2014: Secondary Stars and Other Satellites

on Friday, December 19, 2014

Of the measly 160-odd books I read this year (I'm still going - don't want to tap out just yet), 79 came from the cold, distant past. You know, 2013 and those forgotten years that preceded it. A few of the books were pretty damn excellent and, had I read them in the year they were actually published, I'm sure they would have been contenders for end of year honours. Then again, had I read the ones that came out before I was born in the year they were published, I'd have seriously screwed up the space/time continuum. You can thank me later. Or earlier. Mind blown.

A Meal In Winter - Hubert Mingarelli (2013). Sparse, piercing and entirely gripping, this story of two war-weary Nazis sent to find a Jew in the forest was in the top 3 books I read this year. Sure to set your moral compass spinning wildly out of control, it is an absolute masterpiece in miniature.

Christ's Entry Into Brussels - Dimitri Verhulst (2011) I've always liked Verhuslt - his sense of the absurd is second to none and he is not afraid to shove something sharp and pointy into the neck of our collective stupidity. This novel is by far his most enjoyable; an hilarious excoriation of our celebrity/religion/consumer obsessed society. The whole city goes into conniptions when word leaks out that Jesus is back and he's coming to Brussels. Yep, as crazy as it sounds.

Visitation - Jenny Erpenbeck (2008). A dense, difficult fable centred around a small town and the fate of its various denizens during the Holocaust. Kind of in the vein of Aharon Appelfeld - the horror lurks mostly in the background - it is an incredible portrait of a decimated Europe. Oh, and the writing is just sublime.

The Graveyard - Marek Hlasko (1956) A crushing portrait of life in Communist Poland, The Graveyard tells of a hapless factory worker systematically destroyed by the faceless powers that be after he drunkenly abuses a policeman. And you thought Kafka could kill you with bureaucracy!

Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death - Otto Dov Kulka (2013) A bit of a departure for me, this isn't a novel but rather a survivor's deeply philosophical account of his time in the Czech Family Camp, a small sector of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp. To my mind it ranks up there with the very best of them - think Primo Levi, Eli Wiesel or Viktor Frankl.

Special Mentions to The Property by Rutu Modan, Underwater Welder by Jeff Lamire, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang and In The Orchard, The Swallows by Peter Hobbs.


Holy paintballs there were some amazing book designs this year. Much like the vinyl resurgence in music, it's clear that publishers are giving a lot more thought to the book as physical object so that readers want to own them instead of just downloading some crappy digitised simulacrum. To that end, three books really stood out. Haruki Murakami's The Strange Library was a gorgeous experiment - the marriage of art and words. To my mind it was far better than the other overhyped thing he published this year. My other two standouts are more conventional in their format but they were just so beautiful that I had to have them on my shelves. So props to Jane Rawson for A Wrong Turn At The Office of Unmade Lists (also, best title of the year) and Wittgenstein's Nephew by Lars Iyer. Also, a quick nod to the beauties that were Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball, Wolf In White Van by John Darnielle, Leaving The Sea by Ben Marcus and The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.


Alright, I officially give up on trying to make Top 10 lists when it comes to music. Sure, 2014 might not have been the greatest year but there were still a bunch of top notch standouts and it would be unfair to jettison them for the sake of some End of Year OCD. And yes there were some absolute stinkers from the likes of Steel Panther, The Pixies and Pennywise, but they were more than made up for by these great specimens of sound:

21. The Orwells - Disgraceland
20. Morning Glory - War Psalms
19. Hostage Calm - Die On Stage
18. The Copyrights - Report
17. Cheap Girls - Famous Graves
16. Shihad - FVEY
15. Smith Street Band - Throw Me In The River
14. Andrew Jackson Jihad - Christmas Island
13. Lagwagon - Hang
12. Linkin Park - The Hunting Party (Yes, I'm embarrassed to admit this, but it is really good)
11. The Shell Corporation - Mandrake

And for the top 10 (oh well, OCD wins out in the end):

10. Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In The End. Maybe it was the return of Ric Ocasek, maybe my defences have been battered down by the cavalcade of mediocrity since The Green Album but somehow Weezer managed to pull out something that doesn't disgrace their name. In fact, it's rather excellent. Catchy buzz pop at its geeky best.

9. Kaiser Chiefs - Education, Educatiom, Education & War. So get this - a band I've never really cared for puts out a concept album (something I've also never cared for) about the drudgery of work (about which, you guessed it, I really don't care for) and it turns out to be an absolute stunner. There's hope for Kasabian yet. Just kidding.

8. White Lung - Deep Fantasy. I've never understood why these girls (and guy) continue to fly under the radar. Fast, gutsy, fun and ferocious. Twenty something of the best minutes you'll spend with your ears.

7. RX Bandits - Gemini, Her Majesty. After a long hiatus these guys storm back with what I'd say is their second best album ever. Dreamy punk reggae as it's supposed to be done. Stargazer is a serious contender for song of the year.

6. Mastodon - Once More Round The Sun. Yeah, yeah, I'm ridiculously late to board this particular ship but I'll happily swim behind if I must because this is the most ball-crunchingly, monstrous punch in the ear I've had the pleasure of experiencing in a long time. The melodies are stupidly catchy despite the incredible density of everything else going on around them. Seriously, this album made me want to go wrestle bears.

5. Johnny Marr - Playland. While Morrisey was busy being a total douchebag, his old Smiths bandmate quietly dropped a masterpiece of guitar pop. Simple, great songs played with heart and vigour. And humility.

4. World/Inferno Friendship Society - This Packed Funeral. Gogol Bordello might get all the attention when it comes to folk punk, but these guys have been bashing it out just as long and arguably more consistently. Never before have they reached this level of madcap artistry though - a concept album based around the funeral of a woman who reminded me a great deal of Cabaret's Elsie from Chelsea. A dark, celebratory symphony.

3. A tie. Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World and ANTEMASQUE - ANTEMASQUE. I know this is cheating but I love these albums equally and for the same reason. Thumpingly good dirty garage rock from gods of the alt-punk scene. Granted, Omar and Cedric could fart in a jar and I'd think it was a masterpiece but seeing them edge away from the more chaotic style of their former bands was a pure joy to behold. And as for DFA, well who'd have thought they would up the ante like this? Two truly exceptional records.

2. Dragonforce - Maximum Overload. Three albums and one singer after THAT song, Dragonforce have finally come into their own with this orgy of speed metal excess. My fist was in the air so much that I hardly had time to reach down and pick my jaw off the floor. Technical brilliance backed with perfect song writing, this is quite simply the most enjoyable album of the year.

1. PUP - PUP. I can't remember the last time I was this exited by a new band. Listening to PUP feels an awful lot like the time I first heard Guns N' Roses in 1987 or Nirvana in 1991. In other words, a game changer for my music life. Abrasive, jangled, buzzsaw pop genius, this is the best album of the last 5 years, hands down.

2014: A Short List of Lists

on Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Ok, so let's see if I still remember how this thing works.

Testing. Testing. Is this on?

To put it mildly, I've been a little slack this year. Heck, I let the whole blog go to the dogs. To be honest, I haven't even read that much. About 160 books. Blah. What's worse, the few books I did read in the second half of 2014 didn't really inspire me to write. Now I'm frantically playing December catch up in the hope of coming out with a half-decent end of year list.

To wit, here's a list of dates on which I intend to post various End of Year Musings. You'll note it's weighted towards the end of the month to give me a chance to do some last minute cramming. Next year, I hope to be back in the full swing of it, but for now here's what you have to look forward to over the next two and a half weeks.

December 19: Secondary Stars and Other Satellites

December 23: The Shelf of Shame

December 27: Best of Bridesmaids

December 29: The Final Countdown

December 31: B4BW Book Of The Year

See you in four days!

The Calm After The Storm: Richard Flanagan Wins The 2014 Booker

on Thursday, October 16, 2014
A collective sigh of relief was heard across Bookeringham Palace yesterday as the invading hordes were chased away by a new Commonwealth literary legend. Ok, so he's not that new and, well, he's from that place what the convicts got shipped to but all hail Sir Richard of Tasmania, Lord of Literature.

It's a bit of a sad indictment on my reading habits this year but I've yet to read The Narrow Road To The Deep North. Indeed, I only managed two on the shortlist - Jacobson and Smith - neither of which I felt deserved to win. Granted it's a subjective game of relativity; I might have liked the other four even less. And, as much as it pains me to admit, it's not like I have any say in the outcome. But I'm glad Flanagan won not only because he's an Aussie (which hopefully means we can stop claiming DBC Pierre) or because giving it to a writer from the Commonwealth preserves the parochial charm of the Booker Prize but because, by all accounts, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is a deeply literary novel, a story of love, hardship and survival on the Thai Burma Railway dying WW2. In other words, Flanagan's win represents a return (albeit perhaps only briefly) to the essence of what has always made the Booker a great prize to follow. It also adds a slightly humorous dimension to his being passed over for this year's Miles Franklin. The Narrow Road To The Deep North is sitting on my bookshelf waiting for the next quiet patch in my life... which means I can look forward to reading it sometime in 2017.

The Found Man: Patrick Modiano wins The Nobel Prize for Literature 2014

on Friday, October 10, 2014
Well, that was unexpected. Following the usual predictive malarky that yearly pits Haruki Murakami against Adonis and, for the really hopeful, Phillip Roth, the Nobel Committee has thrown us one from left field by awarding the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature to French writer Patrick Modiano. I don't think he was even on the betting radar. That said, far from being one of the annoyingly obscure or, worse, token laureates, Modiano is quite the deserving recipient. I've only read a couple of his books (I think only four or five exist in English translation, of which maybe two or three are in print) but they were both excellent - intriguing, challenging, deep but strangely accessible. Like the Academy, I'd go for Missing Person as a starting point. It's a slim but weighty novel in which an amnesiac goes in search of the identity he lost during the war. Modiano really grapples with ideas of identity, guilt, complicity and the like in a way very have done before or since. I'd also recommend Search Warrant/Dora Bruder (same book, published under two titles) which is widely regarded as his masterpiece. A fascinating study into the fate of a missing girl deported to Auschwitz that was triggered by a missing person notice in a wartime magazine, it digs deeply into the soul of Occupied France and, more importantly, Modiano himself.

Guess it's back to the drawing board for the punters amongst you. Here's hoping your favourite lives to go another round!

The Invasion That Wasn't: A Short Word About the Man Booker Shortlist

on Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Well, I may be totally off my game this year but I'm glad to see that Team Booker have landed on a well-balanced, readable but still literary shortlist. Sure, it's not the heavy handed litwank of some previous years but thank the paper gods it ain't Annus Rimingtonus either. Needless to say, the fear of the great American deluge seems, at least this time, to have been unfounded. No Hustvedt. No Powers. Hardly the barnstorming some were expecting. Chins will no doubt still wag - where the hell is David Mitchell? - but what would a Booker year be without some nasty snarking?

So, without further ado, here are the contenders:

To Rise Again At a Decent Hour - Joshua Ferris
J - Howard Jacobson
The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Richard Flanagan
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler
The Lives of Others - Neel Mukherjee
How To Be Both - Ali Smith

The Empire Strikes Back: The Booker Prize Longlist 2014

on Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Rest easy Padawans, Britain has survived the great literary plague. Here is the 2014 Booker Prize long list:

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (Viking)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent's Tail)
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre)
J b Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape)
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound)
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Sceptre)
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee (Chatto & Windus)
Us by David Nicholls (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Dog by Joseph O'Neill (Fourth Estate)
Orfeo by Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
How to be Both by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
History of the Rain by Niall Williams (Bloomsbury)

A fair mix of Commonwealth and usurper novels, but a reasonable list overall. I'm particularly excited by the inclusion of Paul Kingsnorth, whose very strange phonetic/Old English novel of the years after 1066 has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of months begging to be picked up. Time to start reading!

Begin the Booker Beguine (Again)

Well, we're just hours away from the announcement of this year's Booker long list and, I can't help but feel, this will be the most hotly debated bunch of books ever. Yep, this year marks the first time that nominees aren't limited to Commonwealth authors but anyone writing in the English language. No doubt you'll recall the big brouhaha when the rules were changed - you'd have been forgiven for thinking the British literary Empire had fallen. Well, we're about to learn how it's going to pan out. Ironically, Team Booker couldn't have chosen a worse (or perhaps better) year to open the floodgates. A quick look at the list of eligible books from just the old Commonwealth countries and I find myself in some sort of book nerd heaven. So many previous winners and nominees have new books - Ian McEwan, David Mitchell, Colm Toibin, Phillip Hensher, Sebastian Barry, Nicola Barker, Damon Galgut, Sarah Waters, Edward St Aubyn... hell, even the new Martin Amis looks promising after a run of complete duds. I can't help but smirk at the misfortune of the also-rans who truly ought to be in contention this year but may well miss out thanks to the former colony with the grating accent. On the other hand, whatever the list, we can safely say that literature from the Commonwealth has never looked quite so bloody healthy.

As for my tips... Hmmm... I'd love to see Jesse Ball, Elimear McBride, Darragh McKeon, Phil Klay and Jenny Offill on the list. I suspect Donna Tartt, Joshua Ferris, Dave Eggars or Peter Mathiessen might get a look in. But when the dust settles I'm betting the prize stays in the Commonwealth for at least one more year and I'd say the guy to do that will be David Mitchell. We'll know if I'm even slightly on target in just a few hours.

In, On and For A Book: My Strange Sojourn Into Eli Glasman's The Boy's Own Manual To Being A Proper Jew

on Wednesday, July 9, 2014
HOLY CRAP. I'M A FICTIONAL CONSTRUCT! Ok, so here's how it went down. A few months back, the lovely folk at Sleepers Publishing sent me a reading copy of the rather peculiarly titled The Boy's Own Manual To Being A Proper Jew by Eli Glasman. I'd known about the book for a while - Glasman is someone I see around the traps; we talk writing, he told me he'd be submitting it for publication and was quite rightly very excited when Sleepers took it on.

Fast forward a little bit and there I was ploughing my way through, doing my best impression of an objective reader, when BAM, I appear. Well, sort of. In the scene where some band called Yidcore plays in the courtyard of Melbourne's Orthodox Jewish boys' school, Yeshivah, it is me jumping up and down with the microphone. For the record, that really did happen. It was a Year 12 Muck Up Day prank. The students got us to come in, set up on the asphalt and start playing during class. Kids of all ages started streaming out and before we knew it, classes had been cancelled and there was a crowd of teenage religious kids moshing to a punk band (if only that was the most surreal thing to have happened to us!). Needless to say the scene flew by (it accounts for a single paragraph, but my mum was suitably proud) and I could return to the story. Yes, yes. Enough about me.

This book... what can I say? It's good. Really good. Sure, it's always difficult to read a friend objectively but I am genetically averse to lying, even to friends so when I say I liked it, I really mean it. And not just because of THAT paragraph. From the outset it's clear that Glasman is a talented writer - he's witty, daring and full of heart. The book, about an orthodox Jewish boy in Melbourne coming to terms with his homosexuality, is told with a degree of depth and compassion that ought not be in the wheel house of someone so young. And with Glasman having grown up in the orthodox community, the book also has a level of insight that greatly exceeds anything the casual observer might be able to perceive. There's very little soapboxing - the question of homosexuality in orthodox Judaism is handled without judgement or cheap philosophising. Rather, the full complexity is drawn out in a way that leaves all involved in a dignified space without having to have sacrificed their values or positions. It is a very generous, open and positive portrayal of both young gay men and orthodox Jews.

Leaving aside the flattery of being made into a fictional character, I really recommend Glasman's book. And if you won't take my word for it, just check out the raves on the back cover... Oh... Suddenly, I'm trying to be Shteyngart. How very meta.

2014: The Mid-Year Report

on Monday, June 30, 2014
Chalk it up to a crippling case of blog burn-out following 2013's ridiculous "Review Every Book I Read" challenge. Or it might have been the all-consuming insanity of the Melbourne Jewish Writers' Festival. Or maybe it's just that I've had to slow down a bit on the reading to make time for my own writing. Yep, for those of you who don't already know, I've jumped out of the frying pan of literary criticism (and, hopefully, witticism) and into the fire. I'm writing a novel. What's more, I've signed with my absolutely favourite publisher, Text Publishing who, assuming I can meet a deadline, will be throwing my labour of love to the wolf pit of arseholes like me (aka readers/reviewers/bloggers/firestarters) some time next year. Whatever the cause, it's been a slow year on Bait For Bookworms. I know. But I haven't forgotten you, my dear fellow LitNerds. There's plenty I want to say. Heck, I've still managed 92 books in the first six months. And though I only reviewed a fraction of them, some were pretty excellent. Viz:

Books Of The Year
What can I say? Jesse Ball just keeps getting better and his latest novel, Silence Once Begun, was the first, and remains the best, thing I have had the joy of reading in 2014. That's not to say there weren't some pretty close contenders. And the fact that David Grossman was the only other familiar name in my list makes it all the more exciting. His novel in dramatic/poetic form, Falling Out Of Time, was a masterpiece of grief, introspection, rage and regeneration. Then there's An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alammedine which bowled me over with its humour, wisdom and litnerd appeal. Jenny Offill renewed my belief in the beauty of ordinary love with her masterpiece in miniature, The Dept. of Speculation, while Hanya Yanagihara shocked me to my moral core with her dense, harrowing and intellectually challenging debut The People Of The Trees. Michel Laub's multi-layered meditation on memory, Diary of the Fall was another highlight, as was the best prison novel I've read in years, The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld. And mad props to the batshit crazy Look Who's Back, in which German daredevil Timur Vermes imagine Hitler's return to modern Germany with hilarious (and rather frightening) results.

Books of Previous Years
Five months after reading it, I'm still haunted by Hubert Mingarelli's fantastic little book A Meal In Winter, in which a couple of Nazi soldiers sent from their remote outpost to hunt Jews in the forest are faced with an impossible moral choice. Equally complex and powerful was Jenny Erpenbeck's Visitation which could well have been written by one of the European greats in the middle of the twentieth century. I got my first taste of Korean literature with Hwang Sun-Mi's superb Orwellian fable, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly while cult Belgian writer Dmitri Verhulst struck again with his excoriating Christ Comes To Brussels, an hilarious collision of religious obsession, delusion and high comedy. And, in my ever growing attempt to expand my literary horizons, graphic fiction has had a strong showing with Rutu Modan's The Property and Jeff Lamire's Underwater Welder both ending high on my list of favourites.

A Brief Message From My Speakers
I don't usually include music in my mid-year reports but I can't in good conscience ignore the album that has single-handedly got me excited about music again. Canadian abrasive melodic punkers PUP's self-titled album is about as incredible as a debut could ever hope to be. In fact I loved it so much that I didn't download a free torrent but actually dragged my lazy arse to the record store and bought a physical copy. I know. That's crazy talk!

Well, I can't say I know what the rest of this year will bring. I suspect I won't be reading quite as much as I race towards my own deadline, but there's still a bunch of books that have me excited including new ones by Javier Cercas, Aharon Appelfeld, Will Wiles, Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell, Samuel Beckett (ok, so a newly unearthed SB) as well as the rest of Jeff VanderMeer's thus far brilliant Southern Reach Trilogy. I'm also a little late off the mark but hope to get to Pig's Foot by Carlos Acosta, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon and Glow by Ned Beauman. Ah, who am I kidding? I'll be reading just as much. I just won't be sleeping.

Confessions of a Festival Lackey

on Thursday, June 5, 2014
Three days on and I'm finally emerging from the wonderful afterglow of the Melbourne Jewish Writers' Festival. Over a year in the planning, the two days and one night turned out to be everything we'd hoped for and, to lean on a crappy cliche, more. Eighty writers from Melbourne, interstate and overseas, sixty volunteers and over two thousand tickets sold to sessions. Holy gefilte fish... Having been to a fair few literary festivals in my time, mostly as an avid lit lover/sycophant but more recently as a participant, I have to say this ranks up there with the best. I know, humility isn't my strong point. I could babble on about this for days but I've managed to whittle it down to a few highlights:

Favourite Sessions In Which I Did Not Participate
I went to plenty of really great sessions but three really stood out. Rachael Kohn's live video discussion with living legend Irvin Yalom was a scintillating exchange of ideas between two people of towering intellect, passion and talent. It really kicked the first day off with a bang. Peter and Renata Singer's session on the moral lessons a reader can learn from great literature was also a true delight to behold. Both Peter and Renata are amazing thinkers and I greatly appreciated the depth and substance of their perspectives on a whole range of books I already loved but hadn't quite thought of in moral/ethical terms before. Finally, Dara Horn in conversation with Tali Lavi was not only great fun but also gave the audience fantastic insight to the work (and workings) of one of American literature's young guns. Extra credit to Dara who took a punt on coming out to an inaugural festival that might just as well have tanked but, thanks in part to her, did exactly the opposite.

Session I Wished I'd Seen But Got Waylaid As A Panellist In The Other Room
By all accounts the session on Landscapes: The Sense of Place in Literature was unbelievable. No surprises there; the panel consisted of Linda Jaivin, Dara Horn and Maria Tumarkin and was chaired by Tali Lavi. I also would have loved to have seen the session on Trauma with personal fave Arnold Zable, who has worked with refugee communities and bushfire survivors, and Zeruya Shalev who survived a suicide bombing.

Personal Highlight #1
Who doesn't love crapping on about their favourite books? Heck, I've made an entire blog of it. So my session on Forgotten Gems with Arnold Zable and Renata Singer, chaired by former Jewish Museum director Helen Light was a real thrill. Arnold did Bruno Schulz's Street of Crocodiles, Renata did Clarice Lispector's Near To The Wild Heart and I (surprise surprise) did Mr. Theodore Mundstock by Ladislav Fuks. The audience really got into it too, with everyone jumping up to share their favourite 'forgotten' books. Great fun all round.

Personal Highlight #2
The Festival Hub. Whoever came up with the idea of combining the signing area, book store, coffee shop and general mingling space into one large marquee was a genius. There was a constant buzz as authors, volunteers, punters, booksellers and random strangers who happened to be passing by mingled and soaked up the incredible atmosphere.

Also, being behind the scenes, I got a lot of interesting insights into what it means to organise and participate in one of these beasts. Here, then, is a bit of advice for participants or, as I like to think of them:

Five Commandments For Writers At Festivals
1. Thou Shalt Not Be An Egotistical Douchebag. The best part of MJWF was how wonderfully collegial most of the writers were. They hung out, watched one another's sessions, were happy to talk with eager attendees; basically, did everything to give the fest a great vibe. Of course there were a couple who - despite their relative insignificance when held next to some of the other participants - thought themselves above it all. Reverse kudos to one spectacular douche who ruined his session with boring hagiographical arse-licking then had the audacity to castigate the organisers for failing to give him the respect he (and his subject) deserved. Add to that his disgusting rant against one of his fellow panellists who he (wrongly) accused of undermining him before the session. Bad form from a thoroughly average human.
2. Thou Shalt Remember It's A Festival, Not An Academic Conference. Ok, we get it. You're smart. You know a lot about the subject. But this is a fun gathering of like minded book lovers, not some stuffy university snorefest. By all means engage in a deep, intelligent, robust discussion with your fellow panellists, but don't open with a twenty minute exegesis of the minutiae of your area of interest. Wrong place, wrong time.
3. Thou Shalt Not Be An Overt Advertising Robot. You wrote a book? It's just come out? You want to promote it? No shit! That's why you were invited. And yes, a writers' festival is the perfect vehicle in which to do so. But judging by book sales at the event (and there were A LOT of them), the best kind of promotion was simply participating in an engaging way in whatever panel you happen to be on. People will want to read your book if they like you. Unless you are actually launching said book, there's no need to shove it down their throats.
4. Honour Thy Reader. Writing is a lonely, soul destroying pursuit. We don't get the chance to meet other people, let alone those who actually give half a shit about what we do. Therefore, when the opportunity arises, grab it with both hands, dance with it, hump it like an over-excited puppy, do whatever to seize the moment. Readers love chatting with you. They want to meet you. They want to know that you're a human too. They want to bounce their ideas off you, no matter how batshit crazy some of those ideas might be. This is the opposite of Commandment 1. Act accordingly.
5. Thou Shalt Turn Up. The one big disappointment of the festival was the no show of Israeli superstar (and personal favourite of mine) David Grossman. Apparently there was some miscommunication about the day - he thought it was to be Monday night when it was quite clearly scheduled for Sunday. Not throwing blame anywhere, but if you are a participant, make sure you know exactly when your session is booked and do everything humanly possible to be there. Luckily Sally Warhaft, who was supposed to conduct the interview, instead ran an impromptu session on politics and the media which was very well received by the disappointed crowd. Still, my point stands. Know your time. Be there. Of course, if you are likely to break Commandment 1 (and this most certainly doesn't apply to David Grossman who made an honest mistake and felt terrible about the whole debacle), feel free to ignore this one. You are not wanted. Douchebag.

Don't want to end on a sour note, so here are a couple of my favourite pics.

Irvin Yalom in Conversation with Rachael Kohn

The Festival Hub in Full Swing

Post-Session Selfie With Arnold Zable

Yukkin' It Up With Dara Horn

Neurotica Session with Nathan Serry, Kerri Sackville, Eli Glasman and Raphael Brous

It's Funny 'Cos It's Us with former Supreme Court Justice Howard Nathan, Dave Bloutsein and John Safran.

In-Panel Selfie seemed only fitting for a session called Voices From The Cloud: Internet Writing with Lee Kofman and Michael Gawenda

A carefully chosen excerpt from the festival banner...