry the Eighth.

Jesters were most popular during medieval and renaissance times when they were employed to entertain nobles and royalty, and also commoners at town markets and fairs. They would perform a mixture of magic tricks, storytelling, juggling, acrobatics, and jokes often employing puns and  stereotypes. There are examples of entertainers who filled a similar role to jesters in Ancient Rome, called Balatrones, as well as in Aztec and the Chinese culture.

Medieval jesters wore bright and colourful clothes and eccentric hats. They also carried special symbols of office: A crown, usually a cap with bells, and a sceptre called a Marotte. These echoed those symbols of power held by the monarch and were used to indicate that they were covered by the jesters privilege, which is the freedom to mock and talk freely without being punished.

In other recently acquired crime and mystery titles, we have a new New Zealand investigator called Hana Westerman. Hana is a detective, a single mother, and the star of Better the Blood. The action is set in Auckland and her investigations eventually lead her back to the brutal bloody colonisation of New Zealand. The novel, written by fabulous director and screenwriter Michael Bennett, is already making waves for its style, deep content and thrilling quality. Look out for it in awards lists later in the year!

Courting dragons / Westerson, Jeri
“1529, London. Jester Will Somers enjoys an enviable position at the court of Henry VIII. As the king’s entertainer, chief gossip-monger, spy and loyal adviser, he knows all of the king’s secrets – and almost everyone else’s within the walls of Greenwich Palace. But when Will discovers the body of Spanish count Don Gonzalo while walking his trusted sidekick Nosewise in the courtyard gardens, and a blackmail note arrives soon after demanding information about the king, is one of his own closely guarded secrets about to be exposed? Trouble is afoot at the palace. Are the king’s enemies plotting a move against him? Will must draw on all his wit and ingenuity to get to the bottom of the treacherous and deadly goings-on at the court before further tragedy strikes.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Better the blood / Bennett, Michael
“Hana Westerman is a tenacious Māori detective juggling single motherhood and the pressures of her career in Auckland’s Central Investigation Branch. When she’s led to a crime scene by a mysterious video, she discovers a man hanging in a secret room. Hana and her team work to track down the killer, searching for New Zealand’s first serial killer.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.


Jane and the year without a summer / Barron, Stephanie
“May 1816: Jane Austen is feeling unwell, with an uneasy stomach, constant fatigue, rashes, fevers and aches. She attributes her poor condition to the stress of family burdens, which even the drafting of her latest manuscript–about a baronet’s daughter nursing a broken heart for a daring naval captain–cannot alleviate. Her apothecary recommends a trial of the curative waters at Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire.  Cheltenham Spa hardly turns out to be the relaxing sojourn Jane and Cassandra envisaged, however.Other boarders at the guest house where the Misses Austen are staying have come to Cheltenham with stresses of their own–some of them deadly.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Italian rules, or, The three endings of Toni Fausto / Benjamin, Tom
“When a canister containing an old movie goes missing from Bologna’s Cineteca – one of Europe’s leading centres of film restoration – Daniel Leicester is called in to investigate. He finds out that the film in question had been considered lost until recently. As he looks deeper into the mystery, he begins to suspect the outtakes from the missing film might expose the culprit of an unsolved murder from the past. As part of his investigation, he joins an exclusive Buraco club where they play the traditional card game to ‘Italian rules’ and he suspects the murderer may be among the membership.”(Adapted from Catalogue)

Golden age locked room mysteries
“Fourteen impossible crimes from the American masters of the form. For devotees of the Golden Age mystery, the impossible crime story represents the period’s purest form: it presents the reader with a baffling scenario (a corpse discovered in a windowless room locked from the inside, perhaps), lays out a set of increasingly confounding clues, and swiftly delivers an ingenious and satisfying solution. During the years between the two world wars, the best writers in the genre strove to outdo one another with unfathomable crime scenes and brilliant explanations, and the puzzling and clever tales they produced in those brief decades remain unmatched to this day.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A dangerous business / Smiley, Jane
” Ever since her husband was killed in a bar fight, Eliza Ripple has been working in a brothel. It seems like a better life, at least at first. The madam, Mrs. Parks, is kind, the men are (relatively) well behaved, and Eliza has attained what few women have: financial security. But when the dead bodies of young women start appearing outside of town, a darkness descends that she can’t resist confronting. Side by side with her friend Jean, and inspired by her reading, especially by Edgar Allan Poe’s detective, Dupin, Eliza pieces together an array of clues to try to catch the killer, all the while juggling clients who begin to seem more and more suspicious…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Winter swallows : ring down the curtain for Commissario Ricciardi / De Giovanni, Maurizio
“Christmas has just passed and the city is preparing to celebrate New Year when, on the stage of a variety show, famous actor Michelangelo Gelmi fires a gun at his wife, Fedora Marra. The shooting itself would be nothing strange: it is repeated every evening as part of their performance. But this time, someone replaced one of the blanks with a real bullet. Gelmi swears his innocence, but few believe him. Approaching old age and with a career in decline, the actor has become increasingly dependent on his wife, much younger than him and at the height of her fame…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Of manners and murder / Hastings, Anastasia
” 1885: London, England. When Violet’s Aunt Adelia decides to abscond with her newest paramour, she leaves behind her role as the most popular Agony Aunt in London, “Miss Hermione,” in Violet’s hands. And of course, the first letter Violet receives is full, not of prissy pondering, but of portent, Ivy Armstrong is in need of help and fears for her life. But when Violet visits the village where the letters were posted, she find that Ivy is already dead. She’ll quickly discover that when you represent the best-loved Agony Aunt in Britain, both marauding husbands and murder are par for the course.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Good food fast: Latest cookbooks

The month of March can sometimes feel like a busy one. Autumn is here, the universities have started back, and the evenings are slowly getting darker. This selection of new cookbooks share the same theme; quick, easy and delicious. There’s a new recipe to try for everyone in our collection!

Is this a cookbook? : adventures in the kitchen / Blumenthal, Heston
“Well, it’s full of Heston’s typically brilliant, delicious and inventive recipes. Every recipe is simple, straightforward and totally do-able. This is Heston at his most accessible. But there’s so much more. Each of the 70 recipes is accompanied by Heston’s thoughts, stories, insights and hacks, turning each cooking session into a journey that will excite and inspire and reveal a whole world of culinary possibilities and fresh perspectives. It’s the next best thing to having Heston as your sous-chef. So why not get in the kitchen and have an adventure?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Good food fast : delicious recipes that won’t waste your time / Jonzen, Emily
“Discover over 80 simple recipes that can be thrown together in a flash, from speedy mid-week meals to relaxed weekend feasts for friends. Most can be on the table in 30 minutes tops.”–Back cover.” (Catalogue)


Real life recipes : fantastic fuss-free food / Kerridge, Tom
“The ultimate cookbook for simple everyday recipes that fit your needs and won’t break the bank.” (Catalogue)




The edgy veg : easy eats : quick, tasty, vegan / Hutchings, Candice
“In her follow-up to the bestselling The Edgy Veg: 138 Carnivore-Approved Vegan Recipes, Candice Hutchings, returns with Edgy Veg Easy Eats, a collection of brand new recipes that don’t sacrifice creativity or bold flavour for ease or time. In these delicious pages, you will find vegan food built differently.   Flip open to any page, and each recipe will take you no longer than 45 minutes to make, while never compromising your need for great taste. No more backbreaking, long-haul, wallet-robbing treks to the fancy health food store for you. In no time at all you will be serving up dinner with an attitude and a cheeky side.”– Provided by publisher.” (Adapted by Catalogue)

Pimp your air fryer / Grigg, Jake
“Pimp Your Air Fryer goes against what you think a cookbook is. Written by Jake Grigg, aka the Air Fryer Guy, it is a recipe book that is not only fun and light-hearted, but one that promotes creativity and challenges the fundamentals of cooking. The Air Fryer Guy is a TikTok and Instagram sensation. His videos went viral after he started making wacky recipes in his air fryer.  So, if you have just bought an air fryer and you are still learning the tricks of the trade, or if you are an air fryer OG and looking for some next-level hacks and creativity, this is the book for you!”–Publisher’s description.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fool proof veggie one-pot : 60 vibrant and easy-going vegetarian dishes / Rosenthal, Alan
“Celebrate the essence and simplicity of one-pot cooking with everything from creamy pastas and risottos to fragrant curries and stir-fries, with 60 delicious and modern vegetarian recipes that are full of flavour”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)


Go-to dinners : make ahead, freeze ahead, prep ahead, easy, assembled / Garten, Ina
“Cooking during the pandemic inspired Garten to rethink the way she approached dinner. Here she shares strategies for making delicious, satisfying, and uncomplicated dinners. Many of the recipes are freeze-ahead, make-ahead, prep-ahead, or simply assembled from leftovers from another dinner. She even shows you how to assemble amazing boards using store-bought ingredients! — adapted from front flap” (Catalogue)

The Sound of 12 Stradivari

When the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed and restricted concert activity in 2020 and 2021, many artists developed unique recording projects that could go ahead in the new circumstances. One example of these innovative turns is Dutch violinist Janine Jansen’s new album, 12 Stradivari. The adventure with twelve exquisite and extremely valuable violins made by Antonio Stradivari in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was the idea of Steven Smith, managing director of the internationally renowned fine violin dealers J. & A. Beare. Smith saw the opportunity to bring together a dozen of the world’s best violins by Antonio Stradivari on one recording and approached Jansen (who currently performs on the 1715 Shumsky-Rode Stradivarius) to curate the recording in collaboration with pianist Antonio Pappano. The result is a fascinating exploration of twelve unique instruments, each with its own extraordinary associations with many of the leading violinists of the last three centuries. Jensen’s selection of repertoire reflects the history of the violins, while also highlighting the differences in the sound and personality of each instrument.

This post explores Jansen and Pappano’s 12 Stradivari, and introduces some of the other recordings in the WCL collection that feature instruments from Stradivari’s Cremona workshop. To find out more about the history of the instruments, and how they were made, have a look at the excellent  Tarisio site as well!

12 Stradivari
Jansen chose the repertoire for this recording to align with the history of the twelve violins and the musicians who played them. For the music of Fritz Kreisler, she plays his Syncopation on the 1734 ‘Lord Amherst’ violin, and his Liebesleid on the 1733 ‘Huberman’ violin, both of which were Kreisler’s instruments. Jansen plays the ‘Haendel’ Stradivari — the instrument long associated with the inimitable Ida Haendel (1924-2020) — in the first of Karol Szymanowski’s Mythes, op. 30, ‘La Fontaine d’Aréthuse’, a work that Haendel recorded in 1996. For  Henri Vieuxtemps’ Romances sans paroles, op. 7, Jansen chose the 1710 ‘Vieuxtemps’ Stradivari on which the Belgian virtuoso performed between 1870 and 1881. Jansen’s choice of a variety of short character pieces and transcriptions provides a portrait in miniature of each violin, while also demonstrating her own artistry in both the well-known and rarer works she plays. Pappano’s stylish playing complements Jansen, in an intuitive partnership.

Violin concertos 2 & 4 Sinfonia concertante / Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Image from this recording, Maxim Vengerov plays the 1727 ‘Kreutzer’ Stradavarius (you can read more about his connection with this violin here). Violist Lawrence Power also plays beautifully in the Sinfonia Concertante, and the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra makes a stylish contribution. Both Vengerov and Power offer rich, yet subtle, interpretations of Mozart, emphasizing the lyricism and wit of each piece. The central Andante of the Sinfonia Concertante is a particular highlight, while it’s also gratifying to hear Mozart’s Violin Concert No. 2 in G major, which is too rarely performed or recorded.

Violin concertos / Beethoven, Ludwig van
Another opportunity to hear Jansen, this time playing the ‘Barrere’ Stradavarius (1727) in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D, and Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto. The pairing of these two works is unusual, but it had been a longstanding desire of Jansen to present them in one recording, and the result is compelling. In Beethoven’s Concerto, she plays with lyricism and precision, exploring the gentle moments of the first and second movements with particular poetry. The finale, in contrast, is buoyant and joyous, exulting in the dialogues between soloist and orchestra. Likewise, in Britten’s Concerto, Jansen and the orchestra are true partners, working together to emphasize the tension that permeates this work.

1930s violin concertos. Vol. 1
The first volume of Gil Shaham’s 1930s Violin Concertos is an opportunity to hear the 1699 ‘Countess Polignac‘ Stradavarius, as well as five violin concertos from a turbulent decade. The concerti by Barber, Berg, Britten, Hartmann, and Stravinskhy reveal the diverse paths taken by these modernists. In addition, Shaham plays each piece with a different orchestra: Barber with the New York Philharmonic, Berg with the Staatskapelle Dresden, Hartmann with the Sejong Soloists, Stravinsky with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and Britten with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. As an opportunity to hear a fine violinist play with several of the world’s leading orchestras, this recording is unrivalled.

Simply baroque / Ma, Yo-Yo
Yo Yo Ma has played the ‘Davidov’ Stradivarius cello – previously one of Jacqueline du Pré’s instruments – since the late 1980s. The instrument is named for Karl Yulievich Davydov (1838-1889), whom Tchaikovsky once dubbed ‘the czar of cellists’. Initially, Ma used the ‘Davidov’ primarily for baroque and classical repertoire, including this collaboration with Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. Here, Ma performs several arrangements and transcriptions of popular extracts from Bach’s cantatas. ‘Erbarme dich’ from the St Matthew Passion works particularly well, as does the ‘Air’ from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3. However, Ma’s performances of Luigi Boccherini’s cello concerti in G major (G. 480) and D major (G. 478) are the highlights of the disc, two galant works that Ma explores with drama and sensitivity.

Sonatas for fortepiano and violin. Vol. 3, K. 302, 377, 379 & 454 / Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus B08YNV8MB9/ref=ase_wellingtoncit-21Isabelle Faust plays the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Stradavarius in this recording of four sonatas for keyboard and violin. Alexander Melnikov’s instrument is a fortepiano by Christoph Kern modelled on an Anton Walter instrument of 1795. The ‘Sleeping Beauty’ has an especially fascinating history, as Alessandra Barabaschi explains.  In the third volume of their journey through Mozart’s sonatas, Faust and Melnikov perform the Sonata in E-flat major K. 302 (which Mozart composed in Mannheim in 1778 and dedicated to Maria Elisabeth, the Electress Palatine); the Sonatas K. 377 and 379, in F major and G major (composed and published in Vienna in 1781 and dedicated to Mozart’s piano pupil Josepha Auernhammer); and the Sonata in B-flat major, K. 454. Mozart wrote K. 454 for Italian virtuosa Regina Strinasacchi who was then touring Europe. At their concert, in Vienna’s  Kärntnerthor Theater on 29 April 1784, Mozart had not yet committed the piano part of the Sonata to paper, and performed it from memory.  Faust and Melnikov play with panache and humour. The timbre of the fortepiano and the resonance of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ complement each other in an ideal fashion.

Image from The late string quartets, String quintet / Schubert, Franz In 1990, the Emerson String Quartet recorded Schubert’s Quintet in C major D956 with one of the greatest cellists of the twentieth century, Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007), to be included on their CD of Schubert’s ‘late’ string quartets. For the members of the Emerson, this collaboration was the most memorable of their careers, almost overwhelmed by Rostropovich’s boundless zest for life, his idiosyncratic ideas about when and how to rehearse, and of course, his legendary musicianship. At the second rehearsal of Schubert’s Quintet in the Dreifaltigkeitskirche in the town of Speyer, David Finkel of the Emerson Quartet recalled that:

we were left in the musical dust as Slava took command of everything, summoning up metaphors, noticing details in the composition, stopping for detailed work, exhorting us to do more of just about everything we thought we were already doing. It was like being dragged by a freight train. It was exciting, exhausting, and unnerving to be playing with someone who could hear so acutely, whose understanding of the music was so deep, and whose charisma was so

In this recording, Rostropovich plays the 1711 ‘Duport’ Stradivarius, which was his instrument from 1974 until his death. It is likely that this is the instrument on which either Louis or Jean-Pierre Duport played Beethoven’s sonatas for the King of Prussia, with Beethoven at the piano; in the 1840s, the ‘Duport’ Stradivarius was the instrument on which August Franchomme would perform Chopin’s Cello Sonata, with Chopin playing the piano.  Rostropovich would later record Chopin’s Sonata, a piece that the ‘Duport’ Stradivarius already ‘knew’.  In his collaboration with the Emerson Quartet in their recording of Schubert’s Quintet in C major, the distinctive tone of Rostropovich’s cello is audible, but the ensemble is perfectly blended in a poetic interpretation of the piece.

Nobel prize-winning author Kenzaburō Ōe has passed

The dead can survive as part of the lives of those that still live.

One of the giants of Japanese literature, Kenzaburō Ōe, died recently. His writing dealt with a wide range of ‘big question’ subjects — both on a personal and on a wider societal level. He wrote on subjects such as nuclear disarmament, militarism, and also his disabled son, who in later life became a musical prodigy and an award-winning composer. He said of his son “I was trained as a writer and as a human being by the birth of my son.”

Much of his work had its origins in his own life, such as The silent cry, which is about the impact of war on post-war Japanese society and is widely regarded as his masterpiece. His novel A Quiet Life is loosely about his relationship with his son .

Born in 1935 as the fifth of seven children into an age where the emperor was still regarded as a living god, he lived through the second World War, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the subsequent post-war collapse in Japanese society and its economy. In the 1960s, he became more political and was a highly acclaimed cult writer for Japan’s post-war youth. He continued writing late into his seventies, railing against any revival of  Japanese nationalism, nuclear power and war.

Henry Miller once said that in his “range of hope and despair” he was like Dostoevsky. Several critics said of him that, like Faulkner, he created a language of his own.

We have a wide range of his works available in both English and Japanese:

Browse works by Kenzaburō Ōe

Rouse up o young men of the new age / Ōe, Kenzaburō
“K is a famous writer living in Tokyo with his wife and three children, one of whom is mentally disabled. K’s wife confronts him with the information that this child, Eeyore, has been doing disturbing things — behaving aggressively, asserting that he’s dead, even brandishing a knife at his mother — and K, given to retreating from reality into abstraction, looks for answers in his lifelong love of William Blake’s poetry. As K struggles to understand his family and assess his responsibilities within it, he must also reevaluate himself — his relationship with his own father, the political stances he has taken, the duty of artists and writers in society. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Somersault / Ōe, Kenzaburō
“Kenzaburo Oe is internationally recognized as one of the world’s finest writers. When he won the Nobel Prize nearly ten years ago, he announced that he would no longer be writing fiction–or, if he did, that his future work would be radically different from the highly autobiographical fiction he was known for. Now, with Somersault, Oe has broken his silence and shared with us the result of his artistic reorientation, in a magnificent story of the charisma of leaders, the danger of zealotry, and the mystery of faith.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Death by water / Ōe, Kenzaburō
“[Kogito Choko] returns to his hometown village in search of a red suitcase rumored to hold documents revealing the details of his father’s death during World War II, details that will serve as the foundation for his new, and final, novel. Since his youth, renowned novelist Kogito Choko planned to fictionalize his father’s fatal drowning in order to fully process the loss. Stricken with guilt and regret over his failure to rescue his father, Choko has long been driven to discover why his father was boating on the river in a torrential storm…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Hiroshima notes / Ōe, Kenzaburō
Hiroshima Notes is a powerful statement on the Hiroshima bombing and its terrible legacy by the 1994 Nobel laureate for literature. Oe’s account of the lives of the many victims of Hiroshima and the valiant efforts of those who cared for them, both immediately after the atomic blast and in the years that follow, reveals the horrific extent of the devastation. It is a heartrending portrait of a ravaged city — the “human face” in the midst of nuclear destruction.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A quiet life / Ōe, Kenzaburō
A Quiet Life is narrated by Ma-Chan, a young woman who at the age of twenty finds herself in an unusual family situation. Her father is a famous and fascinating novelist; her older brother, though mentally handicapped, possesses an almost magical gift for musical composition. The lives of both father and son revolve around their work and each other, and her mother’s life is devoted to the care of them both. She and her younger brother find themselves emotionally on the outside of this oddly constructed nuclear family. But when her father leaves Japan to accept a visiting professorship from a distinguished American university, Ma-Chan finds herself suddenly the head of the household and the center of family relationships that she must begin to redefine.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The silent cry / Ōe, Kenzaburō
The Silent Cry traces the uneasy relationship between two brothers who return to their ancestral home, a village in densely forested western Japan. While one brother tries to sort out the after-effects of a friend’s suicide and the birth of a retarded son, the other embarks on a quixoticmission to incite an uprising among the local youth. Oe’s description of this brother’s messianic struggle to save a disintegrating local culture and economy from the depredations of a Korean wheeler-dealer called “The Emperor of the Supermarkets” is as chillingly pertinent today as it was when first published in 1967. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Nip the buds, shoot the kids / Ōe, Kenzaburō
Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids recounts the exploits of 15 teenage reformatory boys evacuated in wartime to a remote mountain village where they are feared and detested by the local peasants. When plague breaks out, the villagers flee, blocking the boys inside the deserted town. Their brief attempt to build autonomous lives of self-respect, love, and tribal valour is doomed in the face of death and the adult nightmare of war.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Teach us to outgrow our madness : four short novels / Ōe, Kenzaburō
“Four stories which offer insights into Japanese society are contained in this work by the winner of Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize for literature. The title story is a semi-autobiographical account of a father coming to terms with his brain-damaged son.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

CDs From The Vault – 2005: Part 2

Here is Part 2 of our ‘CDs from The Vault: 2005’ post. You can catch up with Part 1 here.

Somebody’s miracle / Phair, Liz
Indie-rock queen Liz Phair polarized fans with her self titled 2003 pop opus. Not just pop, it was teen-pop and collaborations with The Matrix left her sounding like Avril Lavigne’s newly divorced big sister. While some found it fun & refreshing, others found it a horrific sell-out. Her new album, a step back from that effort, heads straight into ‘adult contemporary’ territory. Now she wants to be Sheryl Crow, but the songs suffer from a polished overproduction which, while it suits artists like Crow, doesn’t really match up with Phair’s voice or lyrics. At least on some tracks she sounds like herself (‘Leap of innocence’, ‘Stars & planets’ & ‘Table for one’), but others just tend to merge into each other. Worth checking out though if you hated her last album. (Mark L.)

Dreaming wide awake / Wright, Lizz
This person can sing. She respects the words, and lets us hear them. Slight touch of Cassandra Wilson and Oleta Adams, but better. Mixed bunch of songs from old standards to her own creations. Interesting smooth arrangements of upbeat oldie ‘I’m Confessin”, Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’, and late 60s anthem of peace love & brotherhood etc., ‘Get Together’ that really work. Bill Frisell plays on 3 tracks. (Chris F.)

Careless love / Peyroux, Madeleine
Born in Georgia in 1975, raised in Paris, and sings in an easy, 30s swing style, often in French, with hints of Billie Holiday & Jolie Holland. Previous CD Got you on my mind was with multi-instrumentalist William Gallison, inventor of the Moonwatch. Excellent driving music for those who need soothing rather than winding up. (Chris F.) [New Deluxe Edition here]

Rock swings / Anka, Paul
Anka, a noted singer songwriter (for everyone from Buddy Holly to Sinatra & Tom Jones) reconfigures ‘contemporary standards’ to a swing context. What could have be an appalling gimmick for the most part works as Anka sounds totally committed to the idea and, together with his lead arranger, turns everything from Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ to Billy Idol’s ‘Eyes without a face’ into brassy swing anthems, or crooneresque ballads with surprising ease. Not everything works, as the subtlety of ‘Tears in Heaven’ is lost in the transfer, and ‘Smells like teen spirit’… well he may not have known who Kurt Cobain was but he sure belts the hell out of the song (though probably not in a good way). The rest is great though. Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s my life’ is delivered with a swagger that sounds like its taken straight from one of Sinatra’s 50s Capitol LPs, and who doesn’t want to hear a swing version of Van Halen’s ‘Jump’…(Mark L.)

Continue reading “CDs From The Vault – 2005: Part 2”