Drawn to bios of stars of that old time rock ‘n’ roll
The first two books in Australian novelist Graeme Simsion’s best-selling, comedic trilogy followed Don Tillman’s unconventional efforts to find a wife and start a family. In the third installment, “The Rosie Result,” Tillman, who has autism spectrum disorder, finds his son, who is also on the spectrum, needs help fitting in. Simsion will discuss his new book with author John Elder Robison at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Brookline Booksmith.
BOOKS: What are you reading currently?
SIMSION: I’m not doing a heap of reading at the moment. When I’m writing it gets in the way. What I tend to read are [upcoming] books that I’ve been sent to blurb, which gives me quite an eclectic reading list. I just read “The Trespassers” by Meg Mundell, which is speculative literary fiction. There’s a lot of that in Australia just now, with authors like Jane Rawson, Krissy Kneen, and Angela Meyer. It stands up well in that company.
BOOKS: What kind of reader were you before you started writing?
SIMSION: I always had a book on the go and read late in the evening in bed. That was my lifetime habit. I dropped that habit when I started to write myself. Now I’m reading 20 books a year instead of, perhaps, 100 books a year.
BOOKS: What are some of the books you been asked to blurb that you have liked?
SIMSION: I get a bunch of books sent to me about autism, such as “Ginny Moon” by Benjamin Ludwig. I think of the autism-themed books it’s one of the strongest. So many of these books are written by neuro-typical people like myself. Helen Hoang, who has autism spectrum disorder, wrote “The Kiss Quotient” and “The Bride Test.” Both are popular erotic fiction and fine examples of the genre. Jem Lester’s “Shtum” is a really hard-edge autism book about a nonverbal child. If you are going to read “The Rosie Project” and talk about autism you need to read this as well.
BOOKS: Are there Australian writers you wish were better known in the US?
SIMSION: I often recommend the novel “Addition” by Toni Jordan. Tim Winton is relatively known but deserves to be better known. If you asked Australian readers to name an Australian writer they would name him before Lianne Moriarty, who’s much better known overseas.
BOOKS: Were Australian writers taught in school when you were growing up?
SIMSION: There wasn’t much Australian literature taught in the schools back then, and they tended to be very white books. I read the Australian classic “My Brother Jack” by George Johnston about growing up in Australia. The stuff that is prescribed now [in schools] is like Maxine Beneba Clarke’s short story collection, “Foreign Soil,” about the immigrant experience, especially the African experience.
BOOKS: What book would you give somebody to understand Australia better?
SIMSION: If it was the 1960s I would give them “They’re a Weird Mob” by Nino Culotta. It’s a fish-out-of-water story about an Italian arriving in Australia. It’s a comedic book that was massively popular at the time. For now, there’s Tim Winton’s “Dirt Music,” which is quite a good take on working-class, semirural Australia.
BOOKS: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
SIMSION: Rock star biographies. I read the recent Paul Simon biography by Robert Hilburn, and I read “Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibble White” by Roger Daltrey of the Who. I’m a Bob Dylan tragic. We just moved apartments in the past week. My wife is unpacking books into the bookshelves and saying “I can’t believe I’m on the third row of Bob Dylan books. What do you need all this stuff for?”
BOOKS: Do you have a favorite?
SIMSION: I prefer the books about the music rather than the man, so Michael Gray’s “Song and Dance Man” for its breadth and depth and the Paul Williams’s trilogy for its enthusiasm and obvious love of the artist. Objectivity is overrated when it comes to art.
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