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Finished reading Iain Banks's final novel The Quarry today.

18 year old Kit lives with his father Guy in a crumbling old country house. Kit is on the autism spectrum. Guy is dying of cancer. Guy invites his old university friends to stay for a weekend. In between drinking and taking drugs, the friends search the old house for an embarrassing video tape they made in their youth.

It's a disappointing book.

Banks was writing it when he was diagnosed with cancer, and there was a race to publish it before he passed away. Sadly, it shows. Characters are underdeveloped. Plots wander listlessly, then are dropped. Dialogue is repetitive, or overindulgent. Guy rages against the dying of the light at length and with plenty of swearing, but his speeches are much less affecting than his moments of weakness.

There's potential in there. If Banks had more time, if he wrote another draft, it might have been a fitting final novel.

But he didn't. He died at age 59, less than three months after announcing he had cancer.

He wrote some great books in his time. The Quarry is not one of them, but I'm grateful for the ones we do have.


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It's been a busy month or so. In lieu of a proper blog post, you're getting subheadings.

CONTINUUM
I was on four panels at Continuum 9. They all went really well, I think, including the one on cultural appropriation that I was most nervous about. I don't really remember much about what was said in my panels. The Plot 101 panel  started in one room, but it was too small, so we moved to a bigger room, then got kicked out of that one when the organisers needed it to set up for a speech, so we moved out and finished in the foyer. "It's a character journey," I quipped. "Beginning, middle and end."

I also won a free ticket to next year's Continuum, and am plotting panels.


THEATRE: BY THEIR OWN HANDS
Another production as part of MTC's Neon festival. 'By Their Own Hands' was a retelling of the Oedipus myth. Or more accurately: three retellings. Act one, the two actors invited the audience on to the stage, and told the myth as straight story-telling. Act two was a silent, visual retelling. Act three was just dialogue, the two actors standing at microphones and talking. It was fascinating to see the same story stripped down and retold different ways. But after embracing the audience in the first act, it felt distancing to be told to go sit back down in our seats.


SPLENDID CHAPS
Splendid Chaps is a podcast about Doctor Who by Ben McKenzie and John Richards. There were meant to be eleven episodes, one for each Doctor. But then they did all these side episodes, and then John Hurt happened, and now that plan has been abandoned. What's lovely about this podcast is that they record them in front of a live studio audience. I've been to several of them now, and hearing them talk so passionately about classic Who has finally inspired me to go back and watch some old episodes.

Some of the old episode are great. Some of them remind me why I decided not to rewatch them.


MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Joss Whedon's low budget indie version of the Shakespeare play. He shot it in two weeks while on a break from directing The Avengers, which has led to some peculiar cross-marketing: "Like superheroes and explosions! You've love a five hundred year old romantic comedy!"

It's fun, but slight. Oddly for Whedon, he never quite nails the emotional swerves. And the modern-dress, Californian bungalow setting is at odds with the play's obsession with maidenly virtue. Amy Acker is great, though.


BOOK LAUNCH: BLOOD WITNESS
My friend Alex Hammond has had his debut novel published by Penguin. It's called Blood Witness, and it's a crime/legal thriller set in Melbourne. There was a book launch last Tuesday at Readings, with Alan Brough interviewing Alex. I'm really excited for Alex: he's the hardest working writer I know, and it's fantastic to see his dedication pay off.


We've also been to Women of Letters, Melbourne Literary Salon, and I saw the Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures exhibition with my sister. I'm also way behind on blogging about my Project Read All the YA.

Right. Update over. Back to work, you lot.

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From writer and Gaurdian columnist Damien Walter: 7 literary Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels you must read

I've read one of them: The Magus. But I read it as a teenager and don't really remember it. It was one of those weird books I used to find on my parents bookshelves and wonder how it got there, since it seemed so unlike anything they would enjoy.

(Yes. I'm just linking this so I can find it again. Once I get through Project Read All the YA, I really need to do a Project Read All the Literary Fiction.)

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First book off the ranks in Project READ ALL THE YA. I actually finished this book a week ago, I've just been too busy to blog.

All I Ever Wanted

Mim Dodds is 16 years old and determined not to grow up like her mother. Which is understandable, given her mother is an overweight drug-dealer who lives in the crime-and-poverty ridden neighbourhood of Tudor Court. Mim has a set of rules - no alcohol, no swearing, stay in school - that she hopes will keep her on the path out. But the rules are tested when her brothers are arrested, and Mim has to collect a package of drugs for her mum from their supplier.

This is YA as gritty realism. Mim is surrounded by drugs, teen sex, alcoholism and domestic violence. Mim's rules protect her from the worst of the bad stuff, but her friends and family members suffer. And Mim's adherence to the rules breaks down once the package is stolen by the boy she has a crush on, Jordan Mullen. Mim tries to get the package back by befriending his younger sister, Kate, and enters some morally grey areas.

(Not too grey, though -- Mim is hardly an innocent, but I did notice that all the really gritty stuff like drug taking and teeange sex happens to her friends, one step removed from our protagonist. Oddly, it made me think of Katniss in The Hunger Games, who only kills the "evil" contestants in the arena. Where are the boundaries in YA, I wonder? Do we still need our heroines to be morally pure?)

I loved reading this book. The prose is conversational but tight. For a slim book it has a large cast of characters, but each one is deftly and distinctively drawn. And there are some striking images, like Mim's secret hiding place in an abandoned railway tower, where she has written her rules out on each of the steps she climbs to reach the top of the tower.

My only real disappointment was minor spoilers about the ending... )

A minor quibble with what is a great read.

It's an exciting book, and it got me excited about the possibilities of YA. I'm looking forward to reading Vikki Wakefield's second novel, Friday Brown, once I've worked through the Project list.

~

Some quick notes for analytical purposes: Female protagonist. First person, present tense. Contemporary setting. Australian author. Brooding bad-boy crush, but no romantic triangle.

~

Next book in the Project is Alison Croggon's Black Spring, a retelling of Wuthering Heights with witches and wizards. I'm about 100 pages in at the moment, and so far it's craggy and gothic and wonderful.

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Today is A. and my 12th anniversary. To celebrate, I drew a sloth on her morning cup of coffee.


David drew me an anniversary card on my coffee cup

That's right, isn't it? Twelfth anniversary is sloths?


Meanwhile, in writing news:

Passed the 5000 word mark on my new novel this morning. It's another fantasy YA, about a bullied teenager who finds a wizard's tower hiding in the back streets of Box Hill. Think Narnia meets Summer Heights High.

My previous novel, the grunge thing, is currently sitting in big submission pile at Hardie Grant Egmont's Ampersand Project. If you think I've started a new novel to distract me from thinking too hard about the previous one then congratulations, you're exactly right, have a drawing of a sloth.

The Emerging Writers Festival, my favourite festival in the world, is coming up. I've booked my ticket. I've also proposed another collaborative writing project for EWFdigital. But that's been spun off into a standalone festival this year, so I've yet to hear back about that one.

And finally, I've volunteered for a whole slew of panels at Melbourne's spec fic convention Continuum in June. My panels are: Reinventing the Fairy Tale; Plot 101; The heroines of YA; Marvellous Melbourne; and Misappropriations. Expect some blogging on those topics while I straighten out my thoughts.

I... I better go do some research.




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I was wrong. I admit it. I should have had more faith.

Un Lun Dun is a young adult novel from China Miéville. It's the story of two young girls: blonde and popular Zanna, and her friend Deeba. After some strange encounters with respectful foxes and portentous graffiti and a bus conductor who calls Zanna Schwazzy, the two girls find a doorway that leads to a dreamlike version of London called Un Lun Dun.

This dream city is full of bizarre and marvellous creatures: feral piles of rubbish, ghost children, tailors with needles instead of hair. But Un Lun Dun is in danger. It is being threaten by an intelligent cloud of pollution called the Smog. A book of prophecy foretells that a chosen one, the Schwazzy, will come to save them. The denizens of Un Lun Dun turn to Zanna for help...

And that's the point where I posted something vitriolic to Twitter.

I hate stories about chosen ones. From Luke Skywalker to Neo to Buffy to Harry Potter, the whole "you-are-secretly-special-and-only-you-can-save-us" trope isn't merely lazy and boring, it's actively offensive. In the real world, chosen ones are more likely to be Gina Rinehart or George W. Bush than saviours. In the real world, saving the world is hard work.

So I ranted about this on Twitter.

And then a couple of chapters later Miéville twisted everything and made me look a right dolt.

Because of course Miéville subverts the chosen one trope. He's a socialist. He wrote a critique of Tolkien. He's hardly going trot out some lazy plot device that depends on genetic determinism.

Trope happily smashed, the book sets off on a rollercoaster adventure through Miéville's fecund imagination. Seriously. This book packs in so many ideas per page I'm amazed it hasn't undergone nuclear fission. It brims with surreal landscapes and weird monsters. And wordplay - dear God does Miéville love his wordplay.

The book is also illustrated by Miéville. This review in the Guardian praises the crispness of his line work, but politely suggests he's better at drawing inanimate objects than people. His drawings have a rough, slightly amateur quality to them that reminds me of the old 2nd edition D&D Monster Manual illustrations.

It's impossible not to compare this book with Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Both feature heroic quests across fantasy versions of London. Both feature locations that play on place names (Night's Bridge, Webminster Abbey). Gaiman's London Below feels more coherent than Un Lun Dun, perhaps because it began life as a TV series and budgets limited how far Gaiman's imagination could roam. In a novel, Miéville is free to do as he wants. If he wants to include flying double-decker buses or rubbish bins that are secretly ninjas or an explorer with a bird-cage for a head, he can.

So Un Lun Dun feels less coherent then, as an exercise in world-building. It's a small criticism. Perhaps it's even deliberate: just as modern London is built from many different cultures, so Un Lun Dun is a melting pot of ideas.

It's a fun ride, not least because of the glee Miéville takes in subverting the genre.


FOOTNOTE: ARTICLES READ WHILE WRITING THIS REVIEW:
Guardian Interview by a 12 year old fan
Could They Beat Up China Miéville?
Macintosh Accent Codes



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I have a YA novel in submission to a publisher, and I'm currently writing another one. And I've volunteered to be on some YA panels at Continuum.

So it's probably about time I got up to speed on actually reading YA.

I've read bits here and there - some Margot Lanagan, some Leanne Hall, a fair chunk of Scott Westerfeld. But I don't pretend to have a solid grasp of the field.

So I'm initiating Project READ ALL THE YA

Or as it should more accurately be titled: An Introduction to YA. YA is a vast field, and there's no way I can read everything. My goal is to get a grounding in the history of the genre, and what people are doing in it now. Then I can start slowly working my way through something like this of 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels.

(Why yes - I am just linking to that article so I can find it again in the future.)

I've drawn up a list of ten book that I think I should read. They're a mix of classic and contemporary. They also lean more towards fantasy YA, since that's the area I'm interested in.

Reading lists can turn a pleasure into a chore. So I don't plan to read them in a set order. I'll read whatever one appeals to me next, and I'll probably break it up with other genres as well.

But here's my lists:

 CLASSIC:
  • Isobelle Carmody - Obernewtyn
  • Judy Blume - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
  • Robert Cormier - The Chocolate War
  • Ruth Park - Playing Beatie Bow
  • S. E. Hinton - The Outsiders

CONTEMPORARY:
  • Alison Croggon - Black Spring
  • John Green - The Fault in Our Stars
  • Patrick Ness - The Knife of Never Letting Go
  • Stephen Chbosky - The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Vikki Wakefield - All I Ever Wanted

Anything you think I've missed?


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Iain Banks has cancer.

Late stage gall bladder cancer. To quote his statement: "I’m expected to live for ‘several months’ and it’s extremely unlikely I’ll live beyond a year."

I drifted away from reading Banks's work the last few years. But that news was a punch in the guts.

He's one of the authors who, along with Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon, helped me decide what I want to do as a writer. He's not just an influence; he's definitional.

I always hoped to meet him one day.

I have this really clear memory of how I discovered his work: I was in my first year at uni, in the Rowden White Library reading a book about cult films. One of the films had this amazing title: The Wasp Factory. The description was even weirder: a teenage boy blowing up rabbits while waiting for his psychopathic brother to come home. The book mentioned the film was based on a novel by Iain Banks. I looked it up in the library catalogue. The Wasp Factory was out on loan, but they had this other book by him: The Player of Games. I read it, and that was that. I was hooked.

Except that memory can't be true.

There was never a film version of The Wasp Factory. My memory must have mixed up a book on cult novels with a different book on cult films. Somehow it seems appropriate that my first memory of Iain Banks is a lie.

Anyway. Enough about me.

Thank you, Mr Banks.

Thanks for Use of Weapons and The Crow Road. Thanks for knife missiles and GSV names. Thanks for Espedair Street, which I read and reread as I was finishing my own rock and roll novel. Thanks for jumping merrily over the line between literary and genre fiction. Thanks for sarcastic drones. Thanks for the lefty politics. Thanks for being so joyously Scottish in your writing, which has inspired me to be joyously Melbournian in mine. Thanks for being the common bond shared between friends. Thanks for the jokes, and the wild imagination. Thanks for building megastructures in space, and then gleefully blowing them up. Thanks for phonetic Glaswegian accents. Thanks for championing science and rationality. Thanks for laughing at how stupid and insignificant humanity can be, and at the same time reminding us how wonderful we can be too. Thanks for the black humour. Thanks for the joy.

Above all, thanks for The Bridge.

Enjoy the time you have left.

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We know this story like the stations of the cross.

The Sex Pistols play Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall. Inspired, four local lads start a band. The band changes name. The band are accused of being Nazis. The singer has epileptic fits. The band sign to Factory Records. Martin Hannett produces their album. Peter Saville designs their sleeves. The singer's fits get worse. A tour of America is planned. The day before the tour, the singer hangs himself in his kitchen.

We know this story because Ian Curtis has been beatified since his death, another Tortured Geniuses Who Died Too Soon. His icon is nailed  to the church wall between Jim Morrison and Sid Vicious*.

Unknown Pleasures is Peter Hook's autobiography of his days as bass player for Joy Division. And in many ways, it's an attempt to deflate the myth of Ian Curtis and replace it with a portrait of the man he actually knew. He repeatedly stresses that to his band mates, Curtis wasn't some fey and brilliant poet. He was one of the lads, who liked to drink and start fights, chase girls, and indulge in the occasional scatalogical prank.

According to Hook, the band didn't even read Curtis's lyrics until after his death. I never paid too much attention to the lyrics at the time, Hook writes. I kind of knew they were good, and that there was something special about them, but mainly I just appreciated that they sounded good, and that Ian singing them sounded great and looked great.

There's an easy, conversational tone to this book. It feels very much like sitting down with a beer while Hooky spins some yarns from old days.** There are lots of anecdotes about the pranks the band played: showering the Buzzcocks in maggots, trashing hostel rooms while Ian Curtis peed in the ashtray. And there's a lot of muso talk about gear used and effects applied.

The conversational tone works best when Hook talks about the Sex Pistols, and how inspired he was by seeing them play. And there are plenty of anecdotes about how Joy Division developed their distinctive sound, from Ian Curtis rummaging through a plastic bag full of lyrics, to Hook's high, riffing bass style evolving because his cheap speaker sounded terrible if he played low notes.

Hook may not be the most reliable of narrators. His feud with the other members of Joy Division/New Order is legendary, and he drops more than few sly digs at Bernard Sumner. But he also gives credit where it's due, acknowledging the genius of Sumner's playing.

There may be a bit of public relations going on here, an attempt to paint Hook in positive light.

Or the ulterior motive here may be much simpler, to simply confess mea culpa. Hook still clearly feels guilty about how hard the band pushed Curtis, even as his marriage deteriorated and his fits grew worse. We should have let him rest, Hook says over and over, but we didn't. I should have called the book that, he writes. He Said He Was All Right So We Carried On.

Hook's anecdotes are balanced out by potted biographies of the people involved, a comprehensive timeline of every gig played (many with setlists), and a track-by-track walkthrough of the two albums.

If you're a Joy Division fan, it's well worth a read. At the end of the day, I have a very simple metric for any book about music: how much does it make me want to play my guitars?


A lot, is the answer here. Unknown Pleasures made me want to play my guitar a lot.


* I know, I know: Vicious died before Curtis. I'm making a metaphorical point here, Curtis halfway between poet and punk.

** Except, of course, Hook doesn't drink these days.



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We spent the weekend up in Ballarat, at my sister's house. One the train back, I was down to the last few pages of The Harp in the South when we started to approach Southern Cross Station, and I had to decided whether to race through to the end or wait until I could savour them.

I choose to savour. Because I loved this book. Absolutely loved it.

It's the story the Murphys, an Irish-Australian family living in the post-War slums of Surrey Hills. (I assume it's post-War: the book was published in 1948, but the war is never mentioned.)

It's a setup that is practically cliché these days: the poor Irish family, drinking and fighting and making up. But Park is too clever for that. Scenes twist in unexpected ways. Her characters are full of vanities and flaws. The book is dark and funny, savage and kind.

Here. This is why I loved this book:
There was a strange deep satisfaction in watching a funeral; it made them feel almost smug that they were still alive; that someone else had fallen before the Reaper, while they still stood, not only alive and kicking, but with a good chance of winning the double on Saturday.
Scenes stick with me: father Hughie fighting with Grandma about who makes the best Christmas pudding, eldest daughter Roie buying herself a brooch and pretending it's a preset so her family don't think less of her Jewish boyfriend, the lonely organ-grinder happily suffering abuse while he courts their lodger.

If the book has a weak point, it comes towards the end when daughter Roie falls properly in love. Perhaps Park wanted to make up for all the miseries she put the characters through, but Roie's happiness and dedication to her fiancé lack the sharp insight and specificity of the earlier character sketches. Roie becomes blander and more generic the happier she grows.  Or perhaps that was Park's point: happy families are all alike, etc. etc.

It's a minor flaw. Overall, this a wonderful book. Highly recommended.

I really want to read Playing Beatie Bow now, too. I remember seeing the movie on TV sometime in the 80s, and I remember vaguely that it had to do with ghosts and time travel. But mostly all I remember is the massive teenage crush I had on Imogen Annesley.

I'm sure Ruth Park would have something clever to say about that.


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 I hate giving up on a book.

My Dad was always starting books then abandoning them. I used to tease him about it, back when I was younger and had enough spare time to finish every book I started.

I'm old now. I'm acutely aware that I'm a slow reader, and there are only so many books I will read before I die. 

So, sorry Gillian Mears. I tried. But Foal's Bread just wasn't grabbing me. I read maybe 60 pages in two weeks. I just found the voice hard work to get through. And then A. bought me The Harp in the South as a present, and I've already read 60 pages this weekend.

I feel bad about abandoning a book, especially one that received such high praise. But there are only so many book I'll read before die.  Looks like Foal's Bread won't be one of them.
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I barely read any books in 2012. I'm trying to fix that in 2013.

My approach is simple: instead of reading Twitter over breakfast, I'm reading a book. I've set myself the modest target of finishing 20 books this year, and posting short reviews of them so I remember what I've read.

This is what I've read so far:


REVELATION SPACE
Alastair Reynolds


Cheating slightly - I started this over Christmas. Part of the New Space Opera, this post-cyberpunk hard sci-fi. A scientist tries to find out how a primitive alien race predicted their own extinction. The crew of crumbling spaceship seek to cure their captain of a nanoplague. An assassin longs to be reunited with her husband across the gulf of space. All three converge around an ancient alien artefact.

The characters are a bit generic, and they're prone to infodumping at odd moments ("Our shuttle is plummeting to its doom! Quick! Let's discuss the Fermi Paradox for three pages!"). And it all feels strangely small for a space opera. I'm told Reynolds's later books fix some of the weaknesses of this debut, so I'll check some out.

But I was after something to scratch my itch for space ships, and there's a lot to like in this book: kilometers-long spaceships called lighthuggers because they accelerate to almost the speed of light, and need conical shields of ice to protect them from space debris, weapon systems that can raze worlds, mysterious alien artefacts to rival 2001, and lots of the-brain-is-just-a-computer-so-lets-infect-it-with-infoviruses post-cyberpunk goodness.


SEA-HEARTS
Margo Lanagan


Nominally a YA author, Lanagan is known for her rich, dark reworkings of fantasy and fairy tales. Sea-Hearts is about Rollrock Island, a bleak and windswept fishing island where the men once took selkies for wives. Young Misskaella is teased and outcast for showing signs of seklie ancestry. But when she learns she can transform blubbery seals into irresistible women, she begins her revenge on the rest of the island. Soon the men are paying her exorbitant sums for a seal-wife, and the human women of the island are abandoned by the men who once loved them.

This a beautiful novel, but it's a harsh and unsentimental one, for all its poetic language. It's a book full of the yearning for impossible beauty, and a misery that follows from attaining it.


THE IRON DRAGON'S DAUGHTER
Michael Swanwick


Jane, a human changeling, is forced to work in a Faerie factory that manufactures iron dragons - the fey equivalent of fighter planes. When she finds a grimoire that teaches her how to pilot a dragon, she manages to escape. But she doesn't escape into world of freedom and adventure that normal fantasy fiction might offer. Instead, she finds herself trapped in different ways - at a high school where the homecoming queen is burnt as a sacrifice, a university where low scoring students are slaughtered in the Tiend, in elf high society where lives are just commodities, and ultimately in her dragon's desire for revenge. The Iron Dragon's Daughter is a vicious, nihilistic critique of the high fantasy genre, bleak but astonishing.

A review: http://www.michaelswanwick.com/revan/daughter.html

And an interview with Swanwick: http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/intms.htm
~

I've got two Chine Miéville books waiting for me next, but I think I might take a break from SFF for a bit and read some literary fiction. Probably Gillian Mears Foal's Bread, since it won all the awards last year.

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Between work and sinus surgery, it's taken me far too long to finish this book.
 
Which in some ways was good. Because it's a fantastic book, and I'm slightly sad I've finished it.
 
In the distant future, the earth is covered with a vast tangle of criss-crossing railway lines. Burrowing in the soil beneath them are all manner of enormous and deadly creatures: giant earwigs, carnivorous rabbits, hives of naked mole rats big enough to eat a man. Trains cross the railsea, hunting the most dangerous and most prized of all: the Great Southern Moldywarpe, the giant mole.
 
RAILSEA is the story of Sham ap Soorap, a young doctor's apprentice on one of these moletrains. Sham dreams of being a salvor, one of the treasure-hunters who dig up scraps of ancient and alien technology from the railsea. But when he finally gets to explore a wrecked train, the secrets he finds there lead him to being hunted across the railsea by pirates and wartrains and the occasional monster.
 
This book is Miéville's love-letter to the classic adventure novel, filtered through his own baroque and weird sensibilities. It's Treasure Island with trains, Moby Dick with giant moles. Even the language is wonderfully archaic. I was dreaming of ampersands by the time I finished.  
 
Miéville lists the authors who have inspired him a the back of the book, and the references to Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson are quite deliberate. 

But it also struck me that there's something very Doctor Who about this book: that same sense of taking something familiar and blowing it up into something fantastistical and strange. Miéville has said he would love to write for the Doctor, and this book convinced me he could do it.

Not that it's perfect. Miéville isn't great at distinguishing characters, so the large cast of trainsfolk often blur together. And there's a revelation at the end that I suspect was meant to be Douglas Adams-esque satire, but is too rushed to work properly. 
 
Overall, however, RAILSEA is a wonder.
 
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Just finished A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan.

"Time's a goon," says one of the characters in it. And no one survives a visit unscathed.

It's not a conventional novel. It's more a series of intertwined short stories, centred around punk-rocker-turned-record-label-owner Bennie Salazar and his kleptomaniac assistant Sasha, but spreading out encompass their friends, families, and lovers.

Time is the central theme here, the way it gnaws away at us, the way our our fortunes shift and writhe with the years, the thin connections we form and then time tears apart. The stories jump around, from the present to 1970s to the near future, and vary from the absurd (a disgraced PR agent scores a genocidal dictator as a client) to the small and sad (a teenage girl writes a PowerPoint presentation about her father's struggles with his autistic son).

The constantly changing viewpoints meant this book never gripped me the way that, say, the last David Mitchell book did. The prose style changes with each chapter, and I felt it varied from the merely adequate to the exquisite (the PowerPoint slide chapter sounds gimmicky, but is crystalline in its beauty).

Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this book. It's a good book. An inventive book, and a moving one.

Is it a great book?

I'm not sure. Many people think so - see the Guardian review linked above, or the Pulitzer  Prize it won. It didn't blow my mind the way the aforementioned David Mitchell book did. But I'm glad I read it. You should read it too. I think you might like it. Egan's great strength here is to take absurdist and comedic situations, and make them feel frail and human.


(The cover, though, is awful. They had two different versions in Readings, and both were horrible. I wish they had to good cover, with the electric guitar.)
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This is how it begins - a cold night, the wind violent in the trees.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival has started. A. is once more working evening shifts, and I am a comedy festival bachelor once again.

Normally I would fill these empty evenings by going comedy crazy. I think I saw 23 shows last year. I went through this year's programme and wrote down 14 shows I wanted to see, plus another nine maybes. And then...

... And then I changed my mind.

Money's been a bit tight recently and I just can't afford to blow a few hundred dollars on shows. So I've made a list. Just five shows. That's all. Five shows. I promise.

They are:
  1. Ben Pobjie's Funeral
  2. Claudia O'Doherty - What is Soil Erosion?
  3. Dave Bloustien - A Complete History of Western Philosophy
  4. DeAnne Smith - About Freakin' Time
  5. Lawrence Leung Wants a Jetpack
Plus the three freebies I'm seeing on Saturday, courtesy of Patrick O'Duffy.

Plus Daniel Kitson. We bought tickets for him months ago, so he doesn't count.

But that is all.

I'm planning to use my lonely, empty evenings to finish my book. I wanted to have it done by the end of March, but work has been a shit, I've been sick, and I've been spending a lot of time and energy and money trying to fix the problems with my feet*. So it didn't happen.

Easter, though. I'm finishing this book by Easter. Or I'm taking my laptop out the back and burning it.


*I'm not kidding about the feet thing.

I went to podiatrist about two months ago to try and fix my plantar fasciitis. He's helped a lot, but he told me some of my problems were caused by my skeletal structure and I should go and see an osteopath. So I did. The osteopath has helped a lot, but he said some of my problems were caused by poor core muscle strength, and I should go take Pilates lessons. Which I have.

And it's good. But I have a horrible feeling that this is going to end with someone telling me my problems are caused by late–stage Western capitalism, and I should go join a socialist revolution.
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Just got an email from the Wheeler Centre.

Sir Terry Pratchett will be talking at RMIT's Storey Hall on April 12th. Tickets go on sale at 9am tomorrow morning.

Event details are in the Wheeler Centre calendar.

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