The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D’Agostino

Nothing is a better barometer of failure than the success of other people.

Calvin Moretti is the reluctant star of Kris D’Agostino’s The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac, a story about a guy whose life is going nowhere much. Forced to return to the family home in order to pay back student loans, Cal finds himself in a job he hates but with little motivation to change his circumstances.

Back in my parents’ house, it wasn’t long before I started acting like my high school self. I did nothing, just sat around the house moaning. Continue reading

Flatscreen by Adam Wilson

I started a new book last week – a much-lauded piece of Australian contemporary literature. Just one chapter in, I had to stop reading. Because clearly it was going to be good and I didn’t (still don’t) have the brain space to focus on the words. All my energy is being directed toward population genetics. Which involves lots of maths and traditionally maths and I aren’t great friends. My lecturer said (in a not the least bit reassuring voice) “This course only requires maths to Year 10 level…” Yeah, well good. Firstly, Year 10 was a shitfull year for me. Secondly, Year 10 maths was a much more recent experience for 99.9% of my fellow students. Anyway, I digress. I needed a book that was fluff. Flatscreen by Adam Wilson fitted the bill.

In short, it’s the story of Eli Schwartz – a twenty-year-old slacker who lives at home with his mother, partakes in recreational drugs, wishes he had a girlfriend, wishes he had his own cooking show, wishes his brother wasn’t so successful and wishes his father would give him more money (to support the aforementioned drug habit). Enter Seymour Kahn, former star of the small screen and current paraplegic sex addict. An unlikely friendship begins that leads to some particularly untidy scenes and a viral YouTube clip. Of course, there’s a moral to the story. Continue reading

‘One Last Thing Before I Go’ by Jonathan Tropper

Bravo! It’s as good as This is Where I Leave You.

I’ve read lots of Jonathan Tropper since I happened across This is Where I Leave You a year ago. It was a remarkable book – it had me laughing out loud and bawling my eyes out within the space of one page. The books I’ve read of Tropper’s since then have been terrific but lacked the emotional vulnerability of This is Where I Leave You. Until now. Tropper’s latest book, One Last Thing Before I Go, has it all – lots of laughs, plenty of tears and beautifully vivid characters.

One Last Thing Before I Go is the story of Drew Silver, a guy who has made the odd mistake in life – his fleeting fame as the drummer for a one-hit wonder rock band is nearly a decade behind him. He lives in the Versailles, an apartment building filled almost exclusively with divorced men like him, and makes a living playing in wedding bands. His ex-wife, Denise, is about to marry a guy Silver can’t quite bring himself to hate. And his Princeton-bound teenage daughter Casey has just confided in him that she’s pregnant—because Silver is the one she cares least about letting down. Continue reading

‘Domestic Violets’ by Matthew Norman

Warning: don’t read this book after you’ve had abdominal surgery. I laughed so much that I feared I’d undo my surgeon’s handiwork.

My first thought when I began reading Matthew Norman’s debut novel, Domestic Violets, was ‘surely he’s not an American’ – the style of humour was altogether too cutting, too sarcastic and too dry – much more like what I’d expect from an Australian or British author. Needless to say, I liked it. Very much (and yes, Norman is American). Continue reading