Tag Archives: jerks


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?
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.


(See also this and this)

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Chatz on Sat(urday) – ToB Stylz

Steven:  Wassuppp

Fay:  Hey ste

Fay: Shall we go through the rigmarole?

Fay: What are you reading this week?

Steven:  WELL mon frere for funsies i am finishing The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips which is FANTASTIC and hopefully when it comes out in paperback we’ll stock the shit out of it

Fay:  I don’t know how I feel about your language

Steven: i feel very good about it, very positive

Steven:  Then not for funsies i am reading don ihde’s bodies in technology and nicolas rasmussen’s picture control for my THESIS in my HONOURS year

Steven: no biggie

Fay:  You’re doing HONOURS? Who knew? In what field?

Steven:  the well known and widely enrolled in and celebrated discipline of history and philosophy of science

Steven: let me tell you when i graduate the jobs will come ROLLING IN

Steven:  what about you bruda?

Fay:  I just finished The Keep by Jennifer Egan and it was excellent! I’m going to order some into the shop. It’s interesting and a bit different and compellingly told just like Goon Squad. She has a real gift for voices, that Egan lady

Steven: especially privileged white voices!

Steven: i kid!

Steven: (but a little)

Fay:  Some of these voices are not so privileged! I think they are all white though

Fay: She won ToB last year right?

Steven:  she sure did fay!

Steven: SEGUE


Steven:  as mentioned yesterday, sense of an ending DEMOLISHED devil all the time

Steven:  and today lightning rods surprisingly CRUSHED Salvage the Bones

Fay:  I was so excited when I woke up yesterday!

Fay:  I got to read some judging on books, some commentary on books and then my favourite won

Fay:  And I don’t know how you get DEMOLISHED from a discussion pointing out the merits and flaws of both books

Steven:  your favourite aka the only one you read?

Fay:  Yup

Fay: But I really liked it

Steven:  well disciples, guess what?  I READ THEM BOTH

Steven: yes you can have it all

Fay: I wish you’d stop calling them disciples

Steven: NEVER

Fay:  So even though I agree with the outcome I disagree with the ToB discussion around the ending of Sense of an Ending. I thought it was perfect for a book that is an understated meditation on memory. NO SPOILERS but I found it NEITHER anti-climactic nor a comment on the nature of twists

Steven:  well for that NO SPOILERS alone you are one better than a certain 2012 Age Short Story competition winner/horrible monster, BRAM PRESSER

Steven: SEGUE

Steven: into the epic tale of betrayal

Fay:  Tell us more!

Steven:  once upon a time, there was a sweet, naive, relatively newly employed bookshop person who was simultaneously handsome and clever

Steven: this certain person, no names or anything, happened to be planning on reading Julian Barnes’s most recent book The Sense of an Ending

Steven: when in walked into the shop, the devil in human form, BRAM ‘UGH’ PRESSER

Steven:  he acted all friendly like sure, we were introduced, and he started up a conversation with our 2nd most presently-in-the-country manager, margaret, about, like, books and stuff

Steven:  he went on for a while in such a manner, lulling me into a false sense of security when B(R)AM! he struck

Steven: and he goes something like ‘yeah and really what happened was SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER MUAHAHAHAHA’

Steven: and then i had an unfortunate sense of the ending

Steven: and now we are enemies, he and i


Fay:  It’s a story for our times

Fay: It’s like Brutus and Peter Pettigrew mixed together

Steven:  it’s like when SPOILER betrayed SPOILER

Fay:  It’s exactly like that

Steven:  the joke being BRAM ‘RESPONSIBLE FOR 9/11?’ PRESSER would have put names there that would RUIN things for people

Steven: also i read the devil all the time!

Fay:  Does that one come with a terrifying yet mesmerising backstory?

Steven:  fortunately for me, no, though those words would pretty accurately describe the book

Steven:  it should have been called DEATH all the time!

Steven:  (though The Devil all the Time gets Steven’s coveted Best-name-of-the-ToB award.  The Sisters Brothers (The BEST Brothers!) gets the worst)

Steven: it’s set in rural backwater Ohio and West Virginia and it is about poor people doing terrible things/having terrible things done to them

Fay:  Wow that sounds like fun reading times

Steven:  it opens with the story of returned WWII soldier Willard Russell giving blood sacrifices in the vain hope of saving his dying wife, then follows several connected characters including a serial killer and his wife, her brother the corrupt sheriff, travelling preachers turned murderers theodore and russell, and most importantly, Willard’s son Arvin, fundamentally a good man but led to violence

Steven: it is a gruesome southern gothic

Steven: and it is well written

Steven: but overall there’s just not enough there

Steven: (though all the characters’ stories do come together in a clever way at the end)

Steven: it’s not a book that sticks with you, and it’s not deep enough

Steven: a pretty good book but not a great book

Fay:  Whereas Sense of an Ending is definitely a great book (to get my foot back in the door of the conversation)

Steven:  sure is!

Fay:  It’s understated and deceptively simple

Steven:  mr. booker distributed his book prize wisely this year

Fay:  and so so beautifully and carefully written

Fay: and real, like with wisdom that can be applied to real life

Fay: as opposed to southern murderers

Fay: also wonderfully quoteable

Fay: (I really liked it)

Steven:  well real life wisdom is hardly the benchmark of a good book

Steven: but yes it was very good

Fay:  no but it makes it stay with you when the other factors are there too

Steven:  and i like the idea of a melancholy reevaluation of the past

Fay: definitely

Fay: good choice, Emma Straub!

Fay: as for today’s match, neither of us have read either book

Steven:  as mentioned earlier on the blog, it’s pretty difficult to get Lightning Rods in australia

Steven: and Salvage the Bones has animal death, which basically means it’s out of bounds for fay and me with our sensitive souls

Steven:  it’s disquallification saves us from having to read it though!

Fay:  I was definitely not reading about dog fighting

Steven:  THOUGH it is meant to be very good!

Fay:  And we have it in!

Fay: So if you’re into animal cruelty, come visit!

Fay: and we’ll report you to PETA

Steven:  (again though, good book)

Steven:  anyway tomorrow we have the VERY BIG 1Q84 up against the very little The Last Brother

Steven: which fay will have some things to say about

Fay:  A conversation I will DOMINATE

Fay: having actually read both books for like the only time in the first round match ups

Steven:  i personally am waiting for the battle between state of wonder and sisters brothers. were it judged by anyoneelse i say the former would be an easy win but i’m hoping wil wheaton’s (better known as this guy) nerditude could let my fave through

Fay: So we’ll see you soon for more ToB fun!

Steven:  ‪so stay safe guys, against my best efforts BRAM ‘POSSIBLE SEX OFFENDER’ PRESSER is still on the streets

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Tournament of Books beginning and Steven’s picks

ImageYou guys it’s started!  Are you excited?  YOU SHOULD BE.  So we’ll chat about the first two days tomorrow don’t fear, but go here to see today’s results.  Yay for The Sense of an Ending (buy it in store!)!  It was the better book (to be discussed tomorrow, complete with THE TALE OF THE VILLAINOUS BRAM ‘AWFUL PERSON’ PRESSER).  And totes in accordance with my as yet only-in-my-brain predictions, to be published… now.

The Sense of an Ending (in store!) will (did) beat The Devil All the Time

Tomorrow Salvage the Bones (in store!) will beat Lightning Rods

1Q84 (in store!) will beat The Last Brother (also in store!)

State of Wonder (possibly in store! If not we’ll totes order it!) will (sadly, not to say that the former isn’t very good) beat The Sisters Brothers (in store!)

Swamplandia! will beat The Cat’s Table (in store!)

I want the Marriage Plot (in store!) to lose the next round so much I CAN TASTE IT but it will probably beat Green Girl

And it will be a tough call, but I’m going to say SURPRISE UPSET that Open City will beat The Art of Fielding (in store!)

And there ya have it folks

I’ll see YOU… on the blog

In other words I won’t see you.


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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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