little red jottings

when a little red pen wanders off the page

Tag: whole lotta links

Reading lists

P1050661The bedside table
The pile of books by my bed is getting out of hand — I’m partway through eight of these and have worthy intentions towards the rest. From bottom to top, they are: excellent, but hard work; strange; charming, but my French was better eight years ago when I started reading it; essential, but daunting; thought-provoking, but irritatingly blokey; so well written I can’t bring myself to read past the first chapter until I can pay proper attention; fun, then boring; terrific, according to my partner; a classic; very dated, but I’m much calmer this week; also dated, but I’m having a good time.

Coming up
Two of my friends have books coming out at the moment, and they both look to be winners. Check out Maria McMillan’s The Rope Walk and Pip Adam’s I’m Working on a Building.

And I’ve got three books on hold at the library: John Le Carré’s A Delicate Truth (because I can’t hold out any longer) and James Salter’s Light Years and All That Is (because I read a review of one and then wanted to read both).

How to write
If you want to know how to avoid writing rubbish prose, Orwell summed it up pretty well almost 70 years ago. For example:

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.

The next project
By now, it will be obvious that I have a weakness for the spy thriller, so I might just have to work my way through this list too.

What else?
So, there’s all that, but I feel like I’ve spent the last few years reading in snatches, collecting books at random and inhaling them in any tiny quiet space I can find in a day.

But what am I missing? What’s out there that I don’t know about? What would you recommend? If I browsed your bookshelf, what would you pull out for me? Should I be keeping more lists: “What I Want to Read”, “What I Have Read”? Would that mean I could go stationery shopping, buy a notebook?

Fourteen things

One: Going home
Vincent O’Sullivan has written a 14-episode account of Ralph Hotere’s journey home. The number recalls Hotere’s use of the number, his referencing of the Stations of the Cross and of his 14 siblings. Frustratingly, the full version is only available to subscribers (when did the Listener change that?).

Two: Favourite birds (my son will be so cross that I haven’t used the proper full names, but the truth is, I can’t remember them)
mandarin duck
black cockatoo
superb lyrebird

Three: Books that got me through my childhood, and my children’s
Corduroy, Don Freeman
Any of the Frances books, Russell Hoban (illustrated by Garth Williams)
Tell Me What It’s Like to Be Big, Joyce Dunbar (illustrated by Debi Gliori)
Mr Gumpy’s Outing, John Burningham
Big Momma Makes the World, Phyllis Root (illustrated by Helen Oxenbury)
The Ramona books, Beverly Cleary
Big Sister and Little Sister, Charlotte Zolotow (illustrated by Martha Alexander)
Virginia Wolf, Kyo Maclear (illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault)
Come On, Daisy!, Jane Simmons
The Raft, Jim LaMarche
The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Mog books, Judith Kerr
Dogger and everything else, Shirley Hughes
far too much by Noel Streatfeild
Anne of Green Gables and all the rest, LM Montgomery
bonus: Kitten’s First Full Moon, Kevin Henke + about a hundred others

Four: Authors I’ve found myself consuming in bulk
George Perec
Italo Calvino
Primo Levi
Laurence Fearnley
Janette Turner Hospital
Nigel Cox
Sara Maitland
Jeanette Winterson
Maurice Gee
Philip Pullman
Ann Patchett
Jim Crace
Michael Ondaatje
(see the children’s list above)

Five: Foods that make life better
smoked salmon
salad, lots of it
roast chicken, then chicken soup
poisson cru
fennel seed and olive oil biscuits

Six: 14-letter words

Seven: What I want in a house
a chair by a window, just for reading
a kitchen that I can eat, cook, talk, and read in
a space for the kids to play
a front porch
a sheltered space to eat outside
plenty of trees
a glasshouse
vegetable patches
a workspace
bookshelves in every room
a woodburner

Eight: Condiments, loosely interpreted
lemons — fresh, juiced, zested, preserved
fennel seeds
sea salt
tomato sauce
a book
a friend

Nine: Punctuation that makes text prettier
fanciful ampersands
the Oxford comma
double quote marks
full stops
question marks, sparingly
well-placed commas
tidy, well-aligned bullet points
parentheses, occasionally

Ten: Plants I like to have in my garden

Eleven: The elements of a fine day
a small boy’s arms around my neck
that first cup of coffee
a shower
a walk, run, or yoga class
a kiss
seeing something through my children’s eyes

Twelve: A 14-year-old dancer

Thirteen: Colin McCahon’s Stations

Fourteen: A sonnet, of course
Not in a silver casket cool with pearls
Or rich with red corundum or with blue,
Locked, and the key withheld, as other girls
Have given their loves, I give my love to you;
Not in a lovers’-knot, not in a ring
Worked in such fashion, and the legend plain—
Semper fidelis, where a secret spring
Kennels a drop of mischief for the brain:
Love in the open hand, no thing but that,
Ungemmed, unhidden, wishing not to hurt,
As one should bring you cowslips in a hat
Swung from the hand, or apples in her skirt,
I bring you, calling out as children do:
“Look what I have!—And these are all for you.”
Edna St. Vincent Millay

From pie charts to paper craft

So what I want to know today is, “What font shall I use?” And, “Do I have to go to the supermarket, or can I make do?” Speaking of which, “Is it time for morning tea?” And also, “How does the nation grieve an artist, one who has helped us to see who we are, who we might be, what we mustn’t become? How do we keep looking?”

In the meantime, some distractions:

Oscar-nominated films as pie charts

Look! New punctuation marks

At it’s best, the loveliest of fruit

A bookbinder’s blog

One for the kids (big and small)

Ralph Hotere

Ralph Hotere died in Dunedin yesterday.

The world feels emptier.

The news

What it means

From the north


With Hone Tuwhare*

Hotere Garden Oputae**

Documentary, 1974

Documentary, 2001


Tuwhare’s poem

* Janet Hunt. ‘Tuwhare, Hone’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30-Oct-2012. URL:

** Malcolm McKinnon. ‘Otago places – Otago Harbour’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 15-Nov-12. URL:

Things I liked this week

A big week, this one. My partner had a birthday, our little boy turned two (today!), we cranked out some good family times for the last week of the school holidays, we spent time with friends, I conquered a formatting problem, the sun shone every day. No, really. Every single day.

And a few good things came my way, via Facebook, other blogs, serendipity. So I thought I’d share some with you.

The subversive copyeditor: How could I resist a name like that? Someone posted a link to this article on Facebook, and that led me to the rest of the blog.

Smitten Kitchen: Someone recommended this blog to a Facebook friend. A cook who can write — sign me up.

An ohhhhh, that’s interesting graph: with thanks to Blue Milk. I’ve been thinking about what it means all week.

Shetland ponies in cardigans: Epbot posted a link to these photos (via the Modern Farmer), and it made my day. Tourism NZ people, I’m afraid this blows both 100% pure and Middle Earth OUT OF THE WATER.

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