Tag Archives: cs Pacat

Let Me Proposition You… With a Self-Publishing Festival

Standard

SELF-PUBLISHING AVENGERS ASSEMBLE! It is time to be seen. #SelfPubIsHere

I think self-publishing needs greater recognition from Australian Festivals and Awards. I think self-publishing deserves its very own day at one of the larger Australian writer festivals, or even it’s very own self-publishing festival. We have kids days and YA days at major festivals (check out the one at Sydney Writers’ Festival, it is AMAZING), why not a self-publishing day? It is absolutely booming at the moment with more and more people not only buying self-published books, but wanting to become self-published authors.

Publisher Weekly has reported that self-published ebooks represent 31% of ebooks on Amazon and this trend is increasing. Not only do they account for around a third of ebooks, they are also dominating sales. Self-published authors are surpassing traditionally published authors on Amazon in crime, speculative fiction and romance. They also have a big share of the market in all other genres. The big five traditional publishers only account for around 16% of ebooks on the Amazon bestseller list, all the rest are self or indi. And let’s face it, ebooks are big business now and are here to stay.

Many readers have no idea if the books they are reading are self-published or not. As publishing houses laid off inhouse editors and designers in favour of a freelance system, self-published authors were able to snap them up. As such, the self-publishing route is becoming increasingly popular and destigmatised not only amongst up and coming writers, but also those already traditionally published and seeking to take greater control of their work.

Despite this increase in popularity and quality many Australian literary festivals and awards have either ignored the self-publishing market or given it a one off panel. Often in Australia the panel discussion is merely about if self publishing is ruining the industry or not. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The interest in self-publishing however is growing and has moved far beyond festival goers wanting to hear a simple discussion on if self-publishing is good or evil. They want in. Publishing your own book can be hard work and getting it into people’s hands can be even harder. This is a process that the increasing number of readers wanting to turn into writers are curious about. And honestly, readers also want the opportunity to see these self-published authors in person to get their books signed.

A self-publishing festival or day would be unique from other festivals in that self-published authors have to have a hand in all areas of their book development. They need to be able to source or become their own publicist, designer, formatter, bookseller, etc. Literary festivals often focus on authors and publishing houses, a self-publishing event would highlight self-published authors along with editors, cover illustrators, designers, and publicists. It would bring the often hidden side of publishing to the forefront. The part that happens behind closed doors that writers and readers are increasingly curious about. The parts they are willing to pay to find out more about. And I don’t mean in just one genre, I mean across all of self-publishing rather than a genre specific festival. Romance has traditionally been quite accepting of self-publishing and has on many instances lead the way but it’s time for other organisations to step up.

Below I will outline some of the awesome feature a self-pub fest would provide readers and writers hungry for something new.

Unique Guests:

Writers-

Self-published writers are essentially split into three groups, those that started self-published and get picked up by a traditional publisher, traditionally published authors who have turned to self-publishing (some vow never to return to the trad-pub model, others happily flit back and forth enjoying the hybrid life), and those that have started as self-published and never looked back. Each of these groups bring unique insights and appeal to the curiosity of readers and fellow writers. We would hope to attract presenters from each of the group, with examples of the types of authors listed below.

Self-published authors picked up by traditional publishers include authors such as Matthew Reilly, CS Pacat, Bruce McCabe, and Mitchell Hogan. People want to know how these guys made the conversion. It’s the dream for many starting out. Self publish, get picked up, and then have a movie trilogy made, I’m looking at you E. L. James.

Authors who started out as traditionally published and have then experimented with self-publishing include people such KERI ARTHUR (I’m putting this in capitals and bold because I somehow missed Keri’s name and am editing it in!), Lisa Heidke, John Birmingham, Ellie Marney, Maria Lewis, Ciara Ballantyne, Kim Kelly, and Alison Croggon. Everyone wants to know why they broke ranks. What is so fantastic about self-publishing that it attracted them? How did they do it? Is it more profitable? What are the benefits? Hybrid or abandonment?

Australia has an incredible array of self-published authors that have started that way and remained true to the form. Melissa Pouliot had a cold case reopened because of her debut book. Heidi Farelly was picked up as a regular guest on A Current Affair to speak on finances on the strength of the popularity of her self-published ‘How to…’ books. Lisa Fleetwood became an Amazon bestseller with her debut travel memoir. I myself have been picked up by bookstores for my memoir about postnatal depression and my book is even being used by some postnatal depression support networks. Lola Lowe was listed as a “Must Read” by Cosmopolitan Magazine for her debut novel. A.B. Patterson, a former detective Sergeant, has won three awards for his debut crime fiction novel, and been short listed for two others. Dionne Lister is a speculative fiction author who is an outspoken advocate of self-publishing and has been short listed for three awards. Elizabeth Cummings has been invited all around the world to talk about her picture books, in particular The Disappearing Sister – an important book that deals with speaking to and helping siblings of children with anorexia. There are many more self-publishing success stories amongst the Australian public eager to share their story and people want to know how they did it and how they can replicate it.

Of course along with writers it’s time to make the previously invisible members of book creation visible, the people that people interested in self-publishing want to find and hire but are largely ignored by Australian festivals:

Book Artists and Designers

Formatters

PR People

Editors

Representatives from printers such as Ingram Sparks and Publicious.

Representatives from self-publishing consultancy services such as Critical Mass Consulting, Bookends Publishing, and The Author Whisperer.

Logistics:

We need a location or a festival to give us a venue for a day.

We need an organiser / convener that people respect.

We need a publicist, although, many self-published authors are their own publicist and do a damn fine job.

Volunteers, we need people pointing and smiling. Trust me, it helps a lot.

We need all the food.

We need a dynamic bookseller who loves us.

We need those guests that represent the full gamut of the self-publishing experience.

And, without question, we need all the wine and cheese.

And don’t just take my word for it, read Pauline Findlay’s thoughts here. She strongly advocates for more self-publishing recognition.

So, what do you think? Are you with me? Do we need this? Are we going to create the pressure to make this happen? (I did send a proposal to a friendly writers’ centre but 10 months later I still haven’t even heard crickets in response) Some big name literary festivals overseas are already making the space, can we make it happen here? I vote yes! Chat about making space for self-publishing on social media with Pauline Findlay and I using #SelfPubIsHere

Ellie Marney also thinks a #SelfPubIsHere Festival would be great, read about it here.

Find out what Lisa Fleetwood has to say about this here.

Find out what Rebecca Chaney thinks here.

Also, cough-cough, find my book at Booktopia or anywhere.

ABC Book Club Season 11, Episode 4: #bookclubABC 

Standard

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.

ABC Book Club Season 11 Episode 2: #bookclubABC 

Standard

The panelists are here JByrne is of course fabulous, Marieke is radiant, and Ace… well… his ankles are hidden. I can’t see his socks at all.

JByrne introduces the guest panelists. C.S. Pacat is back as is Omar Musa. Omar in turn introduces this evenings classic, 
The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter. He describes it as EROTIC. The word rolls off his tongue and reverberates round the panel. Ace is probably passed out in excitement overload that the word has been cracked out so early in the piece.

Time to discuss what’s new in the world of literature. Tracey Spicer has a new book and apparently so does F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not a bad effort given he died in 1940. Perhaps his ghost dictated it to a clairvoyant. Nope, they’ve gotten some of his unpublished works and popped them into a beautifully bound, blue book. It’s a bit Go Set A Watchman. We don’t know if it has been rewritten and edited to the author’s standard and if it’s what they’d want.

Now time for the novel of the moment….

…… dramatic pause…..

………… still more drama…..

Exit West. They describe it as a love story with a brutal backdrop…. The dramatic recreation looks like a doco on the Middle East. It’s weird, last week they said it was a Thriller then put up a romantic clip, this week they said it was a love story and put up a doco. What are you doing to me? I need everyone to be on the same page with the description. Now I’m confused and feel vulnerable and alone. Alone except for my Aldi Moscato. 

Marieke is the first one to speak. She says that she loved it. It was bang up to the elephant. Okay, she said it was perfect, but I’ve got a lot of phrases from 1906 floating around in my head so you must all suffer through my sheer delight in the phrases. I just pray that ejaculations, vaginas, and penises come up frequently this season, because I’ve got a lot of terms I’ve leanerd for those. A lot! Back to Marieke, she says that Exit West is quite simply perfect. It is deeply romantic but also pragmatic.

Omar reveals that he is friends with the author but it will not prevent him from saying what needs to be said. He says that Mohsin Hamid is a genius and one of the finest writers ever to exist. Omar says that Exit West is indeed a very fine novel but isn’t as good as his others. How good must his other novels be if Marieke describes this one as perfection? Be right back, going to find an all night bookstore and buy every Mohsin Hamid book in sight….

What did I miss?

Ace says he loved it. Marieke and Ace are on the same page, boring. They start talking about the literary device common in Spec Fic of the portal. Most of the panelists simply say they like it. CS breaks it down for us. The door in some ways is like Grendel from Beowulf. It represents all our fears and worst qualities. 

So at first the idea of someone coming into your home, your neighbourhood, in the dead of night is frightening. It’s very othering of those coming through. Of course from the other perspective it is a doorway of hope and freedom. So what is the epitome of fear for some is the only hope for others.  

Everyone nods understandingly. I think CS has blown everyone’s freaking minds. They sit silent, still, alone in their contemplations. Danger! We need movement and action or this episode will surely die in the arse. Get these people six lines of coffee STAT! Somebody throw Toni Jordan onto the stage.

Omar starts reflecting on why the author didn’t name the country. The panelists are clearly all now having an existential crisis and questioning the meaning of their lives. JByrne says it was a fable and naming a place would have bogged it down in historic fact. 

Ace questions why the author uses such short senteces and then ones that go for pages and pages. Marieke worries that only people who care will read this book and its transformative powers will be lost. CS and her profound statements are evidently the Book Club equivalent of smoking a joint. They’re all going to start wondering what their fingers really mean. Words like parables and myth are being thrown around.

Alright, time for Beside the Bed. Hopefully that shakes these crazy kids out of staring at their daddles.

Ace is reading a Vincent Van Gogh biography of 900 pages. He emphasises this fact so that we know that not only is he a mega good reader but he can count heaps high too. I missed the title, soz. I think it was Simply Van Gogh

C.S. is reading all about swords and fencing. She particularly enjoyed Richard Cohen’s By the Sword. C.S. and Ace apparently both fenced at school but different styles. Fight, fight, fight. There shall be blood on the books tonight… nope, they’re just moving on.

Omar is reading  Jane by Maggie Nelson.

Marieke is reading Benediction by Kent Haruf.

JByrne is reading Spec Fic! She’s reading Ted Chiang. C.S. has brought the Byrnes over to our team. Hooray. JByrne, call me. We’ll get together with some divine Sydney based spec fic authors such as Alison Croggon, Margo Lanagan and Thoraiya Dyer and can discuss some Australian spec fic such as Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck and Marianne de Pierres’ Peacemaker…. And then we can convert you, like some sort of cult. It’ll be fun. We’ll drink strong liquor and eat stew.

And now they’re up to the classic. The Monkey’s Mask. A264 thriller in poetic form about a lesbian private investigator. You don’t hear about that every day. Sure, we’ve all read some really long poems, Gilgamesh and the Aneid spring immediately to mind, but this is a tad different. The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter states that you’re about to do something you’ve never done before, read a 264 page poem….

Omar says that he loves this book so much because it a a noir, lesbian, thriller, in verse, that totally takes the piss out of poetry, and he’d never read something like that before. He says this helped inform him about truly great poetry and that it was part of his education and inspiration to become a poet himself. 

C.S. said she liked it because Porter had reclaimed plot for poetry. Plot had moved out of epic poetry into novels, and then from novels into movies. That poems had become about themese and books about characters… I can see that glazed look coming over the other panelists’ eyes. Come on people, this is a breakfast chat for Spec Fic writers. 

Stop having your minds blown and add some spark to the discussion.  The topic is interesting, the books great, the guests delightful but things are playing a little flat. I’m praying for a wardrobe malfunction. Where’s Virginia Gay when you need her? 

Ace says that it was sexy and he loved it. He comes up with some vaguely literary reason as to why he liked it. He’s probably just sitting there thinking, “I’d like to say something fancy to back up my liking of this sexy book.” Damn it Ace, just embrace your sexyness.  Be the sexy man we all know you are. Just beat your chest and yell, “I’m a sexy man and I like sexy books. This book is super sexy and I bloody well loved it for it.”

Evidently all the panelists love the book. JByrne is even calling the author Dot. So there’s definitely a closeness and love all round. Yet Marieke remains silent. She’s so animated that her sudden stillness is intriguing. 

C.S. says that she loved this book because it expanded her ideas of what could be done with queer fiction. JByrne says the poetic form makes it seem like a verbal tadpole because it just whizzes along. 

Finally the great Marieke breaks her silence. She says that poetry isn’t her thing, and that poets are a bit like vegans, they can be annoying. Omar subtly dashes away a tear that has formed in his poetic eye. BUT… she bloody loved this 264 page poem and she totally got it. She says that the book is a beautiful live story about a women who is completely… she pauses, she suggests she’s possibly isn’t allowed to use this term on TV. I picture a frantic producer rushing across the studio to hit the giant red button of power cutting doom. I pass out in excitement. What did I miss? Did Marieke get to drop the c-bomb? 

In short, it was about a woman who was totally besotted with an evocative woman who had done a very bad thing and was in denial. She’s refusing to believe that this woman she is so struck by could do anything wrong. Marieke says that this book isn’t so much about mystery as it is about denial. 

Omar says that he has come to a realisation that most of Australia’s finest writers are gay. That something about being an outsider has given a greater perception when looking in.

The episode then moves by a performance poetry piece by Omar Musa. A perfect end.

And that’s a wrap. Next week JByrne says Ace is bringing us crazy, British biddies.

Catch-up on last weeks recap here.

Watch past episodes here.

Find the drinking game here.

ABC Book Club Season 10 Episode 10 #bookclubABC

Standard

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.