Fry's Ties By Stephen Fry, Penguin Random House, $38 .. .. .. .. .. ..

Linda Thompson





This is exactly what is says on the cover a book about ties. And actually, it's fascinating. Why men wear them, social fads and fancies, culture, labels, how to tie them, memoir and history, the stories behind 100 of Stephen Fry's ties and more. He wrote this during lockdown, when he found himself fossicking among draws full of ties, bow ties, scarves and cravats and posting pictures on Instagram, which received a flurry of positive response. Now he writes about the collarless shirts of his grandfathers, and his own dapper dressing. There are photos of beautiful ties, many with fancy labels and price tags to match. As Oscar Wilde said, “A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life”. There are all the many ways you can tie a tie, too — the half Windsor, full Windsor, Prince Albert, Pratt-Shelby, Van Wijk, Kelvin, Trinity, Four-in-hand. Who would have thought there was so much to say about a cloth tied around a neck. To quote PG Wodehouse: “‘What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this?' 'There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.'” — isa contemporary fairytale, with a really magical setting, and wonderful illustrations. It's blends the twin pleasures of the “cosy” and the “adventurous”, to tell a story about an independent princess, with a purposeful life, who is ready to open up her world up in new ways when a storm puts a nearby boat in jeopardy. I did some reading and reflection around the norms of fairytale genres, and plenty of searching for other contemporary stories about fierce young girls — which was also part and parcel of having a fierce and wild young daughter, who I wanted to feed up well with stories full of possibility and power. I also did some reading and reflection about lighthouses: as they had featured in my own Another startlingly good crime novel from Norman, who already made her mark with and with four other novels. This is set firmly in rural New Zealand, and the atmosphere is at once sombre and gentle. The close-knit community has always wondered what happened to Leah Parata, a brilliant young scientist who disappeared into thin air leaving not a trace. Emily returns from living overseas to care for her doctor father, now suffering from dementia. It's always been a troubled relationship where along childhood, and in other children's literature and film. Nina Mingya-Powles' which is an essay collection with absolutely stunning writing, that took me to new places, but was also felt startlingly familiar in other ways. The themes of ocean, water and swimming, seems to be fairly common to NZ literature (and beyond, of course) and on my mind a lot lately. I always have a lot of projects on the go, across heaps of different genres, so it depends which one jostles its way to the front of the queue next!