Category Archives: Books

Killing Adonis reviews, Youtube views and some new news.

DKL Killing Adonis FINAL

Great news everybody! The first reviews for the US release of Killing Adonis have come in and they are the literary equivalent of a proud teacher sticking millions of gold stars over a student’s face. Extremely excited to announce I have even managed to score a coveted Kirkus Star, which makes you temporarily invincible (like in Mario Kart). Also this means I’m in the running for the Kirkus prize, which is also good. Publisher’s Weekly Review also said some very kind and ego-inflating things about it, which was awfully kind of them. This reviewer even called it ‘this year’s most mind-blowing and droll crime fiction book’. 

It’s now available worldwide in bulletproof* hardcover and paperback from Amazon, Poisoned Pen Press and all good bookstores (as well as some of the bad ones). Amusingly, I haven’t actually received my author copies of the US edition yet so if one of you could let me know how it feels, tastes and smells that would be great.

ALSO, people keep asking  me when I’m going to put up more videos of some of my poetry performance. Unfortunately I hate being filmed and photographed. I once had a photographer tell me “The camera loves you JD! Actually, no it doesn’t. But I’m a great photographer so these’ll still be good.” However, the good folks at Word Travels recorded me performing at the Sydney Opera House last year and those videos are now online at last. The second one is even swearing free, fun for the whole family!**

*Bullet resistant

**Except racist uncle Todd, but no one likes him anyway.


 

100 books a year part 2: the bad and the weird

 

THE BAD

TheWaterKnife-PaoloBacigalupiTHE WATER KNIFE

First off, I have to say the concept here was admittedly great. A criminal underclass emerging to illegally distribute water is sadly a very believable near future and this aspect was well executed. There’s a scene where the pricing gauge on a commercial water pump breaks and the characters desperately try to siphon as much as they can that is incredibly tense and terrifying on a very primal level. Unfortunately, the characters and dialogue in this book are so unbearably awful that a fantastic backdrop is completely ruined by the actors maladroitly prancing around in front of it. Climate fiction (cli-fi) is a fascinating new genre, but this is not its best exponent.

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THE DIVER’S CLOTHES LIE EMPTY

Second person narratives like this are hard to get right, which is why they are so rarely used (particularly in novel-length stories). I think Tom Robbins pulled it off in Half Asleep in Frog Pyjamas but that was a rare feat. There’s some interesting character study here, but the character also makes a bunch of decisions that are just implausible and irrational. Also, I found it problematic that a book set in Morocco depicts just about all of the Moroccan characters as deceitful and untrustworthy. One bonus: the cover was designed by the graphic novelist Adrian Tomine, who I absolutely adore.

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THRONE OF GLASS

This year at Supanova I had a catchup with my publicist and we stopped to talk to some of the other Pantera authors who were appearing there. Seated next to them was Sarah J. Maas, facing a legion of zealous fans queuing for her signature. I wasn’t familiar with her work, but I picked up a copy to see what the fuss was about. I have to say, it really didn’t speak to me. I know this series has a devout, passionate following (and I love seeing readers so invested in stories) but to me it read like sub-par fan fiction. The characters were one-dimensional and the dialogue was bland. I hear Sarah is a really nice person though so I feel guilty for not enjoying her work more.

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ELANTRIS

I first heard about this series in a Tor.com article examining Sanderson’s vast multiverse known as the cosmere. The concept sounded fascinating and a quick search revealed a vast legion of fans avidly discussing his works and their interweaving narratives. I was also impressed with how prolific he was. However, while I loved the setting itself and the central concept, the execution was really disappointing. I have no doubt it would make a fantastic film, but the clunky writing made it a slog to get through. Plus, it’s over 600 pages and the story felt like it needed 400 at most.

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ELEANOR & PARK

I’m realising as I type that this is the third universally adored book in a row that I hated this year. I swear I’m not trying to be a contrarian! I will admit that I like to read widely outside of my own immediate interests and sometimes this means that I don’t really connect with the subject matter. Obviously, I am way outside the target audience for this book (a YA romance). I have to admit I thought Eleanor was a great, complex, interesting character. I also really enjoyed all the musical references. However, the classic YA trope of ‘characters create problems for no obvious reason other than to shape narrative drama’ was chronically over-employed in this one. There was plenty to work with in terms of drama without Eleanor & Park trying to out-angst one another. All that said, Rowell’s twitter feed is pretty great.

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WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE

Like an estimated 99.99995684% of people who have read this book, I am a fan of the deliciously outré podcast. The humour is outlandish and brilliant, and each episode manages to be funny and entertaining in new and surprising ways, which precisely why this book was so disappointing. Although some of the trademark humour was there, eg.

“The search for truth takes us to dangerous places,” said Old Woman Josie. “Often it takes us to that most dangerous place: the library. You know who said that? No? George Washington did. Minutes before librarians ate him.”

Sadly, the plot was meandering and meaningless and the writers inexplicably chose to focus on uninteresting sideline characters rather than those from the podcast, which makes little/no sense. I found this boring and pointless.

THE WEIRD

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THE PEOPLE IN THE TREES

A Little Life was one of my favourite books last year, I found it hard to believe it was even written by a human rather than some sort of consortium of divine superintelligent interdimensional species. Obviously I was keen to immediately check out Yanagihara’s other work. This book was…very different. It’s a sort of anthropological sci-fi about a researcher who travels to a secret island and studies a lost tribe who have gained immortality through ingesting the flesh of a rare turtle. It’s also about sex. And violence. And guilt. And responsibility. It’s a weird book, and not so earth-shatteringly brilliant as A Little Life, but definitely worth checking out.

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ZERO K

I’m currently drafting a novel about a cult that’s obsessed with cryonic technology. When I found out that Don Delillo was releasing a novel focused on similar subject matter I was equal parts proud (I’ve tapped into the zeitgeist! I think on similar lines to one of the greatest writers of the modern era!) and terrified (I’m too late! This story has already been written by one of the greatest writers of the modern era!) Luckily, this book is nothing like my own, so after my fear of lawsuits subsided I was able to enjoy this bizarre and brilliant story. Delillo’s recent work lacks the dry wit of his earlier writing but his strange, sparse prose is as brilliant as ever. He has this knack for writing dialogue that is completely unrealistic but somehow seems to sit perfectly within the framework of his narrative. I recently read Pynchon’s latest book, Bleeding Edge, and there were a lot of similarities in terms of style and execution between these two luminary post-modernists.

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THE RAPTURE OF THE NERDS

Rather than writing any kind of reflection, I’m just going to offer up some sample text:

I’m not my polygons. Physical coercion is a dead letter here. If you want to get something out of me, you’re going to have to try harder than that. For example, you could try for a quorum of administrative accounts to decompile me and examine my state and logfiles. Though, I have to tell you, the admins aren’t kindly disposed to noobs who go supergenius and multiplicitous without regard for the overall system performance, so you’ve got a lot of digging to do just to get up to zero credibility. 

See what I mean?

 

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THE VEGETARIAN

You know, I was all finished with this post and was about to hit ‘publish’ on Friday when I got called away and never got around to it. Then over the weekend I read the Vegetarian. I’m not sure what to say about it other than it was both one of the strangest and best books I’ve read this year. Extremely dark, unflinchingly bizarre and yet so poetically, hypnotically beautiful. Someone else hurry up and read this so we can talk about it please.

PS If you want to add my books to your list, you can grab them here. Killing Adonis is on sale for just TEN BUCKS HOLY WHAT?!?

PPS People always say to me: “How do you read 100+ books a year? That’s IMPOSSIBLE!” It’s really not. Here’s a few tips.

100 books a year 2016 part one: The Good

2016 has been an uncommonly awful year, luckily it’s in its final death throes. As we listen to its final hideous gasps and groans, perhaps it’s time to think about how we got to this terrible, stupid place. I would argue that the two underlying concepts that brought us here are lack of education and lack of empathy. You know what you can do to address that? Read more books. Tell your friends to read more books. On that note, I thought I’d write up some of the standout books I read this year; the good, the bad and the weird.

Here’s part one: THE GOOD.

150709_SBR_Coates-COVER.jpg.CROP.original-originalBETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

This was the first book I read this year, penned by MacArthur genius grant winner Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s a thoughtful, rich and intelligent exploration of America’s long and troubled struggle with racial injustice. Told in the form of a letter to his son, Between the World and Me is beautiful, tragic and hugely important. I found so much of what he described to be unfortunately paralleled here in Australia with the racial injustice towards our indigenous people. Fun fact: Coates now writes Black Panther comics.

 

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HOW TO SET A FIRE AND WHY

I saw Jesse Ball speak at Avid reader earlier this year and found him supernaturally strange and fascinating. This novel, his latest, is brilliant and insightful. The narrator’s voice and observations are vivid and revealing, alternating from hilariously sardonic to bleak and philosophical. After I read this I picked up everything else he’d written, the man is a stone cold genius.

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THIS ISLAND WILL SINK

I was excited to see Lifted Brow publishing release their first novel, and this one did not disappoint. We read this for my book club and I absolutely loved it. It was strange and confusing in all the best ways. I’m thrilled to see more intelligent, complex genre fiction coming out of Australia. MORE OF THIS PLEASE.

 

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VIGIL

Speaking of intelligent genre fiction…I am a sucker for books set in Brisbane, and this one was a real gem. I managed to win a free copy (even though I get a lot of books for free these days, it never stops being exciting) and loved this story set in a strange, supernatural version of Brisbane. Part detective noir, part supernatural thriller, wholly entertaining. Looking forward to the sequel.

 

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JUST MERCY

I first heard Bryan Stevenson speak on one of my favourite podcasts, Criminal. I found him hypnotic. This book is not just a study of the legal system in America, but a complex exploration of the concepts of justice, morality and redemption. The line ‘each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done’ stuck with me so much I wrote a short story inspired by it (should be out next year, hopefully). Like Coates, Stevenson is also a MacArthur genius grant recipient. His TED talk is here.

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VANCOUVER

One of Brisbane’s best loved writers has recently turned his attention to novellas. The first two in the Wisdom Tree series, Gotham and Venice, were both great but this is by far my favourite. Telling the story of the unlikely friendship between a writer and a gigantic footballer turned professor, I loved the way this story felt both magical and utterly grounded in reality in the same time.

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THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN

I first became interested in this book when I read it had topped the most censored books in American libraries list. This book was banned primarily because it contained drug references, swearing and references to masturbation. This content was judged to be inappropriate for its target audience; teenage boys. Of course, if you’ve ever spoken to or been a teenage boy, you’ll know that drugs, swearing and masturbation are completely foreign concepts to them. In any case, this book is incredible, Alexie is also a poet and this shows in his writing which is in turns coarse and lyrical. One of the few books I’ve read that really captures that strange, bewildering era of adolescence, and in important insight into the numerous injustices and difficulties endured by Native Americans.

 

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ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY

I found Anders’ work through her work for i09, which used to be a pretty great website but these days is pretty average. Nevertheless, I read this whilst drinking cheap beer on a rooftop in Seville, and I would definitely make that a ‘serving suggestion’ for this and every other book ever written. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but the humour was great and I loved the authenticity of the relationships between the characters. It referenced and toyed with a bunch of classic sci-fi/fantasy tropes and it had fantastic dialogue. If this isn’t made into a movie then Hollywood should die in a fire. (To be fair, Hollywood really should die in a fire.)

 

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THE MIND’S EYE

It was bittersweet reading this book so soon after Sacks’ death. I heard a friend describe him as ‘my favourite mind’ and I think that sums it up perfectly. There are precious few writers who can describe complex medical concepts in a manner that is so fascinating and captivating. Also, I learned in this book that Oliver Sacks had face blindness, which I always thought was a ridiculous thing that Arrested Development invented but turns out to be real. The world is a strange and stupid place.

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THE BRICKS THAT BUILT THE HOUSES

I loved the way this book examined everyday people in difficult circumstances in such real, palpable detail. Tempest charts each character back to their parents and their childhoods, something which I really think more authors should do, and brings us to their current, damaged states. Probably the best ‘this is the way things are right now and it’s terrible but we could fix it if we stopped being such jerks all the time’ novel I’ve read this year. I realise that’s not a genre, but it bloody well should be. Her album Everybody Down tells the same story in a more hip-hop format. It’s very good, but her most recent offering Let Them Eat Chaos is THE BEST.

I’ll be back next week* with part two: The Bad and the Weird.

PS If you want to add my books to your list, you can grab them here. Killing Adonis is on sale for just TEN BUCKS HOLY WHAT?!?

PPS People always say to me: “How do you read 100 books a year? That’s IMPOSSIBLE!” It’s really not. Here’s a few tips.

 

*or later if I have a lot of laundry/editing. 

 

 

Inaugural happy Xmas/holidays/ Hanukkah/ thankgod2016isnearlydead sale!!!!

Dearest humanfolk,

Like most rational people, I have a firm policy of telling Xmas to SHUT UP until December. Now that it actually is December, let’s talk about shiny happy things!

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I’m having my inaugural happy Xmas/Hanukkah/thankgod2016isnearlydead sale! My last novel, Killing Adonis, is now available for just TEN cashmoneydollarbucks! That’s even less than a bar of Jesus Soap.

Killing Adonis is about to have its North American release, and it recently picked up a Kirkus Star (one of my top five favourite stars, right behind Sirius A and Sirius B). In exchange for 10 measly dollars (please do not send dollars infected with measles) I will throw a copy at you, signed and inscribed however you like.

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You can also grab any of my other books. If you don’t love them, I will refund your purchase!* What could be better than a book for Xmas? Well, a robot dinosaur I guess. Or a time machine. Maybe some sort of mystical gauntlet. But apart from that basically nothing.

HAPPY XMAS OR WHATEVER HOLIDAY THING YOU DO OR DON’T BELIEVE IN!

*All refunds attract a processing charge of $50 per book.

Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival

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Good morrow, readers and rabble-rousers! I’m very excited to be travelling down to the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival next week. Although I must admit I am slightly terrified by the fact that my road tripping buddy and fellow Pantera Press author Graham Potts issued a (suicide) request for people to suggest the most horrible songs possible for his driving mix. If I come back home a sweaty, convulsive mess you’ll know why.

I’ve never been to Bellingen and everyone says it’s wonderful so I’m grateful to have this excuse to visit for a couple of days. If you’re in the area or know someone who is, come and say hi. The line up includes other Pantera authors such as the aforementioned Graham, Lynette Noni and CEO Alison Green as well as other amazing writers like David Williamson, Richard Glover and Debra Oswald.

Click here to see my sessions.

Click here to see the full program.

Click here to see a story about a giant meth-addicted snake. 

How to become a New York Limes Bestsmelling Author.

Over the last few years I’ve had many aspiring writers come to me for advice as they seek to make their way through the confusing labyrinth that is the publishing industry. Sometimes it’s simple queries like ‘should I get an agent?’, sometimes more bizarre requests like ‘for the love of God could you please stop talking about royalty payments and call an ambulance I think this man is having a heart attack!’

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Many of these young, hopeful writers have subsequently released novels which have not only outsold mine but also been far more critically acclaimed. This means that they end up being given headline slots at literary festivals while I’m shuffling around in one of the weird rooms on the top floor of a secondary venue for a panel that is attended by half a dozen octogenarians who were expecting a workshop on efficient calendar management (it was actually scheduled for the following evening).

I thought for this reason that it would be a good idea to give some advice to my future rivals peers. Follow these wise words and you too could become a New York Limes Bestsmelling Author!

 

STEP ONE

Make sure all of your submissions are written in size eight and covered in glitter.

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Here’s a little industry secret: submission editors actually want to read everything in size eight font. I know, I know, all the style guides say never hand in anything outside of 11-13, but this is actually an elaborate ruse to throw off the easily misled. There’s a saying in publishing: “If it ain’t size eight, it ain’t that great.” Remember to cover your submission in as much glitter as you can get your hands on, and spray it with the scent of old feet and mildew (submission editors have unusual olfactory senses owing to the fact that they spend a lot of time in tiny rooms reading size eight font manuscripts). This will give your submission the edge it needs to make it all the way to the publishing queue. 

STEP TWO

Industry etiquette and relevant blood-oaths and battlecries

When engaging important figureheads of the publishing industry in conversation remember that they are a bit like rare birds; they are easily scared off and they feed their children by regurgitating into their mouths. The key to making a good impression is to use the secret handshake: firm grip and two bone-crushing pumps as you conspiratorially whisper “The blood moon approaches!” while slowly pouring your drink on their shoes. Once this secret greeting is uttered, you will be invited into the hallowed halls of the Literary Industry’s Elite Sanctuary.

 

STEP THREE

Dress to depress!

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So you’ve managed to arrange a meeting with your dream publisher. Wow, things are really looking upwardstyles!!!! Pay close attention to these dress tips and you could soon be a best-selling author like Stieg Larsson, Margaret Atwood or that girl who was on the Jersey Shore. Men: make sure you are showing as much chest hair as possible, preferably arranged in braids. If you are lacking in chest hair, you’ll want to shave a large jungle cat or Sumatran orangutang and glue its hair to your chest. Ladies: it’s a sad truth that women are always judged more on their appearance than men, but for job interviews you want to look serious, professional and intelligent. This is why you should wear whatever the hell you want AS LONG AS it is accompanied by a sign hung around your neck that says in large red letters I AM VERY SERIOUS, PROFESSIONAL AND INTELLIGENT.

STEP FOUR

Contract non-negotiables: Attack helicopters et al

If you’ve followed all these steps, then it must be time to sign that contract. Hot diggity Dogstoveksy, the dream is real! Your mum was right, you really are special! Maybe that weird old martial arts expert you met in the cave was also right about you being the Chosen One! Now, I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve signed some less than perfect contracts in the past, so let me help you avoid the same mistake by looking out for what pitfalls to avoid. Aside from minor details like royalties and film rights, you’ll want to focus on making sure that your contract includes both an attack helicopter with twin laser canons as well as one of the rings of power.

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“If you want it, PUT A RING UPON IT!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to ask for the ONE RING, because that is just a dick move. However, there are many rings of power and it is standard that each new author receive one as part of their contract with any respectable publisher. They may try and throw you off by saying ‘The rings of power aren’t actually real?’ or ‘Are you completely insane?’ or possibly even ‘Have you been listening to that idiot J. M. Donellan?!?’ But stand your ground and tell them: ‘Gimmie that ring, or this contract ain’t a thing.’ If your potential publisher is not willing to give into these perfectly reasonable demands then the only honourable thing to do is set that contract, and possibly their building, on fire and walk off into the sunset.

Next week: J. M. Donellan’s guide to INSTANT weight reduction!!!!! (STEP ONE: cut off your legs.)

 

 

 

A Day In The Li(f)e of a New York Limes Best Smelling Author

Writers are often asked: “What’s your daily process?”

I assume this is because many people entertain the outlandish fantasy that most writers wake up late, stare philosophically into the middle distance for an hour or two, do about twenty minutes of actual work and then spend the rest of the day hanging out in opium dens. I’d like to take a few moments to dispel these fallacies by offering a very rare and  personal glimpse into my daily life as a New York Limes Best Smelling author.

8:62AM

START WITH A HEALTHY BREAKFAST

Cockatrice

In my teenage years I began most mornings with a cup of Slurm or ambrosia alongside a large serving of fried unicorn. These days I’m trying to watch my figure (watch it EXPAND amirite?) so I stick to a nice cockatrice omelette. It’s important for me to use free range eggs, sadly in 2015 many farmers still engage in the barbaric practice of battery caging cockatrices. If you have allergies to cockatrice eggs you can substitute dragon or phoenix, but these tend to be a little pricier.

ELEVENTY-SIX AM

IDEAS 

Pygmy-Marmoset-Babytumblr_lro7h0iBCd1qimdtio1_500     Musée des arts et métiers, Paris. Machine à écrire portable Corona, 1920.   maths-equal-sign-wallpaper     Killing Adonis_JM Donellan_3D

Next I have to get some ideas. Writers are often asked ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ and there are a range of sources, but I like to keep things simple. I use the classic monkeys at typewriters technique. The smell and noise can be annoying but it’s worth it. The recommended quantity is 100, but I don’t shift as many units as James Patterson (word on the street is that he has an international conglomerate of monkeys working for him) so I can only afford 43. Also, due to a purchasing error, I only have pygmy marmosets and they have to jump from one key to the next, so typing a whole book takes a really long time.

13th:23rd PM

SOCIAL MEDIUM TIME

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Often young aspiring writers ask me how much time you should ideally spend on social media, usually while they are tweeting from their phone and scrolling through instagram on their iPad. My reply is usually ‘Hey, do you mind? Are you familiar with the concept of eye contact?’ and then I tell them that social media is an important tool for tracking idiotic things that Jonathan Franzen has said recently, but what you really want to invest your time in is a social MEDIUM. The use of a psychic to spruik your books in the land of the dead is very important. The dead don’t really have much to do except bitch about each other, so they’re always hungry for reading material, plus their population is huge (and growing by the day!) so they’re an important market to tap into.

33 1/3rd PM SNACK BREAK!

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Usually around this time I feel my motivation lagging and I need to perk myself up. I like to achieve this by enjoying my favourite beverage: The Tears of My Enemies. When I was a young rookie I had to collect these the old fashioned way, with baseball bats and threats. This obviously took a lot of time. Nowadays my schedule’s pretty crowded, so I use a tears exchange program. My tears are sent out to a central agency who in turn provide me with the requested tears. I’m not sure where mine are sent, because it’s an anonymous program, but Christopher Pyne has been throwing a lot of shade at me via twitter recently.

FOR PM

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Yell at the walls.

Practise De Niro’s monologue from Taxi Driver.

Attempt to balance a spoon on my nose.

MIDNIGHT O’CLOCK

Get a good night’s sleep. Resting is important for a healthy mind and body. Unfortunately, all of the people I’ve wronged/maimed/imprisoned in magical cages over the years weigh very heavily on my soul, so the only way I can sleep is on a pile of money. Even more unfortunately, I am pretty broke, so I have to sleep on a pile of monopoly money.

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BOOK O’CLOCK!!!

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When the magic’s all done and the book is finally complete, I have a really hard time waiting, so I like to cryogenically freeze myself until the night of the launch. This allows me to emerge from my stasis chamber to a round of applause. A word of caution though, I did once overset the timer and my publisher had to hire a model who was much better looking than me and, embarrassingly,  was also a lot wittier and more intelligent. I think he’s just signed a six book deal with a Penguin. Not Penguin publishing, just a penguin named Steve.

 

100 books a year

For the last five years I’ve read a minimum of 100 books each lap around the sun. Here’s a quick rundown of my most rated, most hated, most celebrated and most complicated from the first half of 2015.

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Have you ever wished that a renowned author would tackle Arthurian legend in the form of an insufferably dull quasi-fable that employs scenes where two knights spend multiple pages discussing sword etiquette? Me neither, which is probably why I hated this so much.

I adored Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (even if the movie was a huge disappointment) and I have a huge amount of respect for authors who aren’t afraid to switch up styles and genres. However, this book is terrible.

The central themes of love and memory and revenge are all great starting places, but it reads like a cast of senile army vets trying to remember where they left their keys. Also, one of the main characters, Axl, refers to his wife as ‘princess’ after every goddamn sentence, which is just as annoying as it sounds, princess. See, it’s annoying after even one sentence, isn’t it princess? Let alone two, or even three, am I right princess? Princess, why are you unsheathing a broadsword princess? Did you want to spend several hours discussing sword etiquette princess?

 

great jones stI remember when I read DeLillo’s Underground some years ago, it was one of those books that makes you want to give up writing forever because you know you’ll never be that good whilst simultaneously wanting to pour your heart and soul into just attempting to capture a sliver of that genius. In any case, this is one of DeLillo’s ‘lesser’ works, which means it’s a million times better than most people’s greatest novels. The premise is weird; a rockstar named Bucky Wunderlick – who is a vaguely Cobain/Morrison style cult leader of the world’s most popular rock band retires mid-tour and resolves to sit around and do nothing. Obviously this sounds this the worst premise ever imagined, but because this is DeLillo we’re talking about he scribes an incredible study of excess, madness, isolation, a study of the human condition etc. It’s weird and it’s beautiful and now I have to go back and read everything he’s ever written.

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A beguilingly beautiful collection of the personal and the political. Words that weave like limbs on trees. Simultaneously melancholy and uplifting. Make sure you grab at the opportunity to see her perform if she’s ever in the same corner of the world as you.

 

 

 

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I just started writing the first volume of the YA sci-fi trilogy I’m working on (Jennifer Cellardoor, it’ll be in stores…whenever I get it finished) which means I’ve been reading all kinds of stuff in the same ballpark. I was interested in this because it was billed as ‘literary YA science fiction’ which is one of those literary terms that makes no sense at all, much like ‘indie’ in the music realm. In any case; the plot has a comet rapidly approaching earth with a 66% per cent chance of catastrophic impact. Everyone goes crazy, anarchy ensues and we watch it through the eyes of five teenage protagonists. To be honest I found the character development quite shallow and I’m still not sure about the ending, but it was entertaining enough. The author does get massive points for also recording a companion album though, nice skills.

 

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Reading this novel felt like trying to run through molasses whilst having dictionaries thrown at my head. It is reads like literary math rock; appallingly weighty prose coupled with sentences constructed in much the same way as the Winchester Mystery house. I assume there was some kind of plot in much the same way that I assume Greenland has cafes, although I am unable to provide personal evidence of either.

By way of demonstration, here is an honest to god authentic actual excerpt:

 

So this is how it works, I said to myself, as if I’d caught an ideological mechanism in flagrante delicto: you let a young man committed to anticapitalist struggle shower in the overpriced apartment that you rent and, while making a meal you prepare to eat in common, your thoughts lead you inexorably to the desire to reproduce your own genetic material within some version of a bourgeois household, that almost caricatural transvaluation of values lubricated by wine and song. 

If you got to the end of that sentence without screaming at your screen, congratulations and also could you please tell me what is it like being a Zen master?

 

oliver sacks hallucinations

 

I read this after hearing a hilarious an insightful interview where Sacks described using hallucinogens as an inspirational tool as employing a ‘chemical launchpad’. In this book he explores the nature of hallucinations – drug-induced and otherwise – in his famously entertaining and engaging prose. I’m still haunted by the stories of musicians who lose a portion of their sight and then start hallucinating sheet music in that section of their vision.

 

 

Feed MT Anderson

 

Over the last couple of months I’ve read dozens of books targeted at teenagers; some good, some bad, some that actually seemed like they shouldn’t so much be sold in bookstores as preserved in museums as examples of the appalling literary atrocities committed in the early 21st century. What makes Feed stand out is that Anderson treats his audience with respect rather than thinking of them as a ‘target market’. He uses actual swear words rather than having characters say ‘and then I swore at her’, and he tackles difficult and complex philosophical questions using inventive and believable slang. If you’re one of the many people who is worried about how a constantly connected digital world is affecting our human interactions, I urge you to check this out.

 

 

sum forty tales from the afterlives david eagleman

 

One of my favourite things to ask someone I’ve just met is: “What’s your all time favourite book?” If they reply “I don’t really read” then I know they probably aren’t worth talking to and they must hate life and spend their weekends punching puppies. If they answer anything else then I have a new book to check out. This one was recommended to me by director Nathan Sibthorpe, and I’m incredibly grateful for the tipoff. These forty vignettes describe various imaginings of potential afterlives, and they are all impossibly beautiful and captivating. In style and concept it also reminds me of one of my all time favourite books Einstein’s Dreams. An absolute wonder of a book.

 

miranda july the first bad manIn my experience, if you ask someone “What do you think of Miranda July?” they’re either going to say “Who the hell is that?” or “OH MY GOD are you kidding me she’s the best and most amazing and I want to have ice cream and cake with her and can we please spend three hours talking about everything she’s ever done? Okay great I’ll start…”

I would definitely place myself in the latter category. This is a strange, beguiling and wonderful novel that draws you in and wraps you up and spits you out a slightly better person. The plot (such as it is) explores the relationship between a shy, confused introvert and a young girl named Clee. What makes this novel such a joy is they way the July unmasks the wonder, anxiety and beauty of the everyday.

If you can’t relate to this novel, you are probably some kind of sentient killer machine and if so hello how are you please don’t kill me.

PS If you feel like reading/reviewing my latest novel, Killing Adonis, I would be very grateful. Unless you hate it, in which case SHUT UP! 

xoxo