Monthly Archives: April 2012

Introducing Jess!

[Editor's note: You guys!  New person!  It is my pleasure to introduce you to Jess D., who will be writing stuff on this here blog. J Dizzle, as her friends don't call her, has much better credentials for this thing than me.  She studied English Literature at the BEST UNIVERSITY IN AUSTRALIA and is now doing an editing and publishing degree at the same place.  Furthermore, FURTHERMORE, she also worked as Senior Text Buyer at the Melbourne University Bookshop (you guys did you know it's the best university in Australia?) before that place was privatised, and hopefully she'll be doing that again soon when they hire some staff!  Look, what I'm saying is we're happy to have her and read the words that she writes with her hands (presumably). xoxo Steven]

Hello Hello.

I, Jessica, former employee of rival bookstore, Melbourne University Bookshop (RIP), will be a guest blogger on this delightful store’s blog.

To begin: WHY IS THERE NO PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION???

Thank-you Steven H. for addressing this issue already.

My first real blog, beyond this one, will be a delightful debate starter.

Which is better literary buffs, the Pulitzer Fiction prize (RIP) or the Booker fiction prize?

I was schooled on this matter a number of years ago by a colleague who claimed every fiction book he’d ever read that was either a winner of the Big P, or a Long/Short list entrant was immediately added to his own personal favourites list. The same, could not be said for the Booker.

So my quest for this blog begins today:

I am currently reading Julian Barnes’ The Sense of Ending, and will compare my reading enjoyment with A Visit From the Goon Squad to indeed inform readers whether the Pulitzers’ Fiction prize disappearance will severely affect our reading pleasure or not.

Stay tuned and goodnight.

Kisses.

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INTERVIEW WITH THE PULITZER PRIZEWINNER FOR FICTION

In a MASSIVE coup for Sunflower Bookshop, I, Steven Helfenbaum, am delighted to present to you the first ever interview with this year’s Pulitzer prize winner for fiction.

Steven: First, may I just say what an honour it is to meet you in the flesh.  I’ve been reading your books for, god, years now and I am very excited to hear about your first Pulitzer win after 35 years!

No one:

Steven: Ha!  Ok, let’s get down to the interview.  How did you feel when you learned that you, rather than any of the literally hundreds of very deserving authors who released books last year, were announced as the winner of this year’s prize?

No one:

Steven: Mm, quite.  This isn’t the first time you’ve won the prize, but lately you’ve been a bit under the radar.  Do you think this will be a boost to your career?

No one:

Steven: Ah yes.  Would you say indeed, that it has been a boost for literature as a whole, and for reading?

No one:

Steven: How would you say your win reflects on the judging process, and do you think that there’s a particular reason that your win occurred this year?

No one:

Steven: What I particularly liked about your book were the deep insights into the arbitrary and unthinking nature of certain book prizes and those who judge them.  When did that become aware to you?

No one:

Steven: And now of course, I should ask you the questions my coworker and I developed in a bygone chat.  What book do you wish you’d written?

No one:

Steven: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

No one:

Steven: What book changed your life and how?

No one:

Steven: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

No one:

Steven: Franzen or Kanye?
WAIT WAIT
In a fist fight.

No one:

Steven: Oh.  Um.  That’s actually pretty racist.  Well thank you for coming in today.  Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

GET IT?

(See also this and this)

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The New Republic by Lionel Shriver

Journalists, you guys.  Does it naturally draw the sanctimonious or do you just have to be that way to apply for the job?  And is any profession more self regarding?  If I have to read another defence of journalistic free speech/vitriol against regulation/hagiography of the Reporter, praising the nobility of taking photos of lady celebrities’ vaginas I will… not be remotely surprised.  Like shoegaze was known in the early 1990s, journalism is the scene that celebrates itself.  Except, you know, shoegaze was actually worth listening to.  So it is wonderful that Lionel Shriver’s book, written in 1998 and full of this smug, self important type has been released now.    If I needed another reason to be a fan of hers after So Much For That (my favourite book of 2010, and in our shop for only $19.99!  Though the trade off for that is a TERRIBLE cover).  It follows misanthropic former lawyer Edgar Kellogg, who all his life has longed to be a larger-than-life character, someone popular on whom every conversation would hang, someone that inspires awe, instead of merely a follower.  Ironically it is his following of his old high school idol Toby Falconer which leads him to journalism as a method of becoming this person.  Kellogg is posted to Barba, a backwater, desolate province of Portugal which is nonetheless home to a violent terrorist group, the Soldados Ousados de Barba or SOB (lol good one Shrives).  Mysteriously, attacks claimed by the SOBs (still funny) have dried up, just as Kellogg’s predecessor Barrington Sadler (just the type of person who Kellogg wants to be) has disappeared.  What follows is a rollicking romp (yup) which, while definitely humorous in tone, has a lot of questions to ask about terrorism, journalism, ethics, and, to lamely quote the blurb, “What makes charismatic people so magnetic, while the rest of us inspire a shrug? Whats their secret? And in the end, who has the better life – the admired, or the admirer?”.  As usual, Shriver’s writing is crackling and full of attitude (I hate myself for saying that but it’s true), and she vividly brings Barba to life in such a way that you never question it’s awfulness.  The characters too are highly entertaining, characters, especially the collective of fellow journalists and Edgar’s mental image of Barrington, with whom he converses often.  An important theme in the book is how we perceive things: Edgar is a master of ‘inversion’, or how the same fact can be presented in two diametrically opposed ways, which allows him to see the positive side of the thoroughly un-positive things he is doing, and his slide into immorality, like the metaphorical train wreck, is engaging in a horrible way, and even though you know what’s going to happen it’s still it remains eminently readable.  Also, unlike a train wreck it’s hugely fun.

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Things in the Shop that You Should Buy: Money

Welcome to (what will possibly become) a new feature on this here blarg, Things in the Shop that You Should Buy, in which I, Steven Z. Helfenbaum, recommend to you, I don’t know your name, books, not necessarily new, that we have in the shop and that you totes owe yourself to read.  Starting today with Martin Amis’s classic, Money.

Money by Martin Amis

“It must be the booze, it must be the junk, it must be all the pornography

Money tells the story of John Self, a successful ad executive turned movie producer, and the perfect consumer of fast food, drink, drugs, and pornography.  Throughout he travels between New York and his home in London, making a semi-autobiographical film (his father, Barry, hilariously and terribly, sent an invoice to John on his maturity for expenses involved in raising him) with young, tanned, athletic producer Fielding Goodney.  Money is a satirical look at all the excesses of late 1980s ‘greed is good’ capitalism (and not surprisingly it works just as well today).  Self is a hideous character concerned only with gratification and a desire for greater riches, and is the very embodiment of his self-centred age.  But he’s also very funny.  Consumerism and pornography saturate everything, creating an oppressive, ugly mood that Amis can create so well (see also London Fields, which is amazing), and the book rife with clever literary allusions to Shakespeare, in particular Othello.  Important to the book is the question of motive, or rather the lack thereof in late modern society.  Money is also very clever: Amis writes himself into the novel, in doing so implicating himself (and the reader as well) in the hyperconsumerist monster, and also allowing some interesting meta-fictional exchanges about Amis’s role in the novel (as character and author).  As vital today as it must have been 30 years ago (I’m too young for the 80s buddy), Money is a fantastic novel.  It’s in our shop and you should buy it.

Money by Martin Amis, $12.95

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