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ABC Book Club, Season 11, Episode 1: #bookclubABC

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Image stolen from Marieke Hardy’s twitter account.

It’s back. Life can resume again as Book Club is here. JByrne is of course sleeveless because she hasn’t been working those delts to keep them hidden by sleeves. Marieke is flawless. And Ace, oh my, sleeves rolled up to show off those exquisite forearms and he’s wearing stripey blue and yellow socks. Or is it green and yellow? #sockwatch The exact colour is an enigma just like Ace.

Before we get into the actual show let me take care of a few housekeeping issues:

1) I’m dyslexic, there will be spellos, grammos, typos, and just plain wrongos.

2) JByrne = Jennifer Byrne

Ace = Jason Stegersaurussex

Marieke = jamiest bit of jam.

3) I am unsponsored but if anyone wants to bribe me I love wine and notebooks… and money. Money is my favourite. 

Now onto the show. Joining the heavenly regular panelists are Michael ‘the dagger’ Robotham (known as Robo-Tham from previous episodes) and Clementine Ford. I am wet your pants excited about the Fordinator being on. I hope there is plenty of talk of about uteruses.

The panelists get down to business and discuss books that have been released during their hiatus. Australian author Sarah Schmidt’s 
See what I have Done
 gets a shout out. I’m excited because I’m reading that at the moment. 

And of course they pay tribute to the brilliant Heather Rose who has taken out the Stella Prize this year with The Museum of Modern Love. Rose remembers vividly once getting a royalty cheque that was for less than the envelope would have cost. Thankfully she is getting the recognition she deserves now and more royalties. Big congrats to an outstanding Australian woman writer.

Onto the bones of the show. JByrne says that they’re looking at Sydney author, Kathryn Heyman’s, newest offering, Storm and Grace. JByrne says that it has been touted as the literary thriller of the year. That’s a big call seeing how it’s only April, but then again, she’s an author capable of making a big call. Let’s see if the panelists agree.

They do the dramatic recreation thingo. It looks like a romance movie or teenage coming of age movie. One where the lead female’s ultimate coming of age involves getting boinked. I’m not getting the thriller vibe from this footage. I might be getting slightly hard in the bra region but definitely not suspenseful.

Robo-Tham liked it. He found the book claustrophobic and uncomfortable. That’s exactly the feeling he wanted to get. He respects the level of research that she must have done to get the sensation of deep sea diving just right. Heyman’s research included free diving and deep sea diving. She definitely went all out.

Ace says it’s not a thriller because there is little suspense over the major crime. But he quite liked it. He says it’s a book about an “unusual” relationship and a very odd man. Marieke corrects him and says, “abusive relationship.” Preach. Let’s stop using euphemisms for family violence. They’re not “robust relationships.” They’re abusive. They’re criminal. Let’s not sweep it under the metaphorical rug with niceties.

JByrne was sucked in by the sexyness. Oh myyyyy. It’s a repeat of episode one of season ten where JByrne yearned for Heathcliff’s inky eyes. JByrne we need to talk. Let’s do coffee and Aunty Robin will tell you all about love and life. You’re not simply getting warm in the underpants region over literary bad boys, you’re getting excited for literary wife beaters. 

The knife comes out, Marieke says it’s a year 9 romance and the names of the characters, particularly Storm, are lame. She slams it as badly written and badly structured. So harsh. I think my mouth will never shut again because it is hanging open in shock. Brutal. All I can say is, brutal.

Marieke goes on to explain that her savagery comes from a place of crossness not because she’s a disparaging biatch. She lets us know that she ia quite nice and doesn’t actually enjoy saying awful things about books but she’s cross. She’s super cross because domestic violence is such an important issue and it needs to be explored but she thinks this did it badly. Maybe she wanted something more like Zoe Morrison’s Music and Freedom? I don’t know, but she is not happy. Not happy at all.

She says that Storm is a sleazy creep from the start so why did Grace ever fall for him? She says the seduction and Grace’s vulnerabilities needed to be clearer so that people understood why women get involved with these guys. For Marieke it was a creep from the start becomes a killer and that’s no surprise and wasn’t thriller worthy. 

JByrne is just about crying at this point. Why doesn’t Marieke understand that Storm is sexy? JByrne is all about the sexy. She’s possibly going to overtake Ace in the sexy loving stakes. 

The Fordinator speaks. She wanted the desire to be clearer. She felt that it wasn’t clear why Grace would fall for creepy, controlling Storm. JByrne is looking at her in despair. I can tell she’s thinking, “but he’s fucking hot!” But the Fordinator quite liked the Greek Chorus as a literary technique. JByrne says the Greek Chorus is why it is a literary thriller because Thrillers generally don’t have literary techniques.

I throw my glass of Brown Brothers Moscato at the television. It doesn’t make it. I simply makes a mess of my carpet. I love you JByrne, you are the sun and the moon, but you are wrong, oh so very wrong. Plenty of Thrillers use literary devices. Plenty! I could go on and and give a detailed list (OH, HOW DO I WANT TO GO ON AND GIVE A DETAILED DISSERTATION ON THIS) but I’m supposed to be writing a recap right now, but just know, I’m quietly seething… and sucking at my carpet.

Robo-Tham bravely steps up and explains to Marieke and Clementine the attraction women feel for Storm. He likens it to Trump. People voted for Trump because he talks big. They got sucked in by his confidence and big talk. You know how us ladies love big talk, orange skin, and extreme comb-overs. Amirightoramiright? Ooooo Trumpy, you so sexy. No. 

The Fordinator asks why do all the women have the same attraction. It’s almost as if she thinks us sheilas are diverse. Pfffft. Come on CFord, you know us ladeez are only after one thing.

Now onto discussing what the literary trends for 2017 will be:

  • Progressing from titled with GIRL in the title to WOMEN… Fuck. My book coming out the year is Henrietta Dodgson’s Asylum for Damaged Women. I’m falling into a stereotype before it’s even set. Shit!
  • Australian Domestic Noir, will be big. Phew. I’m not a complete stereotype. My November release is set in Callan Park Hospital for the Insane in 1906. So it’s Australian, and it’s dark, but it’s not exactly domestic. 
  • Angry lady books will be big… Shit. 
  • Spec Fic with a literary bent will be in. SHITSHITSHITSHIT! Another glass of wine goes at the TV, hits the floor again.  Henrietta Dodgson’s Asylum for Damaged Women is Historical Fantasy. I basically take fairy tale princesses and lock them up in Callan Park Hospital for the Insane in 1906. I’m a great big future trends whore instead of a maverick self publisher. I’m not a special snowflake.

    JByrne picks up Michael Sala’s newest book as an example of a book to look out for. I’m cheering at the TV. I used to teach with him. Go buy his book. Yay. Go Michael, go.

    The Fordinator admits that it’s a good time to be a feminist writer. Maintain the rage, sister, bring out Fight Like a Woman.

    Robo-Tham wants less celebrities writing, long pause, children’s books. What was the long pause? I read into everything he does because he’s a Crime writer. Is the pause because you mean not just children’s books but all books, or is it because you want to emphasise Children’s Books but they can run wild on adult? Tell me Robo-Tham, tell me!!! It probably means nothing and he just had to breathe.

    Which leads us to By the Bed. The segment where the panelists say what books are by the bed and I waft into a fantasy world of lying next to Ace’s bed.

    Robo-Tham is reading Rebus novels.

    Marieke throws a curve ball. She hasn’t been reading in bed but reading drunk in the bathtub. New fantasies are emerging. She’s been loving The Last Picture Show.

    JByrne has been reading Storyland.

    Ace has been reading 
    Crimson Lake by Candice Fox Small excited wee for Sydney crime writer Candice Fox. I adore her. More Candice, more L.A. Larkin, more Tania Chandler, more Emma Viskic, more Cass Moriarty, MORE SISTERS IN CRIME. 

    The Fordinator is reading 
    Circle of Friends. She says it’s like a hug. Awwww.

    And now for 
    Hillbilly Elegy by J.D Vance. Will Marieke go full savage on this one as well?

    JByrne does the intro, it’s a memoir but was billed as the inside story of Trump’s people. However the author said its purpose was to start a conversation not to be the ultimate explanation and lesson.

    Robo-Tham loved it. He kept nudging his wife in bed to read her quotes. She told him she had a headache. We’ve all been there.

    Ace said it reminded him of Jimmy Barnes’s memoir. A man who pulled himself up from poverty and an awful life to achieve greatness. And how they both nearly didn’t make it out of their horrific circumstances alive. 

    Marieke charges into this love fest and calls it a flat telling of an interesting story. She is having none of anyone’s shit today. She said it skimmed through interesting stuff that should have been fleshed out. Ace said he loved the skimming. They stare at each other across JByrne. Horns locked. I await JByrne saying something about sexyness. It does not happen.

    The Fordinator starts to say how she felt that the author was an intelligent guy and that the author should have moved passed the “America is the greatest country” rhetoric and actually given the idea some critical thought. He as a white man could pull himself out of despair. It was hard but would it not be even harder for others that aren’t CIS white men?

    Robo-Tham leaps into the thick of things. He talks more about the problems faced by America and white people in poverty and how beautifully J.D. Vance covered it by showing the good and the bad.

    Fordinator is back and asks why is it suddenly now that people care about poverty. Why is it that black and Hispanic people being in poverty is looked away from in disgust but now that it’s a white problem people are fascinated? Marieke and the Fordinator state that the author fails to recognise his own privilege as a white man. And again raise the issue that he never critiques the trite “America is the greatest country” without thinking about if it actually is or not.

    Robo-Tham tells Ford she wanted the author to “attack” his own country where as he could accept that Vance was still backing his own country. Did she want it critiqued or attacked? There’s a difference.

    In the end, the two white male panelists loved Hillbilly Elegy, and one out of the three white female panelists likewise loved it. Yep, that’s enough to get it voted in.

    JByrne concludes by letting us know that Omar and CS are back next week. Hooray, we loved them last year. They’re discussing Exit West and The Monkey’s Mask. And we are treated to a clip of Roald Dahl saying WRITE DOWN YOUR IDEAS!!! Because like dreams, you’ll forget them.

    Watch this episode on iView here.

    Read last year’s season highlights here.

    Buy my shit here.

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    Michael Williams: #Robinpedia

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    Michael Williams ready for a spot of grocery shopping.

    Michael Williams…. Michael Williams…. MM CC McWilliams…. the big M. The Mster. Master Williams. What can be said about a man who simply describes himself as Elena Ferrante. A man whose mother thinks he’s cool. A man who has been mistaken for a dead, English actor and lived to tell the tale. A man with a beard. But wait, there’s more.

    Michael Williams is either best known as the director of the Wheeler Centre or popular radio host on Radio National. He is both a regular guest on The Book Club with Jennifer Byrne, and a top tier writers’ festival speaker. In short, he excels at everything he does, and he does quite a bit.

    The Wheeler Centre is possibly Australia’s preeminent hub for literature and creative conversations. It’s in Melbourne and I’m from Sydney so I may get excommunicated from my state for saying that. Since 2010 The Wheeler Centre has hosted more than 1600 events with more than 2200 speakers. Their goal for 2020 is to be nationally and internationally renowned as a centre for innovative conversation…. job done early. Michael stands firmly at the healm of this proud institution. Unsurprisingly he’s quite the inspiring speaker himself.

    You can listen to his dulcet tone at 9am Saturdays on Radio Nation on his show Blueprint for Living.  He talks about food, travel, architecture, and everything you need to live a good life. Apparently he even covers fashion. Is there nothing he does not know? If you miss it on Saturdays it is replayed 6am on Sundays, and you can listen to the podcast anytime.

    Prior to this Michael was the Head of Programming at the Wheeler Cente, worked at Text Publishing and Triple R. As such he’s a prominent figure in the Australian book industry.

    Find Michael Williams on Radio National here.

    Find Michael Williams at the Wheeler Centre here.

    Find Michael Williams on Twitter here.

    Find me drinking gin and crying into my armpit because Michael Williams and I are the same age and I haven’t even organised myself to brush my teeth today.
    If you have information you’d like to add to this entry please leave it in the comment section.

    If you’d like to learn more about Robinpedia go here.

    [For first time visitors to this blog, read the about section, I do in fact already know that I am dyslexic.]

    ABC Book Club Season 10 Episode 11 #bookclubABC

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    I’m feeling a little emotional heading into this episode. It’s the second last one of the season and I’m not ready to move on with my life. Plus The Book Club ABC Facebook and twitter accounts keep referring to next week as the FINAL. They’re not saying season final. What does that mean? After ten years are they calling it quits? I haven’t even created a generic drinking game yet. It’s too soon. Don’t turn your back on me now. But I shall shove my feelings of desperation and paranoia down into my rainbow toe-socked toes and give you the recap that you deserve. The recap I deserve. The recap that Jason Steger deseves, darn it.

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    Also, usual warning, I’m dyslexic so things will get messy.

    The episode begins. JByrne is of course glowing and the stage is looking unusually full… They’ve got three guests again. Yes! If you’ll recall, during episode 7 of this season they had three guests and it was the best episode ever, in the history of Book Club, in the history of television, in the history of EVERS!!! Do check it out if you haven’t yet had the pleasure. And OMG OMG OMG, have they brought back that same winning team from episode 7? Michael Williams, check. Toni Jordan, check. The divine goddess that is Virginia Gay, cheeeee… WTF? They’ve pulled a swift one on me. That’s not my Virginia! It’s Gorgi Coghlan. Sure she’s tall and she’s wearing fabulous shoes but you can’t fool me… they have a different hair colour. I’m not sure how I feel about this. My husband thinks she’s super sexy but that doesn’t necessarily make her a bad person. We shall wait to see how she goes… but I have my side eye at the ready.

    First off, JByrne does the house keeping-
    She tells us that this evenings new novel, The Course of Love by Alain De Botton, poses one of life’s hardest questions, “How do you make love last.” It’s hyperbolic but I’ll allow it.
    For the classic Jason has chosen Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook. Jason tends to like things British and full of sex. This is an Australian text, as such we can assume it has double the sex.
    New releases are mentioned. Of most excitement to this mother of three is that Andy Griffiths has added another 13 stories to his tree house. Bring on #LoveOzKidLit.
    JByrne then hands over to Michael for news on the festival front. Michael says you can’t throw a rock without hitting a writers’ festival at the moment so there’s no excuse not to go to one. JByrne asks Michael if he’s going to any. He is coy with his answer. He’s possibly concerned that if he reveals his exact movements some semi-crazed, frizzy-haired, ginger, hack, will launch herself at him screaming, “I love you.” I hear that happened to him once…

    Now let’s get down to business, the business of love. And you know it’s business time because I’ve got my business socks on. #sockwatch JByrne calls The Course of Love a sequel twenty years in the making. And then the dramatic recreation is played. Thankfully no whale murder this week but I’m pretty sure I found Waldo, so that’s nice.

    The question, is De Botton (you know what my phone wants to auto correct this to) brilliant or a pop philosopher stating the bleeding obvious, is posed. Marieke says brilliant. She loved it. And says that love and relationships are worth examining and that she loves to discuss this kind of stuff all the time. Marieke says that reading The Course of Love is like having dinner at her place. This is a softer side to Marieke that I wasn’t expecting.  I like it. Byrne says that dinner with Marieke is much better than reading that flipping book. I suspect she’s not a fan of De Botton.

    Jason calls it banal, obvious and only occasionally insightful. Michael says not to forget smug.

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    Sheebers, JByrne, Jason, and Michael all refusing to get on the love train with Marieke. I’d almost feel sorry for her being outnumbered but tender hearted Toni is here and she loves love. In fact episode 7 was all about her love of love.

    My bad, Toni says she “loathed” The Course of Love to “a whole new level.” Looks like Andy Griffiths isn’t the only one adding levels to his tree house, Toni added one just of pure, unadulterated, hatred. Marieke suggests that perhaps Toni hated the book because she hates love. Oh, how the tables have turned. It’s like they’ve reversed characters from episode 7.

    Toni wants to know what’s loves got to do, got to do, got to do with it? She didn’t like it because stories should be magical and take you on a journey and De Botton took her nowhere of magic. Come on De Botton, why won’t you take Toni to funky town? JByrne doesn’t like this sentiment at all. She hated the book but is all like, *calm your farm, Toni, what gives you the right to say what a story must be?* And then Toni is all like *me, I give me that right. That book was non fiction and you know it, Byrne.* Fight, fight, fight! Jason leaps in and backs Toni up saying it didn’t work as a novel. It’s JByrne, Jason, Michael, and Toni against Marieke, AND JByrne against Toni. It’s a madhouse.

    Gorgi steps forward, metaphorically only because she is literally sitting, and says that she found The Course of Love soul expanding. SOUL EXPANDING.  Now that’s a recommendation. She then says that it is the modern version of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus and it’s wise. There’s something wrong with that statement, I’m not sure how I feel about Men are from Mars and wise being used so closely together but I don’t have time to examine my thoughts around this because there is action happening all over the place.

    Gorgi says the book recommends that instead of asking how people met we should be asking them how they stayed together. Oh my god, that’s so profound, I really want to read this book. Gorgi says that the book is about damage and how we as people are damaged and how do we cope with our damage and other people’s damage. That does seem worthy of exploration and beautiful. Let’s be honest, aren’t we all just damaged people getting about trying not to hurt others or ourselves further and constantly snagging our broken bits against others unintentionally? Or is that just me who feels utterly broken? I want to read this book. Please don’t tell Toni Jordan, because I want her to think I’m totes-mega-cool.

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    Michael is having none of this profoundity and says the characters were generic  and more like case studies and he wanted more from fiction. And doesn’t he deserve more? Where are the believable characters, Botton? Give Michael Williams all of his dimensions! Jason also found it more like a case study and found the italicised annotations super annoying. He felt they were too overtly, look at me I’m so clever.

    Jason then says he hates to bring up sex, which is news to everyone because we all thought that was his thing. If he’s not bringing the sex to book club then who the heck is? But apparently the oral sex scene on the plane didn’t work for him.

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    My mind is racing as to exactly why he knows it’s so objectionable, and exactly how he gained his expertise in mile high encounters of the sexy kind, so much so that I miss what is said next. I apologise. The next thing I hear is that Gorgi loved it and gave it to countless friends. Toni did not give it to friends. she felt like she was going to get exam questions at the end. Ewww.

    JByrne says although she hated the book she did love the bit on sulking. Everyone agrees that the sulking bit was good. Marieke, proving that she is nothing if not gracious, says that she thinks the criticisms being made were fair but she loved it anyway and couldn’t wait to discuss it with her boyfriend over dinner. A high pitched squeal can be heard followed by the screeching of tires.

    Jason asks at what stage in a relationship should one read this book. Michael says give it to couples contemplating their first trip to IKEA together. I for one salute our IKEA overlords and welcome any free products they were previously considering sending Michael. I’ve got a five year old and two year old twins so I can never have enough storage.

    Now it’s time to focus on the most important part of The Book Club ABC, #sockwatch. JByrne hasn’t been able to keep her eyes off Toni’s ankle region. She is wearing glorious yellow library card socks. Toni says she did it for the #sockwatch people. She likes us, she really likes us. Michael sits quietly undetected by JByrne, but I see all, he is wearing white and blue stripped socks with a festive red heel. n

    JByrne moves onto By the Bed where the panelists reveal what’s on their bedside table and I fantasise about Jason’s bedroom.

    Michael is reading Ben Pobjie’s Error Australis. It’s the history of Australia written in TV recap form. How meta of me to recap about Australia’s most prominent recapper. I might just disappear up the existential chasm that is this metaphysical quandary right after I type this sentence… Nope, still here.
    Gorgi is reading The Last Painting of Sara DeVos which was discussed on a previous episode.
    Toni is reading Fine by Michelle Wright who is her student and says it is at least 500% more profound than De Botton. And transported her to magic town plenty. Plenty!

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    Onto the classic. JByrne says it’s an alcoholic, SEXUAL, nightmare and then asks, “Why’d you pick it Jace?” I like that, Jace, it’s sexy. I think I’ll use Jace the Ace from now on rather than Jason Stegersaurussex.

    Ace claims he liked Wake in Fright because it picked up the difference between small towns and the city beautifully and that it was short, NOT because of the sexing. Michael supports Ace, and says that he loves that it’s about the typical Australian theme of belonging. that Wake in Fright examines the divisions in life. City/Country, money/no money, education/ no education. Marieke loved the sense of place and the imagery.

    Gorgi hated it. She found it torturous to read. I think she might actually hate JByrne a little for making her read it. Don’t break up the sisterhood, Gorgi, blame Ace instead. She says that she had a mild panic attack during the kangaroo hunt.

    Toni offers Gorgi some comfort and says she hated it the first time she read it but this time she found it funny. Michael agrees that it was funny. The pair giggle like naughty school kids. Toni loved the awful things that happened to the main character because he deserved it. Marieke says he brought about his own downfall and that she loved everything that Gorgi hated about it and considers causing an anxiety attack high praise.

    Ace starts talking about Robyn in the cotton dress. Does he mean Robyn or Robin. I shall pretend he’s sending a secret message to me. Wear more clothes from Cotton On, got it loud and clear!

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    And now they’re showing pictures of people’s book clubs. Alcohol is the clear winner in book clubs.

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    And it’s over. One more episode to go. I’m not crying, I’ve just got a weeping angel stuck in my eye. But hey, next week we are graced with the iconic Margaret Pomeranz and our favourite Book Clubber VIRGINIA GAY! So there is some good news… sobs quietly in corner…. also, not to be childish… but when JByrne said they are doing Our Souls at Night it sounded like “Arseholes at Night.” There, I said it, everybody was thinking it, but I said it and I don’t regret it.

    Read my last recap here.

    View previous episodes on iView here.

    ABC Book Club Season 10 Episode 10 #bookclubABC

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    JByrne is gracing our screens and she is in the most glorious jacket that I have ever seen. I want to reach through the screen and rip it off of her body. She’s saying something about this being a special about Books that Transport You, but I can’t hear her over how awesome her jacket is. I can see that Noel Pearson, John Birmingham, my favourite comedian Kitty Flanagan, and OMG OMG OMG it’s Fantasy author CS Pacat.

    A spec fic author has been let out amongst the regular people. Usually spec fic readers and writers are cordoned off away from the other writers and readers but she’s here, she’s right in the middle of it at all. Tears of pride glisten in my eyes and I give a little chest thump in solidarity.

    Now, I usually like to guess the novels that guests are going to pick prior to each episode but I have failed every single time so I’m  just going to give up… Stuff it, I’m no quitter. I shall guess!

    Noel Pearson will choose The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.
    Kitty Flanagan will hopefully choose something by her dad. I’d love to hear her say, “Because he’s my daddy and I love him!”
    John Birmingham will choose Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
    CS Pacat will choose The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey.

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    Okay, Noel Pearson is the first guest to reveal his choice, he’s gone big, he has gone with the epic battle of heaven and hell that is Paradise Lost by John Milton. Awesome choice, in my opinion, but I have recently been told I have wanky taste in books. Pffft, if loving Calvino is wanky then I don’t want to be unwanky. Noel says that Paradise Lost and the Bible are probably the two books on God’s bedside table and that he thinks Milton is better than Shakespeare. POW! Them be fightin words in some parts. I sit and wait for someone to rip their shirt off and scream, “It’s go time!” it doesn’t happen. Noel even says, “Homer, you’re good, this is better.” Oh my. I’m biting my fingernail in anticipation. If someone had said that back in my uni days in one of the lit classes then it would have been on like Donkey Kong. It is not on. Why isn’t it on? Marieke or Jason would have argued with someone by now.

    John Birmingham says it wasn’t easy and that it felt like homework. But he agrees that it’s better than Shakespeare. Still no explosive argument. My poor heart can’t keep up this level of suspense. There has to be an explosion. John says that although it was hard work to read he felt better for reading it.

    Noel says knowing the Bible helps to be able to read it. And that reading with your ears helps because Milton wrote it whilst he was blind. John adds that it came to Milton in a dream and it just flowed from him and that mimicks the dreamy, lyrical flow of Paradise Lost.

    CS Pacat speaks. The spec fic world hold their collective breath, one of us has been allowed to speak, will she do us proud. CS calls bullshit. She says the devil is the hero, so God would not have this on his bedside table and that Milton would be nothing without Shakespeare. CS, you little rebel you, I knew I liked you. She basically infers that Milton is the Melania to Shakespeare’s Michelle. She says Milton is just riffing off Hamlet. JByrne is shocked. She didn’t expect CS to be so academic and knowledgeable. Firstly, spec fic writers and fans may have the reputation for being “dumb genre readers” but they’re actually highly educated and literate, particularly in literary and historical studies. So ner! And secondly, am I wrong in thinking that CS is dressed like a private school student? She literally looks like she’s walked off a school assembly and come on the show. If that outfit doesn’t scream book smart, I don’t know what does.

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    Noel defends Milton and says that he and Shakespeare operate on different planes. Shakespeare and Darwin operate at the human level whereas Milton and Einstein operate at the cosmic level. CS is a bit meh, about the metaphor, whilst the rest of the world is like, HOW FUCKING PROFOUND IS NOEL PEARSON! She says Paradise Lost is a bit of an obedience parable and obedience is probably her least favourite thing. I knew she was a rebel. Spec Fic fans everywhere are shouting at their TVs with pride. Some have no idea why, because they’re not even watching the show, but the psychic bond is so profound that they find themselves shouting anyway.

    JByrne said she found it hard to read but loved the audio book…

    Noel says he liked how Milton had come up with a new theology surrounding Satan as more of a gatekeeper rather than just a straight up bad guy without being blasphemous. I smash my wine glass and scream, THAT’S NOT ORIGINAL TO MILTON! Heck, the concept predates him by a long shot. CS and her rebellious ways have rubbed off on me. But seriously, it wasn’t new to Milton. That was actually standard until around the 800s. With Satan being the minder of the underworld and punisher of the wicked that God sent to Hell. Then by the 1200s he had developed into this full on tempter for his own sake kind of dude and not part of the continuum. He’s just playing with that. But, whatever.

    Kitty Flanagan says she found it hard to read and didn’t like it and it was way over her head. She didn’t think the Bible was much chop either. Noel does not like this. But let’s move on from Milton.

    Kitty introduces John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. She is quite timid about it, given that it’s YA and Noel has just been talking about an epic battle between heaven and hell. I say, don’t be timid, genre snobbism is bluuuurrrggghhh. Read what resonates with you, and never apologise. Kitty says that The Fault in Our Stars transported her back to her teen years and made her wish that she was a more worthy teen. This book wasn’t about sex and alcohol it was about love and purity and she loved it.

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    Kitty then pulls out how John Green made her understand mothers. That she’d never thought about how much you could love a role and have it come to define you and how important it becomes to your very soul. She pulls out a quote that really brought this home for her from when the lead character’s mother is overheard privately talking and crying on her husband’s chest and says “I won’t be a mom anymore.” Kitty has tears in her eyes, and now so do I. JByrne says the mum is selfish and how could she care about herself when her daughter was suffering. It’s because her daughter’s suffering is killing her, and it’s because she loves her daughter more than herself and her life will feel empty without her. Kitty points out once someone is dead, they’re dead, and that those awho are left are the ones suffering and grieving. My god, Kitty is just so profound and beautiful and I love her even more. Now excuse me whilst I go cry in my room for the next year. Yes, I have three children. Yes I have my period. Yes I am feeling emotional.

    John said he liked it.

    JByrne said the book made her feel old.

    CS says the subject matter was too close to hoe for her so althought it was well written she kept it at arms-length.

    Noel doesn’t speak about it much, I suspect he didn’t read it. NAUGHTY!

    JByrne talks about how many of the books that really affect you are from your childhood, such as Alice in Wonderland, Marry Poppins and Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. I have to admit the first book I thought of when they said – books that transport you – was, The Enchanted Woods.

    John Birmingham’s turn. He goes for a literal transportation to Italy with Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb. It’s an Australian Author, so, you know… buy it. (John and CS are both Australian authors, so buy their stuff too please.) It’s got lots of description about fruit, colours, and crime. That’s right people, there’s some mafia action in this.

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    Kitty says she liked it but there were so many words and descriptions that it was a bit heavy, and a bit too much like doing work. Yuck, work sucks. She said it wasn’t an easy read, have a laugh and quick flick, Bill Bryson type affair. She couldn’t quite pick the narrative thread. And she would have found it a little easier if it had a clearer narrative arc rather than jumping from place to place. John says it was a metaphor for being there.

    Noel said he found it really easy to read and had zero trouble. I feel like he and Kitty are secretly twins. Kitty suggests that they must do dinner sometime because they’ll just have so much to talk about… like all the stuff that they don’t have in common.

    CS has family from that region so found that Robb’s view of Sicily was different from hers so that distanced her from the book. She wouldn’t comment specifically on its accuracy but was skeptical of certain parts. There is far more to Sicily than the mafia and food.

    Now it’s time for the final book and the rebellious CS has gone with SCI FI!!! Hooray. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. CS says that the best sci fi doesn’t just make you look at the world created but makes you look at your own world differently after reading it. And that Ancillary Justice made her rethink how she viewed gender and how she thought about sexes.

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    Kitty and Noel struggled with the whole, a person who becomes a ship who becomes a person aspect. Noel said he transported himself elsewhere and it wasn’t to sci fi. Might I suggest they watch a little Doctor Who, in particular, The Girl in the Fireplace episode, and Man to Man with Dean Learner, in particular the episodes that feature BOB, in order to get yourself into the mindset where that kind of stuff is normal. Yes Ancillary Justice did revolutionary stuff with gender but the whole using people as parts stuff isn’t that unique, however it is done incredibly well. Incredible book. But not every aspect of it is holey unique and groundbreaking, otherwise it would be way too hard to read if there wasn’t a single grounding element. Just my opinion.

    John didn’t like it. But he doesn’t like to admit that because generally the people who don’t like it are whiny entitled man babies and he hates to side with them on anything because they’re such wankers. He talks about how awful these dudes are and how they hijacked awards and devalued sci fi in America with their tantrum over this novel, and how they voted in shit novels for future awards after Ancillary Justice took out all the major awards. And so he really dislikes them, but… he just didn’t like the novel. And that makes him sad, because he wants to like it so that people don’t call him a whiney man baby.

    JByrne says she was glad to read it because she felt like it was an important book even if she didn’t understand all of it. And she liked that it challenged her.

    John ponders what books they’ll be talking about from now in 400 years.

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    And that’s a wrap. Were you transported? Toni Jordan, my Michael Williams and Gorgi Coghlan are on next week for a regular episode. I cannot wait. Haven’t seen Gorgi before but everyone knows how much I love Toni and Michael, so it is bound to be smashing! SMASHING!!!

    Read my recap on the last Book Club special ep here.

    Watch past episodes on ABC iView.

    ABC Book Club S10 E6 #bookclubABC

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    In tonight’s episode of ABC’s The Book Club JByrne has discarded regular panelist Marieke Hardy and Jason Stegersaurussex like old school wedding confetti and replaced them with the bubbly Geoff Cousins, Amelia Lester, Zoe Norton Lodge, and Christos Tsiolkas. The theme of this evenings episode is Books that Divide a Dinner Party.

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    Perhaps the regular panelists have been put aside because JByrne doesn’t want to fight with them yet again or because they’ve staged a rebellion over reading 3 novels a week. I feel you, I didn’t always love reading between 2 and 4 novels a week when I did my English degree.

    Before the guests give away their choices I’d like to predict what they will say. Kerri Sackville recently wrote an article on psychics and I’d like to see if I have the gift.

    Geoff Cousins… hmmm, what will the businessman, advertiser extraordinaire, turned novelist and environmentalist find controversial at one of his dinner parties? Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. Advertising, propaganda, that’s kind of similar, right?

    Amelia Lester the Havard graduate and editor of Good Weekend would obviously choose Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s got lots of big words in it, not necessarily used correctly but they’re in there. I’m sure it’s wildly popular with the Havard alumni.

    Zoe Norton Lodge is published by the fabulous small Australian press- Giramondo, a regular on The Checkout  and a friend of The Chaser, so will no doubt go hard or go home. She’ll crack out the big guns, The Bible / The Quran / The Sutras / The Vedas / The Tulmud. It is going to blow our mind and leave our jaws dropped for the next six weeks.

    Now Christos Tsiolkas is a very talented writer who has a habbit of writing novels that get turned into movies. Most recently The Slap got made into a mini series in both Australia and the US. It was pretty controversial around to smack or not smack not just your own child but another person’s. So in order to really put another firecracker up the buttocks of parents I think he’ll go with Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall.

    Does JByrne get a choice? If so, The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I don’t really know why, just the vibe of the thing.

    Oh and of course the usual disclaimer, I’m dyslexic so grammar nazis should run while the still can.

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    Okay, first cab off the rank is Zoe. Dear Zoe has gone with Road to Ruin by Niki Savva. I feel so stupid. Of course she’d go political with the up coming election. The Bible, what the fuck was I thinking. Ugh, I hate myself. It’s a great choice because the book is about Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin and it’s just so salacious and weird that you want it to be true but you know parts of it must be made up. It has Credlin feeding Abbott and snuggling up on his shoulder at Part dinners, and all sorts of crazy shit. It’s so gross and entertaining but also sadly hard to believe.

    Zoe describes it as juicy. She talks about how Niki breaks all the journalistic codes of conduct but she bloody loved it. Geoff mentions he’s worked in politics and the events aren’t like anything he ever experienced. Christos states it reads like a work of fiction but Abbott’s character motivation is never revealed which is problematic for a story. Amelia points out how Credlin has been put under more scrutiny than any other chief of staff. JByrne says no journalist has been able to get any proof of an affair. And Savva has very cleverly made everyone think that Abbott and Credlin are having an affair without explicitly stating it.

    Christos has gone with Submission by Michael Hourllebecq. Nothing like my prediction at all but it certainly is controversial. Even more timely with Brexit going through. It centers around Muslim people winning the election in France in 2022.

    Amelia thought she’d hate it because she thought it wouldn’t be her cup of tea. But she did like it because it isn’t so much a book about Islam as a book about how the West need to step up. Geoff likes how materialism is the enemy. Zoe wasn’t a fan of the older academic being paired with a young hottie with no panties but the rest she liked. JByrne and Zoe agree that the trope of the older male academic with the young hottie is tired. Geoff likes the mention of food throughout. JByrne thinks that’s satyr, I think that’s classic French literature. Regardless, panelists are not divided as promised and all liked it. False advertising!

    Geoff has gone with The Tree of Man by Patrick White. A novel that tries to give the sense of grand mystique and history to Australia that Europe has so I’m going to pretend I’m close with my prediction and say it is advertisery / propagandary.

    Geoff and Christos talk about how great the book is and how much they agree with each other. Where’s the controversy! For God’s sake Christos, give him the slap. We all want to see the slap. Zoe likes it too. Not even complaints about hotties and panties. Geoff randomly starts ragging on Jane Austen? Zoe says Austen is like porn, sexy for women… Geoff finds that crass and has a little dig at Zoe. You back off Geoff, Zoe is the only one bringing pizazz to this panel. You talk about porn all you like Zoe. This is supposed to be controversial. Austen is porn seems pretty controversial to me. Thank you!

    Amelia is lucky last and she has chosen Lean In by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg… which is kind of exactly like Fifty Shades if you think about it… Alright, I accept I got it wrong. I can see why it would be controversial. White women from affluent backgrounds with husbands would relate to Lean In. However, even Sandberg has come out since the tragic death of her husband and said leaning in isn’t quite so easy for single mothers. Imagine how hard it would be for women from disadvantaged backgrounds. I imagine I’m going to hear the term “white privilege” in any discussion about Lean in.

    JByrne suggests lean in means behave more like men. Amelia denies Sandberg would agree with that. Zoe points out how Sandberg’s husband uprooted a whole company in order to accommodate their family and help with childcare… which caused a whole shit load of problems for other family forced to move. Amelia liked it as a memoir but not as a manifesto of how others should live. Christos would like to have learned more about her family of origin and her guilt. He felt there was a better to story to tell. JByrne says she likes that Sandberg promotes trying to make good money. Women should be allowed to want to make a shit load of cash.

    Great choices by the panelists. I’m clearly not psychic but it was a fun episode. Not as controversial as last week or episode 1, but still good. More Zoe PLEASE!

    And ohmygodohmygodohmygod my two favourite panelists are on next week, Virginia Gay and Michael Williams.

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    And I’ve got tickets to the screening. I think I’m going to pass out…

    Catch up on last week’s recap here.

    Catch up on viewing previous episodes on ABC iView.

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    The Book Club ABC S10 E2 Recap #bookclubABC

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    Tonight’s episode promises to be very interesting or completely traumatising with JByrne taking the stage without her trusty sidekicks. The episode features Marlon James, Kate Tempest, Paula Hawkins, and Vivian Gornick, and they will be revealing the books that changed their lives. I’m nervous, hold me.

    But before we kick off I’d like to jot down my predictions on the books that will be chosen and see how I go.

    Marlon James – Voyage in Darkness by Jean Rhys

    Kate Tempest – I had guessed Canterbury Tales by Chaucer until it was revealed that it was a book that DTrump loves, so I’m changing to The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.

    Paula Hawkins – Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.

    Vivian Gornick – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

    Let’s see how I go. Also, full disclosure, I’m dyslexic so this could get weird.

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    And the show begins. JByrne annouces that there are four exciting authors. She’s right. They’re all brilliant but none of them are looking all that excited.

    Okay, Marlon James is the first cab off the rank for books that changed my life… he throws a curveball, he goes for a comic series instead. What? Too soon. You can’t curve on the first one.

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    He has gone with The Uncanny X-Men. I can hear a thud nextdoor. I assume it’s the little old lady who lives there flipping her table in rage at this sneaky choice. Props, I’m a geek, let’s do lunch and compare collections, but I think you might have killed my neighbour. I liked her.

    X-Men inspired Marlon to write the fantastical and the extremes in the human condition. The brave to the cowardly. Good to evil.

    JByrne tells of her surprise that X-Men is quite literary. Geeks of the world groan because intertextuality is huge in comics.

    Next we go onto Kate Tempest who goes with William Blake. I love Blake. A poet who writes of simplicity and excess with equal deftness. I am surprised that Trump enjoys Blake. JByrne reveals he has quotes up in his Trump Towers. Kate suggests Trump should perhaps read more Blake. She is of course right. Blake links well with the intertextuality mentioned with X-Men because he speaks of acknowledging your inspirations and what came before you.

    JByrne suggests that timing is everything when it comes to reading a book that changes your life. The panelists agree. You need the book with the right message at the right time. Some books you might miss the brilliance of because you are too young or too old… JByrne is possibly still upset over Wuthering Heights. Read about last weeks episode here. It got heated and hilarious. VirginiaGay and Marieke Hardy were so good.

    Vivian Gornick goes with Son’s and Lovers. She came from a rough background and this resonated with her. JByrne also had an intense reaction to this book. She didn’t want to become like the wicked mother. Vivian speaks about how each time she reads it that she relates to a different character. She can relate to it through multiple stages of her life which makes it such a great book.

    And Jesus, I’m tired. It’s past my bedtime. I’m 36 which makes me your fourth youngest viewer and I’m dying in the arse. But my fanatical love of the show urges me to persist. Okay, focus.

    Paula Hawkins has chosen Notes on a Scandal. She loves the narrator. An incredibly lonely, bitter, unreliable narrator. Marlon James raised his hand as feeling personally victimised by the unreliable narrator. She was a bitch.

    So in summary, I am rubbish at guessing things and the episode was fantastic. Books that speak of the duality of life and the human spirit tend to resonate with readers, even readers who also happen to be brilliant authors.

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    P.S. BLaw is on next week!!!!

    Catch up on past episodes on ABC iView.

    #bookclubABC Drinking Game, 7 June 2015 – Kids, Don’t Try This At Home!

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    @thebookclubABC just got real, yo. With guests like @Alancumming and @HelenJMacdonald exploring Mario Vargas Llosa’s jauntily burlesque, The Discreet Hero, and Enid ‘I like lashings of (ginger) beer’ Blyton’s Five on Treasure Island, you know that you’re in for a rollicking good time, so let’s liven things up with a retro fabulous idea… the time honoured drinking game. Enjoy… responsibly and only if you’re 18+ (21+ in some countries).

     

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    Sip when:

    • the words froth, frothy, frothing, or frothiness are said.
    • the words sex, sexy, sexing, or sexiness are said.
    • the word translation, translate, translating or translator are said.

     

    Drink when:

    • Kim Kardashian’s book is mentioned.
    • you discover a new skill that Alan Cumming’s has.
    • someone talks over the top of Helen MacDonald.

     

    Chug when:

     

    Finish the bottle when:

    • the episode turns into a children’s adventure show.
    • you start thinking of Star Trek.
    • nobody else is watching.