Tag Archives: omar Musa

ABC Book Club Season 11 Episode 2: #bookclubABC 

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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 Nope, they’ve gotten some of his unpublished works and popped them into a beautifully bound, blue book.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.

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The Book Club ABC S10 E5: #bookclubABC

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JByrne appears on our screens like a little ray of sunshine. We clap, we cheer, we ovate. And yet again, by we I mean my wine and I. Yes, moscato again. Book Club is enough excitement for the evening without changing up my wine.

JByrne annouces the first book to be discussed, The Midnight Watch by David Dyer. It’s about the Titanic but offering a different perspective, that of a family in third class on the Titanic and those on the SS Californian which was the ship closest to the Titanic when it went under but did not assist in any way…

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JByrne then introduces her first guest Rosie Waterland who rather timidly introduces her choice for the classic/favourite text, A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. My jaw drops and nearly hits the ground on hearing that “memoir” being announced. I thought it was controversial when in  episode 3 of this season BLaw chose a graphic novel, this leaves that choice for dead. I manage to pick up my jaw and mutter, “should be called A Million Little Lies.” But I’m sure I’ll get a chance to whinge about that when they discuss it so I’ll move on with my life… for now.

The second guest is Omar Musa. I am in heaven. He nearly killed regular panelist, Jason Steger, last time he was on by calling a book that Jason adored cliché. I love Jason, I could eat him up on a bit of toast with a drizzle of honey, and I don’t want him to really die, but I do so love to see him shocked.

Regulars Marieke Hardy and Jason Stegersaurussex are there also. Which is always nice.

A dramatic recreation of The Midnight Watch is played… I don’t like it. I noticed they played one last week, I didn’t like that recreation either. I haven’t noticed them previously so maybe they’re usually more enjoyable or I should cut back on the wine… but then I’d have nobody to watch Book Club with. No, the wine must stay. Hopefully they jazz up next week’s a little by making the panelists act it out.

Marieke starts in on the book, she quite liked it. She got tricked into learning something new, not that the Titanic sunk, although Jason insists revealing this information is a spoiler, but other things. She liked it so much that she went on to research further into the Titanic once she finishedthe novel. That’s a pretty strong recommendation.

Next comes Rosie. She just about burst with excitement.

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She’s apparently a Titanirac. I have never heard this term before so there is a very real chance that it is spelled incorrectly for reasons that have nothing to do with my dyslexia. Looks like Marieke isn’t the only one who has been tricked into learning today, I too have learned a new word. A Titanirac refers to a person that is obsessed with the Titanic… Twitter tells me it’s Titanorak and I’m an idiot..  Rosie mentions how the SS Californian being the closest ship is well known amongst Titanoraks but others don’t know it… I smugly look at my wine and tell it how I knew and I’m not a Titaniac. My wine smiles knowingly back at me and tells me that I’m both smart and sexy.

The discussion amongst the book clubbers has moved on whilst I chatted with my Moscato and Rosie is revealing that she wasn’t born when the Titanic was lifted in 1985 because she was born in 1986… I’m so fucking old. I take her book The Anti Cool Girl and hurl it at the bin sobbing. I rush over and pick it up and apologise too it profusely.

JByrne mentions that looking at the SS Californian is rather interesting because it has been previously exposed but never explained. It’s certainly a burning question that we want answered, “Why did the ship closest to the Titanic ignore it’s distress signals?” There is a possibility that countless lives could have been saved if the vessel had responded.  And this book promises to explain that mystery. Marieke says The Midnight Watch breaks that promise and doesn’t explain it, and that really pissed her off.

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Omar says it doesn’t explain it but he’s okay with that because the Captain of the SS Californian never explained it and you can’t put words in other people’s mouths. Jason says that it is ruddy well fiction and so you can put words in people’s mouths otherwise what’s the point. BUT, Jason says for him, he felt the question was answered, JByrne agrees. Rosie stares ponderously into the existential chasm that is the quandary of the Titanirac and says mournfully that the question was not answered but she didn’t expect there to be an answer because there never will be one.

The panel move on to say that the book was quite repetitive and could do with a good cut. Seriously authors, get with the program, how many timed do the panelists have to say they like short books? They then say that the female characters were written poorly… interesting. They spoke quite highly of the novel but felt the female characters were crapola and the text repetitive but last week spoke of the beautiful writing in Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident but gave it a bit of a lashing because they felt the male characters were portrayed too cruelly. The feminist in me arches an eyebrow, and not in a good way. The real me simply raises both eyebrows because I can neither wink nor raise one eyebrow at a time.

Onto By the Bed. Can’t wait to hear what Jason has by his bed. Something musky and sexy no doubt, he loves the sexy books. I’m waiting for the day he hold up the Karma Sutra but says he only read it for the beauty tips.

Rosie is reading Shrill by Lindy West.

Jason is reading Moonstone by Sjon.

Omar is reading The Blue Fox by the same author. Get out of town, Jason and Omar are now book club besties.

JByrne is reading The Sun, the Moon, and the Rolling Stones by Rich Cohen.

Marieke is reading Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor.

And it turns out that I was wrong. Omar is not reading The Blue Fox he’s reading something else. Maybe the wine does need to go. Omar is actually reading From Victims to Suspects: Muslim Women Since 911 by Shakira Hussein. Sorry for the confusion.

And now it’s onto the classic/favourite. Rosie boldly declares that she doesn’t even know if A Million Little Pieces is her fav but she just wanted to throw a book grenade in there.

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It has the desired impact. JByrne annouces that she has “deep and poisonous feelings” towards James Frey over this “memoir.” Mainly because it’s not a bloody memoir at all. It was marketed and sold as a memoir and then outed 3 years later as lies, damn lies. The reason it was released as a memoir? Oh, the author couldn’t get it published as a novel so just decided to say it was a memoir and then a publisher did pick it up. Not exactly a noble reason but a self serving one. I am with JByrne on this, it makes my blood boil!

Jason and Omar say they’re okay with the lying and that memoirs aren’t really true… WTF. Omar didn’t want words put into the Captain’s mouth in historical FICTION but it’s now okay for non fiction. Dear God, Jason has even started pulling quotes out of his pocket to defend his stance that memoirs aren’t real. Yet he said the reason words could be put in the Captain’s mouth was because it was fiction, he’s already acknowledged there’s a difference between fiction and non fiction in this episode. Don’t you pair remember who you were 10 minutes ago???

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Good work, Rosie, you’ve certainly got them all scrambling. Marieke comes out and tells it like it is, she would have picked it as a fake even if she hadn’t known. The writing is utterly adolescent. Some beautiful sentences of course but it’s overrun by the author trying to make himself out as not only the smartest guy ever but the biggest and toughest ever too. It screams of the unreliable narrator. The kind of fictitious work you do from an adolescent’s perspective where they see themselves as so right and so brave that it beggars belief. It doesn’t work for a genuine adult perspective that has supposedly gained wisdom and matured. It’s not exactly the perspective of adulthood but that of full hardy youth. Thank you Marieke for being the ever so crass voice of reason.

Omar and Jason again defend it by saying it doesn’t have to be true it just has to ring true. Rosie, who has actually written a memoir, points out that you write your truth from your perspective, you do not simply make things up. Jason wants to pull more quotes out of his pocket. Keep your hands where we can see them, Jason.

Omar talks about how James Frey went on Oprah and admitted he had lied and says he should be given props for that… Let’s just ignore that Frey only admits to one lie at a time as they’re exposed and denies them all in the lead up? The dude doesn’t just come out and confess. This man told people they didn’t need a 12 step program they just needed self belief, and based his credibility to give tips on how to over come addiction on his “memoir.” Which shows he had never overcome the sneaky, lying,  cheating and deceiving aspect of his addictive personality and therefore was hardly in a place to instruct others. Omar mentions how inspirational James Frey still is and how he still gets letters from addicts saying how he inspires them… says who!!! Oh, that would be James Frey saying it, the dude proven to be unreliable.

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JByrne likens James Frey to Belle Gibson. People say that’s unfair because she pretended she had cancer and never did whereas Frey did have a drug problem. And there is no question that he did, his life story is essentially –  boy takes money from his parents to take drugs, boy takes money from his parents to go to rehab, boy takes money from his parents to write a novel that he then pretends is a memoir. Yet I still think JByrne’s comparison is fair. You and me Byrne, all the way. Frey says he spent years in gaol when he spent hours, he said his special friend died when a girl he never spoke to died. Belle Gibson said she had cancer when in reality she felt a bit sick and saw a naturopath. Seems pretty apt to me.

All the strong opinions come to an abrupt end when JByrne annouces that it is time for a quiz. She pulls out what appears to be a rubber chicken and a rubber pig for the buzzers. Jason’s eyes light up. Marieke inwardly sobs and mutters that this is the worst thing that has ever happened to her.

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It’s to be Jason and Rosie Vs Marieke and Musa. Never has there been such an epic battle since Batman V Superman or Ironman V Captain America… oh, my bad, Jason and Rosie gave Marieke and Musa an absolute trouncing. Jason is given the rubber chicken as his prize, he is delighted. Marieke is still hoping the Hell Mouth will open and swallow her.

JByrne promises us sex, religion and politics next week. The title of the show is Books that Divide a Dinner Party. They must be discussing A Million Little Lies and Wuthering Heights again. They certainly argued over those.

I have to say that this truly was a most excellent episode. I’m not sure which episode has been my favourite this season but it is definitely between this one and the first one. Both were just so firey. Good work on your choice, Rosie. Book Club, you’ll have to get her on again. It’ll be tough to top this next week.

Catch up on last week’s recap here.

View previous episodes through ABC iView.

The Book Club ABC S10 E3 #bookclubABC

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Jennifer Byrne enters. The crowd goes wild. The queen is here and she’s back to using a glossy lipstick instead of matte like last week. Now her lips will shine just as much as her honeyed words.

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She’s wearing white and as we’re Australians we don’t even know if it’s after Labor Day nor if it’s allowed. We’re just happy to see her and her regulars. We enjoyed last week’s show but how we missed Marieke and Jason.

JByrne introduces her guests. First there is Omar Musa, a DJ, a writer, a philosopher poet. Everybody claps enthusiastically. Secondly is Benjamin Law, non fiction writer and creator of the television show The Family Law. Everybody loves BLaw because he’s just so…

… What in the world am I seeing here? BLaw has no socks on. His ankles are completely nude. The emperor has got no clothes on.

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JByrne is saying something but I cannot hear her over how loud BLaw’s ankles are. And oh no, oh no no no no no, what is going on with Jason’s ankle region? Is it likewise naked. I know Jason likes the sexy books full of sexy sexing but is he also a mad ankle lover too? BLaw appears to have a vulva in his pocket yet for some reason Jason’s possibly nude calves are what is surprising me the most.

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I’ve got two bare ankles and a vagina in my pocket.

Is he trying to out Ben BLaw or does he love BLaw so much that he wants to be ankle twinsies. Look at me Ben, we’ve got matching ankles we can be BFFs for life. Or maybe they’re just beige socks. I have so many questions. The socks JByrne, the socks, you need to address the sockless elephant in the room. I need to stop thinking about sockgate or I’ll miss the show. Let sleeping socks lie.

Jason introduces his choice, Mothering Sunday by the incredibly versatile Graham Swift. It has lots of sex and nudity so of course Jason loved it. This is not the first time he has championed a sexy book. It’s kind of his thing. He reads the opening line, “Once upon a time before all the boys were killed…” and the audience melts in their chairs. What an opening. So simple, so elegant, yet so evocative. It’s a Cinderella story all set in one day.

All the panelists agreed that they loved the shortness of it. Take note authors, some readers when faced with a 700 page tomb want to die. Not Fantasy readers, we call that a prologue. But readers are increasingly busy so the return of the Henry James style serial or novella is ideal for the modern life style. Get that story in with maximum impact and minimum words. Marieke refers to Mothering Sunday as a moist towlette of a book. Refreshing. She likes that term, she uses the descriptor refreshing frequently for books.

Musa is a slight dampener on this already moist book. He says, “It was alright.” Jason clutches for his metaphorical pearls and faints.

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Musa found it a bit cliché. Jason returns from the dead and points out that the cliché is ruddy well deliberate because it’s meant to express the naivety of the main character and reflect the fairy tale concept. Somewhere in the world Doctor of Fairy Tales, Kate Forsyth, has fallen into a psychic coma. Jason returns to sniffing his salts.

Ben peps Jason up by indicating how much he loved the book. BLaw particularly liked the constant nudity, as did Jason, it’s his thing after all. BLaw oozes over the deliciousness of being nude in a library. Everyone agrees that does seem fun. I think they all need a nap. I don’t want people’s moist towlettes all over my precious books. I’ve got a few simple rules in my life, no nudity in a kitchen or in a library is one of them. Words to live by. You’ll thank me later.

Omar is undeterred in his quest to give Jason a heart attack and delivers a killing blow, “deft but forgettable.” He says he knows that it’s forgettable because he only read it two weeks ago and has already forgotten half of it. Jason somehow manages to survive. I’m relieved. Book Club would be far less sexy without him. Omar also found the book far too polite. Translation : completely white and British. So very, very, very, British.

BLaw enjoyed the politeness. He found it quite exotic because the concept was so foreign from his own up bringing. Watch The Family Law and you will definitely understand this.

In the end everyone agreed Mothering Sunday was well written, full of moistness, and beautifully short. They really liked the shortness. Like, really, really, liked it. Please write shorter books.

Onto what everyone is reading:

Omar is reading Beauty is a Word. Read it, it is amazing!

Ben is reading The Healing Party. I haven’t read it but if BLaw likes it then that’s good enough for me.

I’ve worked it out, yes Ben has naked ankles but Jason does not. He’s just wearing unfortunately coloured wooly socks. Glad I could sort that out for everyone.

JByrne is reading Julian Barnes’s latest masterpiece. If you haven’t read any Barnes before, might I suggest you start with A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters?

Jason is reading My Whole Life which has very little sex in it. We’re all shocked!

Marieke is reading Fates and Furies, she loves it so of course JByrne hates it and calls it over hyped domestic fiction.

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Omar runs for cover, he’s not used to such brutality in the mild mannered hip hop scene and Marieke tries to tempt Jason onto her side saying that there’s sex in her book.

Onto a classic. BLaw has selected it. He’s been a naughty little minx and gone off book with a graphic novel, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. It’s an unconventional choice in every sense of the word. It’s a graphic novel not just text, it’s queer, it’s got a funeral home, it draws on literary giants like Joyce and Fitzgerald with as much ease as pop culture. It’s an intriguing choice and an intriguing book. Everybody loves it… except Jason who merely likes it because graphic novels don’t allow you to use your imagination in the same way as just text and can’t help but say he’s glad that the references to classic literature were done visually otherwise people would have found it too difficult to understand. Oh the condescension, it burns.

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JByrne says fare thee well by telling us that they’re looking at An Isolated Incident next week. I squee and jump up and down. Yes it’s past my bedtime but I am a huge Emily Maguire fan so am dancing about in my pjs. So happy. No pressure or anything but if any of the panelists say anything even remotely not glowing about this book next week, well…

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Don’t make me angry, you won’t like me when I’m angry #bookclubABC.

Episode 2 recap here.

Episode 1 recap here.

View past episodes on ABC iView.