Good Reading : September 2007
foreword Many years ago I spent several glorious months in New Zealand, apple picking in Motueka and hitch-hiking around both islands. Sadly, I’ve had only fleeting visits to the country since, but I’ve always taken an interest in Things New Zealand, it being one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever clapped eyes on. But even I have to confess ingorance about much of the literature that comes out of Aotearoa these days, and I know I’m not alone. So this month − fittingly, as it’s New Zealand’s Book Month − ex-pat journalist Caron Dann takes us on a guided tour of New Zealand’s best books of recent and current time, starting on page 18. On page 14 Caron also profiles New Zealand writer Joan Druett, whose books about maritime history have been published in many countries and whose new, exciting series of murder and mystery on the high seas star ring young half-Maori seaman Wiki Coffin is published here this year. Back in 1993 social commentator Hugh Mackay made a splash with his bestselling book about our attitudes, Reinventing Australia.This month sees the publication of his fascinating follow-up tome Advance Australia ...Where? I spoke to him about where he thinks we’re headed, and what he thinks of the younger generations; read his erudite comments on page 21. I only wish I’d had space to run more of his insightful analyses − but of course to read more, you can always buy or bor row his book! Because we have the tail-end of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival and all of the Brisbane Writers’ Festival happening this month (see BWF’s director Michael Campbell’s ‘Me, My Shelf, I’ on page 8), many overseas writers are cur rently touring Oz. One is Ar mistead Maupin, whose characters from his ‘Tales of the City’ series make a welcome reappearance in his new title after an 18-year absence. See Steve Dow’s interview with this original author on page 9. The fourth instalment of our excerpts from Jane Gleeson- White’s Classics: Books for Life features what many consider to be the world’s greatest novel: Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Read all about it on page 10, and don’t tell anyone that yours truly ’fesses up to not having read it − yet. One day ... Three very different books round off September’s offerings: a fascinating fictionalised biography of Maurice O’Shea and his wife Marcia, The Vintner’s Letters (page 22), an extract from an atmospheric novel about a 19th-century expedition in Papua New Guinea, Dead Birds by Trevor Shearston (page 50), and a drop-dead gorgeous coffee table book about la belle France, My French Life by Vicki Archer (page 46).