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 Nope, they’ve gotten some of his unpublished works and popped them into a beautifully bound, blue book.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