Tag Archives: the book club abc

Book Club ABC Season 11, Episode 7: #bookclubabc

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I’m just going to subtly post this now and nobody will notice that it’s super late. Smooth as silk. No complaints, people will just assume it has been here the whole time and not question it at all…..

Hooray. It’s the highlight of the year. My two great loves together as they should be, Sydney Writers’ Festival (why yes I am a volunteer, how can I help) and THE Book Club ABC with the incandescent JByrne. All is right in the world…. well, except for the fact regular co-hosts Marieke and Ace have been cast aside like last year’s hottest new author that is now being crucified for their follow-up novel having too many POVs…. but apart from that, it’s just dandy.

The title of this episode is Books That Changed My Life. Let’s find out if that means for the better or for the worse, like when Anne McCaffrey suddenly killed off Moreta right when you thought the day was saved leaving a generation of fans emotionally obliterated because we thought somehow she’d sneakily survive but NO. Firstpublishedin1983outsideofspoilerwhinezone!!!

The guests are George Saunders. See his debut full length novel get book clubbed here. Also the much esteemed Anne Enright and OMG she has chosen The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, one of my fav books EVER. You and me Anne, all the way, love your work, love your taste. OMG×2 Anne Enright studied under ANGELA CARTER. I am so excited that I am about to pass out! Next guest is Mikhail Zygar. He is clutching Confession by Tolstoy. A less well known Tolstoy about his spiritual awakening. JByrne breaks her own rule of starting to discuss the book before its turn. She’s not happy, apparently the book describes Anna Karenina as an ABOMINATION. I’m sure we’ll hear more about that later. And finally, Brit Bennett, who is the most spectacular speaker. If you ever get the chance to hear her, do go. She has chosen Beloved by Toni Morrison. I have goosebumps just thinking about it. It’s a book about a woman who kills her own child to prevent her from going back into slavery…. I might cry during this episode. It’s such an amazing book. Very powerful.

Now it’s time for our first guest to present their book for discussion. George has chosen The Coast of Chicago, a short story collection by Stuart Dyvek. He loved it. It was about his city. He got to see the work necessary to change a reality into fiction. Prior to that, he felt that all good books were from the past, this book showed him how amazing contemporary literature can be. It changed his whole approach to writing. Now if this was a regular episode this kind of heartwarming attachment would be blown apart by either Marieke or Ace savaging it. Let’s see how the SWF guests go.

Anne Enright says that Stuart Dyvek is endlessly writing about lightbulbs, but he writes about them fantastically. He apparently also digs precipitation, and Anne likes that. JByrne points out he also likes to write about lonely people.

Nobody has hated it. JByrne realising her sassy compadres are missing has to bring in conflict on her own. She askes George what would he do if someone hated it. George says he taught it recently and half the kids didn’t love it. He didn’t flunk them. He accepted that Dyvek was doing something bold so would leave some people behind. Burn.

Speaking of bold, Bloody Chamber time. Brilliant retake in fairy tales. Lush, decadent, violent, and deeply sexual. Anne says, ‘it’s so good, it’s wrong.’ JByrne said she didn’t get how transgressive it was when she first read it. Anne said she told one of the stories to her two year old daughter to cure the pink problem. One can imagine it was edited slightly for a two year old?

Brit particularly liked Puss in Boots. JByrne says it was very Antonio Banderas in Shrek. Hmmmm, maybe Shrek needs to pay some royalties. Brit points out that the princess also becomes the ogre…. Did the makers of Shrek pay???

Anne loved the freedom to turn something on it’s head. She liked that you could work with opposites and reclassify. When Anne wrote The Green Road she thought, ‘I’ll do a female King Lear.’ Angela Carter had given her that freedom and flexibility in thinking and creativity. 

Time for Mikhail and Confession. JByrne calls it a spiritual midlife crisis. Mikhail says it’s more politics. Fight, fight, fight. Mikhail says it was more end-life, not mid-life. Tolstoy had stopped writing fiction and started becoming political and a leader of alternate Russia. A beacon for those wanting freedom. 

JByrne feels like it was metaphorical self-flagellation. He was lamenting his wild youth and him popularising Anna Karenina. Anne points out it is also a humble brag. He points out his huge achievements whilst seemingly undercutting them.

Mikhail says that the book is important to him because for him Tolstoy’s Russia is greater than Putin’s Russia. That there is the alternative that seeks freedom and expression, and Tolstoy is the symbol of that. Okay, Mikhail has won me over. I shall re-read Confession with new eyes.

Time for Brit’s choice, Beloved by Toni Morrison. A book that looks at how does a country deal with its past traumas. It is about a woman who escapes slavery and when she is about to be captured she makes the heartbreaking decision to kill her children rather than see them tortured, humiliated and brutalised beyond belief back in slavery. She is then haunted by the ghost Beloved, the child she had killed. The ghost eventually takes on bodily form and returns to her life. I am just going to go grab a million box of tissues. I personally have only read this book once but it is incredibly powerful and stays with you. George looks like he is going to cry too.

Brit says this isn’t her favourite Toni Morrison novel but it is one that she has read countless times because it does what she wants her own work to do. It is beautiful, it is brutal, it is important. The book does all three things and it centres around the black community. And it is highly nuanced. Brit says that Toni Morrison was not interested in looking at white people at all, what white people did was horrific and there can be no question about that, but what Toni Morrison looked at was the black community and their own responses to give insight and a voice to individual and community trauma.

Anne praises Beloved on how it is so perfectly structured in a traditional sense and yet does such amazing and innovative things. JByrne also praises the innovation. Anne calls it political writing at its finest.

JByrne asks how important is timing for when you read a book. George says it is crucial. Often great advice only has a two week window for being effective. Anne says we read in a searching way so timing is everything. Mikhail agrees, he says reading is 50% the writer and 50% who the reader is. So each time you read you’re a different person and get a different message. 

JByrne asks will books always be a force for change. Brit says yes. For example Beloved tackles what is still the most important question in American politics today, what do we do with the ghosts of slavery, and nobody knows what to do about it. I wish we could get to this point with the Stolen Generation and the White Australia Policy, but unfortunately we’re still denying that it was really that bad and not even up to wondering how to help.
And that’s a wrap. What an emotional episode. Loved it.

Find last episodes recap here.

View this episode or previous episodes here.

Find the Book Club ABC on Twitter here.

Find the Book Club ABC on Facebook here.

Find the Book Club ABC Drinking Game here.

By George Saunders books here

Buy Anne Enright books here.

Buy Mikhail Zygar books here.

Buy Brit Bennet’s book here.

Buy my book here

Read up on the Australian book industry in Robinpedia.

Love me herehere, and here.

Congratulate Marieke on becoming the festival director for MELBOURNE WRITERS’ FESTIVAL here. WOOOOOOOOOT.

This is my friend, I like her, follow her here.

This is also my friend. She’s a hotshot writer like you see in the movies. You should follow her here.

I have other friends, I really do. Find some here…. here… AND here…. and also very importantly HERE!

Find my idol here.

Find my guru here. Sharon also follows him, she can tell you about that here.

Are you following Tania? You should. She’s here.

And don’t forget Emma. You gotsta find Emma here. She’s rad. And she teaches me new words… such as blowie. Rachel can attest to that, find her here.

Find out something different you can do for #RUOKDAY here.

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Book Club ABC Season 11, Episode 6: #BookclubABC

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Buckle up mofos we’re in for an existential ride. Gone are the traditional author and journalist guests, we’ve got a director and an artist. It’s probably going to get weird. I saw this recorded so prepare for some extra tidbits that didn’t make the cut.

JByrne introduces guest noted feminist director Jane Allen. JAllen has chosen the classic text, but before she may speaketh its name we must listen to Simon and Garfunkel, I like Simon and Garfunkel but this is not my fav. It is the theme song for Watership Down. JAllen is then allowed to say that she has chosen Watership Down as the classic.

JByrne moves on to introduce artist Ben Quilty. He has won lots of awards for artery so he’s kind of a big deal. She says that Quilty is their fav…. WTF! What about Michael Williams? What about Toni Jordan? WHAT ABOUT VIRGINIA GAY? What is happening? I just don’t even know how to think or feel anymore. Yes I do, unjustifiably bitter. Look at him sitting in his Led Zeppelin T, like he’s so cool. Pffft.

 

Time to talk about new releases. Anna Spargo Ryan’s The Gulf has been released into the wild, its cover is delicious. Inga Simpson also has a new book out. Hooray. It’s called UNDERSTORY: a life with trees. You need to check out these two titles. They have the two of the most beautiful covers that these eyeballs have ever seen.

 

This has JByrne thinking about trees. She says they’re having ‘a moment.’ There was The Hidden Life of Trees and like heaps of other stuff for realz. She asks Ace why there are so many books about trees at the moment. As the Literature overlord of Fairfax he knows all about literary buso and will surely know what the G O is. He says it’s because books are like metaphysical cannibals having trees destroyed to make them and then writing about the corpses that brought them to life. That’s dark. Could someone please give Ace a cuddle? I volunteer as tribute. He then suggests it’s a fascinating topic and people want to know how they communicate. Marieke quite rightly points out that anybody who has read the Enchanted Woods knows, they say wishawishawisha.

 

And now it’s time to move onto the modern text, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. It details the attempted genocide of the Osage Indian nation. The reason they were hated enough to be wiped out? They got rich because the land they lived on contained oil. It looks at the FBI investigation into the murders and uncovers that the horrors were far worse than were depicted at the time. JByrne says that the book has been touted to answer, who was killing the Osage? She suggests a better question would be, who wasn’t? Quilty says it was pretty full on. Bit of genocide = fully full on!

 

JByrne laments that this really wasn’t that long ago. People had cars and telephones, this isn’t ancient history. She wants to know why this story hasn’t been told before. Why didn’t people care enough earlier? Ace suggests that because they are such a marginalised group that they weren’t heard, they couldn’t speak out. He says that this was a brilliant piece of investigative journalism and that now the story is out and people will care.

 

JByrne goes to read a quote about just how powerful this book is, fades off as she is overcome with emotion…. Or she remembers that she is not wearing her glasses.

 

JAllen says it was a compelling story but not a great narrative because the scope was too broad for the structure the book used. Fizzzzz. Passion killed. There were times when there was just too much research dumped without getting a sense of the emotions. She also wanted to know more about the Osage and how they felt and reacted.

 

Marieke has her back, she says that it was a dry telling of an emotional story. Jane puts her director’s hat on and says it would make a brilliant TV series. She would restructure the bajeebers out of it. She’d start with the ending, where it had a narrow focus and a strong emotional core and work her way back. I love someone bringing their different area of expertise and perspective to reading the book. How refreshing. Marieke would watch that show, because the book was a bit like the Excel spreadsheet telling of the story. Woah, back up there. Who doesn’t love a bit of data entry?

 

Quilty says that the distance was necessary because the author was not part of the Osage community. He cannot speak for them, he can simply report. He points out that all those horrific details are there and that it is the reader’s responsibility to bring the emotion to it. Just like when you’re viewing art, you need to bring your own heart into viewing it. I’m liking hearing his artist viewpoint on reading a book. But more than that…. His voice. There is something quite magnificent about his voice. He sounds like Eric Bana.

 

JByrne raises the horrific point that there were white men marrying Osage women, having children with them, and killing off the rest of their family so that they could get control of the money. They were so driven by money that they would marry someone just to murder their families and it wasn’t just one man, it was several. And now everybody is talking. They’re arguing. I can’t understand what is being said. Somebody hold me. Surely we all agree that is horrific?

 

Time to pull out the big guns. Cultural appropriation. JByrne lays down the gauntlet and asks if people had issues with David Grann writing about the Osage nation. Everyone is cool beans about it. (Nobody mention that the panelists are all white) They say he obviously spoke with them, there’s even comments from representatives in the book, and he was very respectful about it. He more reported on these horrific events then tried to speak for the Osage. JAllen points out that this extensive piece of investigative journalism will bring a flood of interest and allow Osage writers to come forward and tell their story from their perspective. She for one is now craving a story from their perspective and hopefully this new interest will make publishers see this as financially viable and these stories will get picked up.

 

And now it’s time for By the Bed

 

JAllen says she’s a space nerd and reading Packing for Mars.

 

Ace is reading Collected Stories of George Stalter. Okay, I made up the name I didn’t quite catch it.  JAMES SALTER! The author is James Salter.

 

Quilter is reading Cooper’s Creek…. He sounds so much like Eric Bana. I’m just closing my eyes and imagining that Eric Bana is telling me about what is by his bed. Oh my goodness. What is happening? My nickers have literally caught fire.

 

Marieke says she’s a death nerd and is reading Sex & Death.

 

JByrne is reading When Breath Becomes Air.

 

It’s time for the classic that much loved children’s novel, Watership Down. JAllen is charged with introducing it as she chose it. She tells us that characters die. She goes on to say that Charlotte dies in Charlotte’s Web, Bambi’s mother dies, characters die all the time, and that’s life. She said she chose it because she had such fond memories of it as a child.

 

She does note that it is a bit problematic in that all the characters with agency are male, it was a bit racist, but that passed her by as a child. On her recent rereading it was glaringly obvious. She notes that this is a symptom of the patriarchy that female children are trained to just accept that everyone having adventures are male and women are off making cakes and having babies. And that is the standard that we are supposed to accept. She says this book and its nod to totalitarianism is still relevant because of Trump.

 

Time for Ace to tell us how he really feels about Watership Down. He says he was bored shirtless, I mean shitless. He was not the target audience. He really didn’t enjoy it at all until the depot baddies arrived. As a consolation he offers that he quite liked the way nature was written about and gives JAllen an apology carrot. That is not some crazy euphemism, he gives her a literal carrot. And he brings enough for the whole class. Awwwwwww.

 

Marieke says she was first introduced to Watership Down by the Goodies paradoy, she quite liked that, and she liked this too. She says she’s a friend to the animals and liked the talking rabbits. Apparently talking rabbits are okay, but last week she could have done without the talking dog in Jean Harley was Here.

 

JByrne loses it. She just starts laughing. She says she thought that these self-important rabbits having deep conversations were ridiculous. They’re rabbits, they don’t have deep and meaningfuls. Marieke disagrees.

 

Quilty felt that the book was indeed a bit berserk but he still liked it. He is a bit disturbed that Richard Adams wrote the book for his two daughters and the lady rabbits are pretty much kidnapped to become breeding slaves, but suggests we put that aside for the moment. LET’S NOT PUT THAT ASIDE!

 

JByrne just wanted to get those rabbits and put them in a pie. Ace wanted them with gnocchi, I feel like they aren’t vegetarians.

 

Marieke did find reading this book slightly scarring reading it so close to The Handmaid’s Tale. Given that both have breeding slaves, and reading about them not just being glossed over in The Handmaid’s Tale, brought a whole new level of emotion to Watership Down. English teacher’s there’s a perfect pairing for you. No more dystopian and dystopian, do dystopian and children’s.

 

Quilty says that it is a beautiful story for children… except for there are no speaking females. Hmmmm, maybe we should interrogate that?

 

JByrne asserts that the book is ridiculous and that the only good talking animal books are talking horse books. All other animals speaking are just silly, obvi.

 

Holy crapola! Get hold of your drinks!! There’s a quiz!!! THIS IS NOT A DRILL. You know what The Book Club ABC Drinking Game compels you to do (responsibly and only if you’re over 18 and have no medical issues and aren’t operating a vehicle or heavy machinery etc).

 

Spoiler alert, Marieke’s team does not win. Make sure you watch it on iView or iTunes so that you can experience the full glory of Marieke being forced to be part of a quiz. Words, even my own, simply cannot do it justice.

 

And that’s a wrap. Next week is a star studded panel with Marieke and Ace being boned in favour of all Sydney Writers’ Festival (why yes I am a volunteer, how can I help?) guests. They will be discussing books that changed their life. In the meantime, listen to Ben Quilty’s magical voice on YouTube and think of Eric Banner. I know I will be.

 

Catch up on last week’s recap here.

 

Grab the drinking game here.

 

Watch past episodes on here.

 

Buy my shit here.

Just quietly, why not step out into sunny Sydney tomorrow and partake in The Sydney Writers’ Festival.  At Science House there are fantastic workshops being run by CS Pacat and Kerrie Davis, Niki Savva is speaking at the Roslyn Packet Theatre, Anne Enright will be at the City Recital Hall and Anita Heiss will be kicking off literacy with Justine Clarke on the Curiosity Stage, plus so many more great events throughout the day and rest of the week. Hope to see you all there.

Book Club ABC Season 11, Episode 5: #BookclubABC

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

It’s time for By the Bed! Hooray.

 

Di is reading The Mysterious Mr Jacob.

 

Ace is reading Enemy Within by Don Watson.

 

Adam is reading a cookbook, Aquacotta.

 

JByrne is reading A Separation.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Catch up on last week’s recap here.

 

Grab the drinking game here.

 

Watch past episodes on here.

 

Buy my shit here.

Read an extract of Jean Harley Was Here here

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

ABC Book Club, the Drinking Game: #bookclubABC 

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If there’s one thing that readers love it’s pyjamas… but if there’s two, it’s drinking. So what better way to honour The Book Club ABC than with the time honoured tradition of a drinking game.

Sip

  • When terms such as trends, hot, and popular are used.
  • When they use a dramatic recreation.
  • When Jason tries to give an intellectual reason for liking a sexy book.
  • When the terms frothy, fizzy, fresh, fountain, or frog are used.
  • When Marieke gets angry at Jennifer.
  • When Jason wears exciting socks.
  • When you feel a little parched.

Drink

  • When Marieke makes reference to a dog.
  • When Jennifer makes reference to a horse.
  • When Jason implies another panelist doesn’t understand a text.
  • When they discuss a book that you have read.
  • When Jennifer mispronounces a name or title.
  • When a title that has been discussed in a previous episode is brought up.
  • When you passionately disagree with something a panelist says.

Chug

  • When they mention a book your friend wrote.
  • When all panelists hate a book.
  • When a panelist walks off the set.
  • When a guest panelist loses it and starts raving.
  • When Jennifer and Marieke team up against Jason.
  • When Jason finds a book too sexy.
  • When Jennifer pulls a quiz on Marieke, it’s a solidarity chug because Marieke hates those quizes.

Catch-up on the Season 11 Episode 1 recap here.

Watch past episodes here.

Buy my shit here. Please. I beg you.

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.

    Why Writers Need to Vote in the Logies

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    I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the Australian book industry has taken a bit of a beating of late. The government seems intent on bankrupting authors with trying to reduce the copywrite on their works and changing parallel important laws. Not since sleazy venture capitalists took over Borders then tried to use it’s success to prop up their other failing companies and ultimately bankrupted all of their companies, have books been so under threat in Australia.

    This year Australia’s most prominent television show on books, The Book Club ABC hosted by Jennifer Byrne, has been nominated for a TV Week Logie. I urge you to vote for it. Even if you hate TV, even if one of the panelists said something mean about a book you liked, even if you saw some mainsplaining going on in an episode, and yes, even if you’re just not that into the show. I urge you to vote for it anyway. And not just because I love the show and write recaps.


    I urge you to vote for The Book Club ABC in this years TV Week Logies because it is this country’s most successful show about books and we need to show people that we still love books and that we support authors. Let’s get behind the Books Create Australia movement, let’s lobby politicians, but let’s also show popular culture that books matter. Books are just as loved and necessary as they always have been, so vote for them. Vote for books to win.


    Voting closes on the 18th so you need to vote now rather than leaving it until later. So what should you do if you really want to get behind books and vote right now but there seems to be a few pesky categories you need to vote in before you are allowed to skip straight to Best Lifestyle Program and vote for books and you have no clue who to vote for? Here are some suggestions to help you out in a book loving way.

    Best Actor

    Anthony Brandon Wong from Family Law. The Family Law is Book Club regular Ben Law’s baby.

    Best Actress

    Virginia Gay from Winners and Losers. Virginia Gay has been an enthusiastic panelist on Book Club a number of times

    Best Presenter.

    Jennifer Byrne from the Book Club.

    Gold

    Jennifer Byrne from the Book Club.
    Those are just suggestions to get you past the mandatory voting fields so that you can skip straight to Best Lifestyle Program and vote for The Book Club ABC. Obvious vote for who you want in those fields. But books need you. They don’t even usually rate a mention on the Logies, this year they need you to advocate for them. Vote for books to win best Lifestyle this year.


    Vote now. Let’s make books win on TV.

    [If you get time, please also vote for some scripted shows, TV script writers work hard, so knowing that their shows resonate with you would also be fab.]

    The Book Club ABC, Season 10, Episode 12: #bookclubABC

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    So it’s here. The season final of The Book Club ABC. There shall be even more typos, spellos, grammos and just plain wrongos, in this recap because not only will my  dyslexia lead us afoul, but a steady stream of tears are making it hard for me to see. Don’t go, JByrne. We love you.

    The epic conclusion to season 10 of The Book Club ABC starts as it should, with a warning for sexual references. Oh that smouldering little crumpet Jace the Ace contains enough sexual energy to short out the sun. He should have a sexual reference warning following him around in real life.

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    JByrne smiles bravely at the camera but you can tell that she’s emotional. We’re all emotional. The end is nigh. Even Marieke looks a little moist around the eye region. Ace just looks sexy, as always. That’s why he’s there, eye candy.

    Virginia Gay is back and looking like she is channeling the spirit of the revolution. Golden curls fall about her shoulders and she’s wearing a long flowing dress to hide her muted footwear. As punishment for speaking out of turn in episode 7 she had all her signature colour pop shoes confiscated and has been locked under JByrne’s stairs and only just let out. You may have taken her shoes, JByrne, but this look says you’ll never take her freedom.

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    And of course Margaret Pomeranz is there. How else can you see out 10 seasons without getting the queen of television on as your special guest stars. God I’ve missed hearing that sultry voice. I could just close my eyes and listen to her all day. Sigh. The audience does a standing ovation for her. And by the audience I mean me and my wine.

    The first novel is The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera. JByrne calls it a stunning take on film noir. There’s a dramatic recreation, I’m still not a fan of them and really feel making the panelists act it out would be much more fun. Charades anyone? There’s no whale murder this week so that’s good. But, if you’re doing a take on noir… shouldn’t you have your recreation in the style of film noir? It isn’t.

    Virginia loved The Transmigration of Bodies. It made her very aware of her own body. She could feel her skin tingling and her house closing in around her as she read. Virginia says it’s incredibly sexy. No need to hear from Ace, we’ll go ahead and assume he liked it.

    Margaret Pomeranz also loved it. She says it’s actually very funny and the phrasing unique. I wait for her to give it a star rating. Please give it a star rating. I beg you, give it a star rating. There is no star rating.

    Marieke of course hated it. She talks about how ridiculous it is that there is some woman in there who is so up for it that she risks the plague to get a packet of condoms. Marieke reckons that Yuri Herrera is the kind of writer at writers’ festivals that leaves his sunglasses on inside even though it’s dark just to be cool. I slowly push my beret, scarf, and pipe to the side.

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    Jason loves the plague and the corruption… what? Where’s the sex, Ace? Marieke says the set up was interesting but the execution crapola. Ace and JByrne then say that plot isn’t important anyway. Marieke pulls her WTF face. JByrne uses Blade Runner as an example of another text where plot wasn’t important, the mood was. Now I’m pulling my own WTF face.

    They talk about the translation. It’s a foreign text so they must discuss it… they approve of it.

    Queen of film, Margaret Pomeranz, says there’s a film in it, a very bleak one.

    And now it’s time for By the Bed. Excuse me whilst a fantasise about Ace’s bedroom.

    Virginia Gay is reading Speaking Out by Tara Moss.

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    Ace is reading Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler.

    JByrne has been reading The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz.

    Marieke just read Lust and Wonder by Augustus Burroughs

    Margaret Pomeranz has been on a Michael Robotham binge.

    And now for Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Two lonely older people who decide to share a bed to get through the cold, lonely, nights.

    Ace found it sweet and tender. He found it beautiful and felt the characters came alive through the dialogue. In fact, Ace is off to read more Kent Haruf books.

    JByrne said it was a tiny book, simply written but big on issues and big on feelings. She’s put her heart out there, let’s see Marieke stomp on it.

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    Marieke says the book was one of the most beautiful books she has ever read and that she can’t talk about it without weeping. She says it is about romance as kindness rather than as lust. Awwwww. Dats beautiful.

    Margaret Pomeranz became so invested in the characters that she became afraid of what the author would do to them. Everyone agrees that the investment in the characters is what makes this book so moving. Virginia kisses this book. That’s two book kisses this season, LaRose and Our Souls at Night.

    They all love that this is a book about the inner life of the elderly. Not many people focus on the lives of the elderly. Often they’re used almost as stock filler characters so it is lovely to have such a well written book featuring this marginalised group.

    Oooooo, treat time. Time for a flashback to the very first show, back when it was called First Tuesday Book Club, which I confess I still call it. JByrne, Marieke, and Ace are huddled around in a circle with Jackie Weaver and Peter Cundall and they are discussing American Psycho. Peter Cundall did not find the book to his liking. He shakes the book and says it’s about the most parasitical people on Earth, and he couldn’t find one bit of decent prose or anything of any value.

    They see out the end of the episode with tears in their eyes and holding hands.

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    Is someone dying? Is The Book Club dying? Is this the last regular episode ever? It can’t be, they wouldn’t be so cruel to do a final episode without giving us advanced notice to stock up on wine and tissues. They’d let us know in advance so that we can appreciate and savour the final season. They’re not monsters. You always have to advertise that it’s the GRIPPING final season to really get the viewers in. Deep breath. They’re just emotional from a really good book. Breathe, Robin, just breathe.

    It’s been fun. You can relieve the entire season through my recaps and also look at my highlights of the entire season. Or watch past episodes on ABC iView. I love you all and don’t be a stranger. Do drop in from time to time to get updates on my release of Confessions of a Mad Mooer, my recap of my time in a psychiatric hospital with postnatal depression.

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