Tag Archives: Steven

Miles Franklin longlist

Oh yeah ASIDE from ToB stuff some less interesting things have happened today in the land of books, most importantly the announcement of the longlist for the Miles Franklin Award for Australian fiction.  Here it is bellow fellas:

Blood – Tony Birch
The Spirit of Progress – Steven Carroll
Spirit House – Mark Dapin
The Precipice – Virginia Duigan
All That I Am – Anna Funder
Sarah Thornhill – Kate Grenville
Five Bells – Gail Jones
Autumn Laing – Alex Miller
Cold Light – Frank Moorhouse
Past the Shallows – Favel Parrett
The Street Sweeper – Elliot Perlman
Animal People – Charlotte Wood

Aaand that’s that.  As you can see Fay’s bffl Elliot Perlman is on there so, you know, good for him.  And everyone else too!  After last year’s controversies on how the judges were sexist pricks the pressure for them not to be this year was PALPABLE.  And so it’s a pretty equal list.  Especially for white people!

And that’s all I have to say about that.  Most of these books we have in stock, the ones that we don’t we can order, call me back when the short list comes out.

Fay: Yay for equality! Though may I remind you that last year’s longlist was pretty even too, the shortlist is where they weed out the ladies. I am personally excited for Favel Parret who has a cool name and had written a completely beautiful first novel that flew kind of under the radar until the indies. And, of course, our Elliot.

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Steven: Well Fay, your favourite/the worst book of the tournament is out.  HOW DOES IT FEEL?  Look, this isn’t a chatz format, let the readership know that I wrote these arguments in advance giving Fay PLENTY OF TIME to rebut.  (Fay: while Steven has more time to research, as referenced by his prodigious referencing.) But I hope the truth shines through and that EUGENIDESTRUCTION 2012 is a resounding success.  Allow me to begin with the most glaring fault, Madeleine.  As one of the three central characters, probably the one with the most pages devoted to her, you’d expect her to be more than just a hollow, agency-less shell right?  Noooope.  Madeleine is boring.  Here is what we know about her: she’s preppy, she likes order and neatness but ALSO she secretly loves the punishment of disorder.  Aaaand that’s as far as her depth goes.  To quote Hmgillispie in the ToB comments, “Madeleine has no personality except for her views on literature”.  Amen brudah, and something a number of people seem to have picked up on.  What I’ve seen mentioned a bit in the ToB comments and elsewhere is that the people who like Madeleine either associate her with themselves, or someone they know, thus filling in the gaps in her character.  Fay, if I may be so bold to suggest that you may well fit into this category.  In addition!  Name one thing that Madeleine does in the book that isn’t about either Mitchell or Leonard OH WAIT YOU CAN’T.  Oh sorry, she goes to a conference and decides to study post-grad Victorian literature WHOA SLOW DOWN THERE EUGENIDES!  Throughout the book, all of her actions are precipitated by one of these two men.  She goes to Cape Cod to be with Leonard, and then… actually I’m just going to paste this same argument from a discussion here by Nika Knight at Full Stop: “Even when she scandalizes her mother by moving in with her boyfriend, she’s just following him to a place where she has no job and no goals and no friends. Even when ending her marriage, she does so by acquiescence”.

Fay: Ok let me jump in here for a second. This is a complaint I’ve heard a lot and I think it is by people being thoroughly uncreative and unrealistic. Madeleine is not a Mary Sue! She’s kind of wry, but not particularly funny. She’s pretty  enough to make life easier but is not defined by her looks. She’s smart, but not a genius and not confident enough to voice her thoughts in class. [Steven: So far you’re only kinda ADDING to the boring thing] Quiet you! She’s glad that someone else says ‘Barthes’ first so she doesn’t embarrass herself. You know what that sounds like to me (ok other than me [except for the pretty part], I’ll give you that [Steven: Ha!])? A REAL PERSON. Real people aren’t all stunningly and interestingly characterised, they’re ok at stuff, and nervous and unsure sometimes. [Steven: Agreed!  I’m not asking to read a book about perfect people (if I was I’d just write my autobiography HEYOOO) because that would be boring.  My complaint isn’t that she’s not perfect but that she’s boring.  So all this would be fine as a basis for the character!  But there is no development or journey, no change or transformation.  She stays that way through the whole book, and that’s not enough to make an interesting character.]

And yes, she doesn’t do a lot by herself. May I remind you the book is called The Marriage Plot? It’s a take on the freaking Victorian marriage plot and if Madeleine was full of agency and practical ideas about where her life was going she wouldn’t be at the centre of this book. [Steven: Well, first things first, it’s meant to be a late modern take on the marriage plot which takes feminism into account.  It seems that part was forgotten by Eugenides.  ADDITIONALLY, if the book didn’t remind you every 10 seconds (look here’s the name of a book, aren’t YOU clever) it would just be taken as a good ol’ fashioned love triangle.  FURTHERMORE that’s not what I’m saying.  I’m not saying she has to know everything but I am saying that Eugenides short shrifts her.  I can’t say I’ve read any marriage plot books but I assume the women at their centre aren’t simply the pawns of everyone else for the entire book?  EVEN FURTHER she’s not really at the centre of the book.  It starts as hers but really ends as Mitchell’s, which emphasises all the more her lack of agency.  The book ends, once again, in her simple aquiescence] She follows Leonard because she doesn’t know what else to do with herself. Again, REAL PEOPLE may totally finish college and be at  a loss and grab onto whatever is going rather than go back to live their parents’ house. The uncertainty of the newly graduated is part of the setting of this book and why it works the way it does. Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell are all on the edge of something, moving from a day-to-day life full of literary debate and beatnik one-upmanship into a world where they are suddenly expected to know what to do and how to do it. Madeleine doesn’t, and that’s precisely the point. And who hasn’t clung onto a love affair hoping to recapture their initial feeling? Why does everyone find Madeleine so hard to deal with? To me she is completely real and perhaps fairly ordinary but that is precisely the point.

Steven: Mitchell and Leonard, on the other hand, have a lot more going on.  More depth goes into Mitchell’s idolisation of Madeleine than goes into her character.  Mitchell and Leonard both have Stuff Going On, as well as character development.  Leonard is the most interesting of the three, suffering from bipolar disorder he is either a manic force of nature, bringing joy and excitement into Madeleine’s (and others’) life (until it inevitably goes too far) or he is helpless and demure, in need of Madeleine’s attention.  Both of these states are vividly detailed, and a lot more of Leonard’s personality shines through than Madeleine’s (oh no, she just doesn’t have one).  Mitchell too is more interesting.  Though I found him a whiny, annoying jerk who needs to shut up always (which further says something about Madeleine).  Admittedly THAT last complaint is a personal taste thing.  But let me tell you if there is one thing I don’t want to read about it’s people backpacking in Europe/India.  Actually, that was another thing.  That section was too disjointed from the narrative.  I found in the (roughly) last third everything became a bit too loose and messy, in an unsatisfying way.

Fay: Again, DISAGREE. I found the backpacking section another example of a real person being lost that rang true. The romance of the adventure compared to the realities of being lonely and confused and quite literally lost is something that most travellers will be able to identify with. Especially the scene at the start with Mitchell’s friend ditching him for his annoying girlfriend. I also found it particular interesting as a period piece, a time when backpacking meant being constantly disconnected from everything you knew. Mitchell’s isolation is highlighted by all the letters sent and not sent. And I thought the looseness was again indicative of mental state. Mitchell is isolated and confused, stringing his experiences together in the hope of finding some religious or spiritual meaning. I thought the writing conveyed that really well. [Steven: All of that, MAYBE!  Not caring about white people backpacking and despairing is clearly a personal thing.  But you haven’t addressed its disjointed-ness from the rest of the book.] Ok, maybe because I didn’t find it so disjointed really.  This is a post-college self definining story and it fits in perfectly, as well as being a common experience, with that theme.  Mitchell, who seems to have everything going for him tries to physically distance himself from everything in an attempt to define HIMSELF rather than fall into a path defined for him. Each character spends a lot of the novel feeling profoundly alone, Mitchell just happens to experience this physically as well. It worked for me. Furthermore while I agree with your liking the intensity of the Leonard section, may I controversially say that I found him and not Mitchell to be the annoying one.

Steven: The first third of the book was pretty orright!  I like college/university stories, probably because THAT’S WHERE I LIVE! and I particularly like wanky theories and such because THAT’S WHAT I DO!  So the bits at Brown were fun, where there was still the potential for Madeleine to become not boring.

Fay: Me too! It inspired me to go out and buy a copy of A Lover’s Discourse by Barthes (which I now know how to pronounce correctly) from the one and only Sunflower Bookshop! Buy books there now! I honestly think that you may have liked it more if you had finished uni and were trying to make your life work in the real world. That’s where I live. It is confusing and scary and you don’t always know where to go or what to do. And you’re not the smartest person or the most beautiful person or the most creative person [Steven: speak for yourself! Fay: I saw that coming the second I wrote that.] so you just see what comes along and go where it will take you. Eugenides captures this perfectly [Steven: I will accept this!  But unfortunately that’s not all the book’s about].

So the verdict? We must agree to disagree! Agree or disagree with us Agree with Steven in the comments.

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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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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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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)

Fay: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2102638/Ecstatic-Amanda-Knox-celebrates-lucrative-book-deal-new-man-James-Terrano.html?ITO=google_news_rss_feed

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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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: http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/PWxyz/2012/01/24/the-5-books-that-inspire-the-most-tattoos/
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!

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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


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

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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!

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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.

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