It’s here. It’s really here. We’ve emerged from the wilderness and Book Club with JByrne is before us again. I’m so happy I could …
WTF. They’ve got a desk. They’ve got a news panel style desk. Oh no, no, no, no, no! How can I perform #sockwatch now? ABC, I implore you, get a clear cutout on the bottom. We need to see Jason’s woolly socks. What if BLaw is on? How will we see those magnificent ankles? Is that why you’ve introduced the desk? It was bloody Ben wasn’t it? Benjamin Law and his sexy nude ankles requiring a nudity warning. Deep breaths. Just listen to JByrne’s mellifluous voice and forget the ankles.
[Do remember I’m dyslexic so there will be typos, spellos, grammos, and just plain wrongos]
JByne tells us that they’re doing a 5 of the Best special. Each of the panelists gets to choose the best book to discuss that they read this year PLUS they’ll reveal the top 5 books as voted by the Book Club viewers.
The guests are introduced. Be still my beating brain, it is the beauteous Michael Williams, anonymous Italian novelist, dead British actor, and most importantly, my muse. C.S. Pacat is also on. I am so excited. She was brilliant last time she was on. And of course regular panelists, Magic Marieke and Jace the Ace Stegersaurussex, complete the panel. You complete me, I whisper to my television.
But before we can listen to these Gods of Australian literature we’re hearing from the gatekeepers, booksellers, on “what sold its socks off.” Too soon, JByrne. Too soon. We’re only just getting used to the end of #sockwatch. Have some sensitivity with your language choice, please.
Book sellers tell us that debut, female, authors are the hot trend this year. So glad having a vagingo is hot right now. Hannah Kent is apparently part of this trend because she’s put out her second novel this year. I’ll just let that sink in and move on. Lianne Moriarty is also hot right now. Girl on a Train is still hot. Girls are hot. Who runs the world? Girls! Something I didn’t catch the name of was also hot. The description left me wondering if the bookseller knew the difference between high and low fantasy. I was already questioning someone putting out their second novel being considered a debut author…. But the general consensus is in, girls and escapism are so hot right now.
And now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. What books will the panelists be discussing?
My Muse Michael is the first cab off the rank. He’s chosen The Sellout by Paul Beatty. A controversial book from the controversy loving director of the Wheeler Centre / anonymous Italian woman / dead British actor. He’s going to say something naughty and we all await with anticipation. My glass of moscato is positively beside itself and my semi-soft blue-cheese is hanging on his every word.
He opens by saying it isn’t an easy or comfortable read. There’s slavery. There’s racism. There’s a whole heap of big issues and humour is used to convey them. The humour makes it “spikey” but Michael says he believes Beatty “doesn’t care if you like it or not.” Those spikes are part of the point…. What have I become? I’ve come up with a Jace the Ace Stegersaurussex level pun.
Interestingly this book is the first American book to win the Man Booker Prize. It’s surprising because not only is the style a tad jarring but the book is not just American but overtly and unashamedly American.
Marieke says that The Sellout was a “book of ideas in search of a narrative.” What a poetic phrase. I’m stealing it. She says that it had so many big and interesting ideas that it seemed to overwhelm any attempt to wrestle it into a narrative.
Michael says that it echoes Catch 22 but isn’t as well actualised. But he chose The Sellout, shouldn’t he utterly adore it? He says that it has a great setting but character arcs are weak.
Jason puts it simply, “the parts are greater than the sum.” This is why Jason and Marieke are the regulars, throwing out sentences of gold.
C.S. is finally permitted to speak. My wine, my cheese, and I cheer. She says that the experience was like being on social media. It was very contemporary and you were being hit with lots of ideas and snippets. She appreciated the fresh approach and the perspective given. I love her so much. She’s so smart and articulate. Hearts are literally coming out of my eyes right now.
JByrne says that the message was that “it was ever thus.” Boom! That’s why she’s on the big bucks, people. Four words and she has utterly nailed it.
Michael concludes that he admired The Sellout more than he liked it and urges people to read it.
Next up is C.S. Pacat and she has brought The Cursed Child by a little known author called J. K. Rowling. There’s the customary dramatic recreation that I’m the only person on the planet that doesn’t love. You’ve got zombie thespian Michael Williams on, get him to perform them! Sweet merciful cheeses, did Gollum emerge from Middle Earth just to say “Harry Potter” in that recreation. That was terrifying. What next, clowns? I need a hug.
C.S. says she chose it because J. K. Rowling is a genius at world building and she really missed the world and wanted to visit again. She acknowledges that she doesn’t like “zombie franchises” but wanted to read this. For people unfamiliar with what a zombie franchise is, it’s those long series of books which have totally lost their way and continue on an on and at book 10 you’re questioning what the fucking point is anymore and screaming, “why won’t you die” at characters that you once loved. Spec fic and crime fic fans know what I’m talking about.
C.S. liked that it was about a bad father. Segue to Michael. That’s a bit rough. Michael was also keen to step back into Harry’s world but he’s not as eager to go back in after hanging out with the Cursed Child.
Marieke was not super jazzed about it. She’s not a Potterhead and says she felt like she was at a party where everyone knew each other except her and she was just lingering by the dips table all night. Somebody give this woman a raise immediately. She is throwing out soundbites all over the place. She tops it off with, “Who the fuck is Hagrid?”
Jace the Ace Stegersaurussex talks about how he read the Harry Potter books to his children. My ovaries are tingling. He then jumps to the heart of the matter and says that it works very well for theatre script, which it is, but to make it more accessible to novel readers, which Harry Potter fans are, more details needed to be added.
Jace, JByrne, and Michael start chatting excitedly about the Potterverse, you can see Marieke travel back to that dips table in her mind. I can’t help but wonder if C.S. has been muted. She brought the book. Where are her words?
A producer must have noticed this also, C.S. is permitted to speak again. She notes that it was interesting to go into a plot driven series through a character driven script. She’s slayed it again. You know what, she doesn’t need to speak as much because she bloody kills it every time she opens her mouth. More love hearts come out of my eyeballs.
Marieke wasn’t impressed with the logic flaw in the manuscript in regards to time travel and multiple realities. Michael quotes Terry Pratchett at her in response. I am always happy for a Terry Pratchett reference.
And now it is time for Jace the Ace Stegersaurussex’s choice. Music and Freedom by Zoe Morrison. Ace loved the use of music. JByrne also liked the music and said it was one of the two pillars of the novel. The other pillar was domestoc violence.
Marieke liked the book but was not a fan of the structure. Whereas both Michael and Jason liked a bit of muddling of the structure because it mimicked the loss of control.
Marieke goes out on her own, she didn’t love the music but found the story of domestic violence incredibly effective.
Michael reasserts the importance of music because it represents control. Ace and C.S. (who has finally been allowed her voice again) says that music actually represents freedom, but is of course important.
In the end the whole panel agree, they would recommend the book to friends because not only is it important but it was artfully written.
Okay, the panel are now recommending books.
Michael recomends The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Marieke recommends The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese
JByrne recommends Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Ace recommends The Return by Hishmash Matar
C.S. recommemds Swing Time by Zadie Smith
JByrnes now gets the spotlight. She goes a little bit rock’n’roll with Jimmy Barnes’s memoir. She loves Barnesy, she loved the book. She even got Barnsey himself to do the voice over for the dramatic recreation…. I’m still backing Michael performing this as being better. Just sayin.
Spoiler alert, right up front they reveal the end, it ends with Jimmy Barnes leaving his family in a van with the band. It does not end with his current life. That’ll come in like volume 3 apparently. Fingers crossed Cold Chisel makes it into volume 2.
Marieke was expecting a rock’n’roll memoir but got Angela’s Ashes. She says it was very important but staggeringly difficult to read. It was about immigration and displacement. It was about child abuse and resilience.
Acec was skeptical at first but was won over. He notes that there were some bad puns but in the end he became a Barnsey fan. Michael was okay with the bad puns because he felt that the humour was a coping mechanism.
C.S. liked the gaps. Such hideous abuse was depicted yet there were still stories that clearly went untold. It meant that Barnsey endured even worse child abuse than depicted.
Michael acknowledges that the known future of the writer is an important driving force. Even though the book doesn’t get to Barnsey making it huge, the reader knows that he did. The contrast of the staggering success with the horrific abuse is important even though it goes unsaid.
Looks like another unanimous reccomendation.
Marieke is being a total rebel and chooses an older novel, Terms of Endearment. She claims that she has replaced JByrne with a new literary life coach, Aurora Greenway. What the actual eff! Replacing perfection with that selfish, narcissistic, meanie??? I don’t even know how to feel anymore. I started this season saying that Marieke was right about Wuthering Heights and JByrne was so terribly wrong, and here I am at the end saying Marieke is wrong and JByrne so very right. It’s like I’ve come full circle but finally remembered to put my underpants on the right way. I just can’t even.
Marieke imagines flipping off everyone who doesn’t agree with her love of Aurora. I think JByrne and Marieke may come to blows. I’m scared and excited all at the same time. Ace is trying to be diplomatic. I can tell he is also scared.
C.S. doesn’t vibe on the book. Marieke declares that she doesn’t care with such emotion cracking in her voice that you know she does in fact care and her heart is being ripped out of her chest. C.S. soldiers on, she doesn’t like books with characters that are so awful that you’re supposed to feel smuggly superior to them. She wants to be in the world not looking down on it. That’s so beautiful, more love hearts. Marieke externalises her flipping off of everyone.
Michael talks about the structure of the book echoing how little space the daughter is given. Aurora is so all consuming that very little is left for her daughter
Michael says that the men in Terms of Endearment range from dissapointing to criminal. Marieke likes this because it’s just like real life.
And my kids are up yet again so I’ll have to finish this recap later. Will “edit” in the end shortly. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! It has been an interesting night. Random fireworks, yelling drunken neighbours, increasingly grumpy trio of children. Not that I blame my neighbours, I’m excited for Book Club too. If I had fireworks I’d be letting them off too.
The top 5 books as voted by the viewers were:
- Clementine Ford’s Fight Like a Girl
- The Dry by Jane Harper
- Man in the Corner by Nathan Besser
- The Good People by Hannah Kent
- Insults About Age Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner
And now there’s a quiz.
Marieke is so excited…. she is not at all excited. The M Team vs Ace and C.S. Who will win, who will be victorious, who shall sob and who shall cheer? In short, the M Team won. C.S. somehow missed a quote from Tolkein. I have no idea how because I screamed the answer psychically at her. TOLKEIN. IT’S IN THAT LETTER GANDALF WROTE THEN BILBO SAYS IT. IT’S A REOCCURRING MOTIF. IT’S ACTUALLY IN REVERSE IN MERCHANT OF VENICE. I AM OF NO HELP ON ANY OTHER QUESTION!
And now they’re wrapping up for the year with Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen performing. They assure us they’ll be back next year in the weekly format.
But don’t forget to vote for the Book Club ABC in the Logies.
Catch up on episodes in iView.
Michael Williams will be my next #Robinpedia entry. Keep an eye out on Thursday.