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Bram Presser

Bram Presser

Episode 30 – Author’s Choice

Bram Presser

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This episode I am joined by lapsed lawyer, recovering academic, semi-reformed punk rocker, and now writer and stay-at-home dad, Bram Presser.

Bram’s writing has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Award Winning Australian Writing, The Sleepers Almanac and Higher Arc. His 2017 debut novel, The Book of Dirt, won the 2018 Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction in the US National Jewish Book Awards, the 2018 Voss Literary Prize and three awards in the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards: the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and The People’s Choice Award.

 
 We talk about our love of browsing bookstores, Bram’s journey to writing a novel, writing a personal history as fiction and of course, we pair some delicious things to some fabulous books!
 
The pairings:  

The Door by Magda Szabo

A busy young writer struggling to cope with domestic chores, hires a housekeeper recommended by a friend. The housekeeper’s reputation is one built on dependable efficiency, though she is something of an oddity. Stubborn, foul-mouthed and with a flagrant disregard for her employer’s opinions she may even be crazy. She allows no-one to set foot inside her house; she masks herself with a veil and is equally guarded about her personal life. And yet Emerence is revered as much as she is feared. As the story progresses her energy and passion to help becomes clear, extinguishing any doubts arising out of her bizarre behaviour. A stylishly told tale which recounts a strange relationship built up over 20 years between a writer and her housekeeper. After an unpromising and caustic start benign feelings develop and ultimately the writer benefits from what becomes an inseparable relationship. Simultaneously we learn Emerence’s tragic past which is revealed in snapshots throughout the book. 

Bram called this the most beautiful book he has ever read, a modern classic, and a beautiful meditation on dignity and how we imagine people to be. To pair with the interesting and complex character of Emerence he suggests a classic Borscht with sour cream and a traditional Pilsner Urquell. 

The Curfew by Jesse Ball

 William and Molly lead a life of small pleasures, riddles at the kitchen table, and games of string and orange peels. All around them a city rages with war. When the uprising began, William’s wife was taken, leaving him alone with their young daughter. They keep their heads down and try to remain unnoticed as police patrol the streets, enforcing a curfew and arresting citizens. But when an old friend seeks William out, claiming to know what happened to his wife, William must risk everything. He ventures out after dark, and young Molly is left to play, reconstructing his dangerous voyage, his past, and their future.

 Bram called Jesse Ball the most exciting writer out of America right now and highly recommends this totalitarian dystopia with its surrealist and strangely beautiful experimental writing. The perfect pairing for Bram is a Corpse Reviver, made with absinthe, gin, cointreau, lillet and lemon juice … ooooof! It is weird, subtle, warm, sweetly discombobulating with a kick!

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

Three women in their seventies reunite for one last, life-changing weekend in the beach house of their late friend. The four women have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank, and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three.

They are Jude, a once-famous restaurateur; Wendy, an acclaimed public intellectual; and Adele, a renowned actress now mostly out of work. Struggling to recall exactly why they’ve remained close all these years, the grieving women gather at Sylvie’s old beach house–not for festivities this time, but to clean it out before it is sold. Can they survive together without her? Frustrations build and painful memories press in. Fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface–and threatens to sweep away their friendship for good.

Justine says: This is a gently written, yet sharp look at relationships, growing old, the secrets we keep from others and the lies that we tell ourselves. I read it in a weekend and whilst the ending bothered me somewhat – because it didn’t tie everything up with a bow – I like that it’s an ending which continues, because these women continue. And the only thing that I could possibly pair with this book would be sparkling wine – given this book is set in NSW, a lovely local Hunter Valley sparkling, sharp and dry just like these women, yet made in the traditional method so with hints of cream and a fullness and body to it and of course it is to be guzzled with gusto amongst friends. 

 

 

This episode of Literary Elixirs was recorded via Zoom, please forgive any minor technical glitches!   

Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.        

 

Michael Earp

Michael Earp

Episode 28 – Author’s choice

Michael Earp

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This episode I am joined by bookseller and writer Michael Earp.

Michael Earp is the editor of Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories and contributor to Underdog: #LoveOzYA Short Stories. He has a teaching degree and a Masters in children’s literature and has worked between bookselling and publishing for over seventeen years as a children’s literature specialist. His writing has also appeared in The Victorian Writer and Aurealis.

We chat about recommending books, writing for young adults and of course, we pair some great reads with delicious things!
 
The pairings:
 
Identical twin sisters Summer and Winter live alone on a remote island, sheltered from a destroyed world. They survive on rations stockpiled by their father and spend their days deep in their mother’s collection of classic literature—until a mysterious stranger upends their carefully constructed reality.
At first, Edward is a welcome distraction. But who is he really, and why has he come? As love blooms and the world stops spinning, the secrets of the girls’ past begin to unravel and escape is the only option.
Michael asked his YA bookclub what they would pair with this book, but he didn’t like their answer and went with Scones with Peach Jam as he says of this book ‘It’s incredible how much can pivot on a scone …’
 

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

A fabulous recipe made in the book is Spatchcock chicken baked in duck fat with sourdough bread and Michael really started thinking about the sour in sourdough!

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

The 1989 Danvers Falcons are on an unaccountable winning streak. Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza, whose bleached blond “Claw” sees and knows all, the DHS Falcons prove to be as wily and original as their North of Boston ancestors, flaunting society’s stale notions of femininity in order to find their glorious true selves through the crucible of team sport. 

This novel is a paean to the 80’s with big hair and Emilio Estevez the order of the day and it’s narrated collectively by all 11 players which is not a perspective I can remember ever reading before. Teen witchcraft slash field hockey is not immediately a genre which I would normally be drawn towards, and yet I knew I would love this book from the moment when the team members pledge themselves to the forces of eternal darkness by signing their names into a spiral notebook with Emilio Estevez’s face on it. I too remember the 80’s and my love for Emilio will never die.

This is such a fun, whimsical and yet fairly dark book but its strength lies in its portrayal of the difficulties of being a teenage girl in the 80’s, as well as the ways in which the 80’s weren’t exactly the best time for girls, let alone people of colour or queer people. And its darkness is really the darkness at the heart of all of us, but most especially teenagers. They are cruel, they are mean but they are also loyal and they love hard It was a joy to read and the ending surprised me.

There is a scene where one of the players, Abby, is eating a raw beetroot on a bus as the girls all talk about sex, her lips are getting stained this blood red and with the witchiness and Halloween references in this I did think about pairing it with a Blood Beetroot Cocktail – which is beetroot lemonade, Aperol and Prosecco but regardless of whatever drink you have I think you’d want to be eating a pizza, your favourite pizza whatever that might be, as long as it’s not too fancy but is oily and cheesy and tasty, it’s what the team would want you to do so that’s what I will pair with this book:

A Blood Beetroot Cocktail and your favourite pizza!

 

This episode of Literary Elixirs was recorded via Zoom, please forgive any minor technical glitches!   

Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.        

 

Jane Rawson

Jane Rawson

Episode 27 – Author’s choice

Jane Rawson

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This episode I am joined by award-winning Australian author and environmentalist Jane Rawson.
 
Formerly editor of the environment and energy section of The Conversation, she now works for the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, writing about nature conservation, and is also the co-founder of Read Tasmania. She likes cats, quiet, minimal capitalisation, and finding out that everything is going to be OK … don’t we all!
 
Jane is the author of two novels, a novella and co-authored a nonfiction guide to surviving climate change. Her stories and essays have been published in the Guardian, Lithub, Meanjin, Overland, Review of Australian Fiction, Kill Your Darlings and Australian Book Review and in 2017 she won the Aurealis Award for best science fiction for her novel From The Wreck.
 
The pairings:
Winner of the 2020 The Australian/Vogels Literary Award
 
There is a woman, somewhere, here, in Van Diemen’s Land, unless she had died or otherwise departed, called Maryanne Maginn. Gabriel Fox, the young son of an old English house, arrives in a land both ancient and new. Drawn by the promise of his heart’s desire, and compelled to distance himself from pain at home, Gabriel begins his quest into Van Diemen’s Land. His guide, a cannibal who is not all he seems, leads him north where Gabriel might free himself of his distracting burden and seek the woman he must find. As Gabriel traverses this wild country, he uncovers new truths buried within his own memory.
 
For this Tasmanian setting written by a Tasmanian author, Jane suggested a Tasmanian wallaby stew, made with a Tassie Pinot of course, and whilst waiting for it to cook – ever so slowly – a Poltergeist Unfilterd Gin and tonic.
 
 
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
 
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die. Of course, some things are better left dead.
 
Everywhere I look by Helen Garner
Spanning fifteen years of work, Everywhere I Look is a book full of unexpected moments, sudden shafts of light, piercing intuition, flashes of anger and incidental humour. It takes us from backstage at the ballet to the trial of a woman for the murder of her newborn baby. It moves effortlessly from the significance of moving house to the pleasure of re-reading Pride and Prejudice.
This book is just filled with gorgeous little nuggets of observation and is so beautifully written. It doesn’t need to be read as a whole but is easy to dip in and out of.
 
I would pair it with a crisp, dry riesling and some perfectly fresh and crunchy salted or pickled cucumber sandwiches.

 

This episode of Literary Elixirs was recorded via Zoom, please forgive any minor technical glitches!   

Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.        

 

Christine Gordon

Christine Gordon

Episode 26 – Bookseller’s choice

Christine Gordon

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This episode I am joined by Christine Gordon, Programming Manager of one of Melbourne’s favourite independent bookshops.

Christine has been Programming Manager at Readings for over a decade and considers it the best job in Australia! She was one of the founding members of the Stella Prize, sits on the Readings Foundation board and has been a judge on various literary awards. She is passionate about Australian literature and ensuring that reading continues to allow endless possibilities for everyone.

We discuss Chris’s most delicious moment working at Readings, the origin story of the Stella prize, her top tip for recommending books and of course, we pair some fabulous books with tasty treats!

The pairings:

The Spill by Imbi Neeme

Winner of the 2019 Penguin Literary Prize

In 1982, a car overturns on a remote West Australian road. Nobody is hurt, but the impact is felt for decades.

Nicole and Samantha Cooper both remember the summer day when their mother, Tina, lost control of their car – but not in quite the same way. It is only after Tina’s death, almost four decades later, that the sisters are forced to reckon with the repercussions of the crash. Nicole, after years of aimless drifting, has finally found love, and yet can’t quite commit. And Samantha is hiding something that might just tear apart the life she’s worked so hard to build for herself.

Chris suggested room temperature Chardonnay and a frozen ham would pair perfectly with this book … and she thinks the author would agree!

 

State Highway One by Sam Coley

Winner of the 2017 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers

It’s been years since Alex was in New Zealand, and years since he spent any one-on-one time with his twin sister, Amy. When they lose their parents in a shock accident it seems like the perfect time to reconnect as siblings. To reconnect with this country they call ‘home’.
As they journey the length of State Highway One, they will scratch at wounds that have never healed – and Alex will be forced to reckon with what coming home really means.

Room temp again but beer or vodka this time with a burger – no veggies in sight – is Chris’s pairing with this heartbreaking novel.

 

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Luc O’Donnell’s rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc is in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating.

Justine thinks brunch and a peach Bellini would be the perfect pairing for this light, bright, fizzy romp of a tale!

 
 

This episode of Literary Elixirs was recorded via Zoom, please forgive any minor technical glitches!   

Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.