Interview: Andrea Hotere on her book The Vanishing Point

The Vanishing Point by Andrea Hotere is a brilliant, multi-layered historical art mystery thriller set in London in 1991 and Madrid in 1656. The novel boasts two main  protagonists, Alex Johns and the Infanta Margarita, with each character connected by mysteries surrounding one of the most famous paintings of all time, Las Meninas or ‘The Ladies-in-Waiting’ by Diego Velázquez.

Las Meninas is one of the most written about paintings of all time. It hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid and is one of the most enigmatic, mysterious and most talked about works of art of all time. It is superbly painted with almost photographic detail, featuring numerous objects and a large cast of figures in its composition — a true masterpiece. Many of these elements and details raise questions in themselves, however it is the questions it raises about reality, illusion, and the relationship between the figures in the composition and outside viewers that has fascinated admirers and writers on art for centuries.

In The Vanishing Point, Andrea Hotere takes some of the fascinating factual details and mysteries surrounding the painting and runs with them, creating a brilliant literary puzzle.

Andrea Hotere grew up in Ōtepoti, Dunedin, and lives in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, with her family. She studied history at the University of Otago, journalism at the University of Canterbury and has worked as a historical researcher, journalist, TV producer and author.

We were thrilled when Andrea took time out from her very busy schedule to discuss The Vanishing Point, and we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to her. For more information visit Ultimo Press.

This interview was done in conjunction with Caffeine and Aspirin, the arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM. You can hear the interview, as well borrow The Vanishing Point by following the links below.

The vanishing point / Hotere, Andrea
“Set against the backdrop of London in 1991 and Madrid in 1656 the novel follows the lives of two women, Alex Johns and the Infanta Margarita, who are connected by a quest to unravel the enigmatic secrets within an iconic painting.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Interview: Giselle Clarkson in conversation

The observologist cover (showing an illustrated dragonfly) on a green background with yellow flowers.

The Observologist by artist and writer Giselle Clarkson is a book all about exploring the world of the small and the wonderful. As William Blake would say, the book is about exploring the mysteries of all creation in a grain of sand, and the book has a bucketful of fun as it does this.

The Observologist is a 101 handbook for mounting very small scientific expeditions in and around your home. The book looks at over 100 small creatures, plants, and other living things. Subjects range from slugs, ants, seeds, fungi, flies, bees, and even bird poop.

The book is much more than a list of interesting plants and animals, it is funny, playful, engaging, brilliant and a really practical collection of ideas about how to explore and engage with the natural world on your doorstep.

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Tīhema Baker in Conversation

One of the most acclaimed and talked about novels of this year is Turncoat by Tīhema Baker. Turncoat is a book that takes a close look at some of the effects of colonisation, using the lens of satire and science fiction. The book deals with some really big issues but does so in a thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining and funny way .

Turncoat explores what it feels like to be colonised in a distant future, when aliens called the Noor have colonised Earth and the entire human race is struggling to have their voices heard and rights upheld. Much of human culture and society has been replaced by Noor culture, society and language.

The novel’s central protagonist, Daniel, is a young man working inside the bureaucracy of the alien colonisers who wants to ensure the Covenant of Wellington, the document signed in the “birthplace of modern Earth”, is honoured, but he finds the task challenging.

Tīhema uses his own experience as a Māori public servant to inform much of the storyline.

Turncoat holds a satirical mirror up to Pākehā New Zealanders and asks the question : “What if it happened to you?”

The novel is a wonderful concoction of moving, funny, tragic and disturbing and very prescient in a political and social fashion.

Tīhema Baker (Raukawa te Au ki te Tonga, Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai, and Ngāti Toa Rangatira) is a writer and Tiriti o Waitangi-based policy advisor from Ōtaki. He has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington, for which he wrote this novel.

We were thrilled when Tīhema took time out from his very busy schedule to discuss Turncoat and we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to him. For more information visit  Lawrence & Gibson.

This interview was done in conjunction with Caffeine and Aspirin, the arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM. You can hear the interview and borrow Turncoat by following the links below.

Turncoat / Baker, Tīhema
“Daniel is a young, idealistic Human determined to make a difference for his people. He lives in a distant future in which Earth has been colonised by aliens. His mission: infiltrate the Alien government called the Hierarch and push for it to honour the infamous Covenant of Wellington, the founding agreement between the Hierarch and Humans. With compassion and insight, Turncoat explores the trauma of Māori public servants and the deeply conflicted role they are expected to fill within the machinery of government. From casual racism to co-governance, Treaty settlements to tino rangatiratanga, Turncoat is a timely critique of the Aotearoa zeitgeist, holding a mirror up to Pakeha New Zealanders and asking: “What if it happened to you?” ( Adapted from Catalogue) We also have a Book Club kete of this title if your book club fancies reading this.


Interview: Emergency Weather Author Tim Jones

Emergency Weather is Tim Jones’ debut novel, his previous literary outings have included releasing several acclaimed poetry collections and editing award -winning science fiction short story collections.

Emergency Weather is a powerful, prescient and compelling climate change thriller set in Aotearoa, and more precisely the Wellington region. The novel focusses on three very different people who have to face the climate crisis head-on, when a giant storm builds and then hits our capital city.

Tim Jones. Photo Copyright: Ebony Lamb.

Wellingtonian Tim Jones was awarded the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. He co-edited Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, which won the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work. His recent books include poetry collection New Sea Land (Mākaro Press, 2016) and climate fiction novella Where We Land (The Cuba Press, 2019). He is also a climate change activist.

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Novelist Latika Vasil picks her top five dystopian reads

The World I Found is the debut novel by Wellingtonian based Indian New Zealander Latika Vasil.

This emotional and exciting young adult read is an apocalyptical ‘what if’ novel, in which 15-year-old Quinn returns from a visit to the remote Campbell Island only to discover everything has changed, everyone has vanished, phones don’t work and there is no power. How do they go about navigating and surviving in this new world?

Latika Vasil lives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. She has worked as a university lecturer, a researcher, a creative writing tutor and currently as a freelance writer. Her fiction has been broadcast on Radio New Zealand, and published in many anthologies and magazines. The World I Found is her first novel.

Dystopian novels have a long and noble history and the opportunity to ask someone who is adding to this illustrious canon was just too good to miss. So, to celebrate the release of The World I Found we asked Latika to select her top five dystopian novels.

We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to Latika Vasil for taking the time to write this list!

Station eleven / Mandel, Emily St. John
Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
Despite the bleakness of a world destroyed by a deadly virus, Station Eleven offers the reader moments of incredible beauty amongst the gloom. I loved the writing and the meticulous worldbuilding. The book follows the stories of various characters across different timelines, but the storyline that stuck with me the most was the one that followed The Traveling Symphony, a rag-tag group of musicians and actors, as they roamed through a post-apocalyptic world performing for survivor communities. In the face of an almost total collapse and the loss of technology, Station Eleven shows that art will endure.

The road / McCarthy, Cormac
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The Road follows the journey of a father and his young son as they walk across America after an unspecified apocalyptic event. McCarthy’s writing style is spare which perfectly mirrors the unrelentingly bleak landscape through which the pair are travelling. Some readers may find the book too dark and pessimistic but I loved its intensity. It will break your heart many times over but it is a masterpiece of dystopian fiction and the deep love between father and son is truly beautiful to read. We never find out what caused the devastation but it is timely to consider climate change as a contender for leading to this type of future.

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Kristen Phillips’ book ‘Dad, You’ve Got Dementia’

Dad, You’ve Got Dementia: Conversations With My Father is local author Kristen Phillips’ new book that focuses on her experiences with her father Don through his journey with dementia. The book is an intimate look at their relationship, with a focus on the enduring love and connection that remains between them throughout the difficult late-stage years. Kristen writes an endearing and relatable book that is equal parts memoir and poetry. She expresses the moving importance of caring for whānau with dementia using patience and understanding, to help maintain the deep connections that remain throughout the process of memory loss. We sat down with Kristen for an interview and talked about what inspired her to write the book, what it was like sharing intimate moments in the book and her professional work in helping to reduce social stigmas around dementia in NZ.

Dad, You’ve Got Dementia is published by The Cuba Press. You can reserve a library copy here. Kristen also writes short book reviews for the series ‘On The Same Page‘, for New Zealand Dementia Foundation. For more resources for you and your whānau visit Dementia Wellington.

At the library we have also recently introduced He Kete Pupuri Mahara: Memory Bags to our borrowing collection. You can reserve and take home a collection of items aimed at encouraging conversation and reminiscence for people with dementia or memory loss.

Below is a list of some the books on dementia that we hold in our collection, including the books Kristen mentions in her interview:

Contented dementia : 24-hour wraparound care for lifelong well-being / James, Oliver
” A groundbreaking and practical method for managing dementia that will allow both sufferer and carer to maintain the highest possible quality of life. Dementia is a little-understood and currently incurable illness, but this guide shows how much can be done to maximize the quality of life for people with the condition. The SPECAL method (Specialized Early Care for Alzheimer’s) outlined in this book works by creating links between past memories and the routine activities of daily life in the present.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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