Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Congratulations to Brannavan! Sodden Downstream makes novel of the year shortlist!

Buy Sodden Downstream

We're delighted that Brannavan has gone from the longlist to the shortlist, from ten contenders down to just four, for fiction of the year at the annual Ockham NZ Book Awards. We'll be there to celebrate on May 15th in Auckland. Hurrah - a first for Lawrence & Gibson!

We've just got new stock in to meet demand, as we've also seen a few great reviews recently.

Rob Kidd from the Otago Daily Times wrote that Sodden Downstream was "essential reading for modern New Zealand"

In the NZ Listener Catherine Woulfe wrote, "This novel is a gem. Sita is a gentle, endearing vessel for the themes of social injustice, and her ­determination and optimism should ­qualify her as one of fiction’s great ­heroines. Highly recommended."

Monday, November 27, 2017

Sodden Downstream media round-up

Brannavan's fifth book has received a good number of reviews recently - we thought it prudent to place them here for the ease of interested parties. Why not? Why not? Oh and it has also been long-listed for Ockham NZ Book Awards novel of the year... great news, Bran!!!

  • 'Kindness of Strangers: a review of Sodden Downstream' by Therese Lloyd at Pantograph Punch. "Gnanalingam is masterful in his ability to portray a sense of ‘otherness’ and he does this particularly well through dialogue; his rendition of Kiwi idiom is some of the best you’ll read"
  • 'Book review: Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam' by Rachel Pommyrol at Scoop Review of Books. "The rhythm is rousing, leading the reader through the pages, through the past years and through the 24 hours of the narrative. He uses humour and sensibility with equal skill."
  • 'Book review: Sodden Downstream" by Hannah August with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon.
  • Interview of Brannavan Gnanalingam and Lynn Freeman on Standing Room Only.

And on top of that a fantastic review of Milk Island from Jack Ross at Landfall Review Online: 'The Poetics of Planned Obsolescence'.

And for something else altogether, see Brannavan's questioning of the whiteness of NZ literature in a column for the Spinoff, including a few tips for diversifying your literary portfolio.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Announcing 'Sodden Downstream' by Brannavan Gnanalingam

Kia ora all - Lawrence & Gibson are pleased to announce our second publication of the year will emerge on September 15. The book will be called Sodden Downstream and will be the fifth by Brannavan Gnanalingam. Below is an interview with Mr Gnanalingam from one of the interns at the publishing collective. We'll have a cover image up shortly!

Sodden Downstream is a novel but it seems to deal with issues that are very politically salient right now. Was that a coincidence or something you thought would happen in an election year?
It's a coincidence that it's going to be released at the same time as the election, and, at the same time that Metiria Turei has made inequality and poverty a major election issue.  However, I don't think it's surprising being politically minded that my book's themes are election issues. The current situation, in terms of homelessness, the rise of preventable illnesses, poor housing options, rising rent / food prices etc., are clearly having an effect on a large portion of New Zealand's population. Also the ruthless scrutiny given to Turei matches the exact same scrutiny that is given to poor people – i.e. you have to be this perfect, deserving individual in order to get state support, and even then, you're made to feel worthless. The idea that we shouldn't help refugees because we need to help our homeless people first is also deeply problematic – it shouldn't be an either/or situation, it should be both. This is a book about compassion, and I think it's tapping into conversations that other people are having

As a writer, would you ever publicly back a political party? Or are there other ways – beyond the writing itself – that you think writers can best be political?
No I never really want to be associated with a political party.  I have no interest in being a cheerleader or being forced to put aside parties' shortcomings for the "greater good". I mean it's no secret where my sympathies would lie overall.  However, as a writer, I'm interested in how power manifests itself and in the means, not the end – I don't want to compromise those obsessions with the need to be helping a party out. There is much more to politics than our Westminster system. That said, I think writers ought to be political - I'm probably in the minority here. I guess my views of writing are influenced by what I read. The overwhelming majority of what I read are written by women or people of colour or other minorities, so I suspect an everyday 'political-ness' feeds into what I consider interesting in books. I think writers with causes are great and I think there's some great stuff being done with specific political campaigns. Doubling the refugee quota, for example, is a great campaign run by Murdoch Stephens, who incidentally is part of Lawrence & Gibson.

You said 'writers ought to be political'. Is there anything, right now, beyond the themes in this book that you think are also incredibly salient politically?
I think there's plenty of areas to cover - I'm planning my next book to be about toxic masculinity in the context of a private boys' school. There are other issues of inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia / transphobia, environmental issues such as climate change and overfishing, class segregation, the refugee crisis, etc. etc. I could probably have written a book on the issues that ought to be examined in art but that'd get quite earnest.

Kim Hill infamously suggested there would not be enough subject matter in the story of an office cleaner trying to get into a flooded Wellington to make for a novel. If she said the same thing in an interview today, how might you respond?
To be fair to Kim Hill, I didn't do the best job of explaining what the book would be about. I explained the coda, rather than the fact the book would be about the journey itself. I would say it's a love letter to Lower Hutt, it's an account of people who have been forgotten in New Zealand, and it's about a refugee persisting.

There is a lot of mutual aid and solidarity in the new book – people being willing to drive many kilometres out of their way to help others, other people offering a couch for the night. What would you say to an interviewer – not me of course, a fictional interviewer – who insisted that you'd overplayed the positive character of people from the Hutt Valley?
My book is based on a true story, and the person who recounted a cleaner's experience on a day when the motorways / trains weren't operating, told me that people rallied around to help. Some of the stories are based off hitchhikers' stories to me. The mechanic who stops is based off a mechanic who stopped to help me out at 2am on the Hutt motorway. Whenever I've travelled, people with little have gone out of their way to help me. If people want to be cynical about the kindness of everyday, working people then they probably need to get out of their bubble.  
There were two myths that I was trying to critique in this book. One, that Wellington is a "white" city. People who say that basically erase my existence, and the Tamil community that forms an integral part of it. I grew up in Naenae, which is brilliantly multicultural. My friends growing up weren't particularly white, and even if they were, they were kids of South African apartheid protesters, cousins of Gaelic harp champions, they were immigrants themselves from England or Wales etc.. I spent a lot of time in Wainuiomata and Porirua with sport, and so yes, I never thought of my childhood city as "white".  Second, I wanted to attack the myth that the working class were racist. For starters, the working class – those doing manual work, cleaners etc. - isn't white. Second, there's nothing that suggest white working class people are more racist than middle-class / upper-middle class white people, and I think it's a convenient way for middle-class people to disavow their own collusion in structural racism by instead blaming people who are deemed "stupid" or "poor". I mean, for example, the average Trump voter earned $72,000, while the average Hillary Clinton voter earned $56,000.
That's an example from the US in terms of voters - how do you think that plays out in Aotearoa New Zealand? That is, are the intersections of class and race more of less the same here, or are there also other salient factors?
Someone talked about how New Zealand's egalitarianism plays out by attacking people who seem to get something for nothing. It can be an extremely ugly thing when people ignore historical / social factors behind why a person might be getting helped. This perhaps explains why there is so much opposition to things like beneficiaries being treated like humans, Treaty settlements etc. I think there are some major issues with class and segregation in New Zealand, and a real refusal to understand how difficult a lot of people are finding it. I think it's relatively similar in terms of problems to the States, albeit perhaps less dramatic in its extremes. I think there's also a major shortage in compassion in New Zealand too.

For your last book you described a little bit about how you developed your characters by writing out life stories of each person before getting started, including all sorts of factoids that don't necessarily get included. Did you also do that for the current book, and if so, what is one of the more interesting things you might let us in on that didn't make it into the book about any character?
I didn't to the same extent. Unlike Briefcase, where the characters had to be embedded in their location, for the most part here, the characters only briefly interact with Sita. I wanted to get a sense of how she might view them, how they'd have no backstory for her.
 I'd say 80% of the conversations are based on conversations I've had with people in real life. The character who was recently released from prison for example, told me (when we picked him up hitchhiking) about how he had to sleep in a digger the night he was released. He had had nowhere to go, and was simply dropped off outside Rimutaka. With those stories, I didn't feel like it was fair for me to add too much of a backstory. However for him, I did talk to a friend at the Howard League about how prisoners would have been treated, in order to expand some of his backstory. It was similar with other characters. The character called Branavan isn't based on me at all, because he only has one 'n' in his first name.

Your last novel was long-listed for the best novel of the year in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. What do you think of the book's reception and were there any particularly new occurrences for you as a, now, 'award nominated' author?
I was stoked to be long-listed, and I think it helped get my book to a wider audience. It was super-nice to be on the list with some amazing names.
In terms of reception, I was intrigued that Briefcase was essentially about white defensiveness, and not one single review talked about race (except in the Wellingtonista). It was also about how we have created a system that says Muslim lives aren't "deemed grieveable" (a term of Judith Butler's).
My focus on Islamophobia barely got touched on in reviews. In fact, Briefcase was pretty much the plot of Hit & Run and how it would play out in the New Zealand media, except the events were set in New Zealand. I took no satisfaction in how accurate Briefcase proved to be. I very rarely get critiqued on the ideas that I'm trying to work through in my book. If anything, the critiques focus on form. I couldn't care less about form. Content is what I'm way more interested in and form is merely how I structure my arguments.
In terms of new occurrences, I sold a tonne more books through bookstores, so that was fabulous. I sold some in Auckland too, which is a market I've never really been able to crack, so thank you Ockhams (and the Auckland Writers Fest).
After the Ockham awards nominations, I'm curious why you are still publishing with a smallish publishing collective. Is this because of an allegiance, broader views about publishing as an industry or something else?
There are a few reasons why this book had to go through Lawrence & Gibson. I wanted to express solidarity with Murdoch Stephens' Double the Quota campaign, and this was my contribution towards that campaign. Second, my last book sold plenty, got good distribution, was long-listed for the Ockhams, and I participated in some great literary festivals. What more would a bigger publisher have given me in New Zealand? I'm happy with what I get at Lawrence & Gibson. Finally, this book is particularly political. Lawrence & Gibson seemed by far the best publisher to deal with that content and it's a natural fit.

Thank you for the solidarity! I love it how in this book it is the story of a refugee that is never imploring – not that a moral dimension is absent. Is that a fair thing to say and if so what was your intent with the tone of the book around morals and moralism? 
I knew the book would be relatively obvious in its politics, but I wanted to keep a distance and also to add some humour so that it wouldn't be too earnest. I didn't want it to be a sermon either, because that can be alienating to a reader. So yes, I think the tone is a bit cool. I guess ultimately it's simply about a woman persisting, so she'd probably tell me off for turning her story into something more imploring.

While your last book deal with institutionalised Islamophobia, this is your first novel dealing with a community closer to your own experience: Tamil people from Sri Lanka. What was the most interesting thing you learnt in writing and researching a Tamil character?
I had never felt particularly close to my Tamil side growing up. I don't really speak the language, although I completely understand it. I haven't been back since I was thirteen. I always felt like I straddled two worlds.
What changed was becoming a parent, to be honest and getting a sense of what my parents went through. After I was born, my Mum looked after me by herself for my first year (while Dad was stuck in Zimbabwe). In the middle of a warzone where she almost was killed. While she was also looking after her dying parents. This makes me sound callous, but I don't think I had quite appreciated just how much my parents scraped and sacrificed for my sister and me. They also moved to New Zealand, literally not knowing a single person. With all of the bullshit anti-immigration rhetoric, I kinda wanted to pay tribute to first generation immigrants. Want to blame them for infrastructure problems? They're probably keeping the infrastructure working. 
I also wanted to get a sense of my own cultural background, as I want my daughter, similarly, to have a sense of her cultural background. In recent years, I've also got a sense of my family solidarity – cousins, second cousins etc. – and I wanted to pay tribute to that. This idea of a people dispersed all around the world who have this shared bond / trauma.
I also didn't quite appreciate the full horror of the Civil War. As part of my research, I read survivor account after survivor account, which was such a heart-breaking experience. It really was a forgotten war, and I knew I had to do some justice to it. And given the anti-refugee rhetoric, it made sense for my protagonist also to be a refugee.

You wrote an article for Stuff about the experiences of your family in the civil war in Sri Lanka. What kind of reactions did you have from various communities to you telling that story in a public forum?
Not much, we're a taciturn, stoic bunch. Also, it was probably telling a story that almost all of the Tamils would be aware of from their own, or their families', experience of the Civil War – so it didn't necessarily need commenting on. In some respects, I'm writing for audiences who know nothing about it.

Finally, you've often spoken about the positive influences of other arts and performers in Wellington in creating the conditions for your work to exist within. Is there any artist since we last spoke that you'd like to gesture towards as being quintessential to the capital city today?
I really struggled initially with tone for this book. In my last two books, I focused on satirising the powerful, or satirising powerful ideologies. This meant I could take a pretty scabrous Juvenalian tone. This one however, was almost entirely made up of characters who were struggling and it's about trauma. I couldn't use that tone. It wouldn't have been fair and it would have been punching down. I was heavily influenced by Svetlana Alexievich's approach to just letting stories play out (particularly in how she presented trauma). However, it was only after I read Ashleigh Young's Can You Tolerate This? that I really got a sense of how to approach my book (not that I would in any way want to suggest that my book is at that level). I thought that book was a marvel. It featured barely any external conflict, yet it was so compelling. It was also probably the saddest book I'd read in a long-time. Young's real skill though was how generous she was to all of her characters and their struggles. It was one of the most compassionate books I've read. I think in my previous books, I hadn't shown a lot of compassion to my characters in my other books (as much as I loved them). They were quite cruel, intentionally so. Can You Tolerate This was such a helpful thing to read and helped shape the tone of Sodden Downstream. I wanted compassion to be the abiding response to what are horrible situations for most of my characters.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Milk Island launched!

 From left, Lawrence and Gibson luminaries Thomasin Sleigh and Branavan Gnanalingam watch our newest author Rhydian Thomas, read a passage from Milk Island at the launch on June 1 - about 8.10pm give or take five minutes - in the year 2017.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Launch of Milk Island

What, preytell, is a Milk Island? And what is a Milk Island?

One is a dystopian future where public private partnerships render Te Wai Pounamu into a prison dairy farm. The other is the soothsaying text that predicts - perhaps - such an about coming.

Launched on June 1, 2017 at Pegasus Books in the Left Bank Mall, Cuba St, Wellington. Pre-order here if you cannae make it.

Also, if you're in the audience, and a provincialist, you might ask the author - who will read from the book, I assure you - what the name for the North Island may become in the near or distant future?

Cream on, my friends, this will be the milkiest of all launches.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Brannavan at Auckland Writers Festival

Hi ho City o' Sails. Here comes Brannavan Gnanalingam, representing all the haught and huff of his latest novel across two sessions. Bravo! Bravo!

Oh, and they're free to enter so make sure to buy a book.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

All you ever wanted to know about Brannavan's latest book but were too shy to friend request us on FB and ask

Brannavan Gnanalingam's A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse is a finalist in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. That might be the reason you're here. And so below is a definitive guide to this, the most Wellington book ever written (according to one reviewer).

Press Release
Kim Hill interview on Radio NZ Saturday Mornings
Launch party photos and reportage
Extended interview with Pip Adam + Radio NZ review
Tom Goulter review for Wellingtonista
Reading notes/review from Maetl
The Listener review
Booksellers NZ review

Buy A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Launch Party and Kim Hill interview

The collective is pleased to report on the successful launch of our 21st title.

We're also very pleased that the iconic, despotic Kim Hill interviewed Brannavan at length the morning after the show. You can listen to that here.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Launch tonight!

Buy A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse

Monday, May 30, 2016

Radio New Zealand review of A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse

Listen to Pip Adam discuss Brannavan Gnanalingam's new book with Jesse Mulligan here. Launch parrrty this Friday. Here's the cover! All love to Paul Neason for his charming design.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Interview on the occasion of the imminent publication of a forthcoming book

Detail of draft of cover

On June 3, Lawrence and Gibson will release Brannavan Gnanalingam's new novel A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse. Murdoch from Lawrence and Gibson asked Brannavan a few questions about the new book.

I thought to ask questions of you because I was reading Animal Shelter 3 the third of four (so far) journals put out by Semiotext(e) under their new incantation under Hedi El Kholti. The current interview is from 1975 and is with Jean Eustache. Tell me: The Mother and the Whore spoke to your second book, are there any films that speak to or are spoken through A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse?

This one was less film-influenced than some of my other ones. If I had to name any, I'd say Miguel Gomes' Tabu and Christian Petzold's Phoenix in terms of tone and political commentary.  I also really want to prop Tim Wong's Out of the Mist, a documentary about New Zealand cinema that asked some really interesting questions about nationhood and cultural malaise.  I thought it was fantastic.
The period when I wrote this ended up being a very productive period of going to shows and feeling like I was part of the city. I think that helped in capturing a sense of Wellington-ness in the book.  I went to a number of shows that really nailed shifting between tones, and were at once political / satirical / carried an emotional wallop: Eamonn Marra's Respite, Adam Goodall's Knifed, Richard Meros' Hillary Clinton/Young Lover, and Kate McIntosh's All Ears. OK maybe, Meros didn't have an emotional wallop, but that's because he's such a rogue.
I also ended up seeing a lot of music, with this sense of people just playing because they make great music (which to be honest is more inspiring than any advice that people give as to how to be an Artist).  This was all happening despite fewer venues and less mainstream coverage. During this period of writing, I saw amazing shows from the All Seeing Hand, Dobermen, Echo Beach, Eyeliner, French for Rabbits, Glass Vaults, Grayson Gilmour, The Happy Plaster, HEX, Lontalius, Orchestra of Spheres, Phoenix Foundation, Pikelet, Ruth Mundy, Seth Frightening, Shocking Pinks, SJD, TAB, Tigers of the Sea, Vorn, Waterfalls, and Womb, for example. There's so much good stuff happening around the place, that being part of it helped inform the book.  I also reckon New Zealand music is doing a far better job at being political and incorporating different voices than most other Kiwi art-forms.

There's a review of your third book about to come out in this quarter's copy of Landfall. I was contemplating some witticisms from Eustache in that interview and it made me reflect on ‘serious’ readers. Do you feel like there have been serious readers of your catalogue? How do you feel about the reviews?
I am very grateful for any coverage I can get, and I feel like I've been taken seriously.  I'm particularly grateful for the likes of Landfall for ensuring that there continues to be a conversation. I'd like to think my books are able to be analysed in critical ways.  
Arts coverage has been declining rapidly. Mainstream media organisations seem to think by having less content they'd get more readers or maintain their current readership. In fact, they're giving many people even less incentive to read them.  I remember seeing a study that bookstores that sell a diverse range of titles books 'weirdly' sell more books. To me it's a no-brainer. If I want a book and I don't know which one, I'm going to go to Unity, not Whitcoulls. I don't think it's too different with media / reviews. 
I've gone off-track here. But it's also to say that there are fewer reviews and less coverage of writers than ever before, and it's harder for us all to get our work out there. But it's the same across all art-forms, particularly if you're doing something that you consider worthy of serious consideration.

Is there any part of the new book that you're most concerned could be misread?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Still got all our fingers and toes...

We're in our tenth anniversary year and have celebrated by producing a gorgeous little booklet (94 pages; 140x145mm) highlighting our releases. It is half catalogue, half archive, collecting emails, excerpts and ephemera from across our eight authors.

Here's an excerpt from our editor, Mr Stephens, on the warrant for such an endeavour:

And a few more pics of the cover and inside. The book will be free to those interested - the question is, how to get a copy... any sales for the next couple of months will receive one, but from there it will be up to serendipity.
Anyone desiring one, however, can pay the postage + packaging and we'll whip one your way at cost (NB: some of the margins are a little tight in places, consider this an objet d'art, valuable due to its hand production plus individual glitches) :

Buy Still got all our fingers and toes

Monday, October 5, 2015

Great Gnanalingam review in Fishhead magazine

October 2015 copy of Fishhead magazine goes in-depth on 'Credit in the Straight World':

Litcrawl and Meros book goes full circle

One of our books has done the equivalent of a round the world journey. Starting life as a book it journeyed to becoming a play, to becoming a spin-off franchise play to becoming another book. Hi-ho America! Hi-ho hilarity with Hillary! New Zealanders can check out this adaptation in Nelson and Hastings in the coming week, and - god willing - Wellington at the start of next year. More details here.  The Young Lover Activity Guide is based on Meros' original On the conditions and possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her Young Lover but is transposed to modern day USA (kind of like those awesome Scandinavain crime thrillers or 'The Office' getting US franchising). Expect it to reach beyond the original's 20-30 recommended reading age to a much more inclusive 5-85 age bracket. Yes: more pictures and fun-facts as well as a shorter page count and pronunciation guide for key terms.

In other exciting news, Lawrence & Gibson authors will be speaking at a LitCrawl event on November 15 at 7.15pm at Six Barrel Soda. We'll be searching for a patron saint so that we can praise them and encourage the local council to name streets and parks after them. Originally, there was enthusiasm for John A Lee, but we all know that he already has that corner named for him in Auckland. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Richard Meros recipient of Catton's Horoeka Reading Grant

Richard Meros, long-time author of Lawrence and Gibson, has published an essay describing his reading while recipient of Eleanor Catton's Horoeka Reading Grant. Established in 2015, the grant is designed "to give New Zealand writers the means and opportunity not to write, but to read, and to share what they have read with their colleagues in the arts." Read more about the grant here.

‘New Bourgeoizealand’ by Richard Meros

It seems like many, many years since New Zealand was the land of milk and honey. And while there are those who are creaming it, and the hives are still buzzing, many of us are living lives of lack.

There are not enough jobs, and the ones that we do have are precarious.

There are not enough houses, and the ones that we do have are expensive, leaky and cold.

There are not enough government services, and the ones that we do have are making cut backs.

There is a lack, there is a lack, there is a lack.

These appeals to lack have a rich immediacy: we feel half-emptiness and we let each other know it could be better. Every complaint, we might hope, contributes to the death of the government.
But when killing the government, even if it is one criticism at a time, we all become executioners.

The problem with being an executioner is not that each individual criticism is in some way wrong or immoral. Instead the problem is that, in the end, we end up with the executioner mindset, seeing the world as one powered by corporal justice. And whoever considered ‘off with his head!’ to be a prescription for the good life?

Read the rest of the article at the Horoeka website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Media and reviews for Credit in the Straight World

A couple of early reviews are out. First up is Ngaire from BookieMonster: "The best moments are the scenes of surreal hilarity that you only get when you skate right up to real life and tweak it on the nose". And this lovely/lively endorsement of our witty works: "Last week at the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival it was asked “Where are the anarchic books?” The answer is right in front of us."

Also, on Sunday Brannavan featured on Standing Room Only, interviewed by Shaun Wilson with a portion of the book read by Mark Cubey, the Young Marble Giants reference not missed. Reading from 2m30s; interview from 4m30s.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Launch photos for Credit in the Straight World

On May Day, 2015 (1 May, for those lacking in historical consciousness) Lawrence & Gibson publishing released Brannavan Gnanalingam's third book, and the twentieth for the collective. Rousing chants of 'more' and 'toast the editorial board' spontaneously erupted throughout the evening. Gin and tonic were applied liberally to the Friday evening wounds of the week. Apple juice was an option for tee-totallers and sensible/sensitive. Commendations to Gnanalingam for the carrot dip and Meros for the hummus. Numbers surpassed quorem, with author of LG018 Thomasin Sleigh present, and the designers of LG004, LG009, LG011 and LG020 Mr Neason and co. present also.

The evening began with a speech from editor-in-chief Murdoch Stephens who commented on the felicity of Gnanalingam's reproduction of the characters of small town South Island folk. There was a brief scuffle when questions were raised over whether the town of Nelson, or Whakatū, was a small town or a big town. Following this Gnanalingam read a portion of his text on an erroneous, and telling, coming together of merriment, violence and corruption. The evening was topped off with the music of Womb (Charlotte Forrester) and Bent Folk light (Dick Whyte).

Many copies of the novel were sold, and we can proudly note that we have, so to speak, balanced the books. This means that you have a little time to get a first press copy - the book will be reprinted shortly, so there's no need to fear that it will become an expensive HardtoFindBooks only matter. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Credit in the Straight World interview with Brannavan Gnanalingam

Good morning Brannavan. This new book, Credit in the Straight World, is your first to be set in New Zealand. Is New Zealand the straight world?
Why not?  A Canterbury Plains State Highway 1 world. 

And what populates the Canterbury Plains? Or more to the point, how do straightness and crookedness come together in your novel?
People. And sheep. And now cows. And water races.  But unfortunately, no longer the South Island kōkako.
Straightness and crookedness come together?  That's a tough question.  Does the characters' natural straightness create the space for crookedness to dominate?  Or is crookedness the natural starting point, and straightness the tool used by the crooked?  And who gets to define what is straight and what is crooked?  Lots of questions, none of which will be answered in my book.

I'm curious about the concept of 'credit'. There have been many writings and documentaries in the last decade on debt and credit, but I'm wondering if there is any economic, social, philosophical, or perhaps even literary, treatment of credit that inspired your writing.
Credit is given to somebody on the basis of hope, belief, expectation that you would get something back in return (interest!).  You've got no guarantee that when you lend somebody $20 or buy a round of beer, that you'll get it back in kind.  Sure, the banks and finance companies will model and assess risks, and probably financially be more successful than if I set up the Brannavan Gnanalingam Finance Company Limited today and started lending money at 2% interest to Lawrence and Gibson.  But ultimately, there seems a quasi-faith aspect to the functioning of credit.  So naturally, I was drawn to Kierkegaardian concepts of deism to look at the nature of faith and capitalism.  Who wouldn’t be?
Also, Balzac. Lots of Balzac.  Money, credit, power, and manipulation of markets – that's Balzac 101. The 19th Century writers like Dickens, Zola, Trollope, and Balzac were writing about a capitalism that was arguably simpler, but fundamentally not all that different in its operation and its interplay with power.

Honoré de Balzac

Do you have a personal view on where - and forgive the breadth of the question - on where the world is now, seven years after the Global Financial Crisis?
Now I'm no big-city economist, but it strikes me as no different to where it was before.  Although arguably, things are worse in that we've gone through a spectacular collapse and couldn't be bothered changing anything.  There has been little consideration of why the GFC happened, of what its actual consequences were on the people who suffered in it, little critical thought as to why New Zealand's finance companies got themselves into such a vulnerable position, and whether our faith is misplaced.  Either that or I'm lazy in my research. The book is structured around the cyclical nature of collapses, and it's obvious that it's going to keep on happening unless something fundamental and drastic changes.  The complete insanity of the Auckland housing boom is an example that perhaps our faith in markets is more than a bit irrational.

Were you lazy in your research? Perhaps you could tell us a little about the research that went into the writing of this book.
No, in fairness, I spent a lot of time researching.  Days were spent in libraries and also spent eavesdropping on conversations.

Recently Eleanor Catton was told off by none less than the Prime Minister for daring to comment on neo-liberalism. If you could be told off by any present member of the National Party who would it be and why?
Can I go historical?  I'd be told off by George Forbes, the United MP who was prime minister between 1930-1935.  That government was obsessed with trying to balance its budget for faith reasons as it would show that it's a safe pair of hands during the Depression.  My mocking of his government in my book would likely cause some choice words from Honest George, the good member for the Hurunui.    

Prime Minister
'Honest' George Forbes

A fine choice. Can you imagine anyone within the fifth National government who might enjoy the book, say, as a Christmas gift?
I think this would be right down Michael Woodhouse's alley.

Michael Woodhouse

You're also a prominent film critic for the Lumiere Reader. Did any films influence the aesthetic or character choices for the book?
Definitely. Lav Diaz's film Norte the End of History incorporates Dostoevsky and the punishing of "the idiot" in a way that was definitely integral to my treatment of George in the book. Kira Muratova's films mix black comedy and social commentary, and her incredible GFC movie Melody for a Street Organ was an inspiration in terms of that film's tone and fearlessness. Carmella Soprano – and her guilt/victim/wilful blindness – helped form the voice i.e. someone who felt guilty but keeps on coming up with excuses to justify his or her position.  The Springfield of The Simpsons was my basis for a fictional small-town.  I could name hundreds of movies, but also to mind: the tragic inevitability in Douglas Sirk's films, the satire of the banal in Hong Sang-soo and Corneliu Poromboiu's films, the cruelty (and humanism) of Ulrich Seidl, and the straight out humanism of Pedro Costa.
[Editor. Reviews by Gnanalingam for some of these films can be found here: NorteMelody for a Street OrganOur Sunhi by Hong Sang-soo ]

What's next for you in terms of writing?
I'm working on a book about cricket.  I love cricket. I look forward to retiring so I can watch all five days of a test match.  But specifically why do people collectively come together and do things these days.  We apparently live in a post-structuralist, neo-liberal, selfie-stick world, but yet (some) people still want to do something collectively. Why?? 

Your day job is as a lawyer and I wonder if you've thought of incorporating more from that world into your writing. Have you? And what would be the best genre for a novel drawing on the legal profession?
I think the attention to detail and pedanticism (which I need to work on) would work well to write espionage thrillers. Franz Kafka trained as a lawyer too, so the er, Kafkaesque 'genre,' could be a goer. 

Thanks for your time. It's been a pleasure. One last question: is there any artistic, musical, theatrical or literary scene that excites you in New Zealand today? Is there anything you're looking forward to in our cultural community?

There's always good stuff happening around the place.  There's great music happening in Wellington: the folk at Sonorous Circle and Home Alone Record in Wellington along with folk like the All Seeing Hand, Grayson Gilmour, Orchestra of Spheres, Glass Vaults etc. etc.  I'm looking forward to the moral panic that may hit Simon Denny's appearance at the Venice Biennale, and the continued excellent literary output (which despite less mainstream arts coverage, less funding, and fewer publishers taking on fewer books) is still producing exciting stuff.


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Friday, April 10, 2015

Credit in the Straight World

New release! Brannavan Gnanalingam's Credit in the Straight World! Preorders open now.

Design from Paul Neason at National Park.

Release to be held at 17 Tory St on 1 May 2015.

More details soon. Printing this weekend.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Ad Lib new run

After selling out of our initial run of Ad Lib, the collective pulled together this weekend - designers, editors, authors, elves, hangers-on, droppers-out, media advisors - to reprint, rebind and reguillotine the text back into general circulation.

Such was the cohesion and spirit for work that the commissioner of the taskforce spontaneously suggested a Christmas party for the following Wednesday. This was followed by three verses of The Internationale and, to warm down, a gentle session of self-correction against the principles and aims of the Lawrence & Gibson charter. Never has collectivity been so unanimous nor, I should mention, so extemporaneous. Long live Lawrence! And long live Gibson! Festive greetings to all!