Tag Archives: leh

My Dearest Target

My Dearest Target,

How are you? I trust you are enjoying the start of the Christmas period, which I imagine major retailers look forward to with all the anticipation of a sex addict awaiting a holiday in Ibiza.


Yesterday I was perusing your shelves in search of a toiletries bag that I had believed I would require for my planned trip to New York. As it turns out neither the toiletries bag nor the trip to New York will now be necessary as my girlfriend decided to break up with me a few days before our one year anniversary and thus reduce me to an irrational, quivering wreck engaged in peculiar behavior such as writing elaborate complaint letters to department stores, but that’s neither here nor the other place.

Whilst waiting in line to make my purchase I was subjected to your holiday promo clip. Now, aside from the fact that this insufferably saccharine commercial featured lots of sickeningly elated blonde white people and storks carrying babies (when was this thing written, the 1950s?) the ad and its ridiculously loud music were repeated and repeated over and over again and again and again. It was interrupted by only the intermittent PROCEED TO CHECKOUT FIVE announcements, making me feel as though I was alternating my time between some Kafkaesque consumer hell and some Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare (Kafka really was the king of literary misery wasn’t he?)

If I had to listen to a Target ad on infinite loop my writing would have been even MORE despressing!

I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but incessantly repeated music is actually one of the most popular modern forms of psychological torture. During the Bush era two of the favourite bands used at Guantanamo bay were Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack. Quite ironic given the fact that both of those bands despised the Bush administration. Do you think they got paid royalties for public broadcast each time their song got repeated? 

Once in India I took a 20 hour jeep ride from Srinagar to Leh, and the MP3 player kept skipping back to the start of whatever song it was playing. We asked the driver to just turn it off but he told us that without music he would fall asleep and at this point we were on a tiny Himalayan mountain road with a steep ravine right reaching ominously out beneath us so we let him have his way. Just before we finally reached Leh, we heard the first ten seconds of the song Gimmie More featuring the delightful opening line “It’s Britney bitch!” over and over and over (and over). By the time we reached Leh we had been reduced to giggling, hysterical lunatics.


Try listening to THIS 500 times in a row…

So as I’m listening to this syrupy commercial on infinite repeatrepeatrepeat, I’m thinking, what effect is this having on the staff here? Surely this can’t be psychologically healthy? Finally the all-commanding screen interrupts the commercial and instructs me to move to the checkout. I always do what television tells me, so I dutifully obeyed and handed my soon to be redundant travel toiletries bag to the young man behind the counter.

“That’s a total of five cents.” Says he. I looked at price tag, which quite definitely stated $9.05, and I thought to myself, surely I must have misheard him? It can’t possibly be some sort of 99.45% Christmas discount? I passed him $20, and he handed me back $19.95. I took the money in my hand and was open to say something along the lines of “Whaaaaaaaaat?” when the all-seeing monitor demanded that I vacate the checkout so that it might be utilised by another obedient consumer.

In conclusion: perhaps you should reconsider the all-seeing monitor playing your advertisements on infinite loop, not only for the effect it has on your staff, but the effect it has on your profit margin.



Swarm regards

J.M. Donellan


Zeb and the Great Ruckus: coming at you like a rampaging bewilderbeast in 2012

You might recall a little over a year ago I posted that I had finished my children’s fantasy novel Zeb and the Great Ruckus, and went on to describe how it would transform your child into a ninja-scientist-guitar-soloing human rights champion. Well, it’s taken a while, but I have finally inked a publishing deal in order to bring this little beast out into the light. When I returned from an eight day trek across the Ladakhi range of the Himalayas a few months ago I found an email in my inbox informing me that I had been offered a deal with Odyssey Books (who also published Foley Russel and That Poor Girl by my friend Rebecca Bloomer).  



The email that informed me of the offer was sent via satellite to Leh, the prayer flag drenched capital of Ladakh, India, located 3500m above sea level. I received it whilst typing away drowned in the delightfully rousing aroma of yak-scented mountain gear. It was five years ago in that  same city, whilst sitting on the rooftop of a ramshackle hotel  and staring out at the Himalayas, that I began writing my first novel A Beginner’s Guide to Dying in India. Receiving this offer for my new book in that same city was a beautifully cyclical moment.

Here’s a brief synopsis: 

Zeb lives in the land of Bravura , where the oppressive Czar and his legion of Admonishers have outlawed art and music. The mystical Alephs, magical mouthless creatures that eat music with their ears, have long since disappeared into hiding.  When a letter from Zeb’s departed father urges him to seek out a legendary musician rumoured to be living somewhere deep in the forest, Zeb must set out with his best friend Flip to seek him out. Armed only with a ball of magic clay and a harmonica, Zeb and Flip face wolves, clockwork birds, an army of Admonishers and the bewilderbeast in their quest to find the lost musician and the Alephs and bring music back to Bravura.

As a teacher I got sick of reading stories to my students that were populated with saccharine characters, cheap wish fulfilment and 1950s values. 

I wanted to write the kind of book that makes kids shake their heads and articulately explain why they disagree instead of just nodding their heads when told to do so. 

I wanted to write a book that makes children appreciate the fact that art is not just a sprawling mass of pretty pictures and three-minute pop songs, but the most powerful communication tool in existence. 

I wanted to write a book that kids would read in their youth and return to in adulthood.

I wanted to write a book filled with explosions, clockwork birds, steel guitars and vats of weaponised toffee.


  Fireworks      +      Steel-guitar-up-angle-barnwell     +     Toffee  =  ZEB


Zeb and the Great Ruckus is that book. It’ll be in stores sometime in 2012, which, according to various sources, may well be the end of the world. So at least you’ll have something fun to read during the Apocalypse.