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The LOOP Print Emailer


The LOOP Print Emailer

Friday 7 April 2000



On now at Capital E, Wellington, Books Alive! takes children on a journey through the history of language, and lets them explore the evolution of writing from prehistoric cave-drawings to the modern day.

In addition to cave-drawings, hieroglyphics, quills and printing presses, Books Alive! addresses less familiar forms of language such as braille and e-text emoticons. A blown up page taken from Gavin Bishop's prize-winning picture book, The House that Jack Built, contains lift-up windows explaining to children the themes and motifs 'hidden' in the illustration.

Five larger-than-life displays present images and text from the latest books of Andrew Crowe (The Life-Size Guide to Insects), Gavin Bishop (The House that Jack Built), Hirini Melbourne (Te Wao Nui A Tane), Bob Kerr (Mechanical Harry) and Annie Rae Te Ake Ake (Myths and Legends of Aotearoa). Each of these authors will visit the exhibition to read their books and talk to children throughout the school holidays.

Children follow a six-foot tall alphabet around the room before returning to a luxuriously cushioned central space which, unsurprisingly, provides bins of books for consumption and delight. Despite the quantity of information and resources at hand, there is plenty of room for running and exploring and discovering. Interactivity is a clichéd buzzword where children are concerned, but Books Alive! really does it right (or should that be 'write'?). Whether this prompts avid reading, flourishing writing or simple appreciation of books, Books Alive! has succeeded in educating and inspiring.

Books Alive! will be running at Capital E in the Civic Square until May 28. Get along for a valuable and inexpensive (re)introduction to the delight of the written word.

- Mark Ballinger




Loaded, England's once-leading lager lout magazine (the inspiration for NZs very own Brass mag) is falling from its spot as THE mag for all self-respecting beer and breast lovers. The senior editorial team have apparently succombed to the old 'hit 30something, have babies' trend, and readers are getting bored. A new site is being launched to take (the magazine's online version) head on - pitching at both guys and gals, using the original Loaded style of writing. Loaded competitors are doing something right though, putting US men's mag Details on ice after being outsold by UK imports Maxim and FHM.


Americans have chosen Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken' as their favourite poem. Two years ago, poet laureate Robert Pinsky launched a campaign to discover America's favorite poem. He received nearly 18,000 written, videotaped and recorded suggestions. Pinsky recently presented 100 video and audio recordings of Americans from all walks of life reading their favorite verses to the Library of Congress. More selections and comments appear in the book Americans' Favorite Poems, edited by Pinsky and Maggie Dietz. Pinsky said in an interview that WW Norton, the publisher, has recently ordered a fourth printing - 10,000 copies. A Norton publicist declined to give total sales since it was published in November but said it was "doing extraordinarily well," especially for a book of poetry. (AP, Washington)


Ha Jin, who emigrated to the United States from China in 1985, has won the biggest American prize awarded by a jury for a novel or short story for his book Waiting. The award brings him $15,000, on top of the National Book Award he won earlier this year. Waiting tells the story of a Chinese man who spends 18 years, under the Communist government in the second half of the 20th century, freeing himself from an arranged marriage so he can wed the woman he loves. (AP, Washington)



THE BUSINESS by Iain Banks (Little, Brown and Company)

It's an urban myth we've all heard - Coca Cola owns McDonalds, the people who own Coca Cola also own Virgin; the people who own Virgin also own half of Mitsubishi and nearly all of Pepsi, which owns KFC and Pizza Hut and a great deal of Disney - and up there somewhere, there's someone who owns just about everything. That's The Business.

Iain Banks is the Scottish author of novels The Wasp Factory and Walking on Glass - imaginative, provocative and often perplexing tales. Banks' latest offering, The Business, does not however belong in such estimable company. By contrast, it is a lumbering, predictable and unsatisfying piece. Various strands of the plot emerge and dissipate at unusual points in the book, and those plot lines are eventually brought together in a way that seems at best arbitrary, at worst completely ad hoc. In contrast to his other novels, Banks simply does not seem to be in control of this story.

I suspect that Banks intends The Business to be the story of personal and ideological struggle in an artificial context, designed not to convince the reader of its reality but to exaggerate the universal conflicts between love and money, and between self, institution and nation. But Banks fails to follow his own rules: so much of the story rides the centre-line between these extremes that any resolution feels, to the reader, simple and unsatisfying. In this instance, Banks is not a cunning and imaginative story-weaver, but rather the narrator of a tantalising but ultimately disappointing plod, I mean plot.

- Mark Ballinger

Review continued at

DAYS TO GO by Ian D Robinson (Quoin Press, $19.95)

"Oh fuck, another day, another hangover, another fuckin girl I don't know anything about."

If the cover doesn't catch your eye the first sentence will. Days to Go is the story of a young man teaching English in Japan, getting drunk and getting laid. The plot is simple (will love save Senn from his downward spiral?), but the portrayal of contemporary urban Japan is fascinating. Robinson has lived in Japan and describes the culture and the people, as well as the experience of being a foreigner, with the assured voice of someone who knows what he is talking about. AC


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