Whenever – perish the thought, but it is something of an occupational hazard – I start getting too up myself as a reader, I head straight to Nick Hornby’s Stuff I’ve Been Reading column in the Believer magazine. I’ve never been much of a fan of Hornby as a novelist, but with this column he’s proven himself a model reader, a welcome reminder of what it’s all about – or should be all about. The column consists of a list of the books Hornby has bought in the previous month, and a list of the books he’s actually read. The two seldom tally and there you have the first facet of the column that so appeals: its acknowledgment that we readers frequently have eyes bigger than our bellies. Then there is the wide range of what Hornby reads – the sense of serendipity and free-ranging curiosity. The blithe blokiness can sometimes get a bit much, but hand in hand with it comes a perspective on the books free of the received wisdom and critical niceties of professional book reviewers. His comparison of John Updike’s highly strung depiction of marital life with his own (and indeed any of ours in the real world) is hilarious. MORE BATHS LESS TALKING (Believer Books) is the latest collection of Hornby’s columns, and is available as an import. As is – should you wish to get back up yourself – James Wood’s latest collection of literary criticism, THE FUN STUFF AND OTHER ESSAYS (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Eternally divided, I bought them both. You could do the same.
Bill Manhire isn’t the only poet to lend his words to lyrics – but at least he got a say in the matter. Who knows what old William Butler would have made of the 14 songs taken from his poems to make up the WATERBOYS album An Appointment with Mr Yeats. Music reviewers have certainly liked them, though, and now New Zealanders can hear the songs live, along with Waterboys classics such as The Whole of the Moon and Fisherman’s Blues. Civic Theatre, Auckland, January 21.
There can’t be many Listener readers – discerning people that you are – who wouldn’t recognise an Eames chair when they saw one, even if they couldn’t put a name to it. The furniture of 20th-century industrial designers Charles Eames and wife Ray have become classics, not to say iconic – known if not in their original form then via the many imitations of them. EAMES: THE ARCHITECT AND THE PAINTER (Madman) – architecture and painting being the couple’s other vocations, along with film-making – is a DVD documentary that captures “the wild whimsical world of the Eames office” in Los Angeles, which was run like a Renaissance artist’s studio and motivated by a philosophy of “the best for the most for the least”.
Maori heritage and Christianity combine in KAITIAKI, “word paintings” by Christchurch artist Darryn George, who began the series after the February 2011 earthquake, starting with words like “Rata” (doctor) and “Kaitiaki” (keeper), and then incorporating “Atua” – “‘Atua’ is the Maori translation for God. Repeated over and over, the word appears like a prayer for help.” Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua, until March 3.
JOE SHEEHAN: OTHER STORIES is an exhibition that began at Pataka and is now at the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui. The show gathers together a decade of Sheehan’s stone works – magnificent recreations of everyday objects (cassettes, light bulbs, TVs, you name it) that transcend their origins whether through the translucence of the green pounamu some are made from or simply through the precision that characterises them all. Imagine what Sheehan might make of one of those Eames chairs. Until February 3.