Recently, I entered a little draw to attend a Penguin Literary event on Twitter, only to find out it was being held in Melbourne. Thankfully, Penguin was kind enough to allow me to switch that to the Sydney event, held at The Old Growler last night.
The entrance to The Old Growler is very much a hole in the wall in King’s Cross, so I had to keep my eyes peeled looking for the sign. That said, when I entered, the buzz of voices downstairs more than convinced me the entrance certainly didn’t do the place justice.
And it didn’t. Underground, was a two level bar filled with people already deep in conversation. There were books spread around – uncorrected proofs – of the authors’ titles we had been invited to celebrate. So, after some mixing and mingling, not to mention meeting Liam Pieper (The Feel-Good Hit of the Year) and Omar Musa (Here come the dogs) – both thoroughly charming gentlemen even as they were trying to figure out what passages to actually read for the event.
Sadly, I completely missed out on meeting Sonya Harnett and Ceridwen Dovey, the latter made much more painful by the fact that she was standing right next to my table – The Old Growler LIKES its mood lighting, and I clearly need stronger glasses.
Ceridwen read first from her novel, Only the Animals – it’s a collection of short stories, each told from the POV of an animal during certain points in human history, for example, Heinrich Himmler’s dog, during Nazi Germany as he seeks enlightenment, a bear starving during the siege of Sarajevo.
It broke my heart listening to her, though she didn’t particularly read anything tragic. Ceridwen is a soft-spoken woman and the passage she read was from the POV from a dog. She imbued the character with warmth and a certain innocence, and I have to admit, more than once, I kept thinking of my little dogs outside in the cold while I was at the event. Yes, it’s weird, but they’re my dogs and we love them, and this book will speak to any animal lover, in fact anyone. It’s going to make you think about humanity at its worst, and it will break your heart – and I’ve just read the back of the book since last night.
Next was Sonya Harnett, about whom so much has been written, and probably more will be once Golden Boys is released. Sonya is a petite woman, but her voice and her writing commanded the room. What I loved about listening to her, was her voice – hearing her change her voice according to the characters she was reading was unexpected, and it made me get lost in the passage as she was reading. Golden Boys is an urban Gothic tale for adults.
Then it was Liam Pieper’s turn, with an extremely funny excerpt from his memoir, The Feel-Good Hit of the Year. In it he describes how he managed to get arrested while introducing his girlfriend’s mum to his parents! On the surface, it shouldn’t be a funny tale – after all, it’s about family, drugs and dealing with the combustible combination and surviving it. Anyone who can make you laugh out loud writing about that should be read over and over.
To close out the night, Omar Musa took the “stage” with a reading from his book, Here come the dogs. Omar is a poet and rapper from Queanbeyan, winner of Poetry Slams in 2008 and 2009, and released several hip-hop albums. In other words, his voice is his tool with which he reaches the world, and now he’s venturing into writing. His reading made it obvious how compelling his voice is, and add his words to it, you get a compelling end to the night. Any chance you get – go see him perform.
So, that was my night celebrating literary talents in Sydney! All these books will be publishing this year, so keep an eye out for them!