BOOK REVIEW: Here Come the Dogs by Omar Musa (Review by Caroline Baum)

here-come-the-dogs-order-your-signed-copy-The energy of this debut novel just leaps off the page. Musa, a charismatic rapper, has successfully translated the idiom and pulse of performance to the page with its syncopated rhythms and hard-edged beats.

Inevitably, he is being compared with his mate Christos Tsiolkas for his full-frontal engagement with contemporary Australian society: in this case, multicultural masculinity with its surges of often misdirected testosterone.

In small town suburbia during a tinder-dry summer, anything could happen. Booze, drugs, violence and a racing dog all help pass the time.

At the centre of this compelling mash up of poetry and prose are three iconic young men: Solomon, a charming Samoan, who has broken up with his girlfriend and is fascinated by Scarlett, a free spirited tattooist; his half-brother Jimmy, who has got himself into trouble, and their Macedonian childhood friend, Aleks.

Musa manipulates language with raw, bracing vitality, offering up a picture of Australia that is not pretty but feels authentic.

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Caroline Baum has worked as founding editor of Good Reading magazine, features editor for Vogue, presenter of ABC TV’s popular bookshow, Between the Lines, and Foxtel’s Talking Books, and as an executive producer with ABC Radio National. She is currently Booktopia’s Editorial Director.

Grab a signed copy of Here Come the Dogs here

Grab a signed copy of Here Come the Dogs here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Writer and journalist Sian Prior, author of Shy, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Shy

by Sian Prior

Shy. It’s a shy word, a timid little word that begs to remain unnoticed. Only three letters long, and it begins with an exhortation to silence. Shhh. Reserved is different. It’s for tall men with jutting jaws. Prime ministers can appear reserved: never shy. Restrained carries itself with dignity.

Even introvert has a whiff of authority about it: these people have been tested; Myers and Briggs have awarded them an impressive three-syllable psychological label. But with shy there’s no authority, no control. It’s a blushing, hunching word; a nervous, knock-kneed, wallflower word. A word for children, not grown-ups, because surely grown-ups grow out of shyness. Don’t they? Sian Prior has maintained a career in the public eye, as a broadcaster and performer, for more than twenty years.

For far longer than that she has suffered from excruciating shyness. Eventually, after bolting from a party in a state of near-panic, she decides to investigate her condition. What is it, shyness? Where did hers come from? Why does it create such distressing turmoil beneath her assured professional front? As Sian begins to research the science of social anxiety, other factors present themselves as facets of the problem. Family, intimate friendships, self-perception and fear and longing and the consequences of love…While, in counterpoint, there is the security, the sense of belonging, she finds in the life she shares with Tom, her famous partner. Until he tells her he is leaving.

Shy: A Memoir – frank, provocative, remarkable in its clarity and beautifully written – is a book about unease: about questioning who you are and evading the answer. It is about grief, and abandonment and loss. It is about how the simple word shy belies the complex reality of what that really means.

About the Author

Sian Prior is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in the arts and popular culture, a media consultant, and a teacher at universities and writers centres. She has a second career as a musician and recording artist. Sian lives in Melbourne. Shy: A Memoir is her first book.

Grab a copy of Shy here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Writer Fiona Wood, author of Wildlife, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Wildlife

by Fiona Wood

Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…

“In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened.

A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard. And I kissed Ben Capaldi.”

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

A story about first love, friendship and NOT fitting in.

About the Author

Fiona Wood has been writing television for ten years. During that time she has written for Something in the Air, Marshall Law, Always Greener, Life, MDA, The Secret Life of Us, Home & Away and Neighbours, the children’s dramas Sleepover Club and Silver Sun, and been a story consultant on Dirt Game. She has also worked as a freelance journalist for The Age, The Sunday Age and an interior design magazine. She lives in Melbourne with her husband, teenage children, and a very bad dog. This is her first novel.

Grab a copy of Wildlife here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Little Failure

A Memoir

by Gary Shteyngart

Gary Shteyngart‘s loving but mismatched parents dreamed that he would become a lawyer, or at least an accountant, something their distracted son was simply not cut out to do. Fusing English and Russian, his mother created the term Failurchka-‘Little Failure’-which she applied to her son. With love. Mostly.

A candid and deeply poignant story of a Soviet family’s trials and tribulations, and of their escape in 1979 to the consumerist promised land of the USA, Little Failure is also an exceptionally funny account of the author’s transformation from asthmatic toddler in Leningrad to 40-something Manhattanite with a receding hairline and a memoir to write.

‘Gary Shteyngard delivers big time with Little Failure. Told with fearlessness, wisdom and the wit that you’d expect from one of America’s funniest novelists.’ Carl Hiaasen

About the Author

Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972. In 2007 he was named one of Granta’s Best Young American novelists. His debut The Russian Debutante’s Handbook was widely acclaimed (and won the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction), as were his second, Absurdistan (one of the 10 Best Books of the Year in the New York Times) and Super Sad True Love Story (which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize). He writes regularly for the New Yorker.

Grab a copy of Little Failure here

What Do Women Want? Daniel Bergner thinks he has the answer…

What Do Women Want?

Adventures in the Science of Female Desire

by Daniel Bergner

Women are the monogamous sex.

Women crave intimacy and emotional connection.

Women don’t want sex with strangers.

Right?

Wrong.

Could ‘the fairer sex’ in fact be more sexually aggressive and anarchic than men?

In What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, critically acclaimed journalist Daniel Bergner looks at the evidence. Recent research, he finds, dismantles the myths to reveal an unprecedented portrait of female lust: the triggers, the fantasies, the mind-body connection (and disconnection), the reasons behind the loss of libido and, most revelatory, that this loss is not inevitable.

About the Author

Daniel Bergner is a staff writer for the New York Times and the author of three books of nonfiction, The Other Side of Desire: Four Journeys into the Realms of Lust and Longing, In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, and God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana’s Angola Prison, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Bergner’s writing has also appeared in Granta, Harper’s, Mother Jones, Talk, New York Times Book Review, and on the op-ed page of the New York Times.

Grab a copy of Daniel Bergner’s What Do Women Want here

Don’t miss Booktopia’s Finest at the 2014 Sydney Writer’s Festival

Looking for things to see at The Sydney Writer’s Festival?

Come along and hear some experts from Booktopia chat about the wonderful world of books…

Continue reading

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Mandy Sayer, author of The Poet’s Wife, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Grab a copy of The Poet’s Wife here

the-poet-s-wifeThe Poet’s Wife
by Mandy Sayer

In the follow-up to her bestselling memoir, Dreamtime Alice, Mandy Sayer tells the story of the ten years she and Yusef Komunyakaa spent together, first as lovers, then as husband and wife.

Even though we’d grown up in vastly different cultures and countries, we’d both known poverty, domestic violence and the expectation that neither one of us would ever amount to anything. That was probably what united us more than anything: our shared defiance of that prediction.

She tap-danced on street corners for people’s small change. He was an out-of-work university teacher, poet and Vietnam vet. She was white and from Australia. He was black and from the Deep South. They met on Mardi Gras, New Orleans in 1985. She was twenty-two. He was nearly forty.

They fell in love. They married. What happened next will thrill, move, perplex and enrage you. It will break your heart.

The Poet’s Wife tells the story of the ten years that Mandy Sayer and Yusef Komunyakaa spent together, first as lovers, then as husband and wife. During that time he became a famous poet, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the highest honour for poetry in the United States, and a university professor.

At the same time, Mandy became a writer, winning the Vogel Prize for young Australian writers for her first novel, Mood Indigo. She is now an acclaimed author and journalist and has written two award-winning memoirs, Velocity and Dreamtime Alice. The Poet’s Wife traces her life from the end of Dreamtime Alice, and again confirms Sayer’s place as one of our most lyrical and most courageous writers – memoirist like no other.

Praise for Dreamtime Alice: ‘A reminder of just how dynamic a memoir can be…spellbinding.’ – Interview

‘A joy to read…tells a story more vivid and unlikely than many modern works of fiction…Sayer tells her story colourfully, humorously and without a skerrick of self-pity…Trees would have died happy for once, if they’d known they would end up as the pages of such a special work of art.’ – The Bulletin

About the Author

Mandy Sayer won the Australian-Vogel Award in 1989 for her novel Mood Indigo. She has written five works of fiction, edited one anthology (with another due for publication later this year), and written two memoirs, Dreamtime Alice, which won the 200) National Biography Award and Velocity, which won the Age Non- Fiction Prize. She lives in Sydney.

Read Caroline Baum’s Review

Mandy Sayer’s third volume of memoir about her marriage to acclaimed black poet Yusef Komunyakaa is like a car crash – you just can’t look away. It begins with a shocking episode of violence that helps prepares the reader for the emotional rollercoaster ahead. Told with raw candour, it documents a passionate, toxic relationship in which jealousy, suspicion and dishonesty wreck the hopes of a couple who should have everything, given their love and their talents. But there is too much baggage here. Loss, mental illness, racism and poverty erode intimacy and corrode what started off as shiny.

Despite this, Sayer begins to write herself into another life. Slowly but surely as Yusef wins the Pulitzer and becomes more and more successful, she too finds her voice, gains recognition and confidence and steps away from the lies and paranoia to emerge from the wreckage strong and determined.

Grab a copy of The Poet’s Wife here

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