Monthly Archives: February 2012

Chatz on Sat(urday)

Steven:  heyo sistah

Fay:  Hey bra

Steven:  what’s the haps baps?

Fay: Bappitybaps


Fay:  how’s your week been? BOOK STYLZ

Steven: well right now i’m reading state of wonder by ann patchett. it’s alright!

Steven: that is all

Steven: xoxo steven

Fay:  I quite enjoyed it myself

Fay: It’s not quite as good as Bel Canto but it’s certainly trying

Steven:  except that dr swenson (as of only around 150 pages in) – the WORST

Steven: ugh

Steven: be worse OH WAIT YOU CAN’T


Fay:  No spoilers ever! Sunflower guarantee

Steven:  BRAM PRESSER can’t say the same…

Steven: BRAM PRESSER, winner of the age short story competition, loyal customer and JERK EXTRAORDINAIRE

Fay:  Right. That sounds like it has some backstory

Fay: but now is not the time!

Steven:  yes the story of how bram presser is a SPOILERY nemesis can wait for the tournament of books


Steven: yanyway, whatCHU reading now?

Fay:  I am rereading The Waves by my pal Vwoolf which is one of the most beautiful books ever written probably

Fay: And Suzy Zail’s new young adult book The Wrong Boy which is amazing so far (and we’re doing an event with her, keep watching for details)

Fay: Aaaannnnddd I think that’s actually it for once



Steven: so, you know, pretty long

Fay: Well I just kind of sat here for a minute or two, DRAMA QUEEN

Steven:  so fay, what’re we talkin about this week?

Fay:  Well I thought we could formulate some questions that we can pose to unsuspecting authors!

Fay: The only good one I’ve come up with is ‘What book do you wish you’d written?’

Steven:  the bible

Steven:  the new bit AND the old bit

Steven: next question?

Fay:  No i mean to actual authors not internet sensations

Steven: oh

Steven: i thought this was my shot

Steven: at fame

Fay:  It is, we had like 3 views yesterday!

Steven:  yess


Fay:  So what else do you think we should ask?

Steven: Well what did you ask FAMOUS AUTHOR elliot perlman when you interviewed him?


Steven: specifically this one?

Fay: author specific stuff

Fay: oh wait no not all!

Fay:  ‘When did you know you wanted to be a writer?’

Fay: Don’t answer that, it’s not for you note the quotation marks

Steven: oh yeah that’s orright!

Steven: how about ‘what’s your perfect sunday’?

Steven: TOO good?

Fay: What are you, SundayLife?

Fay: How about ‘If you were a colour, which would you be?’


Fay:  That’s white


Steven:  IS IT?

Fay:  And again, not for you

Steven:  how about, for realsies, ‘what advice can you give to aspiring young writers’

Steven:  obvs cliched but i guess there’s a reason?

Steven: or aspiring old writers too!

Fay:  nah I think that’s good

Fay:  I do think we need something flippant thought

Steven:  because our questions aren’t shallow enough already COME ON

Fay: how about, if you were a book cover, describe it for us

Steven: very handsome

Steven: OK let’s get to some serious q’s!

Steven:  (that’s short for questions, you guys)

Fay:  Book that changed your life and how

Fay:  How’s that for deep

Steven:  noiiice

Fay:  What’s harder to write: sex or violence?

Steven:  Franzen or Kanye?


Steven: in a fist fight

Fay:  Voice of a generation FIGHT TO THE DEATH

Fay:  What music do you listen to while writing?

Fay: Or, do you ever write naked?

Steven:  gross do NOT want to imagine that

Steven: authors are HOMELY

Fay:  Ouch. We had a whole discussion about attractive writers in the Chatz on Sat(urday) you missed

Fay: OBVIOUSLY you did not read it L

Steven:  well OBVIOUSLY i would have rebutted that with alexandre dumas

Fay: ‘What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done in an interview?’

Steven: naah

Fay: self referential, yo


Steven: but that’s part of what’s BAD about it

Steven: also i imagine most will say, ‘nothing?’

Steven: with that inflection

Fay: ok we could finish the interview with ‘what’s the best interview question you’ve been asked’ and then pose that one to the next author

Fay: in a neverending cycle

Fay: for reals though this is a real idea

Steven: oh yeah i kinda like that

Steven: though, let’s face it, our interview is still lookin pretty lean

Steven: AND NOT like a fighting machine LET ME TELL YOU

Fay: Ok how about ‘what’s your favourite place to write?’

Steven: yeah that’ll do

Steven: favourite work you’ve written and least favourite and why and why?

Fay:  too much to have both?

Steven:  no that’s totes a good question!

Fay: We want it to be short and snappy so people won’t hate doing it

Fay: and won’t hate us forever

Steven:  yeah but we also want to have SOMETHING from it

Steven: this is HARD HITTING NEWSBOLTS fay

Steven: and i won’t compromise on my values if i’m not getting paid

Fay: Is it though? I thought it was more like author puff pieces‬

Steven:  half and half

Fay:  ‪ok so let’s review:‬

Fay: We have:

  • What book do you wish you’d written?
  • When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
  • What book changed your life and how?
  • What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
  • Franzen or Kanye?
  • In a fist fight?
  • Where do you write?
  • What is your favourite and least favourite of your works and why?
  • What’s the best interview question you’ve ever been asked?

Steven: that’ll do pig

Fay: what are you implying?

Steven: that you have porcine features?‬

Steven: and with that, i feel, we’ve nailed it

Steven: good night australia

Steven: i’m steven helfenbaum

Fay: wait

Fay: wait!

Steven: 😉

Steven: FIN

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The epic review of 1Q84

I promised you a review of 1Q84 and I think after all my whining about it I should deliver!

1Q84 is kind of hard to explain without revealing too much but I will not spoil anything I promise. Whatever information I give here you will find in the first few chapters.

1Q84 follows the parallel stories of Aomame and Tengo. Both are unusual characters whose lives are about to get considerably more unusual.  Aomame is an unusually self reliant and introspective woman who has a knack for human anatomy. Tengo is a maths genius and aspiring writer who works at a cram school. Both live mostly solitary lives and at the start of the novel both are about to embark on jobs that will make their lives much more complicated. Because Aomame’s talent for muscles makes her the perfect hired killer of particularly brutal husbands, and Tengo’s editor wants him to rewrite an imaginative story by an enigmatic 17 year old girl.

Before long both are involved with shady characters, cults, mysteries and the supernatural ‘Little People’.

1Q84 is crazy original and super quirky, as you would expect from Murakami. But more than that it’s incredibly enjoyable. The alternating chapter format kept me constantly engaged, especially as the two characters’ stories come closer and closer together, without quite touching. It’s full of metaphor and allusion and would be much more wanky if Murakami didn’t stop to explain some of his metaphors as he goes along, playfully undercutting them.

As in other books, Murakami mixes the strange fantasy elements of his novel with grounding physical details. Aomame’s clothes and Tengo’s cooking serve this purpose, with detailed descriptions that add an element of mundane real life to the crazy occurrences of the book.

It’s a story where you’re never quite sure what isreal, what is true and who the good guys really are. It’s freaking big and totally worth it!


Jewish Book Week

Hi all!

I SO wish I was in London this week to hear all the amazing speakers at Jewish Book Week. The Lineup is seriously amazing! To join me in being jealous, check it out here:

In honour of the 60th anniversary of Jewish Book Week those guys over there have put together a list of 60 great Jewish Books over the last 60 years. I’ll copy down the list below (or you can check it out on their site

Aharon Appelfeld Badenheim 1939
Saul Bellow Mr Sammler’s Planet
Linda Grant  When I Lived in Modern Times
Vasily Grossman Life and Fate
David Grossman See Under: Love
Joseph Heller Good As Gold
Howard Jacobson The Mighty Walzer
Thomas Keneally Schindler’s Ark
Imre Kertesz Fatelessness
Jerzy Kosinski The Painted Bird
Nicole Krauss The History of Love
Bernard Malamud The Fixer
Albert Memmi The Pillar of Salt
Anne Michaels Fugitive Pieces
Amos Oz A Tale of Love and Darkness
Cynthia Ozick The Shawl
Chaim Potok The Chosen
Philip Roth American Pastoral
Bernice Rubens The Elected Member
Jonathan Safran Foer Everything is Illuminated
Andre Schwartz-Bart The Last of the Just
Isaac Bashevis Singer Enemies – A Love Story
Art Spiegelman Maus
Tony Kushner Angels in America
Arthur Miller The Price
Harold Pinter The Birthday Party
Neil Simon The Odd Couple
Arnold Wesker Roots
Yehuda Amichai Poems of Jerusalem
Leonard Cohen Lyrics
Allen Ginsberg Kaddish
Paul Celan Poems
Dannie Abse Ash on a Young Man’s Sleeve 
Hannah Arendt Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
Isaiah Berlin Two Concepts of Liberty
Bruno Bettelheim Children of the Dream
Avraham Burg The Holocaust is Over, We Must Rise from its Ashes
Anne Frank The Diary of Anne Frank
Martin Gilbert The Holocaust  
John Gross A Double Thread
Abraham Joshua Heschel God in Search of Man
Eric Hobsbawm The Age of Extremes
Eva Hoffman Lost in Translation
Louis Jacobs We Have Reason to Believe
Yeshayahu Leibowitz Judaism, Human Values and the Jewish State
Primo Levi If This Is a Man
Nadezhda Mandelstam Hope Against Hope
Benny Morris The Birth of the Palestinian Problem
Claudia Roden The Book of Jewish Food
Leo Rosten The Joys of Yiddish
Jonathan Sacks The Dignity of Difference
Roman Vishniac A Vanished World
Edmund de Waal The Hare with Amber Eyes
Leon Wieseltier Kaddish  
George Steiner Language and Silence
Adin Steinsaltz The Talmud
Elie Wiesel Night
Judith Kerr When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree
Maurice Sendak Where the Wild Things Are

What do you think? I have (embarassingly) read only a very small number of them… Another list for me to get reading! But they’re calling on feedback viw their site or Facebook page and we at Sunflower would love to hear your thoughts too. What should stay? What sohuld go? What needs to be added? Bombard me with comments like you guys are wont to do!

Love Fay

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Chatz on Sat(urday)

Hey buddies!  Did you miss me?  I missed you!  In a physical way.  Hey, here’s some chatz!

Fay:  Chaaaaaaattttzzzzz

Steven:  Fay, my old comrade

Steven: guess who’s back?

Steven: back for chatzz?

Fay:  Is it Jess? She was fun

Steven:  do not be afraid

Fay:  I am a little….

Steven:  i’m pretty intimidating

Steven: physically and mentally

Fay:  I sure missed this

Fay: So whatcha reading this lovely sat(urday)?

Steven:  well mon frere, I am currently just about to finish The Sisters Brothers Steven: which is THE BEST

Fay:  The best ever?

Steven:  NO

Steven:  but still great regardless

Fay:  the best of ToB?

Steven: I want to say yes?

Steven:  I realise that it’s easy to say that when you’re reading something

Fay:  Better than The Art of Fielding???

Fay:  Better than The Sense of an Ending???


Steven:  yes to the second, i guess no to the former but i think i like it more


Steven: HUH HUH

Fay: No I just meant I’m overwhelmed by choice

Steven: me too but i really love this book

Steven: i’m going to tattoo it on my head

Steven: ALL OF IT

Fay:  Good call

Steven: thanks, solving last months tattoo dilemma

Fay: Your enormously swollen head will be the perfect size

Steven: that’s what she said

Steven: BOOSH


Steven:  haHA

Steven: so fay, whatCHU readin?

Fay:  I have FINISHED 1Q84 which was, may I say, delightful!

Fay: (review pending)

Fay: and now I am reading The Hours by Virginia Woolf who is my hero

Steven:  i’m pretty sure her name’s nicole kidman

Fay: and in shop news I have just finished Why We Broke Up by Lemony Snicket aka Daniel Handler with gorgeous illustrations by Maira Kalman

Fay:  I highly recommend all of them!

Fay: And I am ALSO enjoying the first 20 pages of the Tiger’s Wife

Steven:  showoff

Fay:  And THAT, my friend, is just what I’m reading today

Steven:  whatevvvs

Steven: what’s in the news mate?

Steven:  the book news

Fay:  Amanda Knox is in the news with her huge but awkward payout for her tell all

Steven: ah yes, amanda knox

Steven: good kid, not a murderer

Steven: OR IS SHE?

Steven: (nope)


Steven: ugh daily mail

Steven: use a different paper

Fay:   but this article takes the prize for longest title and creepiest stalker photos

Steven:  seems pretty fair

Steven:  years in jail deserves some cashola

Fay:  but who really cares?

Steven:  about what?

Fay:  her? I mean haven’t we seen it play out all over the news already?

Steven:  have YOU been wrongly jailed for murder and then released amid mass publicity WHILE LOOKING PRETTY?

Steven: if nothing else fay, CERTAINLY not that last part

Fay:  MEAN


Steven: that’s what i do

Fay:  Newsbolt: Steven is jerk!


Steven: moving on

Steven:  putting aside the question of whether aknox (as i like to call her) IS a celebrity, how do you feel about celebrity authors in general

Steven: as in celebrity first, then later author

Fay: How do you THINK i feel?

Fay: not great.

Fay:  I mean I really hate those celebrity tie-in books like Kardashian Konfidential or that Justin Beiber biog (excellent quote: “if you’re after the world’s most narcissistic yearbook, this is your new bicycle”)

Fay:I mean they’re just using the book as a medium to sucker small children into parting with their hard earned cash

Steven:  you know what i loved? how in the trailer for the j bieb movie mr voice over man says, and i quote, “they said he would never make it…”


Fay:  Not Usher, certainly

Steven:  anyway, i somewhat disagree with you


Steven:  if a celebritay wants to write somethin WHY NOT! it’s not like the book is some all hallowed thing that you need to hold up and only allow certain people to do. it’s not like there’s an exam you have to pass to become a writer and nor SHOULD there be. celebrity writers are not DEVALUING anything, they’re just adding another, questionable maybe but still, book to the enormous world of books

Steven: yo

Fay:  I think they ARE devaluing something!

Steven:  what?


Fay:  They are devaluing the work of people who spend time and effort and skill in the production of a book

Steven: how though?

Steven:  they’re not held up to the same level so why does that matter

Fay:  The Kardashians are all like ‘lalala we should write a book’ and then they pop out some lame quotes, get it ghost written and TADA a kid buys that instead of some quality literature

Steven:  mr booker is not going to choose kardashian konfidential for his book prize

Fay:  But it is a COMPETITION

Steven:  but it’s NOT one or the other

Fay:  Capitalism I mean

Fay: People go into a store intending to buy a single book, and they waste it on, not even a bad one, one that barely qualifies

Steven:  look, people are not going to choose between a kardashian book and dostoevsky

Steven:  anyway, diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks is what i’m getting at

Steven: (i don’t know what that means)

Fay:  Yeah but they might have bought something better, with a real narrative arc or character building and imagination and some not celebrity person getting money that they probably could put to better use

Steven:  alright we’re going to have to agree to disagree, but i think that those books and, say, the sisters brothers (only $19.99!) have completely different purposes, and that’s fine

Steven:  and THAT my friends is a wrap

Steven: a chat wrap

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Guest Chatz on Sat(urday)

Fay: Hello Jess!

Jess: helloo Fay!

Jess: what’s new up your end of the world?

Fay: Do you mean this end of the desk? Not much, it smells like pesto because I just had lunch.

Fay: Would you like to introduce yourself to our dear readers?

Jess: I would love to Fay. My name is Jess, and I am currently a student at the King David School. And apart from loving books, that is the extent of my life at the moment. Boring, I know!

Fay: Nice.

Fay: Everyone, that took her like ten minutes

Fay: So Jess and I were both at the Elliot Perlman event the other night and we got talking about author talks.

Fay: Actually no wait, we’ll start how we always start.

Fay: What are you reading at the moment?

Jess: How appropriate that you mention Elliot Perlman Fay, because I am currently reading his newest novel, The Street Sweeper. How long did that take me Fay?

Fay: And how are you enjoying it, young Jess?

Jess: Well, so far so good. I like how he has interwoven the Holocaust with the Civil Rights movement in America, two subjects that do interest me. So I’m definitely looking forward to going home and reading some more!

Fay: I am not going to talk about 1Q84

Fay: but I am almost finished! and then I am looking forward to reading something short

Fay: like a pamphlet

Fay: or an email.

Fay: SO back to Elliot event, good night right?

Jess: sure was, he was a great speaker. Bu the highlight for me was definitely the tea and cakes at the end. I’m not going to lie, I was eyeing that table for quite some time…

Fay: Mmm kosher cookies!

Fay: Yeah Elliot’s a pretty great speaker, comes from being a barrister maybe?

Fay: And he sure is easy on the old eyes

Fay: Not like he’s attractive to old people

Fay: Like

Fay: He’s handsome, and I’m bad at expressing myself

Jess: wow fay, thanks for clearing that up for us, because to be entirely honest I wasn’t really sure where you were going with that….

Fay: He probably is also attractive to old people?

Jess: maybe we should move on?

Fay: Good idea!
Fay: So what other exciting authors have you been to see?

Jess: Most recently I have been to see Jonathan Safran Foer, courtesy of the Wheeler Centre. He was AMAZING! A nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn…

Jess: I bet his yiddishe grandma is so proud of him!

Fay: Nah, he should probably quit that writing nonsense and be a doctor or lawyer

Jess: Well for my sake I’d hope not! He spoke very eloquently. And he sure is easy on the old eyes! (See what I did there Fay?).

Fay: Shut up!

Fay: is he actually though?

Jess: In a nice Jewish boy kind of way, I suppose. But back to his books!

Fay: (I googled him, he’s totally easy on the eyes, old and young!)

Jess: it’s lucky that Foer’s great writing translates into great speaking. he talked about his newest book about vegetarians. and that’s about the extent to which I can tell you about that part of the event.

Jess: but more interestingly however, he gave us a great background to his previous novels Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I highly recommend them! He writes beautifully and his characters are often quirky and clever.

Jess: What about you?

Fay: I’ve actually been let down by authors before.

Fay: One of my favourite children’s authors is Odo Hirsch and I got to hear him speak once. He was really nice, but he was very introspective and quiet

Fay: Which is actually what I love about his stories, but it doesn’t make for great speaking

Fay: luckily it wa a tiny event so we could all sit really close

Jess: I also saw Amos Oz last year! He was awesome. I’m sure he is also easy on the old eyes (cos he’s old)!

Fay: Touche!

Fay: I have also seen….. pretty much no one

Fay: I guess we should go see more people!

Fay: Oh actually I’ve heard Archimede Fusillo speak twice. He’s a young adult author and he’s really fun and lively and chatty

Jess: Archimedes ey? like the dude he sat in the bath and the water went everywhere?

Fay: The very same guy! He was not only a mathematician and physicist but he also wrote a series of popular teen fiction novels!

Fay: And on that note, I think we’ve run out things to say

Fay: Thanks for reading, readers! Catch you next Sat(urday)

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Tournament of Bookcovers

Just a quick one folks! Especially for you Tournament of Book-ers out there. I liked this comparison of American and UK (also the Australian) book covers for ToB. Does it say anything about anything? I don’t know but it sure is pretty!

Update: AAAAAAAAAH Check out the first bracket!!!! 1Q84 is going to SMASH The Last Brother if not on merit then by sheer force of weigh (because it’s long, you guys), The Art of Fielding is going to baseball metaphor Open City, I hope The Sense of an Ending beats that other book I haven’t read because it’s really good. I don’t really have an opinion about the others. I really like State of Wonder but The Sisters Brothers is supposed to be pretty cool too. I think Michael Ondaatje will beat Swamplandia! because, cmon, he’s Michael Ondaatje. And you can’t even get Lightning Rods in Australia.

And also, I am probably completely and utterly wrong about all of this. (Except you definitely can’t get Lightning Rods in Australia.) Check it all out here!

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Happy Friday!

It is the end of the working week, huzzah! Unless you are me.

So what’s been happening at Sunflower this week? I hear you ask. Lots of things!

On Wednesday night we went to the Elliot Perlman event at the Jewish Holocaust Centre and listened to him speak warmly and eloquently. Dominic, their Austrian intern, and I fetched lots of chairs. And then we sold some books! And then Elliot signed them! More on that tomorrow. Not that there’s a whole lot more to be said, but still. In fact when I said ‘lots of things’ I think that was it really.

What else…. I have resolved to stop complaining about the size of 1Q84 so I will just say that I am getting there. I will write a crazy long review when I finish to make up for all my writing. Crazy long to match the CRAZY LENGTH of 1Q84. Sorry. That’s it, I promise.

So today I was working with the charming Vivienne, our newest employee. Have I told you guys about her yet? She’s great! Maybe I’ll get her to post something next week.

We were talking about some people’s aversion to teen books and how it isn’t necessarily fair because great teen fiction can cross into adult fiction just as lots of great fiction can be read by teens. And now I’ll stop saying teens.

For instance, on the longlist of THAT Miles Franklin last year was a novel written by Melina Marchetta, ostensibly written for young people but in fact chosen by judges as some of the best fiction in Australia. Sonya Hartnett was shortlisted the year before, and she is recognised as one of Australia’s best writers.  So take that, teen haters!

On the other hand I think that Geraldine Brooks books tend to flip back well for younger audiences and I won’t say more than that because it would probably turn out mean. I’m not her biggest fan (obvs) but I do think she tells good stories. The Phryne Fisher series is also a great young person idea, I listened to them on tape as a kid and they were fun and exciting and not too racy or scary but full of Melbourne history and murder!

Lots of classics came up too, like Catch 22, Catcher in the Rye, Travels with my Aunt, The Great Gatsby, 1984.

But then you want to be careful too, because no matter how good a reader you are at 14, there are some things that young people shouldn’t have to think about or deal with in too much agonising detail. Like rape and violence and stuff. The most inappropriate book I read as a young teenager was The Bride Stripped Bare and it honestly freaked me out for a while. I don’t know though, I was (and still am) particularly sensitive.

End of rambling! Happy Friday!

Love Fay

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Thoughts on a Thursday

Hi everyone!

It’s just about time for another exciting issue of our newsletter. I’m always asking for feedback or things you’d like to see in it but I never get any. But here I go again! Seriously, we’d love to hear what you like, dislike, want more of, want less of, in our newsletter.

We’re also going to start a series of author interviews on our blog and we were thinking we’d have a standard set of questions (as well as some author specific ones). We’d love to hear your suggestions! What have you always wanted to know from your authors? How they deal with bad reviews? How do they do the actual writing? What was their favourite childhood book? Please help us find out the things you want to know!

Also I am reading 1Q84 by Murakami and it is loooooonnnnng. I would like some moral support please. How do I deal with the spirit crushing weight (and literal weight) that is a 900 page book with really small writing?? I am in super struggle first world problem town.

What else……. I’m sorry I’m really boring. Steven’s out of town and I’m tired and not funny. He will be very unimpressed when he comes back and sees this. Full disclosure: I probably wouldn’t have even written a post today except that our newsletter is about to come out with links to the blog and I didn’t want people’s first experience to be the train-wreck that was the last Chatz on Sat(urday). Not that this is much better. Actually come to think of it, Steven’s going to be away this Saturday. Does anyone want to do the Chatz with me? All you need is some sort of instant chatting ability and an interest in books! Seriously, otherwise I will be chatting alone and it will be depressing. So, kind volunteers, reply to this post or hit me up at with ATTENTION FAY. Internet fame awaits!

Love Fay

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