There has been a momentous vote in Australia this year. To celebrate I rewrote this Christmas Carol Classic!
I nearly overdosed on Melbourne as you will see. But worth every minute. Here is the article I wrote for Independent Australia. You will find all the links to the various events here. I was a guest at TEDx Melbourne.
One day last week I overdosed on Melbourne: 17 Tedx Melbourne talks and performances at the conference centre, South Wharf, and then 1 0 The Moth Melbourne open mic stories hosted by comedian Cal Wilson at the North Melbourne Town Hall. Throw in some single-origin coffee, boutique tea, smashed ava, mini-chirizo burgers, wine in tumblers and whinging about the weather and I experienced that singularity moment, Melbourne’s unique edgy, bookish, intellectual, artsy vibe condensed into one day.
Spasming vaginas, erotic IQ, buying drugs on the dark web, playing soccer on top of Mt Kilimanjaro. These are parasitic stories that invade your thoughts and colonise your brain. But, of course, I’m getting them all mixed up together when they are quite distinct. The TEDx talks cover the intellectual turf. They promote edgy ideas.
The theme this year was Rebels, Revolutionaries and us and criminologist Dr James Martin put a convincing case that buying drugs on the dark web improves safety. It’s a sort of eBAY for ecstasy with supplier ratings and product returns. Laura Young organsied 60 women from 25 nationalities to play soccer on top of Mt Kilimanjaro. My favourites were architect Mond Qu who invented an island off Mexico and now has it recognised by Wikipedia with maps and pics. That’s Fake Geography, I guess, and Lisa Leong the rapping, ABC DJ corporate lawyer, who wants to make lawyers less robotic. Fake optimism, perhaps.
The Moth open mic sessions, which have been popular in the states for some years, delivers personal – very personal – stories. Participants tell true stories from their lives in 5 minutes. Could you imagine standing in front of an audience talking about discovering you had a spasming vagina via awkward moments dating through Tinder? Then there was the girl who dated boys always waiting for her kiss-bliss moment to discover she was, happily, a ‘massive’ Lesbian. Is The Moth a platform for over sharing or authenticity?
I asked one participant what she gained from the experience. She had suffered a break down, driving for Uber while she recovered. ‘It’s a sort of therapy’ she explained. So telling your story to people who listen is, perhaps, the therapy you need when you are not having therapy.
My fascination with these two events is linked to an interest in starting a deeper conversation. Four years ago I started a Salon with a psychologist friend, Dr Doris Brett. We called it the Sybils’ Salon after the Sybils who had wisdom and insight and predate Plato. We devised some questions and asked 10 strangers to share their stories in a non-judgmental, non-competitive space. That’s when the magic happened. Women who hardly knew each other dropped their usual defenses and told stories, wonderful, hilarious, sad, heroic stories about their lives. Energy filled the room and the buzz remained with all of us for hours. Indeed, research is now showing that connecting through face-to-face conversation is as good for our physical self as it is for our psyche.
Meanwhile, research by University of Arizona psychologist, Matthias Mehl, found that people who engaged in deep conversations, rather than endless small talk about the weather or TV shows, rated higher for happiness and life satisfaction. You know how much weather small talk we do in Melbourne. If it’s not the weather, it’s football. Melbourne, we need to go deeper. Ditto the rest of Australia.
But how do you start a conversation? The TEDx Melbourne talks will be posted online. The Moth sessions are continuing in Brunswick. Or you could try one of the openers from the Sybils’ Salon. These questions get taken home and raised around dinner tables and even ten year olds have chimed in. A sample question, for instance, is: ‘The Fairy Godmother is able to make it to your birth, has remembered to bring her magic wand and can bestow upon you one gift and one gift only. It can be a talent, a life circumstance or anything you choose. What will it be?’
Ask someone today, even a ten year old, you might be surprised at the answer.
The Porn Lite novel Fifty Shades of Grey unleashed a flood of books parodying the title. My favourite was about men’s sheds called, naturally, Fifty Sheds of Grey. Even in those genres considered more worthy – neither Fifty Shades nor Sheds of Grey will appear on the school curriculum – novel titles often follow a trend.
So here are 7 of the most recent and annoying novel title trends along with a few titles to avoid:
1. Curious and Cute
The Curious and Cute Title genre problably started way back with The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. So ethereal. So ‘don’t know really what it means, do you?’. Now we are over run with incidents, cute or curious or both.
The Curious Tail of the Dog in the Night
The Lost Time Incidentals
The City of Elevators
The Fault in Our Stairs
The Ministry of Utmost Incompetence
This genre takes two nouns that have nothing to do with each other and slams them together to garner interest, I guess. Grapes of Wrath by Jonh Steinbeck is an early contender. Eventhough the term ‘grapes of wrath’ comes from a line in The Battle Hymn of the Republic it still makes no sense even as a metaphor. Grapes just don’t conjure wrath-like images. Angels, God, emperors or armies might do the trick. But not grapes or gooseberries or cumquats.
The Gladioli and the Squid
Of Mice and Menopause
Milk and Sticky Stuff that Isn’t Honey
3. Three Small Awkward Words
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and more recently Big Little Lies by Liane Moriaty all fall into, what is now, a definite title genre. Other names to avoid include:
Small Big Headaches
Damn Long Forks
Joy Lick Boots
4. Things especially Lost Things
We started losing things way back when, according to Milton, we carelessly lost the big one in Paradise Lost. Reading Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time lost a great deal of time for readers of the seven volumes. Since then we have lost cities (eg. The Lost City of Z by David Gran), lost innocence all over the place (There are many such titles) and lost lots and lots of children. (eg. The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante). But mostly, it seems, we just lose things. eg. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan or things are structurally unreliable. eg. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
The Irrelevance of Small Things
Where the Wild Things Get Their Haircuts
When bad things happen to people who don’t expect bad things to happen
5. Wives and Daughters
When Amy Tan was out of joy and luck, she turned to daughters in The Bonesetter’s Daughter. If the bonesetter stuffed up, then The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates knew her dad had work to do. But it is the wives of Senators, Shoemakers, Soldiers, Saddlemakers, Railwaymen, Prisoners, Poets and Lighthouse Keepers, who are long suffering. Obviously, women still cannot live i nteresting lives of their own and are made interesting by their husbands form of employment. Really? Here are some titles to avoid:
The Axegrinder’s Daughter
The Clairvoyant’s Wife (He knew. Why did he marry her?)
The Ex-Husbands New Wife (See bad things happen above)
The Daughter who would not listen to the Preacher’s Wife
6. The Man
From The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway to A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt to the Man with the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming there have been plenty of reasons why a man should tie up his man-bun, go to his man cave and settle down for a good read of his ‘man’ book. Anytime now we might see the following on the book shelves:
The Man with the Annal Itch
A Man Called Inkblot
The Man with the Golden Gut
A Man for All Seasonings (It will be a cookbook)
7. The Girl
The Lost Girl by D. H. Lawrence gave literary weight to the book with ‘girl’ in the title. The Girl in the Title! That could be a literary book title today, but ‘the girl in the’ title genre has been done to death. eg.Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
The girl on the train wasn’t even a girl. She was an over thirty, misrable, dysfunctional alcoholic. The book should have been titled ‘Girl on a Train Goes into Rehab’. Nevertheless I bellieve the following titles are still available:
The Girl with the Turkey Tattoo
Girl with the Green Moustache
The Girl with the Glowing Eyes (Really, it was just blue screen reflection)
Other Titles Currently Available:
All That I Could Hum
The Crack in the Big Thing
The Light Below the Other Big Thing
D is for D’Oh!
The Spy who came in for Mother’s Day
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for Someone Who Gave a Sh**
The Budgies of War
On Her Majesty’s Silver Service
Billionairres are for Bonking
The End of the Thing that I Should Never Have Started
Sex sells books. And I’ve made a study of the sex that sells books. There are two types. Firstly, there are the Boys’ Own Adventure Stories. In these Blockbuster books with embossed gold author’s name above the title, a name which should leap out at you in the airport bookshop shouting ‘buy me, I’m a big, ballsy, blockbuster adventure book. Sshhhhhh!’ That is the sound of testosterone eminating from the hero’s armpits. These books are generally written by blokes for blokes and offer a peep show view of a well-packaged Male Sex Fantasy. In a Boys’ Own Adventure Blockbuster our hero has sensational sex on the second page with, perhaps, a stunningly beautiful nurse in a bi-plane over the trenches in France in the First World War to the accompaniment of a battlefield soundtrack. The sex takes one paragraph before he ressumes his testostrone-feuled life -threatening but heroic adventure, which continues at a clipping pace until his next rapid-fire sexual encounter, probably with a besotted milk-maid in a barn near where his bi-plane recently crashed. This could istart with a hand job. Those milk maids do have rare talents.
Meanwhile, in the Girls’ Own Romance Novel, aimed obviously at the chic-lit aficionado, the Female Sex Fantasy ambles aimlessly over many pages. Our hero and heroine meet in the first chapter and are then tragically separated for the next 17 chapters. They finally meet again in chapter 18, declare their true love and have sex in an historical setting, perhaps in an old castle that our hero, The Earl of Essex, recently inherited among his many estates. But they don’t just jump onto each other’s bones. The sexual tension must build until the air is fraught with anticipation. There will be a small break in the middle of Chapter 18 for a sensual meal with flowing wine, furtive glances and a searing accidental contact of, say, his finger tips brushing her, um, wrist. When the shagging finally takes place it will be in an historical four-poster bed and the process from the first kiss to the Halluhejah chorus will take an entire chapter.
This is, of course, my take on the genres. But I am grateful to Judith Newman for throwing more light on Male vs Female literary sexual fantasies. In her article, Dear Book Club: It’s You, Not Me (MAY 11, 2017) in the New York Times, she told the story of one couples Book Club that came to grief following a discussion of the sex in Cormac McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses.” According to book club member Elizabeth St. Clair, a lawyer, “the main character is staying in a bunkhouse, and over the course of several nights a gorgeous strange woman comes to his bed and has sex with him. The men in the group thought this was the most romantic thing ever — dark, anonymous sex with no consequences.” The men in the book club thought this was a very romantic scenario.
The women just roared laughing. ‘Guffawing’ was the term used. No woman, they argued, would turn up to have anonymous sex in the dark with a man they couldn’t see. Was he old? Was he diseased? Does he smell? Was he a psychopath? Moreover, he was in a remote cabin, in a bunk bed. Are you joking? This is not going to happen. Apparently, the men were offended. Arguments ensued. St Clair suggested this set the seed for the end of her relationship.
So there it is. Enjoy reading your blockbuster novel. But try to remember the first Rule of Book Club. The sex discussed in Book Club, stays in Book Club. Or you might find yourself very lonely tonight.
There is one notable difference between Aussie idiots and American morons.
In Australia it has become, in recent times, something of a traditon for some on Australia Day, to drink from Fosters tinnies, don thongs and an Aussie flag – worn, often, instead of a t-shirt and celebrate our nationhood by doing donuts in a ‘pretty boy’ – that is immaculate and brightly coloured – ute with an Aussie flag fluttering from the radio aerial. The rest of the nation do tend to think they are idiots. But there is, however, one big difference between Aussie idiots and American morons that makes us proud. (See below)
Gun Ownership rates:
According to Fortune Magazine ‘there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S’ or 17% of the population. According to a 2016 Gallup Poll 39% of households in the USA have guns.
According to Gun Policy.org 6.2% of Australian households have guns.
How many American Idiots does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one with good aim.
There’s an energy crisis in Australia today. I hate to say ‘I told you so’. Actually, I really, really enjoy telling you I told you so. Here is the article I wrote on this topic in 2008. My main point was DON’T LISTEN TO THE POLITICIANS. WE NEED A RELIABLE POWER SUPPLY.
The end of the world is coming to Melbourne. Again. In the 1959 film, On the Beach, Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner waited in Melbourne to die from radiation poisoning. Now, according to friends, life as we know it will end soon for us. Let me explain. I hang out with engineers. They’re strange folk. I’m married to one so I know. They do calculations in their heads. My beloved, HRH, doesn’t yell at us to ‘turn off the lights’. He lectures us on how many mega watts will be consumed over a 20-year period. The family tends to turn lights off just to shut him up.
My friends and some esteemed institutions are hot and bothered about power outages. Summer has been hellishly hot. Power consumption hit a record in Victoria on the 10th January. It was, admittedly, a 40 degree scorcher, but schools and many businesses were shut. In the meantime, folks are rushing out and buying air conditioners. But each new swishing, hissing unit adds a burden to the system.
There’s no power crisis claims Rob Hulls while advising Victorians to turn off air conditioners. There’s no power shortage say suppliers while explaining recent blackouts as problems with individual electricity companies. You can believe them or do the maths yourself. Victoria has a supply capacity of around 10 million kilowatts. Let’s assume Melbourne has 1 million households-a conservative figure- and that we all want to be cool, which we do. If every household installs a mid-range 10 kilowatt unit, at peak demand, air conditioners alone will use up our State’s full power supply capacity.
READ MORE HERE: It’s the End of the World. Again
Here is an earlier, more light hearted peice I wrote for the Canberra Times in 2006.
READ HERE: It’s the End of the World. Take 1.