So, Sunday past we hit the macaroni for our first ever segment on FBi’s Canvas, entitled, rather imaginatively, ‘Even Books on FBi.’ Our host was Jesse Cox and he was super (he was also wearing a great sweater, which those in radio land sadly missed out on). We talked about books and then Jesse interviewed Marieke Hardy for us. Here are some funny things we said:
About our ‘sting’, which is radio speak for some kind of jingle: “AIR HORNS!” *giggles*
Our parties: “Everyone in the room has at least one topic of conversation to conversate about … hence the need for lubrication.”
On pretending we are urban rappers: “We wanted to make the B Club [a literary salon in London] more street, more gutter yknow.”
On one of the smartest women in America: “Tina Fey: a rollicking ride.”
One thing you should probably never suggest on a book club segment: “If you can’t be bothered to read, watch YouTube instead.”
A phrase Virginia Woolf has probably never heard used in relation to her work: “Sensorial zest.”
And some excellent things Marieke Hardy said about her book, You’ll be Sorry When I’m Dead:
On stories like the one that takes place in a Swinger’s Club: “They’re not sexy-sex, Nikki Gemmell stories…”
On baring all: “There’s more raw honesty than dick jokes.”
On allowing those mentioned an unedited ‘right-of-reply’: “That felt like the braver part of the book. Letting go of the reins.”
On the ‘real’ Marieke: “For funny stories, there is a point where you have to be a caricature.”
On her highschool zine: “We nearly broke the photocopier in the library with Sex Bus!”
We unfortunately didn’t get to ask her about season two of her black comedy TV series Laid, which is in-production. If we did, we hope she would’ve said this: “Your box set is in the mail.”
You can listen to the on-demand stream here.
And as for some books we’d like to recommend? On air, we only touched on a few. Ok, two, to be exact. But here are a few more, in random order. Don’t like random? Just you wait till we are such mega-gods of radio and book reviews that we put them in Dewey Decimal AND alphabetical order. Then you’ll be sorry.
Bossypants (Tina Fey) - A spiky blend of humour, introspection and critical thinking from one of the most beloved comedy writers of our time. Pretty much non-stop zingers. You’d have to have been in hiding not to have noticed all the press about it a few months back.
There but for the is by Scottish writer Ali Smith, a lady who looks a little bit like a friendly goblin. It’s about a man called Miles who attends a dinner party and then halfway through, as the hostess torches the crème brulees, disappears into the spare room and refuses to come out. He leaves a note: Fine for water but will need food soon. Vegetarian, as you know. Thank you for your patience. The hosts kind of seem like assholes but still, it’s hard to know what anyone would be like in that situation. They find a random number in his phone book of a lady called Anna who he’d known, barely, twenty years before, so they call her and ask her to come help coax him out. It becomes about how one event can fuse together many stories, which is an Ali Smith trademark. Her Hotel World is about how various women – a maid, a ghost, an eccentric hostel visitor, a homeless lady – are brought together over one night. The Accidental is about one family’s very hot sticky summer spent in the country, and an accidental house guest they acquire, and how she turns all their lives upside down. Smith is a deft and beautiful writer, given to gusts of sensory perceptions and Madeline cake moments – one bite leading to pages of memories and thoughts. You can see a lot of Virginia Woolf in her style, which is very vivid. There but for the came out 2011. (AB)
The Life (Malcolm Knox) tells the story of Dennis Keith (DK), a 58 year old former surf champion who now suffers from OCD and lives with his mum in her nursing home, too fat to sit on a surfboard let alone stand on one. He’s a fictional character, but quite heavily based on real world surf champion Michael Peterson, a famously volatile surfer who was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. It’s a story of self destructive genius, and it’s also a great snapshot of Australia at a particular time, when seaside towns changed under the hands of developers.
People can’t help but compare it to Tim Winton’s Breath, but in stark contrast to Winton’s ornate descriptions of ‘men dancing upon waves’, The Life is written in the language of the line-up: ‘I done this’, ‘yous done that’.
The story is told in the third person and then the first, jumps around between past and present, is crammed with half-sentences, broken sentences, with repetition and colloquialisms. At first everything feels a bit wrong: too choppy, too abrupt, but after a while you go with it, stop noticing, and the words take you somewhere else. A bit like when you first try reading Irvine Welsh. Highly recommended. (AF)
Revolutionary Road is a novel by Richard Yates and is thought of by many as an American classic. It follows the marital breakdown of April and Frank Wheeler, and by extension the breakdown of the American Dream. In the movie directed by Sam Mendes the pair are played by Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio, who are both appropriately attractive and troubled (also, Titanic 2.0!). It has been described as American Beauty circa 1955 and it certainly shares some themes: the disillusionment with the suburban idyll, a vitriolic but also somehow loving marriage, a generation of children who suffer as a by-product of their parent’s decisions. The only problem I had with it was that Yates seemed to dislike his own female character, April – she was beautiful but ultimately not understood. It was very much a man’s tale. Still, fifty years later, it remains a searing and prescient portrait of an America in decline. (AB)
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) is one of the classics I’m embarrassed to have never got around to reading, and the reason I’m finally doing it now is that I can’t stand to read the book after I’ve seen the film (and I do really want to see the film). So I began with a resigned ‘this will be good for me’ sigh. But happily, I’m just loving it to death. The incorruptible Ms Eyre herself isn’t in the least bit annoying, the conversations between characters are often profound and frankly it’s making me want to be a more clean-living, virtuous person. (AF)
Curse of the Wolf Girl is the follow up to Lonely Werewolf Girl, both by Scottish writer Martin Millar, who looks more like a grumpy elf. While rather silly, it’s lots of fun. The heroine is a snarly but beautiful werewolf warrior called Kalix, and it’s all about her and her messed up royal werewolf family, plus some fire elementals obsessed with fashion, and an overweight or maladjusted human or two. Neil Gaiman rates Millar’s work and so do I. (AB)
I will also admit to this week buying the first instalment in the Game of Thrones saga by fantasy heavyweight George R.R. Martin. And so bid adieu to any spare time I may have had over the next two centuries or so. (AB)
And I’m looking forward to reading A Spectacle of Dust, Pete Postlethwaite’s autobiography, not just because he had a “face like a f-ing stone archway”. (AF)
That’s it! Tune in next time for a back-to-back recitation of James Joyce’s Ulysses, in Dutch-Swahili.
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