Thursday, 22 May 2014


I am writing my 15th novel and it is called 'The Deck Scrbbers'.  I shall now detail what happened to the 14 before that.  Here's the first five. 

1: SOME, IN FACT MOST PEOPLE ARE FUCKED.  I wrote this when I was 20 and it was nothing more than an exaggerated diary entry.  I mythologised myself for 250 pages.  It was about the realtionship I was in (and how it ended), and it was truly awful.  But, I re-read it recently and I'll give it this:  It was unintenionally a perfect snapshot of the Melbourne late 80's- early 90's goth-punk music scene, (pre-Nirvana), and a reasonably well presented coming-of-age tale, seeing the young man dropout from uni, enter the workforce and try to juggle responsibility, flatmates, relationship, drug binges, writing poetry and all set to a cracking soundtrack.  Writing it I didn't realise how much the music played a part in the book - it's only on the re-read it jumps out.  The bands always got mentioned, the pubs, the albums... it's wonderful.  And Melbourne itself comes out well... there's one scene set at a poetry reading (Squib - Eric Dando was a character in it).  It's a nice snapshop of my life at that time, but it's not publishable.

2:  UNDER THE FINGERNAILS OF BYRON'S ATHENIAN LEGACY.  This was the exciting sequel to the first novel, but the mythology was ramped up.  It was about 300 pages and details a year in Athens, Greece, but with added Greek gods running about.  It mainly concerns my falling in love with Betty Lekkas from Pireaus (in the book I changed her name to Bessie Lekkas).  It is an awful book, but still the same music angle plus sex and drugs and all that which makes it readable for me.  The writing was better than in the first novel, but it's still unpublishable.

3:  FROG IN TNE VELVET LOUNGE:  From the previous novel I got the idea of a Greek God intercating with humans, and I took it further here.  I wrote it first as a film script.  I sent it to Jan Chapman who procued 'The Piano'.  She read it, sent it back, congratulated me, and suggested I workshop the script with a theatre group, stage it as a play, then send it back to her.  I approached a theatre group and they were keen, but two weeks later they went bankrupt and I gave up.  So, I turned it into a novel instead (though I never quite finished it).  It holds up well to this day and I should return to it some time.  It concerns a young insurance clerk (me, disguised - I did a year at an insurance company) who wants to be a poet.  He lives in a large share house in Fitzroy and all his flatmates are going away for the weekend and he has the house to himself.  He can't wait.. he's going to write poetry all weekend.  It opens on Friday night.  He's at home burning all his old poems because they're shit, when three junkes break into his laundry and start stealing his clothes.  He catches them.  Rather than hand back the clothes, they ask him for money - he gives them $20 and they leave, taking his best jumper.  He then turns that into a poem (though he calls them 'three monsters' in the poem) and recites the poem out in the street (at 1am).  It wakes a neighbour, who yells, "Hey Picasso, shut the fuck up!".  "It's okay," he says, "I'm a poet."  The neighbour says, "Well juxtapose this you cunt!" and throws a rock at him.  That's all in the first chapter and it is one of the greatest openings of any film or book ever.  He wakes up the next day and the Goddess Athena (re-imagined as a punk chick) is in his bed.  Madness ensues over the course of the weekend.  It finishes on the Sunday night when he grows a dick.  Literally.  It's great. 

4.  OPIUM AND FALSETTO The third novel (above), all set in the one house over the course of one weekend, got me interested in cabin-fever a bit, and how a lot can happen in one weekend.  This book was set over two years about a couple that never leaves the house.  It opens and the man, Opium, is 20 years old and his lover, the violent and unhinged Falsetto, is 31 and married.  The house is enormous... like, the size of a castle.  It has 'wings', it's own zoo, observatory etc.  The book opens with Falsetto beating up Opium with a cricket bat because she found a list he'd made with his Top 10 favourite things in the world.. Books came in at number one, Falsetto at two, so she beats him mercilessly, but then decides she better stick around and nurse him back to health and not return to her husband.  Over the course of two years, the house gradually shrinks, Falsetto gets younger as Opium gets older and by the end of the book, it's a one-bedroom apartment in Richmond, Opium is 25 and Falsetto is 19 and needs to get back home to her parents' house because she has an assignment due the next day.  And it's only two days' later.  It takes 300 pages or so for the reality of the situation to become clear.  It was too ambitious for my talents (lack thereof) and I gave up almost half-way through. 

5.  JOEY Another reason I gave up on the novel above was that I realised I wasn't too fussed about the boy/girl dynamic, and I wanted more characters.  This fifth novel was about Joey, an insurance clerk who wants to be a poet, calling a work-sickie on a Tuesday morning as he wanted to spend the day typing his poems up on to his new computer.  He lives in a one bedroom flat in East Melbourne, on Hoddle Street (by coincidence... so did I when I wrote this).  But, word spreads he has called in sick.  It's a bit Ferris Bueller, but anyway, all sorts of stuff happens throughout the day, people coming around, and there's marital affairs, a murder investigation, a suicide, a fire and lots of sex and drugs, all in his apartment, all on the one day.  It was all very surreal (I used that word correctly, by the way), and about 80 pages in, I realised I didn't like my own surrealism.  I was going through a David Lynch phase. 


I was 25 years old and had five novels complete or partially complete. 


Alex said...

It was all very surreal (I used that word correctly, by the way)

Since you apparently know how to use the word surreal correctly, is there any chance you could fill me in? I never know whether I should be using the term "surreal" or "absurd". Is there a difference? If so, what?

I tend to like fiction that uses surrealism/absurdity to create metaphor. Opium And Falsetto sounds pretty good to me. So does Velvet Frog.

Alex said...

For that matter, how does "fantasy" fit into the mix?

squib said...

This reminds me of that old saying that you will always find an insurance clerk who wants to be a poet but never a poet who wants to be an insurance clerk. I think the first title is the best but I would cut out "Some, in fact". I definitely like the Greek God idea. I have been unable to get a short story concerning Endymion and a smelly pillow published even though I believe it is ace (clearly nobody else does). I did not even know there was an issue with the term 'surreal' although I, unlike Alanis Morissette, am aware of the controversy surrounding 'ironic'. But then I have only just realised that tortoises do not swim. It turns out they are not a lake version of turtles. I have always thought a novel concerning a poet, sort of Ignatius Reilly/Oblomov would be great. The title Joey probably only ever worked for Concrete Blonde.

Alex said...

Didn't Alanis start the controversy over "ironic"?

Apparently the new battlefield is "literally". I heard that this year one of the big dictionaries (Oxford?) changed their definition so that you can now use it for emphasis even when you're not talking about something that's actually literal. e.g. That literally blew my mind. (is now correct)

Your story sounds like something I'd like to read, Squib. I wonder if Endymion dribbles. I think the only other reference I've seen to the myth (outside of books on Greek mythology) is this song by Finnish power metal group Sonata Arctica (which I was fascinated with for a time).

Also, I've been acutely aware of the differences between turtles, tortoises and terrapins since I was quite small. I dropped a desert tortoise in a container of water once and nearly drowned the poor bugger.

Melba said...

Wow Perseus. You know it's funny but the first novel I started had a share house in it and a party scene with guys crawling around on all floors with lambskin car-seat covers on, pretending to be sheep. Never got past about 10,000 words if that on it.

Another one had pirates. Maybe 6000 words.

And that's it. You had whole synopses, I'm so impressed and look forward to reading about the other 10.

Also 'juxtapose this you cunt' made me lol.

Perseus said...

Alex - what I meant was that my book was a surrealist fantasy. People quite often use the word to mean or "amazing"... like, they might win a footy match and say, "Wow, it's surreal!" but it would only be surreal if they won the footy match but the footy was actually a bunch of roses and the opposition team was brightly coloured lamp-posts.

Something absurdist could be sureal, but surrealism does not exclusively have to be absurdist. People smarter than me can also pick the difference between surreal and dada, but I struggle. I once told this joke to a friend with a Masters in Fine Arts: How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? Fish! And she said with a serious face, "Technically, that should be 'how many dadaists...":

Perseus said...

...oh, and fantasy. Yet again, a fantasy could be a surrealist piece, but surrealism doesn't mean fantasy. Game of Thrones is a fantasy, but not surreal.

Melba - anecdotally, every writer's first novel involves a share house. I like your sheep people.

Squib - can you email me your smelly pillow short story? I'll swap you for my short story about Daphne.

Alex said...

So is Eraserhead absurd, surreal, fantasy, or some combination thereof?

squib said...

OK. When I was young I had a crush on a guy after watching him on a friend's graduation video. He was giving a valedictory speech and he looked like Jareth, the goblin king. Also, like I said, the boys at my school used to run over cats and this guy was from the city. Anyway we got in touch and then I didn't hear from him for close to a year. He stopped writing because I had a plant called Daphne. He thought I was being way too intellectual and that maybe it was some kind of weird message like 'back off, Apollo'. In fact I picked the name Daphne because I had a guinea pig called Daphne once (she was eaten by our neighbour's German Shepherd)

squib said...

Do you even have a Daphne story or are you busy scribbling one now