February 3, 2011

Books, books and a new project

On the subject of querying publishers, things are proceeding slowly. Various life events have intervened, including a dead internet connection for three days. Four queries have been sent off, there are three to go. Each one takes about three hours, by the time the synposis, letter, bio and so on are adapted to each publisher's requirements. It's a shade less aversive than marketing/promoting an actual book, so I am doing it, and will continue to the end of my list.

I'm still reading 99 Ways Into New Zealand Poetry, by Paula Green and Harry Ricketts and still enjoying it and continuing to be most admiring of how much they know and how they put it together.

The great birthday pile (see photo above) is as exciting as ever and promises much excitement and many treats. An early one is The Torchlight List: Around the world in 200 books by Jim Flynn. This is a small attractive book that takes a thematic look at how to get an education about the world, through reading great literature. Some extracts from his opening:
"I want [people] to be able to understand the world, rather than just be swept along … with no real comprehension of what is happening to them. … you need to know something about science, and nations other than your own and their histories, and the human condition."
The 200 listed books are supplemented by sublists. Counting from just the 200, I find I have read 39. Is that good? Or bad? I don't know, and it doesn't matter. It is illuminating to see where my gaps are - I have read few books about Spain, Portugal, South America, for example. Jim Flynn gives pithy descriptions of the books he lists and his own candid opinions of them. It was fun to read.
Now I'm onto my next writing project, which is gathering together short pieces I have accumulated over the years that I may be able to shape into some kind of collection. I fancy having 60 in total, which means writing some new ones, but I'll do the gathering first and see what I've got. Here's an early draft of what could possibly be the first piece in the collection:
An Opening
He was twenty-two when he died, a soldier in another country’s army fighting a different country’s war in yet another country, felled by support fire from a friendly gun. A full military funeral was called for, and held in the country of his origin, though that country was none of the earlier ones mentioned.
Family members flew around the world to bring his body home and his coffin sat in his parents’ living room for two days.
“I thought they usually had the coffin open,” said someone.
The funeral was a stage-managed affair on all fronts, at all levels. His sister bought some expensive high-heeled shoes in bright yellow, especially to wear with her short black skirt and tight black top. The family is well-connected. The army is well-connected.The funeral was in the cathedral. Joint ops. Lies were told about the man who died. Well, not outright lies, but that combination of exaggeration and omission that make someone look better than they were.
A woman was there who had no business being there, except she cared about an extended family member who would be there and perhaps sidelined. As one who did not believe in any god, she had not been to the cathedral before and admired the colours in the stained glass windows. Between the karanga calling in the coffin and the trumpet playing of the last post as it was carried out on the shoulders of slow-marching soldiers there was no tangible emotion, except for a stranger sitting beside her, who sobbed quietly throughout and appeared to know none of the family.
During a reading of verses from Ecclesiastes, widely known through a Seekers’ song, a gentle pop in the mind of the woman who had small business there turned into an idea for making a whole bunch of her short writings into something real and formed; “stones gathered together.”


  1. I like it. I like the idea of gathering together and with or without the song, am not surprised it came up in that context. The disjointed funeral of a young man who's life was already fragmented and lost on many different levels.

  2. Hoping to buy both the poetry book and the torchlight list when I am over in April- not available here yet.

  3. FYI - the poetry book weighs a fraction over 3 kilos. It's Random House NZ/Vintage, might be somewhere in the UK. Torchlight is small and perky.