Monthly Archives: January 2012

Chatz on Sat(urday)

From the bottom of my heart I apologise for this week’s Chatz on Sat(urday).

Fay: Hey Steven, feel like some chatz?
Steven: Will you take no as an answer?
Fay: Yes, but you will be letting the team down.
Steven: and i do need this job
Steven: alright let’s BRING THE CHATZZZ
Steven: ZZ
Steven: Z
Steven: ZZZZZ
Fay: YES
Fay: I got it
Fay: So what book things have you been up to this week?
Steven: well i’ve been selling some. and i’ve been reading one, swamplandia! by karen russell. it’s partially about alligator wrasslin so if nothing else it has great promise
Fay: Alligator wrasslin! That sounds like a wholesome and safe pursuit. How are you finding it so far?
Steven: well she writes good like. and yeah it totes has lots o promise but right now i’m finding it’s taking a while to GET somewhere
Steven: (i can say less than perfect things about it because we don’t stock it)
Steven: what’s book related up with you?
Steven: bear in mind i’m PROBABLY not that interested
Steven: but my shift finishes in 10
Fay: Well I am reading lots of things at the same time.
Fay: I’m reading ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ (check spelling), my first Thomas Hardy novel which I’m really enjoying.
Fay: I’m simultaneously reading ‘Hope: a Tragedy’ Shalom Auslander, but I haven’t read that much yet. So I can’t say much about the subject matter but he writes effortlessly. That is the word that comes to mind.
Fay: AND I am reading 1Q84 which is EXCELLENT but demoralisingly long
Steven: my new italian restaurant will be called the mayor of pastabridge
Fay: So I saw this article which was fun:
Fay: I mean the first picture is quite scary but still
Fay: I was surprised by the 60% kids book ratio
Steven: yeah people are way too hooked up on their childhood
Fay: Although I suppose if I was going to get a tattoo (which I’m not, don’t worry parents!) mine would be a kids book
Fay: But then that’s kind of my thing anyway
Steven: also ‘we’re all mad here’ as a tattoo come on guys, you’re better than that
Steven: in fact you’re better than everything on that list
Steven: (no offence Marieke hardy with your slaughterhouse 5 tat love ya babes)
Fay: What’s Marieke Hardy’s?
Steven: I think it’s that so it goes one
Fay: Well actually we are as a nation improving, apparently. Zan from next door told me that for the first time in years the number of southern cross tattoos is going down exponentially
Fay: If I was to get a book tattoo it would be a tiny, super prettily coloured Carbothello the Dragon (the best book on Dragon ennui ever written)
Fay: But yeah it would suck if everyone else started getting your carefully thought out tattoo
Steven: Yeah I bet the people with fight club tattoos were SO PISSED when the movie came out
Steven: I don’t know what i’d get, but i know what CHAD LIGHTNINGSTORMATTACK would get
Steven: an eagle
Steven: but then it’s penis is a gun
Fay: I really don’t want to
Steven: but back to books (which we sell you guys!)
Steven: it’s tricky because obvs the best thing about books are the wordz (lines like that are how i got me this job) but then wordz tattoos are boring
Fay: If I had to pick an adult book it would be hard because my favourite authors are wordy
Fay: Ok. So I think we’ve exhausted the topic.
Fay: Feel free to reply with your literary inspired tattoo ideas
Steven: look i’m not impressed by this CHATZ
Steven: I would rate it 3/10
Steven: last week’s was a solid 7
Fay: I rate your face 3/10
Fay: In fact, whichever tattoo idea is the best Steven will tattoo ON HIS FACE
Steven: yours is a 0/10
Steven: like if you didn’t have features I wouldn’t even guess it WAS a face
Fay: SIGH. And here’re the cheap shots that you know and love. Although to be fair I started it…
Steven: so SOZ guys
Steven: but yah TATTOO MAH FACE
Fay: Ok we’ll try to get to 5/10 next week and average it out
Steven: xoxoxoxo
Steven: until next week
Steven: i’m Steven Helfenbaum
Fay: Feel free to suggest better topics for next Sat!

Tagged ,

Indie Awards!

Look you guys, we all know there’s not a lot of material to mine from announcing some book prize shortlist.  You get it, I get it, let’s just get to it.  So!  Here is the shortlist for the 2012 indie awards!


  • Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
  • The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman
  • Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears
  • Five Bells by Gail Jones


  • Worse Things Happen at Sea by William McInnes and Sarah Watt
  • Notebooks by Betty Churcher
  • After Words: Post-Prime Ministerial Speeches by Paul Keating
  • A Private Life by Michael Kirby

 Debut Fiction

  • Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett
  • All That I Am by Anna Funder
  • The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson
  • Watercolours by Adrienne Ferreira

 Children’s Books

  • The Jewel Fish of Karnak by Graeme Base
  • The Little Refugee by Anh and Suzanne Do (illustrated by Bruce Whatley)
  • The Coming of the Whirlpool: Ship Kings Book One by Andrew McGahan
  • The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Are you guys excited?   The best thing about it is that our lovely boss Margaret gets a vote!  So, not to put too fine a point on it but, I’m pretty open to bribes if any nominated authors are reading this.

Love you guys xoxo


Some thoughts on Jennifer Egan

For those of you who are unaware of Jennifer Egan, she is a wonderful American writer. I hadn’t hear of her either, until her latest novel A Visit from the Goon Squad won the Tournament of Books last year. (It also won the Pulitzer but then Geraldine Brooks also won the Pullitzer so I value the ToB win more highly.)

I loved Goon Squad a lot. I recommended it to pretty much everyone who walked into the shop in December and EVERY BODY LOVED IT. (Disclaimer: that may be an exaggeration, but a huge number of people came back in and told me they loved it and bought copies for friends. I only had one person come back and say they didn’t like it that much.) If I haven’t already recommended it to you, let me tell you about it. It’s a series of interconnected stories centred around Benny and Sasha who are record label people. There are stories from them, stories from people who are close to them, people who used to be in their lives, and some from people who you can’t figure out how they connected for ages. (That sentence sounds wrong. Thoughts?) Together the stories build up a picture of their lives from 1970s punk bands through success and the trouble it brings into musings on the near future of music. It’s a broad picture of time and people and music and failure and ultimately, for me, hope. It’s funny and sardonic and witty and quirky and beautifully constructed. You should read it.

I’m thinking about Goon Squad today because we just received some copies of Egan’s novel-before-last, Look at Me, eleven years after it was first published in America. I am looking forward to reading it, although in a recent interview Egan recommended reading her novels in reverse order so I’m going to reed The Keep first.

Here’s a fun fact: you couldn’t get any Jennifer Egan books published in Australia until after she found success with Goon Squad. I feel like Australian publishing is very conservative, as evidenced by the SEVEN oversubscribed print runs of The Street Sweeper that Random had to put out, and I’m still not sure if they’re too worried to do a bigger run. Anyway these are some thoughts that I am having on a Wednesday. I hope you’re having a lovely day and reading some exciting books.


Fay (the least crazy member of the Sunflower blogging team)



Chatz on Sat(urday)

Shalom! Welcome to the blog’s newest feature… CHATZ ON SAT(URDAY)! Every week at the shop, Fay and I will chat about books and record our conversations for posterity.

Steven: hey buddy

Steven: what’s up

Steven: this SAT

Steven: (urday)

Fay: Not a lot, mon frere

Fay: yourself?

Steven: enough of the boring let’s get to the BOOKZ!

Steven: whatcha been reading?

Fay:  you’re boring

Steven: hurtful

Steven: though sometimes I fear it’s true

Fay: it hurts because you secretly suspected it all along

Steven: I wonder if people feel that way

Steven: so, um, THANKS.

Fay: I just finished ‘The Last Brother’ by Natacha Appanah which is one of the ToB books. It was pretttttyyy good

Steven: tell me about it!

Steven: Briefly



Fay: (it’s funny if you’ve ever heard me talk)

Fay: So it’s about young Raj who in 1944 lives a pretty solitary existence as a 9 year old from the middle of nowhere, Mauritius. But his father is a prison warden at a prison where Jews who have been deported from Palestine have been sent.

Steven:  all these customers. Interrupting our chat.

Steven: all these LOVELY customers. Who are the best

Steven: and buy our books.

Steven: Please?

Fay: Anyway so Raj becomes friends with young David, a ten year old orphaned boy from Czechoslovakia and it’s about their friendship and Raj’s life on the island and stufffff.  And it’s poignant and poetic and translated from the French, yo. It’s also nice because it’s only 200 pages which I appreciate considering I have 8 books to read in 5 weeks. So how are you going with your tome?

Steven: Must be so hard for you

Fay: First world problems, man.

Steven: People are SUFFERING and stuff. Not like, me personally.

Fay: Yeah I thought I covered that with first world problems.

Steven: Except in the emotionz

Fay: SIGH. You are such a drama queen today

Steven: You’re such a MONSTER. ALWAYS. ANYWAY.

Fay: So how are you going with your tome speaking of page numberzs

Steven: my book’s really good!

Fay: (I know)

Steven: You read it last week!

Fay: (yeah)

Steven: (see blog for more!)

Steven: i like the way the words are good and stuff?

Fay: That pretty much covers it

Steven: look I need more practice at this reviewing, I won’t deny it

Fay: for a better account of THE ART OF FIELDING read my post from last week.

Steven: it’s cleverly written and a very sweet book (though not like, gross) and the characters are fantastic and it’s great. Unlike that MARRIAGE PLOT BOOK. With which it has similarities. Which we shall discuss in the Tournament!

Fay: Oh my god I can’t believe we’re doing this again

Steven: Just prepping the world for an EPIC DEBATE

Fay: OK yes, let’s put the public sniping away until then

Steven: but that’s where this blog largely derives its humour! And my sweet proze

Fay: Only because we are petty and lazy

Steven: it’s definitely easier to write. BACK TO BOOKS

Fay: Ok, this morning I read an article in the Age about a lady who has written a thriller that is apparently exciting and well publicised and all. BUT apparently her NAME was not thrilling enough

Steven: Oh was that Ali Knight?

Fay: yeah


Steven: Wait is that a saying? That people say?

Steven: With their mouths?

Fay: We should play more ball sports.


Fay: It sounds like a thing let’s run with it. Also FOCUS

Steven: NEVER

Fay:  ANYWAY if you were to write an exciting thriller, what would your thriller pen name be?

Steven: Well Fay, I’m glad you asked

Fay: And the surname shouldn’t start with A or WXYZ apparently

Steven: My favourite pseudonym is Johannes Thundersack. But that’s not so thrillery

Fay: Boy do I know

Steven: So I guess it would be CHAD LIGHTNINGSTORMATTACK. What about yours?

Fay: THAT IS PURE DISTILLED AWESOME. I actually have never thought about it

Steven: and my book would be called EDGE OF DEATH


Fay: And it should have a boat on the front, adrift from its mooring

Fay: That’s a thing now

Steven: With rolling waves and the title embossed in shiny writing.

Fay: You know like every attempted Swedish thriller ever?

Steven: DOES CHAD LIGHTNINGSTORMATTACK SOUND SWEDISH TO YOU? No, my book will have spies and assassins and international conspiracies and sexxx. And by my I mean CHAD LIGHTNINGSTORMATTACK

Fay: So like James Bond?

Steven: But crappier

Fay: SO yeah I don’t know about mine. I’m happy to hear constructive ideas in the comments. I think my first name needs to have harsh consonant sounds like…. Kristy.

Fay: But it should be angrodynous so men will actually buy my book

Steven: Kristy Daggerstrike

Fay: Less girly

Steven: What ARE the manliest sounding initials?

Fay: I should be Kris something

Steven: J.R.R.Penis

Fay: (ignoring, also lolz) The wrong spelling suggests I could be some sort of European

Steven: Look, I think we’re just going to have to leave it up to the public. SO suggest some names, look out for our poll and whichever wins FAY WILL LEGALLY CHANGE HER NAME TO FOREVER

Steven: And so ends this chatz on sat(urday)


Fay: NO. I never said that!

Steven: I’m CHAD LIGHTNINGSTORMATTACK. Bidding you good night, and good luck

Fay: NO. You’re actually not finishing like that

Steven: TOO LATE mon frere. Thanks everybody, and remember to BUY SOME BOOKS

Tagged ,

A Sunflower supported event

Good afternoon internet amigos! Allow me to inform you of an event:

If you were absent for our very own Street Sweeper event back in…. I want to say October? Then you will be pleased to know that you have not missed out entirely! The handsome, charming and extremely eloquent Elliot Perlman will be speaking at the Jewish Holocaust Centre on the 8th of February at 7:30pm and we at Sunflower Bookshop will be listening attentively and selling books. Elliot is a great speaker and I definitely recommend coming along!

The Tournament of Books!

Disciples!  What’s up?  Enough about you let me hit you with a NEWSBOLT!  The shortlist for my favourite book competition, the Morning News Tournament of Books, is here!  The Tournament of Books is the best: acknowledging the inherent subjectivity and arbitrariness involved in any book competition and then just DIVING STRAIGHT INTO THAT the Tournament coincides and is modelled on March Madness, with two books facing off against each other TO THE DEATH.  Zombie round notwithstanding.  You know what, I’ll just let them explain it.  Go here!

It’s the best!  And I’ll be following it all March right here on this blog so it looks like I know stuff about books and can keep my job here without actually having to read any.  What have you guys read?  So far I’ve only read the Marriage Plot, which was like, a 3 out of 5, and that combined with Fay’s unreasonable love of it makes me hope it gets DESTROYED in the first round.  Anyway.  Follow the Tournament and follow the Sunflower blog for witty, incisive and faintly arousing commentary.

Love you guys!

Tagged , , ,

The Art of Fielding hits a home run!

I have always hated sport, any sport. I started wilfully sitting out sports days in protest when I was 14. That year was my first sports day without a fake note, dressed all in black in protest against the sporting house spirit. Across my years of

 sports day I have variously skipped it, protested it, started petitions against it and held picnics in the middle of the grounds. It probably started when I was an uncoordinated, chubby six year old, terrified of being hit in the face with something. Since I still possess these qualities as a 23 year old, I think it is safe to say I will not be joining a netball team or enthusiastically taking up bike riding any time soon.

All this is to say: we would think a 500 page novel about baseball would not be the one for me. And that is where you and I would apparently both be wrong!

The Art of Fielding is famous for earning Chad Harbach, an unemployed Harvard graduate, a $665 000 advance for a first novel. It’s about small town guy Henry Skrimshander, a skinny, lanky guy who doesn’t look like much but is in fact preternaturally gifted as a short stop. It’s about Mike Schwartz, the bear of a captain who discovers Henry but worries that he’ll never achieve anything close to Henry’s talent or focus, on or off the field. It’s about Dean Affenlight who, after a lifetime bachelor existence, finds a reason to come to the baseball and his daughter Pella, who flees to Westish University after a failed marriage. It’s about Owen, perhaps the most unlikely athlete ever, a genius with a great sense of style. He spends practise reading, refuses to run, often doesn’t even show up and is still respected by the rest of the team. One of my favourite lines in the book: “‘There’s so much standing around,’ Owen said when Henry asked him what he liked about the game. ‘And pockets in the uniforms.'”

It would be easy to say that The Art of Fielding isn’t really about baseball but about a group of different guys at college coming together and breaking apart. But it actually is a lot about baseball, and I found myself eagerly reading about plays and practises and games because the writing is that good. So whether or not you like sport I would definitely recommend The Art of Fielding.


Introducing everyone else

Zev, like a young Robert De Niro, is tough but with a comic streak. His knowledge of Judaica is second to none and he has the uncanny ability to locate a crazily misfiled book with only the power of his mind. Unlike Robert De Niro, he does not own a string of successful restaurants.

Margaret is stylish and smart, with a dry sense of humour and a knack for predicting trends. If you’re after a book on art or cooking, or need to know what’s big in New York right now, she’s the one to ask.

Deirdre is beloved by many, a woman of great height and great heart. Known to her friends as Dudley, she knows our kids section like the back of her hand. Dudley can always find the perfect book to make the child in your life laugh out loud, and she would appreciate that show of alliteration.


Introducing Steven

It's called smart casual guys, look it up

Watup friends and lovers!  FUTURE FRIENDS AND LOVERS.  My name is Steven and I’m here to talk to you about books.  But  first let’s talk about me!  In 1990 my birth was foretold by a swallow and heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow across the sky over the mountain and a new star in the heavens. Lol jks, that’s Kim Jong-il.  TOPICAL!  Handsomest Helfenbaum 21 years running, I’m also the newest employee at Sunflower Bookshop.  As such I should probably be talking to you about books.  SEGUE!

My favourite book is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.  I kid, I kid!  My favourite book is actually three books, Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle.  You should totes read it!  I’ll order it in for you and everything!  It’s  massive, all your friends will think you’re really smart, and THAT’s a Steven guarantee.  I’m a fan of Martin Amis, but unlike him also of women and muslims.  ZING!  I also like to read Foucault in the original French.

I’ve just finished an arts degree, majoring in criminology and history and philosophy of science, and planning on doing honours in the latter this year, so I’m planning for long term unemployment and impoverishment.

This blog is my brainchild, fresh from my brainloins to your eyeballs, so treat it gently.

Tagged , ,

Introducing Fay

Oh so windswept

Welcome to our inaugural post, by me, Fay Helfenbaum, the hippest of the Sunflower crew and voted fourth funniest Helfenbaum at our last dinner table poll. I’m lucky to have worked for a delightful three years at Sunflower Bookshop. During my time here I have talked to some of my favourite authors, met lots of lovely people, dressed up as a witch, read to a scary horde of preschoolers, become an expert on young adult fiction and read stacks of amazing books. My favourite book of all time is Vanity Fair  by William Thackeray and my favourite author is Virginia Woolf. My favourite Sunflower section is young adult fiction and my weak spot is definitely history (both in terms of stock and general knowledge). I’ve just finished my undergraduate degree at Melbourne Uni with a major in literature (as well as economics, management and political science, because I am well-rounded) and working at Sunflower has made me realise that I want to pursue a career in publishing. Anyway since deleting my Facebook account I have a lot more free time and I am very excited to spend it on here, telling you all about my favourite new books and the exciting events we’re hosting.