I’m not always reading. I wrote a piece for Meanjin about this. I also gave anecdotes to the ABC about self-doubt recently. I answered these questions for Hobart’s Weekend of Reading festival last year. Dig.
Q: What is a book that everyone should read?
Maus by Art Spiegalman. It’s a graphic novel about the holocaust by the cartoonist who used to do the Garbage Pail Kids trading cards from the 1980s. It teaches you about everything that is relevant in our modern world – in case you need some perspective – which you probably do (no offence).
Q: If you could save one book in a fire, what would it be?
My original pressing of Grug and the Rainbow. Ted Prior made only five copies with an actual rainbow inside. That guy is next level.
Q: What are you currently reading?
The blurbs of several books in my friends’ bookcase including Extinction. Seriously, who would read a book that’s all internal monologue and no paragraphs (sorry Tom Doig x). Gee you ‘readers’ are suckers for punishment. I got the Karl Ove Knausgaard cookbook and it was 1000 pages of his memories of soup. I don’t read so many books these days but I do like settling into middle age by enjoying the weekend papers.
Want more fun? I delivered further witted insights about my bookish behaviour to Brunswick Bound here. I read out my grade seven diary in the seventh episode of the Get Up Mum radio series. What have you!
“On my bed is a new pillow case and matching doona cover which has lots of crazy padded squares in green and white and pink paisley. I have a dark brown wood veneer bedhead with bedside table and three drawers attached. On the bedside table is an old style silver reading lamp and my ‘P’Jammer’ clock radio that used to be Mum’s. There’s also my new Korg guitar tuner and the book Michael and the Secret War which I have to finish and return to the library by next week. I’m really enjoying it.
It’s about a boy whose mirror cracks and from then on his life is in turmoil. Strange creatures come and visit him and he unintentionally gives them his help. He gets messages from the ‘enemy’ asking him to stop helping. In the end he helps the friends to win the secret war. I reckon I’ll give it nine out of ten.”
Taken from the first draft of Get Up Mum.
MY REVIEW FOR ONE OF THE LAST THINGS I READ:
KENNETH COOK’S WAKE IN FRIGHT
204 pages – feels like a short read.
School teacher goes on a dark bender in an Australian desert town.
Mood: Hot, dark and claustrophobic. The hazy mash of inebriation. Trapped in a car with foul men. Face to face with a stabbed kangaroo.
Best sentence: Things half remembered and terribly feared, shrieked at him; tears of mystic terror rimmed his eyes.
Original review: “A classic novel which became a classic film. The Outback without the sentimental bulldust. Australia without the sugar coating.” Robert Drewe
Funfact: A keen amateur lepidopterist, Cook established the first butterfly farm in Australia on the banks of Sydney’s Hawkesbury River in the 1970s.
Best Australianism: “What the blazes…”
Suggested food pairings: Overdone steak from a hot bonnet. Lashing of cold beer.
SOME OF THE BEST BOOKS I CAN REMEMBER READING
A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius // Dave Eggers (Came through the uni magazine pigeon hole when I was twenty and basically influenced how I write.)
Space Demons // Gillian Rubinstein (Came through the primary school library pigeon hole and took me inside an Amstrad and influenced how I problem solve.)
A Confederacy Of Dunces // John Kennedy Toole (Gotta be the funniest book I’ve ever read. Cannot look at a hotdog.)
Lolly Scramble // Tony Martin (Followed closely by Sir Tone. Fab book cover!)
On Chesil Beach // Ian McEwan
Freedom // Jonathan Franzen
He was like the new Eggers for me.
I Never Promised You A Rose Garden // Hannah Green (A brill book about schizophrenia which was always sitting mysteriously on the bookshelf at Nan & Pop’s. The girl on the cover gave me my biggest ethereal crush since The Childlike Empress.)
Life After God // Douglas Coupland (Catherine Duniam recommended this. I cried massively at one point. One of those big ones that taps into your locked up late 20s melancholy.)
Maus // Art Spiegelman (Similarly. That last page panel reduced me to liquid form. It didn’t help that the girl in it was called Anja.)
The Sense Of An Ending // Julian Barnes
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time // Mark Haddon
1984 // George Orwell (A documentary, non?)
Lolita // Vladimir Nabokov (I did think at the time it was the best written book I’d ever read.)
Bridge To Terebithia // Katherine Paterson (Also one of the last books I had read to me. There was much talk at Parklands High School about how much Miss Stones cried when she got up to that bit.)
The Journey // John Mardsen (Read to us by Ms Moore in Grade Nine. She refused to vocalise the infamous ‘barn scene’ and said we had to read pages 57-59 ourselves. Incidentally, I absolutely dug the Tomorrow When The War Began series but forgot to read the last one and now I can’t remember what happened. Shit.)
Chronicles, Volume One // Bob Dylan
The Big Sleep // Raymond Chandler (A lovely gift! I really dig the writing style. Probably my favourite book cover.)
Tess of the d’Urbevilles // Thomas Hardy (Did I enjoy it? They made us read it in high school. Essay hint: The weather reflects her outlook.)
To Kill a Mockingbird // Harper Lee (yessum)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close // Jonathan Safran Foer
Grug and the Rainbow // Ted Prior (A metaphor for…everything.)
Strawberry Hills Forever // Vanessa Berry (My favourite Australian author and retro-genius. Seek out her recent output!)
The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories // Etgar Keret (A very funny, clever dude. Recommended to me by Vanessa.)
Honourable mentions to Christopher Pike, Anna Krien, J.D. Salinger, Enid Blyton, Nicole Krauss, the Fighting Fantasy series & David Foster Wallace (Mainly for his essay Ticket To The Fair in which the greatest writer of our time reviews the US equivalent of the Burnie Show.)
Last book I technically read? Maybe The Circle by Dave Eggers. I thought it was fine. Or Follyfoot Farm by Monica Dickens as part of my Get Up Mum research (Mum always had it lying around). Research also included Where’s Morning Gone by Barney Roberts, the only other memoir I know set in the north-west coast of Tasmania. I remember it was a big deal for Nan and Pop in the late 1980s. Someone had come along and painted their childhood.
Hey, I’m not the only one not reading!
(Taken from Guardian interview with Etgar Keret 2019):
What’s the last really great book that you read?
I’m usually honest in my writing and less honest in interviews, but I can tell you that for the past year, I didn’t read any book, which is the first time since I went to first grade.
Why was that?
My wife and I were working on a very demanding TV series, a project that demanded relocation and that we direct in French, when we don’t speak French, so all in all it was a very overwhelming experience. It took a lot of my inner space.
This year, I’ve been doing something that – if we talk about changes in humanity – all humanity’s been doing, but I guess I gave myself a very good alibi. Whenever I wanted to delve into a book, I would go and watch a Netflix series instead; I must say for pure laziness, because I think the big difference between a TV or film and reading a book is that reading a book demands creativity from you, because you need to imagine things and you need to create them in your mind. And I felt so drained at the end of the day that I wanted somebody else to think out how the characters look.
As a child, were you a keen reader?
From the moment I started writing, I read less. I think reading was a way of widening the world in which I lived, and that the moment I started writing I found a different way to widen it. So I would alternate between writing such a reality or reading such a reality.
what are you lookin’ at 🙂