Actor, storyteller and writer Apirana Taylor (Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Ruanui) recommends five favourite reads
Until the age of 30, I read stacks of novels. It’s no exaggeration to say I devoured them. However, about that time, I found reading novels tiresome - and when I started one, seldom read past the first few pages without deciding to discontinue. I became addicted to reading history books and biographies.
Therefore with surprise and pleasure, I begin this article with three novels I have read recently.
The first book on my recommended list is The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I love the way the book begins with Mole cleaning his burrow and then on a whim he drops what he’s doing and rushes off for an adventure, unable to stop himself as he is overcome by Spring calling.
Grahame’s depictions of the river in The Wind in the Willows make this entity a living being. Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad are presented with human strengths and weaknesses. Toad is a car thief - the fact that he escapes from jail and roves the country dressed as a washerwoman is hilarious. An endearing aspect is Kenneth Grahame's beautiful writing - his masterful choice of vocabulary is arranged in such a way as to render large sections of the book as wonderful poetry.
I didn’t read The Wind in the Willows until I was 61. If you read it as a child, I recommend reading it again.
I recently finished A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I didn’t enjoy the book, but my desire to expand my mental boundaries and perceive with greater depth lured me into reading it. I’ll read it again to absorb perceptions I missed in the first reading.
The book’s fixation with mindless violence is portrayed through Alex a fifteen year old killer and his droogies, which is nadsat talk for friends or fellow gangsters. A Clockwork Orange, focuses on our right and ability to choose between right and wrong and how far should we go when playing God with people’s minds.
Burgess uses a made up language which I found irritating until I felt it taking me further into the book's world. It’s a dark master piece, and I recommend it because of the insights it gives into the human mind.
Last year I read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I’d heard of the book and because of the novel’s reputation I decided I should read it. I’m glad I made that decision. I found it to be one of the most absorbing and brilliant books I’ve ever read.
I was intrigued by the fact that the heroine dies about a third of the way through the novel, and from then on haunts almost every remaining page of the book.
There’s much to be said for reading novels that have stood Time's test - they are like mighty mountains that Time and the elements cannot destroy.
The first is Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems edited by Paula Green. This is a collection that contains the poetry of a lot of poets I know and whose work I admire.
I’ve found that the positive aspect of reading a love poem is that it’s like finding a lighted candle in a dark cave, or a boat afloat on the mighty ocean as in ‘Twelve Words Spoken by a Poem’ by Jill Chan.
If only I could
and love like water
loves a vessel
The collection is full of gems such as this. In 2016 I decided to read four poems from the book every night or morning. I’m glad I did because love is a positive uplifting soul. It nurtures the finer fruits of human nature which is something we need.
The collection contains poems by poets I’m less familiar with, making this book even more enjoyable.
There are many insights and lines to absorb and learn from in this collection. Take these lines from Haare William’s poem 'Koha':
You give little
when you give
give of yourselves
Writing this article made me realise I read a lot of fiction, however it gets buried in my memory under the tons of non fiction I devour. I recommend people of Aotearoa New Zealand read a lot of biographies, and both bad and good books on New Zealand history. They remove the blinds from our eyes helping us to see better.
Five Strings: Apirana Taylor
Actor, storyteller and writer Apirana Taylor (Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Ruanui) has been described as “seer and shapeshifter, poet and warrior” (Fiona Farrell). The author of six volumes of poetry, four short story collections, two novels, two plays and three CDs of music and poetry, his new novel Five Strings, launched at the Auckland Writers Festival, tells the story of two people living on the streets.
Anahera Press warmly invites you to join them and Apirana in celebrating the book launch (to be launched by Witi Ihimaera).
WED, 17 MAY 2017
6:00pm – 7:30pm
Auckland Central City Library, Lorne Street
Free event, and all welcome!