It's a time-honoured tradition among cultural pundits to bitch about awards and the general lack of sense and sensibility of the boobs who dish them out. The judges of the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards -- announced last night -- can relax, since they had the exquisite good taste to amply reward the book that edged out Outrageous Fortune and Boy as my cultural highlight of 2010 on Public Address Radio.
Christopher Finlayson, Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, awarded music historian Chris Bourke the New Zealand Post Book of the Year, for his work Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918-1964.
New Zealand Post Book Awards convenor of judges, Paul Diamond, described the winning work as a magnificent book that achieves what it sets out to do, and reveals a hidden social history.
'Blue Smoke tells us about ourselves, our music, and the way we take things from overseas and make them our own.'
Bourke, who lives in Wellington, describes Blue Smoke as “a music history before it is a social or cultural history”.
‘It is a book about music and musicians, many of whom Bourke has interviewed himself, drawing out anecdotes that enrich our understanding of our nation’s cultural development,’ says judge Charmaine Pountney.
Bourke scored a unique hat trick by also scoring the New Zealand Post General Non-fiction Award and the coveted People’s Choice Award.
I described Burke's labour of love as a book whose author's "scholarly but unpretentious love of his subject shines through" and, sorry Chris, but you have written a damn fine work of social and cultural history. Auckland University Press also deserves credit for getting right the things you never really notice - and shouldn't - unless they're done badly, or not at all. Care and attention has been paid to the physical production from a typeface you can read without bleeding through your tear ducts to clean reproductions of the many archival photographs on paper that isn't barely fit to be used as arse-wipe. It's also a pleasure to handle a large format softcover whose spine didn't crack as soon as you opened it.
But wait, as they say in the infomercial game, there's more...
Congratulations to the other winners:
Fiction Award: The Hut Builder by Laurence Fearnley (Penguin NZ)
Poetry Award: The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls by Kate Camp (Victoria University Press)
Illustrated Non-fiction Award: The Passing World: The Passage of Life: John Hovell and the Art of Kowhaiwhai by Damian Skinner (Rim Books)
The winners of the 2011 New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) Best First Book Awards – announced earlier this year – were also honoured tonight. They are:
NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction: Everything We Hoped For by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press)
NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry:
Dear Sweet Harry by Lynn Jenner (Auckland University Press)
NZSA E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award for Non-Fiction: Whaikōrero: The World of Māori Oratory by Dr. Poia Rewi (Auckland University Press)