With 2 new books coming out within the next year I’ve been told by publishers to get onto social media. I found that online SMILING isn’t what it used to be.
Shock! Horror! Outrage!
The NSW Australia Day Council is threatening to publish the Rules of BACKYARD CRICKET on Australia Day, 2018. (Go to: Backyard cricket battle over call for same rules for all, Emily Ritchie, The Australian, 13 JAN, 2018.)
There are no rules. That’s the point.
I wrote a LETTER TO ALLAN BORDER in 1988. This comic story about the crazy make-them-up-as-you-go rules of Backyard Cricket was published in The Age, SMH etc.
Ian (Macca) McNamara read out the letter on Australia All Over, ABC.
LISTEN to Macca read: A LETTER TO ALLAN BORDER (above)
Cricket tends to cause great confusion among novice spectators, recovering alcoholics and Americans. It is, after all, a game where grown men stand around for days looking bored with no balls or madly hug and kiss each other following a duck. As a consequence, I have taken it upon myself to explain cricket to those who wouldn’t know a gibbon from a googly.
I wrote this article in 2010. More on FACEBOOK.
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
I wrote the following article for The Canberra Times (30th May 2012) when Fifty Shades of Grey had reached its zenith. Reading it now, the language seems even more hilarious.
Gird your loins, maybe not your loins, but gird something. Do I have news for you? Porn is the new black. I’m not talking about nasty, tacky or buffoonishly hammy porn but, rather, porn lite or clit lit. Porn Lite falls somewhere between ‘he thrust his (crude bit) into her (crude bit) like a battering ram’ and the lovers-embrace-cut-to-fireworks climax metaphor of the 1950s romance films.
Porn Lite currently dominates the best sellers lists in Australia or, to be accurate, one book dominates but in different editions. It’s called Fifty Shades of Grey. In this Porn Lite novel a young virgin falls under the dastardly spell of a manipulative, young, handsome, sado-masochistic billionaire, as you do. His name is Mr Grey. Meanwhile, pop philosopher, Alain De Botton, has written a book published last week titled How to think more about Sex. His aim is to look at sex from a more ethical perspective. De Botton has also declared his intention to partner in a business venture with skin flick producers to run an ethical porn website to challenge the exploitation and abuse of the porn industry. It is difficult to know what to call ethical porn especially as it will be conflicted from birth. A major undercurrent of erotica swirls around that which is taboo and taboos define a culture’s ethics. While I hope De Botton succeeds in his quest to titillate our moral fibre and debrutalise the porn industry, I suspect ethical pornography might be called Pop Porn.
In the meantime, there is money to be made cranking out, ethical or unethical, Porn Lite. Perhaps, you could have a go at writing the Great Australian Shagathon Novel yourself. There would be a ready market and I’m happy to assist you in your fleshfest quest. The first thing you must do before you venture into writing porn lite is study the genre. I read the first two chapters of Fifty Shades of Grey free online and, frankly, that was all I could take before screaming for Cleo mag’s sealed sex-supplement, which I now realise was of high literary merit.
Here are some pointers I picked up from reading Fifty Shades. Our hero must ‘cock his head’ frequently. Apparently, innuendo or dodgy word usage cannot be avoided when writing Porn Lite. Mr Grey ‘cocked his head’ three times in the first two chapters but remember the purpose of Porn Lite is not, I guess, to deliver good writing, but to service other needs. Mr Grey also dedicates his life to arching his eyebrows, quirking his lips and stroking random objects with his long fingered hand. Let it be said; there is a lot to recommend a long-fingered hand. This is the world where our hero’s eyes blaze, lips curl and brow furrows. You get the picture. Your porn lite stud must be a one-man theatre of exaggerated facial mime. When Mr Grey is unoccupied by mime school antics, he glowers. In fact, I’d say glowering is his specialty as his gaze is penetrating, steady or steely, which coincidently is the name of our heroine.
Our poor heroine, Ms Steele (OMG! If she married him she’d become Steele-Grey. Anastasia, so much like anesthesia, Steele-Grey.) is just a bundle of unwanted twitches, ticks and quaking nerves. She quivers. She trembles. She flushes; she blushes then, one minute later, the blood drains from her face reconvening, I suspect, to mount a renewed surge with next flush. The poor girl is so overwhelmed by Christian’s (I think we can call him by his first name now) tousled hair, wry smile and breath-taking and athletic good looks – he is the epitome of male beauty – her heart fails on several occasions, metaphorically speaking, of course. One factor in her favour is she’s lithe. If she was lumpen, bloated or boney there might be some question marks over her porn contortionist potential.
The popular theme of Porn Lite is, you must have guessed, domination-submission. Now all you need to write you sizzling sex epic is some basic structural details. Pick an era. In a contemporary shagathon sex can take place in an airplane toilet, in a taxi or elevator, on a beach or up against a wall. In an historical bonkorama sex can be staged in a jungle, in a castle, in ruins, in the Captain’s quarters on a galleon, in the cockpit of a biplane, on a tomb or in M’Lords carriage. In a historical context, our heroic bonkers need to be very athletic indeed.
You must choose some appropriately cheesy character names. You cannot go past Fabbio for him although Buck and Ace work too. Our heroine, sweet girl, will be a Hope, Honour, Faith or Charity. A few other pointers: lips must be silky, moist and warm (anything else would be plain macabre), her skin ivory, alabaster or creamy, breasts ample, swollen or (my favourite) magnificent, nipples turgid, tight or tingling, or plain erect, and sex must unite her portal of womanhood with his iron-hard tumescence until they both explode. Now you are fully equipped to write your ground/back breaking Porn Lite novel.
And if you want to spice up your own sex life make sure your brow furrows, eyes blaze and lips curl and don’t forget to, frequently and enthusiastically, cock your head.
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.