Arrowtown book buyer Miranda Spary continues her regular
column about her recommendations for a good read and life as
she sees it ...
Happy 2013, and thank you for all your emails pointedly
reminding me that with all the holiday time I had last year,
I didn't deserve a three-week break from writing my column
over Christmas. It's a funny thing how not writing it
generates much more feedback than writing it. I do love
hearing from readers; it helps keep me sane. Too much fuss is
made of sporting achievements these days.
But how many people do you know who can build a car from
vegetables or make dinosaurs from Rice Krispies?
I thought the media would be hounding me for a story about my
genius nephews who went home in glory from the Lake Hayes
Show with first and third place certificates, but not a bit
of it. I suppose all the focus was on Roger Tompkins and his
magnificent mancake - layers of steak, peas, spuds, liver and
onions clad in a coat of bacon rashers with a huge frilly
whitebait fritter as ''icing'' and a ring of tomatoes round
the top. Quite the most glorious culinary masterpiece ever.
Needless to say, he won first prize for baking- and gloating.
Last year's champion Duncan Forsyth snivelled at his second
place card. His beautiful carrot-shaped, carrot-coloured,
carrot cake just looked a bit, well, horizontal and
vegetabley next to Roger's.
And shame on all the women of the district - there were
hardly any ladycakes in the competition. Next year, let's
show them what talents lie beneath our prim and perfect
pinnies. Apropos of hidden talents, Guy Mayell and the
Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand organised to have the NZ
premiere of the documentary The Big Picture at Dorothy
Browns. I hadn't been invited, but the subject is so dear to
my heart that I wangled my way in (some people call it
gate-crashing). They are going to make the film available to
schools throughout the country as soon as possible. Do try
and see it.
It shows just how brilliant dyslexics are, and what the
physical differences in their brains are. I only wish this
had been known when my darling was at school. Teachers caned
the dyslexic kids for struggling with reading and writing,
and were unaware of the great skills they had. I had planned
to spend the Christmas break reading non-stop as the pile of
books, as well as the virtual pile on my Kindle, will not
stop growing. Ken Follett's Fall of Giants and Hilary
Mantel's Wolf Hall have been lurking around for so long the
second parts of these trilogies are out before I've even
finished the first.
Ken's was unputdownable (I knew I'd love it) but I'm sad to
say Wolf Hall is still getting put down so frequently
I might have to ring the vet about it. I just don't get it,
and everyone tells me to keep going - eventually I'll love
it. On several attempts, I've made it to halfway, but then
fall on the homeward stretch. Is it just me?
Whenever I've put down ''Wolfie'', I've fallen into yet
another great book. Mary Lovell wrote about those naughty
Mitford Girls so successfully I couldn't wait to get into The
Churchills. What a family! Not just content with producing
Britain's most famous politician, there were strings of
strumpets, madmen, all sorts of sex and scandals and naked
women lying on tigerskins luring Winston into their boudoirs.
Even the footnotes are fascinating. And the quotes: hard to
choose a favourite but it was probably when a trainer
suggested retiring Churchill's stallion and putting it out to
stud: ''What? And have it said that the PM of Great Britain
is living off the immoral earnings of his horse?'' It's hard
to imagine a better holiday read.
And for magical writing, don't go past Ru by Kim Thuy.
She's a Vietnamese author whose life started out in
privileged circumstances in Saigon, then turned to something
hellish as a refugee. Now a Canadian, her book is a short and
delicious collection of thoughts about her life and the
strangeness of the changes in it. Originally written in
French, it's a beautiful translation.