The 7 Deadly Sins of Naming Your Novel

The Porn Lite novel Fifty Shade 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

2. Incongreuous

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  William  Faulkner  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

The First Rule of Book Club. The sex discussed in Book Club stays in Book Club.

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.

How many American Idiots does it take to change a light bulb? Guess!

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.

It’s the End of the World. Again.

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 HEREIt’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.

Trump’s America renamed MELAND

When my book  MELAND was published in 2013, I didn’t realise that I was predicting Trump’s win. Here is an extract from the book. Also look at the cover (below). It says it all. Who do you think is waving the ME flag now?

The Me-Me mindset swamped mainstream culture when political parties abandoned trying to build a better society in favour of ‘building a better you’. In his article, ‘Blahspeak’ in the London Review of Books , Stefan Collini commented, ‘Politicians of all parties are committed to giving the aspirational society more of what it is thought to aspire to’. Today, just over 50 years after JFK’s Ask-Not-What-Your-Country-Can-Do-For-You 1961 inaugural address, politicians seduce voters with the What-We-(if-elected)-Will-Do-for-You! Promises. Moreover, voters expect fiscal lerv to be spread their way with every election, every budget, every bailout, and every cutback.

meland-cover-large

Why should I care if some in our culture choose to believe they are ‘the most significant Pole Star in their own universe’? I care because their egocentric ways are having a significant impact on me and mine, you and yours and on our culture. The first 12-year-old to turn up at a Grade 6 Graduation wearing make up, a designer frock and professionally-styled hair in a chauffeur-driven stretch limo with snakeskin seat covers puts pressure on all parents of Grade 6 students. At first we are shocked by the crass ostentation of it all and then we get used to it. This is Ostentation Creep and I strongly object to our culture turning into a mindless Look-at-Me Fest. I more-than strongly object to the Hollywoodification of our culture and the Red Carpet Strutting Celebration of Mediocrity (Grade 6 students don’t even have to know their times tables to graduate):

Now I shout it from the highest hill,

I am truly over this ego overkill!!

(These lines could be sung to the tune of Secret Love performed by Doris Day in Calamity Jane, 1954.)

The problem with MeLanders is there is no WE in their vocabulary. No country. No community. No neighbourhood. Parents, who provide stretch limos for their 12-year-olds aren’t thinking about other–perhaps, less fortunate–parents of students at the school whose income can’t stretch to limos. MeLanders don’t think about anyone else. They don’t acknowledge anyone sitting beside them in a theatre or near them in a restaurant. They park on pedestrian crossings; they talk on their mobile phones doing one-handed U-turns from kerbside parking spaces; they don’t even believe anyone has the right to drive a car at the speed limit in front of them in traffic; they tailgate the car ahead. ‘Get outa my way! I’m in a hurry.’

The concept of co-operative living (or driving) has hardly been embraced in the West. I could tut-tut and point the finger-of-scorn at our contempt for the extended family, the high divorce rates and the increasing number of us choosing to live alone, but co-operative living barely exists within the family itself these days. Spread around the house in their own rooms with their own TVs and computers and eating meals at different times, family members lead separate parallel lives, each isolated in their own Me-World.

Read more here. Yeah! Yeah! It’s Amazon. Authors are funny like that.

Forget the Plebiscite! Scrap the Marriage Act.

I wrote this for Independent Australia. The Sex-Life Stasi actually exist. And, unfortunately, they are after Same Sex couples too. See the end of the article for an update.

Did we get lost on the way home from the Sexual Revolution? The answer has to be ‘Yes’. Here we are merrily working our way into a new millennium and the government is still acting like some prim regulatory great aunt tut-tutting on and on about personal relationships. Isn’t it time we dumped the Marriage Act?

Let’s start with the same-sex marriage kerfuffle. I totally understand why couples of any gender combination would want regulatory acknowledgement and kinship rights. But do not imagine for one minute that all Gays, Lesbians and others not included in the previous categories will vote for same sex marriage if the plebiscite ever manages to limp into voting booths in Australia. And here are the reasons why?

The young same-sex couples will, I suspect, want legal acknowledgement and all the romance and glamour of a wedding. But once the certificate has been signed, the cake cut, the confetti swept up and the wedding dress or outfit stowed and turning stale with age, the idea of being legally married loses its gloss. Imagine we’ve leapt over our coy electoral reluctance and you belong to a same sex couple now legally married and about to apply for a pension. Currently, two Gay males living together will receive two single pensions. This amounts to, currently, $797.90 each a fortnight. If that couple marries when they apply for a pension they will receive $601.50 each a fortnight. Even the most dedicated Gay Rights activist has to consider self-interest when the end-of-earning-life stage is just over the horizon. Each of those extra dollars counts. Ditto for unemployment benefits. The current payment to a single citizen without children is $578.20 per fortnight. But a partnered citizen with no children – note the Department of Human Services wording – is entitled to only $477.70 a fortnight. That’s 100 bucks each less a fortnight. When you are counting pennies 100 dollars counts.
Some pension-aged married heterosexual couples have tried to separate by dubious means – say, using a false address – to get those extra dollars. And they could, if found out, end up in front of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and be asked to give the overpayment back. But this is not the end of such indignities.

plebiscite-for-dummies
We have Common Law marriages in Australia. A Common Law marriage – once called a defacto relationship – applies to couples who are living together and present to family and friends as a married couple. Currently, the Gay couple above may* never be questioned on their married status even if they lived together and therefore they are entitled to the full pension or unemployment benefits. But once the Same Sex Marriage Act is introduced they will be living in a Common Law marriage and therefore only eligible for a married couples pension or dole. It gets worse.

If that couple owns two houses the situation edges into the murky mud of a legal quagmire. If they share the same main address they are deemed to be a Common Law couple then that second house should be subject to Land Tax. Why should only married couples pay Land Tax on a second property? So our government is really interested in how many sleeps you have at your partner’s house as this might turn you into a Common Law married couple. And how many sleeps a week is that? Is this what we want? A government that insists on knowing how many sleeps we have with our partners? Do we really want the Sex-Life Stasi snooping around our lives?

Currently, many heterosexual couples are in this legally dicy limbo. These are the post-divorce couples with two houses and sleep overs. The Australian Institute of Family Studies calls them LATs. (Living Apart Togethers) There are, at the last count, 1.1 million LATs in Australian. And the Tax Office is interested in their relationship. Are they a Common Law couple? Do they claim the single pension rate? Should they pay Land Tax on the second house? There is another alarming legal time-bomb for this post-divorce-with-sleepovers heterosexual couple. If one partner dies the other partner’s offspring can make a claim on the deceased’s will regarding assets, super, whatever.

Meanwhile, the current Marriage Act is making fools of all heterosexual couples and it has been doing so for years. We go to the chapel or park or beach or wherever to sign a legal document we have never read. What are your legal obligations when you sign that marriage certificate? I think most of us haven’t got a clue.

We should scrap the Marriage Act. All individuals should receive the same legal rights regarding financial benefits. The government can produce a standard marriage contract and couples of any gender can opt in. Or couples can draw up their own private contract. Many already use a binding Pre-Nuptial Agreement, but it mostly applies to financial arrangements. This contract should spell out all obligations. Finances will be shared in this way. This marriage will be one which, hopefully, produces and raises children. Or not. Young women today can end up in Common Law relationships or even legal marriages assuming that they will have children, but as soon as she hears the loud ticking of the biological clock and puts pressure on him, he’s outa there. I’ve known women in this situation. She’s made assumptions that weren’t in his contract. Even a clause stipulating that children will be reared in Australia might help clarify intent.

When going to the chapel, or wherever, is not the time to read the contract, but it should be in writing and carefully read before the big day. We might be fools in love, but if we scrap the Marriage Act and use private marriage contracts and make entitlements equal for every Australian citizen, living together or not, at least, when we marry we know our legal obligations and the government won’t become the Sex-Life Stasi making fools of us all.

*I have corrected the article to read ‘may never’ instead of ‘would never’ because I have found out that the Sex-Life Stasi do, indeed, investigate the relationship status of same-sex couples even though there is, currently, no proof of that relationship in the form of a marriage certificate. A Facebook status, maybe. From 1 July 2009 changes to social security and family assistance legislation mean that all couples are recognised, regardless of the gender of a partner. And be warned, your family and friends can be called as witnesses in front of the Administrative appeals Tribunal. So, currently, Australia has the hypocritical stance that self-declaring Same Sex couples will be recognised as a Common Law couple and, where applicable, paid less benefits, but they cannot legally marry.