Tuesday, September 3, 2013


I have a small obsession with legends. No, not the mythical tales. Map keys. Were I organised and enthusiastic enough, I would collect them in a tumblr, which I would call legends without maps (as a homage, perhaps).

When I look for second-hand books these days, I always browse the maps section, but half the time what I’m after are the legends. This, from a wonderful book of maps of the interventions of the Italian ‘Fund for the South’, is my current favourite example of hyper-specific legend. The second item down is ‘X-ray laboratories and tuberculosis dispensaries’.

Whereas in a more recent acquisition – Bacon’s All Essential School Atlas, published in Scotland by GW Bacon & Co. in 1946 – I came across some of the most brutally schematic and least specific legends I’ve ever encountered. None more (or less) so than this one.

New old books. This is the time of the year, etc. The cover of Galbraith’s Economics and the Public Purpose predates Pacman by six years.

This edition of Towards Nationhood (thanks, Dougal) still contained an invitation to a cocktail party featuring Big Norm himself. Entry: 30 cents.

Also spotted for me by Dougal, the first issue of the journal AND.

I head more quickly to the magazine tables at the big fairs now. Mirror, the New Zealand National Home Journal, May 1944.

Country Life Annual, 1951. Absolutely everything you need to know on how to polish your silver or service the Bentley.

Then Gulliver, Life, Woman and Home – as a map of sorts to make sense of the Sixties. Amongst the best finds, a bunch of issues of Broadsheet.

Back to the books. One must replenish the stocks of the classics.

Broaden past horizons.

Grab whatever Stanislav Lem is at hand.

Outmoded, outdated books for children. You know what I like.

At least one book bought at a fair has to be totally implausible. The American Meat Institute’s Book of Presidential Trivia and Meat Facts is that book.

One of the year’s highlights has been an invitation to talk at Writers on Mondays along with the esteemable Danyl McLachlan and Dave Armstrong. Even at this event I managed to score two books, on loan from an extremely kind and thoughtful reader. These to me are the best. The books that someone thinks you ought to read.


It's five years to the day since I started this business of blogging. Time enough to declare a result on one of the hypotheses I set out to test: if writing makes time. Which I am now quite conclusively convinced that it does. I can measure the time of life versus the vicissitudes that one can expect to encounter over a five-year period – there have, indeed, been some – and those against this unreasonable discipline of a self-imposed weekly deadline, without which I’d post twice a year, plus or minus two posts. I can further trace how these writings made me think about things and engage with things other than the everyday. This seems to me like extra time which, had I not written, would simply be missing.

You can make a habit of writing, but writing itself rarely resembles a habit, as in something you do absent-mindedly. Even these yearly posts, all more or less identical to one another.


There remains to attend to the traditional changing of the banner, which you’ll excuse me for getting childishly excited about. To recap, we’ve had the original one, a drawing by Bert Warter from the 1945 edition of Bruno Furst's Stop Forgetting, whence also this blog's name.

Three successive designs from Shirley Carran.

Last year’s drawing by the great Dylan Horrocks, which has just been retired.

The new banner is the work of the excellent Wellington designer Tim Denee.

Finally: the last yearful of posts in clickable pictorial form. I hope it works.

 The leader vanishes  My own private Aotearoa  The fake shop and nostalgia capitalism
 The Susan Wood trilogy  Share a Coke with Stalin  On not making a living
 The enlightened solution  A woman's place?  What is this coup d'ètat? I know
 The Jonathan Safran Foer fallacy  Old games  The rich man's crumbs
 Things  The social dead  A theoretical critique of and practical answer to the problem of too much writing on the internet
 The death party  The reader  To Save Everything, Click Here
 The space you take up  The painted library  Of grandmothers and beneficiaries
 Idea for a movie in which aliens invade the Earth and fix the economy  Corporate memory  Turn off your computers
 Symbols  The art of war  We Must Eat!
 Phantom time  Between worlds  The back of the shelf
 First last impressions  'It's a map of the world'  37 things you should hoard
 Another Skyfall review  We are in a book  The weariness of the satyr
 Leaving Middle-earth  This Tree Is Made of Tweets  The Kill File
 Coronation Avenue  After the Ball  'I don't have to do this anymore'
 The Avengers  The Day's Work in Wall Street  Uncle Scrooge and the Flying Kiwi
 The Fascist Mother  Four