Buckle up mofos we’re in for an existential ride. Gone are the traditional author and journalist guests, we’ve got a director and an artist. It’s probably going to get weird. I saw this recorded so prepare for some extra tidbits that didn’t make the cut.
JByrne introduces guest noted feminist director Jane Allen. JAllen has chosen the classic text, but before she may speaketh its name we must listen to Simon and Garfunkel, I like Simon and Garfunkel but this is not my fav. It is the theme song for Watership Down. JAllen is then allowed to say that she has chosen Watership Down as the classic.
JByrne moves on to introduce artist Ben Quilty. He has won lots of awards for artery so he’s kind of a big deal. She says that Quilty is their fav…. WTF! What about Michael Williams? What about Toni Jordan? WHAT ABOUT VIRGINIA GAY? What is happening? I just don’t even know how to think or feel anymore. Yes I do, unjustifiably bitter. Look at him sitting in his Led Zeppelin T, like he’s so cool. Pffft.
Time to talk about new releases. Anna Spargo Ryan’s The Gulf has been released into the wild, its cover is delicious. Inga Simpson also has a new book out. Hooray. It’s called UNDERSTORY: a life with trees. You need to check out these two titles. They have the two of the most beautiful covers that these eyeballs have ever seen.
This has JByrne thinking about trees. She says they’re having ‘a moment.’ There was The Hidden Life of Trees and like heaps of other stuff for realz. She asks Ace why there are so many books about trees at the moment. As the Literature overlord of Fairfax he knows all about literary buso and will surely know what the G O is. He says it’s because books are like metaphysical cannibals having trees destroyed to make them and then writing about the corpses that brought them to life. That’s dark. Could someone please give Ace a cuddle? I volunteer as tribute. He then suggests it’s a fascinating topic and people want to know how they communicate. Marieke quite rightly points out that anybody who has read the Enchanted Woods knows, they say wishawishawisha.
And now it’s time to move onto the modern text, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. It details the attempted genocide of the Osage Indian nation. The reason they were hated enough to be wiped out? They got rich because the land they lived on contained oil. It looks at the FBI investigation into the murders and uncovers that the horrors were far worse than were depicted at the time. JByrne says that the book has been touted to answer, who was killing the Osage? She suggests a better question would be, who wasn’t? Quilty says it was pretty full on. Bit of genocide = fully full on!
JByrne laments that this really wasn’t that long ago. People had cars and telephones, this isn’t ancient history. She wants to know why this story hasn’t been told before. Why didn’t people care enough earlier? Ace suggests that because they are such a marginalised group that they weren’t heard, they couldn’t speak out. He says that this was a brilliant piece of investigative journalism and that now the story is out and people will care.
JByrne goes to read a quote about just how powerful this book is, fades off as she is overcome with emotion…. Or she remembers that she is not wearing her glasses.
JAllen says it was a compelling story but not a great narrative because the scope was too broad for the structure the book used. Fizzzzz. Passion killed. There were times when there was just too much research dumped without getting a sense of the emotions. She also wanted to know more about the Osage and how they felt and reacted.
Marieke has her back, she says that it was a dry telling of an emotional story. Jane puts her director’s hat on and says it would make a brilliant TV series. She would restructure the bajeebers out of it. She’d start with the ending, where it had a narrow focus and a strong emotional core and work her way back. I love someone bringing their different area of expertise and perspective to reading the book. How refreshing. Marieke would watch that show, because the book was a bit like the Excel spreadsheet telling of the story. Woah, back up there. Who doesn’t love a bit of data entry?
Quilty says that the distance was necessary because the author was not part of the Osage community. He cannot speak for them, he can simply report. He points out that all those horrific details are there and that it is the reader’s responsibility to bring the emotion to it. Just like when you’re viewing art, you need to bring your own heart into viewing it. I’m liking hearing his artist viewpoint on reading a book. But more than that…. His voice. There is something quite magnificent about his voice. He sounds like Eric Bana.
JByrne raises the horrific point that there were white men marrying Osage women, having children with them, and killing off the rest of their family so that they could get control of the money. They were so driven by money that they would marry someone just to murder their families and it wasn’t just one man, it was several. And now everybody is talking. They’re arguing. I can’t understand what is being said. Somebody hold me. Surely we all agree that is horrific?
Time to pull out the big guns. Cultural appropriation. JByrne lays down the gauntlet and asks if people had issues with David Grann writing about the Osage nation. Everyone is cool beans about it. (Nobody mention that the panelists are all white) They say he obviously spoke with them, there’s even comments from representatives in the book, and he was very respectful about it. He more reported on these horrific events then tried to speak for the Osage. JAllen points out that this extensive piece of investigative journalism will bring a flood of interest and allow Osage writers to come forward and tell their story from their perspective. She for one is now craving a story from their perspective and hopefully this new interest will make publishers see this as financially viable and these stories will get picked up.
And now it’s time for By the Bed
JAllen says she’s a space nerd and reading Packing for Mars.
Ace is reading Collected Stories of George Stalter. Okay, I made up the name I didn’t quite catch it. JAMES SALTER! The author is James Salter.
Quilter is reading Cooper’s Creek…. He sounds so much like Eric Bana. I’m just closing my eyes and imagining that Eric Bana is telling me about what is by his bed. Oh my goodness. What is happening? My nickers have literally caught fire.
Marieke says she’s a death nerd and is reading Sex & Death.
JByrne is reading When Breath Becomes Air.
It’s time for the classic that much loved children’s novel, Watership Down. JAllen is charged with introducing it as she chose it. She tells us that characters die. She goes on to say that Charlotte dies in Charlotte’s Web, Bambi’s mother dies, characters die all the time, and that’s life. She said she chose it because she had such fond memories of it as a child.
She does note that it is a bit problematic in that all the characters with agency are male, it was a bit racist, but that passed her by as a child. On her recent rereading it was glaringly obvious. She notes that this is a symptom of the patriarchy that female children are trained to just accept that everyone having adventures are male and women are off making cakes and having babies. And that is the standard that we are supposed to accept. She says this book and its nod to totalitarianism is still relevant because of Trump.
Time for Ace to tell us how he really feels about Watership Down. He says he was bored shirtless, I mean shitless. He was not the target audience. He really didn’t enjoy it at all until the depot baddies arrived. As a consolation he offers that he quite liked the way nature was written about and gives JAllen an apology carrot. That is not some crazy euphemism, he gives her a literal carrot. And he brings enough for the whole class. Awwwwwww.
Marieke says she was first introduced to Watership Down by the Goodies paradoy, she quite liked that, and she liked this too. She says she’s a friend to the animals and liked the talking rabbits. Apparently talking rabbits are okay, but last week she could have done without the talking dog in Jean Harley was Here.
JByrne loses it. She just starts laughing. She says she thought that these self-important rabbits having deep conversations were ridiculous. They’re rabbits, they don’t have deep and meaningfuls. Marieke disagrees.
Quilty felt that the book was indeed a bit berserk but he still liked it. He is a bit disturbed that Richard Adams wrote the book for his two daughters and the lady rabbits are pretty much kidnapped to become breeding slaves, but suggests we put that aside for the moment. LET’S NOT PUT THAT ASIDE!
JByrne just wanted to get those rabbits and put them in a pie. Ace wanted them with gnocchi, I feel like they aren’t vegetarians.
Marieke did find reading this book slightly scarring reading it so close to The Handmaid’s Tale. Given that both have breeding slaves, and reading about them not just being glossed over in The Handmaid’s Tale, brought a whole new level of emotion to Watership Down. English teacher’s there’s a perfect pairing for you. No more dystopian and dystopian, do dystopian and children’s.
Quilty says that it is a beautiful story for children… except for there are no speaking females. Hmmmm, maybe we should interrogate that?
JByrne asserts that the book is ridiculous and that the only good talking animal books are talking horse books. All other animals speaking are just silly, obvi.
Holy crapola! Get hold of your drinks!! There’s a quiz!!! THIS IS NOT A DRILL. You know what The Book Club ABC Drinking Game compels you to do (responsibly and only if you’re over 18 and have no medical issues and aren’t operating a vehicle or heavy machinery etc).
Spoiler alert, Marieke’s team does not win. Make sure you watch it on iView or iTunes so that you can experience the full glory of Marieke being forced to be part of a quiz. Words, even my own, simply cannot do it justice.
And that’s a wrap. Next week is a star studded panel with Marieke and Ace being boned in favour of all Sydney Writers’ Festival (why yes I am a volunteer, how can I help?) guests. They will be discussing books that changed their life. In the meantime, listen to Ben Quilty’s magical voice on YouTube and think of Eric Banner. I know I will be.
Catch up on last week’s recap here.
Grab the drinking game here.
Watch past episodes on here.
Buy my shit here.
Just quietly, why not step out into sunny Sydney tomorrow and partake in The Sydney Writers’ Festival. At Science House there are fantastic workshops being run by CS Pacat and Kerrie Davis, Niki Savva is speaking at the Roslyn Packet Theatre, Anne Enright will be at the City Recital Hall and Anita Heiss will be kicking off literacy with Justine Clarke on the Curiosity Stage, plus so many more great events throughout the day and rest of the week. Hope to see you all there.