You Can’t Insist An Entire Cultures Gets Stockholm Syndrome 

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Let’s try an empathy task today. Can you imagine if someone broke into your house, held you prisoner, made you work for them, raped some of your family members and stayed in your home enslaving you until they had their own family, which you were also a slave to, and got too big so moved out but moved next door? In fact, they and their family moved into every house on the street. They stopped beating you but they still treated you like you were less than them and complained that you didn’t come to street parties. And then on top of all that, they got one of your own artwork, had it printed on a t-shirt and started selling them. You got none of the money and gave no permission. Can you imagine that you’d feel grateful or like those people had taken violation to a whole new level? They’d beaten and subjugated you for years and now they were profiting off of it, do you think it would be reasonable for people to insist that you should just get over it because they weren’t literally in your kitchen anymore? Would you tell them to be grateful? I wouldn’t. They could feel angry and violated or they could feel apathetic or they could feel like they could capitalise. How they would feel would be up to them and I certainly wouldn’t be denying them their right to justifiable rage. As someone from outside of their home I wouldn’t get to choose how they felt.


You Do Mothers’ Day Your Way

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A note on Mothers’ Day:

Should you wish to spend it taking a break and relaxing, you should feel entitled to want that. Don’t let others make you feel bad for that.
Should you wish to spend it surrounded by your young children enjoying all their little quirks, you should feel entitled to want that. Don’t let others make you feel bad for that. 
Should you wish to be spoiled rotten for all the hard work you’ve done, you should feel entitled to want that.  Don’t let others make you feel bad for that. 
Should you wish for a hug and a kiss, you should feel entitled to want that. Don’t let others make you feel bad for that.
Should you wish to grieve either the loss of a loved one or the childhood an abusive mother stole from you, then you should feel entitled to do that. Don’t let others make you feel bad for that.

Should you wish to put your children at risk with negligence or abuse, don’t do that.

Should you wish to destroy another mother’s Mothers’ Day by making them serve and bow down to you when you’ve had decades of getting to be the mother when their journey into motherhood is just beginning, don’t do that. 

If your MIL or other always destroyed your Mothers’ Day by making you stressed and jump through hoops, don’t continue the cycle. Stop the tension and abuse now.

Should you wish to smugly state what you want and how it’s actually better than what others want and that you can’t possibly understand why they want what they do…. SHUT UP. Just don’t. How other people live their life is none of your fucking business. Unless it is literally child abuse keep your smug shit to yourself. Make a police report if it’s an issue not a FB post.
Love and kisses
Robin Elizabeth

Book Club ABC Season 11, Episode 6: #BookclubABC

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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.

 

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. 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. Sure 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. 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 paradox, 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.

 

Quilt 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.

Book Club ABC Season 11, Episode 5: #BookclubABC

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It’s here again, the highlight of our week, The Book Club ABC. Look at Marieke sitting there like a ray of sunshine in yellow. Ace is also looking beautiful as is JBryne. Guests chef Adam Liaw and author Di Morrissey are introduced. Di Morrissey looks divine. She is dressed exactly as I imagine her to be. Soft pink floral coat, hair swept up with a pink flower, pearls, soft pink shimmering lipstick. Divine. I am very happy to be here right now.

 

Di introduces the classic, it’s The Group by Mary McCarthy. It’s sexy, emotional and fun. And the modern is Jean Harley Was Here by Heather Taylor Johnson. It’s about death, grief, and how you go on after someone you love is senselessly ripped from your life. I’m not crying, I just have allergies.

 

In literary news Fiona McFarlane is a genius. We all already knew that but finally it has been recorded. She won the Dylan Thomas Prize for her short story collection The High Place. Find her other stuff here.
Australian women writers are RED HOT at the moment. Slapping down high quality books all over the place. Check out Robin de Crespigny debut, People Smugglers and Susan Carland’s Fighting Hislam. Keep an eye out for The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey and Scorched Earth by Sue Rosen, both coming out on the 24th.

 

And now it is time for the dramatic recreation of Jean Harley Was Here. She’s a mum, someone opens a car door whilst she’s riding her bike, she swerves, another car hits her, and she is dead. How will people cope? Still not crying, you’re the one crying. Just because I’m a mum with three kids does not mean that I am currently sobbing uncontrollably on the ground in the foetal position at the mere mention of the premise. I’m totally okay…. I am not okay. Call my therapist.

 

Ace declares Jean Harley Was Here charming. JByrne seconds it, can we get the motion carried? No, no we cannot. Di Morrissey does not carry that motion. She felt that there were too many snippets from too many perspectives so she could never really get to the heart of the matter. She names the dog chapter as being particularly deserving of hitting the editing room floor. Marieke agrees that she could have dealt without the dog chapter. JByrne is stunned. She felt that if Marieke had died she would definitely want animals to be writing about her.

 

Marieke says that she finds the book difficult to critique because she admires the premise so much. She says that Heather Taylor Johnson wrote this book after one of her friends had been unexpectedly taken from them. That this was a cathartic exploration of how you cope when you lose someone that you love. Not crying, I’m not crying. However, she did not love the execution of it.

 

Adam loved it. He said it was so faithful to South Australia that he knew exactly where everything was and the description was perfect. He says that if you’re looking for things not to like, you’ll find them, but if you’re just reading it as a reader looking to be swept away in a story, then you’ll love it. I do love getting different perspectives on book. So true, if you look at something trying to find fault you will ALWAYS find it. Always. Adam talks about how the book is about the ripples of effect out from the victim. His hand movements are hypnotic and I can’t help but visualise a karesansui.

 

Marieke didn’t like the way the death seemed so sudden and glossed over. JByrne loved that. She says death can be sudden and senseless. One moment you’re there, the next minute you’re next. Keep it together, must not cry, must not cry.

 

Marieke couldn’t help but imagine who the author identified with in this novel. Adam found it more interesting to think of who he was in the novel. At first he thought about being the grieving husband, and then he realised that he could be Jean. He could be the dead parent. Just quietly, I can imagine this book being written about me. Howling chapter of raging grief from my daughter, confused chapters from my three year old twin boys who can only comprehend mummy gone but not why, my besties Helen and Lisa staring at my empty seat, and then a sentence from my husband, ‘These things happen, just crack on.’

 

JByrne says that the book is extremely well written. Marieke calls bullshit and has a quote to challenge.

 

Adam says that all of the characters were lovely and he really liked that. Marieke points out that the MIL was no picnic. Di felt that they were merely sketches of characters rather than fully alive. Cut some, flesh them out. Marieke reiterates that she did not like the book but she admired it immensely.

 

Now excuse me whilst I go wash my face and attempt to stop sobbing uncontrollably.

 

It’s time for By the Bed! Hooray.

 

Di is reading The Mysterious Mr Jacob.

 

Ace is reading Enemy Within by Don Watson.

 

Adam is reading a cookbook, Aquacotta.

 

JByrne is reading A Separation.

 

And now it’s time for some group action. What I did there, you see it. JByrne says that The Group was banned in Australia and her mother was sneakily loaning out her copy to other women. Apparently it has a red hot sex scene. Must have been like Fifty Shades for women in the 60s. Why wasn’t Fifty Shades banned?

 

Di mentions that The Group was written in the 60s and set in the 30s and yet it is still frightfully relevant. Women are still struggling with being taken seriously. Women are still struggling to find support when they are mothers. Mother in laws are still mother in laws. Can we take a moment to address that if you are a cunt of a mother in law you are virulently anti-feminist? No? You don’t want to come on that journey and you’d prefer to just read about the show? Fair enough.

 

Marieke loved it. It has mental illness, emotional abuse, rape, oppression. It essentially has women being kicked in the vagina by life in every possible way, because societal expectations and the patriarchy are the worst.

 

JByrne points out that Sex and the City was a tribute to The Group. Candace Bushnell wanted to do her own modern version.

Adam felt that The Group was good but had too many lead characters. Cutting it back from eight to four would work better. Snaps to Candice, she went with four for her update. He says the book wasn’t his cup of tea and yet he still enjoyed it.

 

Ace said that the first time he read The Group he thought about the female characters but on the second he thought about the male characters. And here it comes, we’re talking about sex. I knew Ace couldn’t hold off. Apparently there’s a whole sex chapter. The word ‘deflowering’ is mentioned repeatedly at this point. I little bit of vom rushes towards my teeth. Nothing that a splash of moscatto won’t fix. Hot tip from Adam: Don’t listen to that chapter in the car when you’re children are in the back. Can we please Crowdfund some therapy for Adam’s children?

 

ACE SAYS THAT HE FOUND THE SEX SCENE A BIT MUCH! Somebody hold me. I am so confused. Ace didn’t like the sexy bit? What is going on? He’s all about the sex. I feel lost and vulnerable. I need to hit that moscatto again.

 

Di points out that the book was put down as silly and trivial as it deals with silly things like relationships. The same thing is still happening now. A spy who has greater skills than are plausible is considered a rollicking good read, but books about women, and yearning, and birth control, and finding your way are silly and trivial. DOWN WITH LITERARY SNOBBISM! Apparently this backlash ruined the author’s life. It was a best seller yet the critics savaged her into trauma. Arseholes.

 

Marieke says that The Group is a feminist book. It is about women having each other’s backs no matter what. Adam recommends that every feminist reads it. My eye twitches slightly as I remember his #notallmen reaction to the Stella shortlisted An Isolated Incident, which was an incredible exploration of societal reactions to domestic violence. Moving on.

 

JByrne says that all the characters lose in the end, which is a bit depressing but somewhat reflective of the female existence within the patriarchy. Ace says that Lakey wins. Marieke suggests that Polly kind of wins too. It’s complicated.

 

Ace says that he kept thinking of Katharine Hepburn whilst reading. Much like I often think of Ace when reading books with good looking English men in them.

 

Di says she would love to see it as a mini-series. I love 1930s clothes and I enjoyed Sex and the City so I am so on board for this. Make it happen Di.

 

JByrne mentions that The Group has a place in popular fiction and even Betty Draper was reading it in Mad Men. I really want to read this book it sounds lovely.

 

And now a time for a montage about books about friends. Is that two montages this seas. Two montages this season and they’re cut back to eight episodes. Am I going to have to chain myself to the TARDIS at the ABC Centre soon? I’m keeping a close eye on you, Michelle Guthrie.

 

Next week they’re talking about talking rabbits. Will Marieke like the talking rabbits better than the thinking dog? We’ll have to watch next week to find out.

 

 

Catch up on last week’s recap here.

 

Grab the drinking game here.

 

Watch past episodes on here.

 

Buy my shit here.

Read an extract of Jean Harley Was Here here

See Di Morrissey at The Sydney Writers’ Festival (why yes I am a volunteer, how can I help) here.
Until next week enjoy my “friendship montage”:

Joel Naoum: #Robinpedia 

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Who is Joel Naoum? A man, yes. A human being, yes. A carbon based lifeform, yes. But is there more to him than being a mamal and living on Earth? The answer will surprise you, for it is yes.

Naoum began his life as child to Australian writer Dianne Blacklock (can’t find her on Wikipedia so rest assured she will be getting her very own Robinpedia entry). Sitting by her side he absorbed a love of books but as a social butterfly he could not see fit to cocoon his radiance in the solitary world of authorship. One year his mother took him to the Sydney Writers’ Festival  (why yes I am a volunteer, how can I help) and he found that despite being introduced to cool authors such Andy Griffiths and Garth Nix he was himself more attracted to the lurking representatives from the publishing houses. A fire was ignited within the belly of the young Naoum and he set his heart upon joining the publishing industry. 

Pan MacMillan gave Naoum his first job in the publishing sphere. He both horrified and delighted his interviewer by telling her about his love of the new technology ebooks (he’s older than he looks, it was new back then). She loved his innovative approach, she did not so much love that he somehow had an illegal electronic copy of one of Pan MacMillan’s titles. He did not know it was illegal prior to this point and does not recommend it as an interview strategy.  Fortunately he still got the job.

Not only did Naoum get the job but he thrived. He was awarded the Unwin Fellowship and was able to travel to the UK and learn all about the innovative things UK publishers were doing in epublishing. He spent three months in the UK learning the secret business of a variety of publishing houses.

After his fellowship ended and Naoum returned to Australia he was selected to head up Pan MacMillan’s digital first imprint, Momentum. Their original goal was to still be able to publish mid list authors that there was no longer shelf space for after the collapse of Boarders. Because they love authors and stuff. The focus of Momentum changed as they came to realise that the ebooks that sold well were more genre based such as romance, crime and spec fic, not so much literary Australiana. Just quietly, e also love their self help and parenting books. In order to make money the imprint had to switch from its original purpose. Over a 5 year period Momentum put out 450 titles.

Naoum, still committed to the digital world has now setup his own company, Critical Mass. This is mainly a self-publishing consultancy firm that helps self published authors get in touch with editors, designers, and gives marketing advice. He will also help people looking to traditional publish polish their pitches. He is there for you.

In addition to this Critical Mass, Naoum has designed a course for The New South Wales Writers’ Centre, where he is a board member, that actually publishes student’s work. It is open to people with completed and edited manuscripts. Naoum then takes students through cover design, formating, connecting with a distributor, and finally, actually hitting publish and getting a print copy into their hands.

Jump onto Joel’s website here.
Chat with him on twitter here.

Find out more about Robinpedia here.

Read about The New South Wales Writers’ Centre Stick here.

Buy my shit here.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: I Love Eurovision

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I love Eurovision. In my opinion you’d be crazy(er) not to. In fact, I love Eurovision so much, that I talk about it in my memoir. Yep, I managed to work it into a memoir about postnatal depression. No regrets.
In honour of it being Eurovision season I’m sharing an entire chapter from my memoir with you now. And yes, it mentions Eurovision, repeatedly. Enjoy.

Carrots, Potatoes, and Broccoli

Okay, that last section got a little heavy with the artistic wankatude. I apologize. I did a BA, so can get a little theoretical and heady at times. Let’s bring it back down to reality with a chat about hospital food. I have spent extensive amounts of time in hospital. I have a dud pancreas, therefore from time to time, I end up in hospital on a cocktail of painkillers and NIL by mouth. When they ease you back onto food, to ensure you can eat without exploding from both ends and doubling over in pain, they put you on a clear-food diet. They tell you that this involves jelly, apple juice, and broth. This sounds kind of awesome. The only awesome part of this is the apple juice, which tastes like heaven after being denied food for sometimes weeks at a time. This desperation for food, unfortunately, cannot make hospital jelly or broth taste better. The jelly is vomitously sweet, and the broth isn’t so much broth as Bonox and water. It tastes like bitterness and the ashes of destroyed dreams. Once you graduate from apple juice and refusing to eat jelly and “broth,” you get “treated” to real hospital food. Just quietly, I’m fairly confident that hospitals save on money by serving up removed organs as protein. I’m pretty sure that I’ve had my own gallbladder served back to me and a few umbilical cords. When people say hospital food is bad, they’re not exaggerating. Always order the sandwiches for lunch and dinner until they ban you. Fortunately, food at the psychiatric hospital was markedly better. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t performing organ removals so have to actually source their protein from outside the hospital grounds.

Given that I went into the psychiatric hospital on the back of two stays in regular hospital, the food was a welcome relief. It was real, it was hot, it wasn’t wet, and it tasted reasonable. I was also able to go and eat it at a table rather than in my bed. It was almost like being human again. However, there was an element to the menu that soon began to drain on me. It was the accompaniment to every meal. Potatoes, broccoli, and crinkle-cut carrots. My relief at edible food soon faded to boredom and then heightened to horror as the weeks wore on. By week three I simply couldn’t face another meal with potatoes, broccoli, and crinkle-cut carrots on the side. It got so bad that we all began joking that they must have put one of the OCD patients in the kitchen for some rehab. The head chef would walk in, all excited for the day. “Okay, guys, let’s do something different today. I’m thinking an Italian theme. How about a little lasagne, maybe a nice Italian salad on the side?” And of course, we’d end up with lasagne with potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. The next day the head chef would come in and say, “Wooooohoooo, I’m coming down with Mexican fever today. Let’s do some tacos, some homemade guacamole. It’s going to be fantastic. You can do it, Frank.” In the end, they plate up tacos with potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. “Time for Chinese food. Who doesn’t love sang choi bow? Come on Frank, you can do some Asian greens, even include some Chinese broccoli.” And so we crazies are served up sang choi bow with potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. “Seriously, Frank? You’ve shown no fucking progress; get your head out of your arse and serve something different.” Ladies, here are you potatoes, broccoli, and crinkle cut fucking carrots.

I shouldn’t be to hard on them. They’re dealing with a lot of crazy people. Maybe if they gave us too much variety for our sides, we’d start getting ideas. They’d find us sitting nude in a janitor’s cupboard reading poetry whilst smoking a kranjska. Can’t have us going all Dead Poets Society on them. Particularly because none of our group therapists were inspiring enough to have us clambering up onto tables and declaring them our captain. One of my group leaders actually told me to just quit writing until the kids were all older. Robin Williams would NEVER have said that. It just wouldn’t work at all.

Honestly, our biggest source of excitement was watching MKR and discussing the impending Eurovision finals. But even our enthusiasm over television shows was kept at bay by the rigid structure of our ward. The whole decor seemed to be designed to ensure we weren’t too stimulated.  The communal lounge room had square chairs, square coffee tables, rectangular rugs, and a giant rectangle flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. Very orderly. It’s like the structured furnishings would help keep us calm so that we wouldn’t go wild. Probably so that we wouldn’t start making crazy demands like having something other than potatoes, broccoli, and carrots with every damn meal. In fact, if we giggled too loudly whilst watching our guilty evening pleasure of MKR, the nurses stared at us and asked us if we’d like our evening medication. Couldn’t have us giggling too loudly; there’s trouble to be had there—better medicate us and ship us off to bed. But I’m proud to say we persisted in rebelling. I even got a couple of magazines with sexy sealed-sections and left them in the communal area. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone it was me.

But even with all this structure, the staff couldn’t diminish the untamed ecstasy that is Eurovision. Perhaps the hospital has better results further away from the finals. Because we tended to remain defiant and fobbed away our evening medication until we were told quite sternly that it was late, and the medication window would be closing, and if we didn’t take our freakin’ meds right now, we’d get reported to our psychiatrists. Given that mine was such a low talker that I wouldn’t have been able to understand any lecture I received, this was possibly not such a great threat to use on me. Unfortunately, my compadres quite liked their psychiatrists and could understand every word that they said, so I had no allies to fight the power with. But we still talked big.

And as for Eurovision 2014, what a spectacular winner. Conchita Wurst. An Austrian drag queen with exquisite eyes, the voice of an angel, and a beard. A real “stuff you” to the establishment. A celebration of being unique. It showed that you can be different and not deficient. Just like myself and my fellow mums were. We were anxious, we were guilt ridden, and we were gradually getting hairier ourselves because most of us assumed that we wouldn’t be allowed to bring in a razor, but we were great. We loved each other. We laughed with each other. We empowered each other in that “you’re weird and I’m weird, but that’s okay” kind of way. So as much as the food, the furniture, and the nurses wished we’d just mellow the fuck out a bit and follow an orderly life, it was the moments of joined rebellion that really helped get us through. It gave us a much needed sense of ourselves and let us know that we were still fun and good company. I still love those girls. I know you’re reading this. You’re possibly the only ones reading this. Big smooshy kisses to you all.

Looking back, there seems to be an awfully high correlation between inmates and a love of Eurovision. I’m not saying you have to be crazy to like it, but apparently, it helps. If you, like me and my crazy-arsed friends, find yourself getting the tingles each year as the Eurovision final approaches, then maybe you should consider getting yourself checked out. Personally, I think you’re crazy if you don’t like it. What’s not to love? The wind, the glitter, the dancing, the miming. It’s champagne television. But what would I know? I’m nuts.

Love that excerpt? Grab my book here.

ABC Book Club Season 11, Episode 4: #bookclubABC 

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Image shamelessly stolen from @thebookclubABC

​It’s here, it’s really here. Atwood day. I saw this live so there will be secret extras that hit the editing room floor. Ooooo exclusive. The Book Clubbers are discussing The Handmaid’s Tale. Yes I am wetting myself with excitement. Even the great Atwood herself knows that I am wetting myself with excitement. Heck, she retweeted me talking about my leaky bladder of excitement. 

So let’s just say I’m stoked. I can tell even JByrne is excited about this. She’s supercharged herself with horse power, wearing a horse print blazer. Giddy up. Of course there is guest CS Pacat who is always dressed as if ready to go for a quick trot and Zoe Norton Lodge, who is a unicorn. The most magical of horse creatures. Unless there are any centaurs or pegasus reading this, then you guys are, fuck the unicorns. And Ace is clearly a stallion. Neeeiiiggghhh. This horsey team, accessorised with Marieke the kitten, are all geared up and ready to canter into action. We could be forgiven for assuming that the modern text being discussed tonight is about horses. It is not. It is Lincoln in the Bardo, which is a heady mix of….

THERE’S A TISSUE ON THE GROUND. A TISSUE!!!!! Stop looking at it. No, I can’t look away. Must look away and concentrate BUT THERE’S AN EFFING TISSUE ON THE GROUND. Is it multiplying and then unmultiplying? Continuity!

Forget the tissue. They’re discussing how Lincoln in the Bardo is George Saunders’ first full length novel and that he is considered to be the master of the short story form. Apparently people are super psyched that he’s put together a novel. Important people are excited.
But first JByrne has to tell us what is going on in the literary landscape at the moment. She says that the latest Harry Hole thriller is out, I can’t get down exactly what she’s saying, but trust me the words aren’t important. What is important is that she sounds like Jimmy Fallon’s imitation of Barry Gibb and it is GLORIOUS. 

It has been fifty years since Picnic at Hanging Rock was published. We must obviously all go on a picnic together. Marieke mentions a haunting tale of a young Marieke, roaming the areas where the iconic Picnic at Hanging Rock was filmed, she got her knee stuck in the rock there. That’s it, shut that place down. It tried to eat Marieke. It’s haunted. Case closed. Foxtel is apparently putting out a new version of it. I hope it is not as cursed.

Time for the dramatic recreation of Lincoln in the Bardo. Is that a banjo I hear? An off key banjo? Oh, it’s just an off key guitar. My least favourite kind of guitar. Rhythm, lead, base, whatever, just let it be in key. It outlines that the inspiration for the novel was that when William Lincoln died his father, honest Abe, used to visit his grave and hold his dead body. This historical event combined with the Tibetan concept of the bardo, a place where spirits linger, became this novel.

JBryne warns the viewers that Lincoln in the Bardo is complicated. What? 166 voices is complicated all of a sudden. Who doesn’t like a casual stroll through 166 points of view? Who???? One of my friends described it as book that would be best received by wankers who didn’t get it but wanted to pretend they were smart and did. Let’s see if the panellists are kinder than my friend.

Ace says he loved it. It has a cast of thousands and you are in limbo, what’s not to love. It is explained that there were three main voices:

1) Horny old man that you’re introduced to on the first page

2) A guy who committed suicide and regretted it (they always regret it in literature)

3) A priest who scared himself to death

They’re a lively bunch despite being dead. JByrne says that this book had her streaming with tears. The idea of a grieving father sneaking off to his child’s grave to cradle his little body is heart wrenching. Marieke liked this voxpop style account of people who knew William Lincoln in life and in the afterlife.

JByrne admits that she was confused at around page 25, that she had to go and have a little moment, and then she came back to it, and loved it. Ace says that trusting the author is crucial to enjoying this novel. He says if you have faith that the mist will clear and the truth will be revealed. Amen.

CS says that she did not relax during this novel. She had to keep ducking onto Google to fact check it and see who was real and who was fictional. I leap up and kiss the television and whisper, ‘Me too.’ 

She said that it clashed with her personality type and that she couldn’t relax. She also points out that people trying to mythologise American history isn’t her favourite thing in the world. That there’s enough “America is the greatest nation on the planet” stuff out there without it having to be made into the stuff of legends.

Marieke points out that it was pretty bold to choose a real person and a real death rather than explore grief in an entirely fictional setting. CS says she read an interview with Saunders about Lincoln and grief that she found fascinating. She’d highly recommend that anyone read it. She did not so much love him stretching out this exploration into a full length novel.

JBryne goes to say something about how she liked the extension but Marieke has had enough of this conversation being devoid of ghost penis and says it is time to talk about it. She says there was too much ghost penis, too often, and she would have liked the book even more with less ghost penis. She said that the novel was a bit busy in some places so she couldn’t quite picture it all but the ghost penis was right there and very noted.
Zoe liked the business. Says she liked it better than the actual plot. The hunter surrounded by all the animals he’d killed was her favourite.

The panellists touch on some of the problematic areas, like Lincoln signing the declaration of independence because he got possessed by a slave but overall they loved it.

They play a segment from the audio book. We’re all meant to be blown away. I can tell by the very moved look the panellists are affecting. Every famous American actor alive is in it. Everyone wants a piece of Saunders. His publishing house is clearly throwing everything at this. If it wasn’t a success with this kind of push we’d all be stunned. Marieke points out with all this backing it is the literary equivalent of Ellen’s selfie at the Oscars. Apt.

Time for a bit of By the Bed.

CS is reading Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. (I love her brain so shall be reading it)

Ace is reading The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams new and old collected short stories.

JByrne is reading Golden Hill. (Currently reading it, will review shortly, it’ll either pop up on this blog or with the boss ladeez over on Newtown Review of Books)

Marieke is reading Insomniac City by Bill Hayes. He’ll be at The Sydney Writers’ Festival, and why yes I am a volunteer. How can I help?

Zoe is reading Butcher’s Crossing.

Now it’s the moment that we’ve all been waiting for; HANDMAID TIME!!!!!!! Its central character is a breeding slave in the future who once had a loving home and family. It is essentially the story of exactly where we’re headed with misogynists such as Donald “grab them by the pussy” Trump reigning supreme. Atwood kept saying this wasn’t sci-fi, it’s sci-fact people! I am popping aside my lightly sparkling moscatto and picking up a cup of men’s tears for the rest of this episode.

CS says that she has read this book at three different stages of her life. First as a teen. It was a revelation and the discussion around totalitarianism in the book was amazlips. She then read it in her twenties (wait, is she out of her twenties?) and thought it was 80’s white woman feminism and it was time to come further in the world. She read it again for this and was like OMFG this is amazlips, this is the shit right now. 

Ace said he found it frighteningly relevant. He says that it was measured, fierce and not at all hysterical, and that it made him feel uncomfortable as a man. Good. Might explain why he dropped the h word. Marieke suggests that, as a man, Mike Pence gets naked and rubs himself on this book at night. She agrees that it was a cool, calm, clinical fury. The anger was so contained and focused and Marieke loved it.

The magical unicorn Zoe gallops in. Isn’t she sweet and lovely? She says that she found the stakes too low in the book. WTF! Women are kept as baby making slaves and routinely raped and the stakes aren’t high enough. Unicorn life must be pretty rough. She says it was all a bit samsies and kept moving at the same trajectory and she’d like to see more danger…. Because they weren’t already at maximum danger? Cold, Zoe, cold. She says she liked 1984 better. My mind is being blown by this and not in a good way.

CS says that the unfolding horror kept her turning the pages. Zoe is a bit meh. She enjoyed that men could be literally torn apart, but she wanted a bit more of that. 

What the fuck happens in the unicorn world? Clearly savage. Ace and JByrne say they both found it terrifying. JByrne also points out that 1984 is a bit irrelevant now, it’s completed its cycle and purpose, whereas this is still so current. The other panellists argue that 1984 is still relevant. JByrne talks about communism and how 1984 was a fearful response to that. Met with more arguments. I want her so desperately to say, it’s called nineteen eighty fuck four. It’s literally past that date. She doesn’t. She’s a better person that I. She does however give the other panellists a big case of WHATEVER and says The Handmaid’s Tale is better than 1984. Agreed! I hi5 my television screen, and pin a vag badge on to JByrne’s image.
Zoe, somehow sensing that JByrne has been awarded a vag badge, and CS has been given a screen pash tries to lift her game. She acknowledges that having to lie down across your mistress’s lap whilst her husband rapes you in order to impregnate you is bad. She says it’s not a good sex sandwich to be in. It’s one of the worst tasting sandwiches ever. Nobody wants to be part of that sandwich. If that’s the only sandwich on offer, she wants no part of it. Subway withdraws any offers of sponsorship to both Zoe and Atwood. 

JByrne starts reading a quote from the book spoken by a misogynistic wanker. Steam is coming out of her ears. She’s mad. She’s sick of smug men looking down on women and making condescending remarks, and they’re still doing it in the bloody future. Holy bajeebers! She’s throwing the book. She’s thrown the book! This is not a drill. There has been a book throwing. She’s so angry that she has thrown that book. Smash the patriarchy. Throw some shit. You go! You rage against the machine. The future is female. This is so fucking brilliant I am crying tears of feminist joy. Damn the man.

And that’s a wrap people! Not the sandwich kind of wrap, the finishing up kind. No more sandwich talk. We don’t want any more gross sex sandwiches. I’m excited. You’re excited. Let’s all just sit here in sheer ecstasy for a moment. And I’ll see you all next week. Cannot wait for next week.

Read last week’s recap here.

Catch up on episodes on iView here.

Find the drinking game here.

Buy my shit here.

Find The Handmaid’s Tale television series on SBS on Demand from July.

As an aside, I think I also need to mention that there has been another attack on the arts this week. Fairfax is laying off a quarter of their staff. A quarter. They want to remove all specialised literature and arts staff. Apparently they think that there is just no specialised skill needed there and just any opinion piece writer can do a high quality job. NOPE! Snide, nasty, general reviews are on their way out. People got a laugh for a while but those reviews were far more about the reviewer than they were about any book. Now people have had their laugh and they actually want to get back to getting decent and thoughtful information rather than just personal opinion. You’re well behind the ball Fairfax. Pay your workers and get the quality content up. That’s what people will pay to read, not the click bait same shit as everywhere else. WHY WOULD WE PAY FOR SOMETHING WE CAN GET FOR FREE EVERYWHERE ELSE??? MAKE QUALITY AND INTEGRITY BE YOUR POINT OF DIFFERENCE! 

And while I’m at it, don’t think we haven’t noticed that the ABC has  cut The Book Club ABC back to eight episodes. Don’t think we haven’t also noticed that the ABC previously cut a whole heap of their science department. This is how people like Trump win. This is how The Handmaid’s Tale gets actualised. Dumb down our media, get rid of people wanting to critique and replace them with people just wanting to prove that they’re terribly clever and get famous. We need to demand integrity. More shows on the arts, more shows on science. More critique. More integrity. More fact checking. More Jason Steger. Less cheap attempts at appearing relevant. Actually be relevant. Deep breath. Rant over.