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From an inaugural winner of the Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers comes a funny, energetic coming-of-age story that isn't quite like any other book you'll read this year. Oliver is a writer who's just moved cities. He doesn't have any friends yet, he can't get his surly roommate, Mark, to crack a smile, and the only people who talk to him are the odd assortment of characters at the KeepCup warehouse where he works, plugging lids into cups in an endless cycle. His hours consist of daydreams: sweet, touching reveries of driving down the freeway with the girl of his dreams, and outlandish fantasies of bursting through the roof at bedroom store Snooze. At nights, he begins to write memories of growing up in pre-9/11 America, as he finds himself thinking of his childhood in Texas. But when he meets up with Lisa, the girl he's been writing to on Facebook, things begin to change. Lion Attack! is a startlingly original, ambitious work about a young man trying to navigate contemporary Australia and his own life.
|Publisher:||Scribe Publications Party Limited|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
About the Author
Oliver Mol is a Sydney-based writer and managing editor of the Adventure Handbook. His work has appeared online and in print, including in the Saturday Paper, Going Down Swinging, and the Lifted Brow. In 2012 he was the recipient of a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship, and in 2013 he was an inaugural co-winner of the Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers.
Read an Excerpt
By Oliver Mol
Scribe Publications Pty LtdCopyright © 2015 Oliver Mol
All rights reserved.
I'm sitting at The Old Fitz in Woolloomooloo.
It's three p.m.
I'm staring at my MacBook.
I feel nervous.
I'm drinking soda water with lime.
It's half full.
Outside it is hot.
The fan above me is going fwoop, fwoop, fwoop.
In three hours I'm reading at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
I think: the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Megan invited me to read.
She runs a storytelling night in Sydney.
I've read for her before.
It went well.
I mean, people said it did.
I don't know.
But this reading is bigger.
The brief is to construct a narrative around five images from the South of No North exhibition.
I stare at my soda water with lime.
I go to the Museum of Contemporary Art's website and reread the South of No North exhibition's 'about' section. It says: View the everyday world differently through the paintings, ceramics, videos and photographs of three visual artists whose works are connected by an interest in the common place, a regional sense of place and similar visual sensibility.
I had chosen five dye-transferred prints by William Eggleston.
I look at Eggleston's images.
I like how Eggleston puts something at the centre of the images and you're like, 'Oh, a pinball machine,' or 'Oh, a close up of kid's bicycle,' but then you look at the whole image and you're like, 'Oh, there's a car park,' or, 'Oh, there's a grey building.'
It seems fun, then not fun.
I don't know.
I've come up with five travel narratives to go with each of the images.
They're about travelling around Canada and South America when I was twenty-one.
They're sort of long.
They're mostly dark.
I stare at my laptop.
I read the stories.
I feel nervous.
I think: readings are boring when they are too long.
I think: readings are boring when they are not funny.
I think: readings are boring.
I drink my half-full soda water with lime in one gulp.
I go: gulp.
But it doesn't matter because I can buy another one.
I stare at the bar.
Some old guys are sitting at the bar.
They're 'smashing' beers.
That's what they call drinking.
Before, one of the old guys turned to another old guy and said, 'Smash another?'
And the other old guy said, 'Yeeeeeeeep.'
In this deep, growly way.
I think: smash.
I stare at my MacBook.
I stare at my stories.
I think: maybe it's enough.
I hope it's enough.
I check the time.
Two and a half hours.
I think: I should print.
Sweat runs down my face.
I think about two people sweating together — two strangers in a sauna in the middle of winter in Eastern Europe somewhere.
I feel horny.
No I don't.
Yes I do.
I feel my dick get a little bit bigger than it was before.
Like, I feel it move against my upper leg.
I think about a girl somewhere working her job and not thinking about anything but then thinking about something and getting really wet.
Outside it's glary and hot and above me there's a fan going fwoop, fwoop, fwoop and I'm thirsty but I can't stand because my dick is pressing against my jeans.
If I get up people will see my dick pressing against my jeans and they'll know I'm horny and everyone will feel uncomfortable because I'm showing how I really feel.
Someone walks in and says, 'Any a youse cunts got tobacco?'
And I look around.
People look at the ceiling.
People drink from pint glasses.
It doesn't look like any of the cunts have tobacco.
Out of all the cunts, not one has tobacco.
Close by, lots of homeless people live under a bridge.
Sometimes, they come in to the Old Fitz to use the toilet.
I used to work at a place where the publican wouldn't let the homeless people use the toilet. They would come in and the publican would say, 'Is this a bus stop?', and the homeless person would look confused, and the publican would say, 'So why are you fucking loitering?' and the publican would smile and the homeless person would leave and the publican would turn to me and mutter something that had lots of 'fuck's in it.
It felt weird to be included in something by default.
But later, I realised I'd confused 'weird' with 'shitty' because I'd watched the homeless man leave the pub while I polished a wine glass.
And, yeah, it's easy to be a shit person.
Especially when you're advantaged.
Especially when 'shit cunt' is a term of endearment.
I don't know.
I have a pouch on the table.
I push it forward.
I think: I'm a cunt with tobacco.
I say, 'Here you go.'
And the guy says, 'Awww, nice. Heh. Cheers, mate.'
And I say, 'No worries.'
I reread the same sentences and feel terrified and excited but mostly terrified.
And I think: it's okay.
There are people sleeping under bridges.
And, in many ways, you've already won.CHAPTER 2
At Kings Cross station, I take the city loop to Circular Quay.
From Circular Quay, I walk towards the water and stare at the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
I check the time.
It's 4.30 p.m.
One and a half hours till I read.
I think: you've got nowhere to go.
I sit on the grass.
I feel like a beer.
Not far away, two Americans take photos of each other with the harbour in the background.
I know they're American because I can hear them talk.
The fatter one says, 'Bro, this shit's crazy.'
And the skinnier one says, 'Hahaha, fucking A. Shit's like a dream, bro.'
I watch the fatter one get photographed first.
He crosses his arms and doesn't smile and stares at the camera like he's trying to intimidate it.
Like a wrestler or something.
Then the other one goes.
He makes his fingers into a gun and starts shooting the camera.
It seems terrifying.
I read over my stories.
I think: hmm.
No they're not.
Try not to care.
The fatter American walks over and says, 'Dude, could you take our photo?'
And I say, 'Sure.'
He holds out his camera and I take it.
The fatter American says, 'Shit's gnarly, dude. So clear and blue and sparkly and shit.'
Pointing at the water.
He says, 'Man, back in Texas, we got this fucking place in Galveston. Such a piece of shit, dude — just, like, seaweed and trash ... Guys die from swimming in that shit.'
And the skinnier American says, 'Ain't nobody died from swimming in that.'
And the fatter American says, 'Fuck yeah, dude. That guy from our church, he swam in that shit — was, like, dared to or something. Got some poisoning and fucking died, man.'
And the skinnier American says, 'Nah. He had, like, cancer or something.'
And the fatter American says, 'Oh yeah ... Still, I remember our church taking that trip to Galveston and he swam, dude. Alls I'm saying.'
The two Americans stand with their arms around each other and the harbour is behind them and with their free arms they are flexing and the sun is hitting their muscles and I think about this time when I was growing up in Texas and how as part of school basketball we had to go to the gym to lift weights and how I could barely lift the bench press bar and how one time it was falling on me and as I took its weight the guy spotting me just kept looking down and smirking and he bent his knees and rested his balls on my forehead.
I take the photo and say, 'There you go.'
The fatter American says, 'Thanks, bro.'
And I give back the camera.
I start to walk away.
The fatter American says, 'Yo, hang on. You know of any places to go out to tonight? We wanna meet some girls, bro. So fucking horny.'
And the skinnier American says, 'Yeah, this other guy told us about Oxford Street but I looked it up — that place is for faggots, man. Almost wanted to find the guy and beat his ass. Thinking we're queer and shit.'
And I shake my head because I don't know what to say.
I say, 'I don't know.'
Feeling like a coward.
And the sun is bright.
And I sneeze.
And the fatter American says, 'God bless you, man.'
And they walk away.
I look at the Opera House, at the seagulls flying above it.
And next to me there is an elderly couple.
They are trying to stare at Luna Park, shielding their eyes from the sun.CHAPTER 3
At the Museum of Contemporary Art, I'm sitting on the steps and my heart is going beat, beat, beat. I'm waiting for Megan to come and meet me.
My leg is shaking.
People are walking around in t-shirts.
I think something like: it feels like summer and you can't hide how you feel.
Recently I've been getting these headaches.
In Melbourne, before I left for the reading, I went to the doctor.
In the waiting area there was a pamphlet titled 'Cancer'.
I thought: you always hear about cancer and AIDS but never about diabetes.
I'd seen this blog post about diabetes that said, 'Diabetes kills more people than breast cancer and AIDS combined.'
I thought: combined.
It seemed insane.
The doctor called my name.
I walked into his office.
The doctor said, 'What can I do for you?'
And I said, 'Is it true that diabetes kills more people than breast cancer and AIDS combined?'
He said, 'Yes.'
I said, 'Really? You just don't hear about diabetes that much.'
And he said, 'I guess it's not as glamorous.'
We stared at each other for a while.
I told him about the headaches.
He asked what I did with most of my time.
And I said, 'I stare at my laptop.'
He said, 'Do you elevate your laptop?'
And I said, 'No.'
'So you stare down at it?'
'Stop staring down at your laptop.'
And I told him that I couldn't — I was trying to write this book about growing up in Texas — but he cut me off and said, 'I don't care about your book. If you want to stop getting headaches, elevate your laptop.'
I did that for a while and my headaches went away.
Then I forgot about the headaches and I forgot about the elevation. But now I have a headache again.
When I was growing up, my dad always told me I lacked attention to detail.
When I told my housemate Sofia this, she said, 'Well! Stop being such a dumb fucking cunt!'
Sofia is from Sweden and we like to play this game where we speak like bogans.
Sometimes, in the mornings, I'll walk into the kitchen and she'll be cooking breakfast and I'll forget that we're playing the game.
Like, I'll say, 'Morning, Sofia.'
And she'll say, 'G'day, ya fucking shithead!'
And I'll make a noise like 'Ah' or 'Ooh', except it won't be voluntary.
I think about the game Sofia and I play and I realise you can't really win or lose except that in some ways you are always winning because it makes you laugh and feel good and in other ways you are always losing because you are a human and you feel better by looking around and comparing yourself to people you are not.
Often, I think about writing in the same way.
How it can be confusing.
And I mean in terms of labels.
Like, how something is branded.
In a way that you are always winning and losing.
Because nonfiction is fiction and fiction is nonfiction and memoir is just a collection of memories and experiences that looks different to everyone and doesn't belong, exclusively, to anyone.
So fuck it all together and call it a thing.
In the distance, I see Megan walking towards me.
Every second, she becomes a larger version of herself.
And I think: that's the goal.
To become a larger version of yourself.
And Megan meets me and we hug and inside the gallery there are maybe twenty people and I don't feel nervous because after all there are people sleeping under bridges, and I have to cut the middle section of my reading because I have written too much, and I read for an hour not telling one joke and I forget to involve the audience and I finish reading and Megan stares at me with a blank expression.
People walk towards the exit and then disappear.
And I feel sort of shitty but I can't tell if it's valid.
Like, I can't tell if I'm just thinking about myself too much or whether I actually did okay and it's all in my head.
I walk outside and there are people from the reading outside.
I ask them what they're doing and they say, 'We're going to the pub.'
I walk with them to the pub.
We order beers.
At other tables, people laugh.
Someone says, 'What do you do in Sydney?'
And I say, 'I live in Melbourne.'
I tell them I'm flying back tomorrow.
I tell them I'm starting a job in a warehouse assembling reusable coffee cups.
I say, 'KeepCups. They're called KeepCups.'
A few people nod.
For a while there is silence.
People look at their iPhones.
Then someone says, 'Wait, how old is Shia LaBeouf?'
And people say, 'Twenty-one,' and then, 'No, wait: thirty-two,' and then someone says, 'He's just got one of those faces.'
Touchdowns Are Something Planes and the NFL Have in Common
When we arrived in Houston, the city was full of concrete. Large highways sat atop other large highways, like tongues trying to wrap around one another, and on the tongues there were endless lines of cars sitting in traffic, and trucks next to minivans next to SUVs, and they were all going nowhere, just moving around, and around, and around. Outside of the city everything was flat, and you could make out the heat rising up from the asphalt, and the dust on the windows and the large billboards that said McDonald's was ten miles away, and then five miles, and then one mile away, and then you were at McDonald's. Sometimes there would be people sitting or standing on the sides of the roads. I remember a couple of them were holding signs but I couldn't make them out because we were driving too fast.CHAPTER 4
At the airport I'm sitting at Gate 34, staring out this large window and watching planes take off from the tarmac.
I think: I wish the reading went better.
And I decide I don't want to do any readings for a while.
That I want to work on this book exclusively and keep working until it's done.
I check my iPhone.
I think: I should Facebook message Lisa.
I Facebook message Lisa.
I message, 'Hey.'
Lisa and I met during this online reading hosted by Steve Roggenbuck on Spreecast.
I'd decided to read this short story that I'd published in Voiceworks called 'Cunt Angel'.
'Cunt Angel' is about this guy who sees this girl at the pub and the girl is sitting next to this other guy who has a tattoo on his bicep that says 'cunt' and the first guy starts thinking that maybe he will also get a tattoo on his bicep that says 'cunt' because this would impress her, and he begins imagining going to the gym and becoming her caveman and doing push-ups and sit-ups and eating jars' worth of peanut butter spread on toast, topped with Creatine powder and washed down with milk, and he imagines going to the beach and wearing Speedos and how she would look at his chiselled bottom and torso while he arranged their towels and how they would marry, and eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and how, after dinner, they would walk together with his arm around her waist, freshly coated in fake tan, and how, if she wanted, he would crush leaves and debris beneath his feet in order to make her a new perfume and how he would coat this perfume on her like war paint and how she would sit very still and moan and how she would ask to sit on his back while he did push-ups, which would give him an erection because he would think she liked the feeling of his rigid spine on her pussy even though she could not feel his rigid spine on her pussy because she was too busy moving her hips back and forth trying to get a better view of an even buffer person through the window and how she would begin touching herself while staring at the even buffer person through the window and how the girl would come on his back and how the guy would come on the concrete because he thought they were in love and the whole story is not so much about bogans but how love is fragile.
Lisa had sent me a Facebook message asking what else I was working on.
I said, 'I'm working on a novel.'
Lisa told me to send her something.
The only thing I'd finished was this chapter about September 11.
I said, 'It's not funny.'
She said, 'Send it anyway.'
So I sent the chapter.
She said, 'Oh, right ... yeah. That's not funny.'
And I said, 'Yeah.'
She said, 'But it's good and, like, things don't have to be funny to be good.'
I've never met Lisa but we talk online occasionally.
She lives in Melbourne.
I've been through most of her Facebook photos.
I'd like to meet her.
Like, in person.
I think we're gonna do that soon.
I mean, soon I'll ask if she wants to.CHAPTER 5
Instead of sleeping on the plane, I stare out the window. Sometimes I focus on my reflection, and other times I stare out at the ocean and think how all the little waves look frozen, or like glitched-out graphics from Civilization II or Troy.
As I focus and un-focus, it feels as if I'm tabbing between two windows.
I stare at myself in the window and think: five years, pal.
I pull my hair back and the announcer from those Rugs a Million commercials screams, 'Going, going, gone!'
He slaps me on the back and says, 'Just another bald cunt, hey?'
And I think: sick.
But maybe it's good.
My true destiny.
I imagine being at a party or a future networking event with either my wife or a team of single thirty-somethings who I have met through a 'how to network' Gumtree advertisement.
And I watch as someone walks up to me and says, 'Well, what do you do?' and I say 'I'm bald,' smiling weakly while both of us shake hands and then continue to smile weakly.
And I think: nice.
An obtainable dream.
Excerpted from Lion Attack! by Oliver Mol. Copyright © 2015 Oliver Mol. Excerpted by permission of Scribe Publications Pty Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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