Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mistakes Were Made by Liam Pieper, review

Mistakes Were Made is a short collection of essays by Liam Pieper. It is a small paperback, a gorgeously designed Penguin Special, teal and cream, featuring the death card of the tarot on the cover. It is a collection of essays on diverse subjects –the perfect paperback to roll into your pocket.
Liam Pieper, whose first book was a memoir Feel-Good Hit of the Year. This was deeply personal, raw, and mildly scandalous recount of his young life, which included the overdose of his brother and his own, extensive experiences with many aspects of his life with drugs.
Mistakes Were Made and the essays included are life after the Feel-Good Hit, they make both light and dark of some of the ensuing ‘adventures’ of the author experiencing himself as “…famous, for a week and a half, in the middle of my thirtieth winter,” as he describes himself in one of the essays.
He interrogates his own racism in a strangely cohesive yet rambling essay called ‘The Unbearable Whiteness of Being.’ A self proclaimed “white, lefty Australian, who’s fit to burst with his own sense of egalitarianism,” he recounts the experience though describing a promotional tour he is on for his book, in the United States. In the concise dissection of racism, this essay takes you, the reader, from the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, to a school camp at Uluru, to the rough, ready racism in Australia and the visible and entrenched one Pieper observes in the States.
In David Niven’s 1974 autobiography The Moon’s A Balloon there is a scene, where Niven and his army mate, Trubshawe, are drunk and dressed as a goat at a regiment party, where the others are mainly Bo Peep or Mini Mouses. It is WW2. The formal dance is moving in a circle, Trubshawe and Niven wheel off into the centre of the large circle and drop some small olives behind them and move off. Re-reading this scene makes me laugh and laugh. The out loud laughter that can arise from silent reading is a true pleasure to experience – and Pieper made me do it. In the essay and there is a scene in the essay ‘Fame! (I’m gonna live forever)’ where he describes a ludicrous and true moment in his local bookshop, which he visits on the advice of “another friend, this one a media personality turned bestselling author” who urged him visit bookshops and sign copies of his own book. “They love it, the shiny, popular celebrity assured me.”
What follows at his local bookshop, while possibly mortifying for him at the time, makes for an extremely funny – and perfectly retold vignette which made me laugh. I laughed and laughed, then I read it out loud to friends and laughed more.  

Do yourselves a favour – essays are a wonderful invitation to consider our world in a different manner, with a different voice. They can bring short, sharp insight into our world, generally less than 5000 words (a bus trip into town) Pieper has a sharp wit, perspicacious mind and he brings clarity to varied subjects.

I interviewed Liam for The Book Show on Edge Radio. You can listen to the interview here.

A version of this review was first published in Warp.

Mistakes Were Made
by Liam Pieper
Penguin
9780143573128

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