Archive for May, 2010

I was going to do an ‘In the style of’ post about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but when I chanced upon Jacob Lambert’s version at The Millions, which not only has five parts but is also really funny, I realised what folly it would be to try and compete. However, I am still really wedded to the idea. For me, The Road is all about McCarthy’s writing style, apocalyptic messages to profligate humanity notwithstanding. It’s the no-space, no-hyphen compound words; and the resolute renouncement of apostrophes in contractions; and the mysterious non-appearance of inverted commas; and all the hair tousling. So I’m just going to herd you on over to Lambert’s parody by way of a choice quote.

Now this is the river, he said, indicating a random mapcrease. We follow the road here along the eastern slope of the mountains. These are our roads, the black lines here. See these roads? The boy seemed confused. What’s the matter, the man said.

I thought it was singular. You know. “The Road.”

The man’s eyes went wide. Where did you get those?

Get what?

The quotation marks.

The boy looked at his feet. Ive. Ive been saving them, Papa.

Well you can’t just use them like that. He took the boy’s face in his hands, more roughly than intended. Everything is precious. Everything. Do you understand?

The boy looked a little bit frightened. Yes Papa. I wont ever use them again. I promise.

The yearly book total is about to spike superlatively – this week brings the Emerging Writers’ Festival 15 Minutes of Fame book launches. I’ll be interviewing the people responsible for 16 books at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, at 7pm Monday to Thursday this week.

The books are:

Featuring — Monday 24 May
Miscellaneous Voices

Andee Jones – Kissing Frogs
Lucienne Noontil – Possum Tale
Joel Magarey – Exposure

Featuring — Tuesday 25 May
Stephanie Dale – My Pilgrim’s Heart
Peter Farrar – The Nine Flaws of Affection
Ebony McKenna – Ondine
Offset Journal

Featuring — Wednesday 26 May
Death of a Scenester
Kasey Edwards – Thirty Something and Over It
Kathryn Koromilas – Palimpsest
Fiona Trembath – Crackpot

Featuring — Thursday 27 May
Clinton Caward – Love Machine
Chrissie Michaels – In Lonnie’s Shadow
Caroline Webber – Putting Pen to Paper

Pick a night, any night. And I’ll see you there.

It’s lucky that I’m usually a pretty dilatory blogger. If I blogged about everything straight after I read it, I wouldn’t have anything to write about during the run-up to the Emerging Writers’ Festival. I’m currently preparing to launch 16 books at the 15 Minutes of Fame book launches, so I’ve been reading, yo, but this ain’t no spoiler zone. Instead, you may have noticed that I’m trawling through the books I read over the summer (a noticeably long time ago now – brrrrrr).

When I’m in need of a gear switch, I often read YA, so Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games was the first book I cracked open at the airport. Needless to say, its action-themed front cover brought me plenty of ribbing from my (serious, boring, closed-minded, God I need new) friends. And truly, in their defence, actually, I hate this cover and much prefer the stark US cover, whose golden bird struck in the tail feathers with an arrow is a far more powerful image.

The Hunger Games is set in a dystopic future North America, now called Panem, which is divided into twelve Districts and the ruling Capitol. In punishment for having risen against the oppressive government, the twelve Districts are each forced to select two of its children every year to participate as ‘tributes’ in The Hunger Games, a televised survival contest from which only one child will emerge alive.

Katniss Everdeen is a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in the worst part of District 12 – nicknamed the Seam. Her mother is severely depressed and barely functional, so it’s up to Katniss to support them and her 12-year-old sister Primrose by selling the fruits of her illegal hunting and gathering. Hardened and rational about her chances of being chosen as one of District 12’s tributes, Katniss is aghast when Primrose’s name is drawn, and in a radical and long-unseen gesture, volunteers herself instead.

Published in 2008 (the final book in the trilogy, Mockingjay, is due out in a matter of months), The Hunger Games is definitely a book of its time. While its reality television setting has the potential to seem cringeworthy and too ‘now’, Collins investigates its moral conflicts thoughtfully. In particular, she portrays with vividness the complicity of regular people in grotesque societal practices. Heartbreaking, too, is the class divide that Collins has posed in Panem – children can barter another entry in the name draw for a portion of food, which inevitably means that the children of the wealthy are much safer than those who are struggling.

Of course, none of this would work if the characterisation was weak, and Collins has a winning protagonist in Katniss. This teenager is an Andromeda figure without the promise of a Perseus, but fortunately, she’s also a heroine in no need of a saviour. Katniss defies the role of sacrificial lamb to her people’s powerlessness, and plays the game by her own terms. She’s canny but compassionate, and her humanity is something she refuses to trade for her mere life.

There are a couple of places where the dialogue is too glossy, and the darkness underpinning the book’s concept occasionally – and a bit oddly – disappears, but The Hunger Games is still engrossing and rich. It’s impossible not to feel that The Games are but a small part of a much larger and more oppressive system, and Katniss’s major rebellion at the book’s end promises that the scope of the sequel, Catching Fire, will explore this greater territory. Can’t wait.

May 5, 2010

How could I forget to mention that the first episode of Paper Radio is up? In case you’re one of those people who like their literature aurally, rather than, um visually (though the Paps Rads website is a sexy time as well), then this new Melbourne-based audio journal is for yewwww. The fat cats at the top of this production tree are Jessie Borrelle (who also edited Neon Pilgrim) and Jon Tjhia, who has The Best Twitter Account.

I’m on the editorial advisory committee, but all that means is that I drink Pimms while the others discuss the respective merits of awesome submissions. And sometimes I eat tacos as well.

I know this is cheating, but here’s my review of Andrew Porter’s short story collection, The Theory of Light and Matter, at Killings. Sorry to be so stingy on value, but I’m reeling this week from having been told I look like Poh.