Monday, 7 October 2013

That time I decided to read 6 Nick Earls books in 6 days.

I have always been a serious Nick Earls flag holder.  His writing seems to understand what it is like to be 16 and 17. It seems to understand what it is like to be on the verge of everything and yet feel and have nothing. I fight with my parents a lot these days. We fights about my pending university application, about the fact I stack the dishwasher in an unsatisfactory manner. We fight because apparently I need to open my bedroom windows more frequently and let some light into my life. The other day during the standard Kobi's first world problems Wednesday night family meal, I literally said to my father go read a lot of Nick Earls. Because perhaps then you WILL understand MAYBE a LITTLE how I feel about EVERYTHING. OK. We both kind of laughed, but part of me was being a little too serious.
And so for the past week, I have been on a serious Nick Earls bender. 6 books in 6 days; the reading diet of champions. So,  I suppose this is a small tribute to Nick Earls.  It includes some cute dear diary moments that his writing has created for me over the years. Thank-you for understanding. 

Headgames will always be the novel which earned me my first detention. I retell many people this story and they often follow up by Is Headgames some kind of explicit novel? They all assume that it must exhibit some kind of crass imagery of human genitalia on the front cover. One person even said to me, Nick Earls, didn't he write 50 Shades? No. No. No. I was given my very first pink slip detention because I decided to read problems with a girl and a unicorn. By the time I had read the first page I was involved in some kind of internal battle as I struggled not to audibly laugh; I felt like I was giving myself a hernia. When I was mid-way through the story, my Homeroom teacher had messaged me shut-the-fuck-up with her eyes at least fifteen times. And before I had a chance to finish, I was sitting on the carpet amongst fifty other students doubled over in fetal position looking like I had some sort of internal bleeding. I was trying so hard not to laugh I actually felt as though I was becoming mentally unhinged. I was handed a pink slip detention and it read for laughing and being disruptive during silent reading.  The first ever detention slip to make it on my permanent record was for laughing during silent reading and so started my career as a thug, Thank-you Nick Earls.

Headgames literally had me in tears. It is comprised of 18 short stories which are bizarre and poignant and very likeable. Since reading this book last year I have become introduced to the world of alcohol and dysfunctional post-school friendships; suddenly I am Frank and Philby

48 Shades of Brown
48 Shades was the first Nick Earls novel I ever read. The reason I read it when I was 13 and the reason I liked it when I was 13 was because it was set in Brisbane. I'm not someone who has a great lot of pride for my hometown. I like the river, I don't adore it. The Go-Betweens are pretty cool.  That is about it. So to find a book that suddenly had a story, not totally dissimilar to my own felt good. I realize good is such a fucking inadequate adjective, but let's just fly with it shall we?

The book tells the story of protagonist, Dan in his final year of school, which is such a bizarre and yet relevant period of time in our lives. Poor Dan Bancroft is thrust into a world of his Aunt Jacq and friend Naomi  after his parents jet of to Geneva for the year.

When I re-read 48 Shades last week, I was reminded of what an absolute bitch calculus was. The whole novel is about Dan's awkward transition into the real world, which I could certainly identify with (now more than ever).  The thing that resonated most with me from this novel was Dan's awkward love life.
In a world of social networking, it is so easy to think that relationships exist merely at face value. But Dan reminds us that we are all awkward and terrible people because at 16 and 17 we are only just learning how to truly interact with other human beings. Dan made me feel ok that I like and care about a person I am not with; that I don't understand calculus.  Dan made me feel normal.

Monica Bloom
I bought my copy of Monica Bloom when I was at Schoolies. I know what you are thinking, Kobi you party demon. A $3.50 copy of Monica Bloom from the local second hand store, gurl you know how to party. The best part was it was a signed copy, To Nick Earl... I seem to be the plural you. I think I managed to read it in one afternoon with intervals of tequila. Despite my state of intoxication, something about it stuck. I was surrounded by people I didn't know particularly well and I felt myself inexplicably drifting from the people I thought meant something, and yet I found familiarity in it all behind the pages.
I think the passage of time from the start of our final year of school to graduation, is such a bizarre one; and Monica Bloom really captures that. I think on one level it is about the delicacy and simplicity of a crush and how hard controlling that can be. But on another level, it is about building our identity about managing the changes and chances that are lovingly thrown at us by the universe.
Whilst on the surface Monica Bloom is a real school novel (it is littered with school yard banter and tales of dropping it like it is hot at a school dance) it can be much more. For me it is about the familiarity of a Brisbane summer and the internalized struggles we seem to conquer amidst the ebb and flow of life. It is the age old story of growing up; but it makes your senses and the organ that keeps the blood pumping feel so much more.

Zigzag Street
I think Richard Derrington is me in ten years except perhaps he is a little more male and a little more of a lawyer than I will ever hope to be. I will be a 28 year old wreck. I will have half renovated house (or perhaps granny flat) and I am almost certainly\will club any potential suitor with my podiatrist approved footwear. I really can see it all happening.
I first read this novel when I was 15 and had just broken my foot thus surrendering any aspirations I had of being a prima ballerina. I read Zigzag Street and laughed because poor Richard just needed to buck up a little, you know? Back in 2010 I thought the dictionary definition of being an adult was having your shit together and while Richard was funny, he just wasn't living out these expectations for me.
But now I don't see Richard as a screw up adult; rather a fairly mediocre one. Literally nothing ever works out in life. Life is not like the Siamese Fighting Fish I owned when I was twelve. It doesn't keep running smoothly and unscaved when you leap out of your tank or get dropped on pine floorboards. Life actually likes to stand back while you are in the gallows and just peg shit at you. But I think, Zigzag Street taught me to see that the real power is learning to laugh about it all; laugh through the misery, the half finished porch and laugh through the hope.
Bachelor Kisses
I started reading Bachelor Kisses on route to Auckland and I think everyone on my flight was ready to absolutely murder me in a really brutal and violent manner. I laughed audibly through the turbulence and through my back neighbour glamorously vomiting what seemed like all his internal organs into his hands.
Bachelor Kisses explores the mess and chaos Jon Marshall (a medical resident) makes of his life, predominately through his misadventures with women and work.
My parents critcise it's crudeness; but I almost felt without the constant blow-job talk I would be to distracted as I attempt to wrap my head around the medical -stuff-
I was quenching my thirst when the air hostesses bought around our breakfast. I noticed the small pre-packaged jam on every tray. The book seems to capture the kind of situations I seem to find myself in with increasing frequency. I feel like the more responsibility life hands me on my breakfast tray the more I want to sit and allow water to stream out my eyes and nostrils.  And whilst it wasn't in a jar, I think water came out of hole on my face. If nothing else Bachelor Kisses will force you to reassess the way you look at jam jars.   

After January
I feel like After January was written about my entire 2013. Megan Burke put it well in her review when she said the line in the blurb he wasn't expecting much from January is incredibly grabbing. The few months post-graduation are the biggest anti-climax of one's existence. After being told for 12 years that you need to go out into the world and matter, it is incredibly difficult to feel like you do.
 January is the month that I felt stood between me and the start of my real life. There was an awkward air of nothingness; much like Alex I didn't expect much from January, or indeed September and I certainly don't expect much from November. But it has taught me to be more perceptive of the things that drift by. 
After January creates this world where you understand each of the characters intimately without the need for intense drama or Home and Away style action. It is a world of realism; like Earls' other novels. And it is the realism that make it such a compelling read.