The Ides of March!

They cast me in Julius Caesar because I’m good at pretending to be surprised by murder.

Our aim was for Brutus. You’ll just have to trust me when I say he deserved it. The director told me the aim was for Brutus, he told me Brutus deserved it, and he gave me a figure and a cash advance. He told me who was in on it: Julius Caesar, Cassius the Conspirator - and now me. They wanted somebody strong and reliable in the chorus, because they weren’t all as accustomed to the act as I was. They were all committed to the job, don’t get me wrong, he said; but until you’ve truly gone through with it, you don’t know for sure. My job was to rehearse the big crowd scene just like an ordinary extra, and wait for the signal. We were going to do it during a performance. The audience were going to be our witnesses and our alibi. I told the director it was a ridiculous idea, and he doubled the figure. I said I’d do it.

Every year on this date, we like to point people towards Rose Biggin's excellent Shakespearean murder mystery, "Put to Silence". Read it for free here.

Non-Fiction: 'A Day on the Moon' by James Naysmyth and James Carpenter (1874)


We well know what are the requisite conditions of life on the earth; and we can go no further for grounds of inference; for if we were to start by assuming forms of life capable of existence under conditions widely and essentially different from those pertaining to our planet, there would be no need for discussing our subject further: we could revel in conjectures, without a thought as to their extravagance. The only legitimate phase of the question we can entertain is this: can there be on the moon any kind of living things analogous to any kind of living things upon the earth? And this question, we think, admits only of a negative answer.... 

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Fiction: 'The Second Bullet' by Anna Katharine Green

Vogue (1919) - Georges Lepape

Georges Lepape“You must see her.”

“No. No.”

“She’s a most unhappy woman. Husband and child both taken from her in a moment; and now, all means of living as well, unless some happy thought of yours—some inspiration of your genius—shows us a way of re-establishing her claims to the policy voided by this cry of suicide.”

But the small, wise head of Violet Strange continued its slow shake of decided refusal.

“I’m sorry,” she protested, “but it’s quite out of my province. I’m too young to meddle with so serious a matter.”

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Non-Fiction: 'Money in Literature' by Page Fox (1900)

Money in Literature

Literature requires the least capital of any enterprise with the possibilities of rich reward and wide renown. A pen, a bottle of ink, a ream of paper, and — brains. These are all. There is no occupation so discouraging to the one who lacks the last-named quality and few so alluring to those who possess it.

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1Q84: A Very Bad Book

103575751Q84, a no longer new novel by beloved Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, is the story of Aomame, a feminist vigilante assassin who uses her seductive wiles to kill deserving if unsuspecting men in service of an aging widow with an ex Japanese special forces soldier as her bodyguard. Along with her childhood love, Tengo, Aomame is pulled into a parallel universe in which she must oppose a secretive cult in service of a strange race of alien fae. Aomame becomes embroiled in an attempt to stop these shadowy, possibly demonic figures by assassinating the leader of said cult, who is also molesting his daughter. Meanwhile, Tengo wanders through a surreal, shadowy Japan, trying to find Aomame and return safely to their original reality.

It is impossible to express from the above (accurate) summary how absolutely mind-numblingly boring this books is. You would not believe it. I don’t really believe it, and I read it. It is so insanely boring that one might almost see some spark of genius in Murakami’s ability to entirely denude potentially exciting scenes, like murdering a cultist or having sex with a changeling ingenue, into an experience akin to reading a stereo manual.  Let me be clear; I like boring books. I prefer boring books, mostly, to interesting books--but I cannot stand to be lied to. “This is not a bacon cheeseburger!” I want to yell. “This is salmon, and it’s raw in the middle!” At one point, presumably as a meta-reference to the reader’s own misery, Aomame sits in a room for a very long time and reads À la recherche du temps perdu. I would urge you to follow her example, rather than mine. Come to that, I would recommend you let someone drop Proust’s unannotated work on your big toe, rather than tackle 1Q84.

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Ban Fiction: 'Then Somebody Bends' by Mazin Saleem


She talked to her pet in pet-voice, smushing its cheeks and speaking close enough that her breath made its nose twitch, the high-pitched ’Ello!, the very rhetorical questions asked in a voice made ogreish by coming from her kiss-shaped mouth, with affirming reflexive declarations, ‘Yes you are!’ and so on. In a handheld mirror she was showing the pet images it couldn’t understand, first among them itself. Then she showed one of the young women who’d once approached the castle. In continuing pet-voice, she acted out an explanation of what the images meant.


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'Things flowing and melding together': An interview with EJ Swift and Joey Hi-Fi

Paris AdriftWe've gone large on Paris Adrift, but, well - it deserves it. The smart, twisty, beautiful and inspiring science fiction novel that kicks off 2018 with a bang.

The words are pretty great, and they're accompanied by a cover by one of our all time-favourites (and former resident contributor!): Joey Hi-Fi. Taking advantage of the situation (as one does), we asked both the author and the artist a few questions...

We've kept this spoiler free, but you may want to check out the first chapter. And if you have any questions, join in the hashtag at #ParisAdrift, or fire away to @catamaroon and @joeyhifi.


EJ, what was the process in approaching Paris Adrift? How'd you go about the messy task of plotting/composing a novel that skips around in time?

EJ: I’d wanted to write about Paris since I spent 18 months living there after university, but it was the experience of working the night shift and having your body clock completely reversed that really sparked the idea of Paris Adrift. Time travel was a way to explore a lifestyle that felt at times surreal, and also some of the city’s fascinating history.

As for plotting - let’s just say it involved hair-tearing and the shape of the book changed a lot along the way. 

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Fiction: 'Paris Adrift' (Extract) by E.J. Swift

Paris AdriftParis AdriftPrague, 2318

The explosions have stopped, and in their absence  a  raw  quiet unfolds. The bunker feels empty and cold, as if the people it harbours are already dead and have been for some time. Outside, what looks like snow is falling. It is not snow. Figures lurch past the cameras, sudden ghosts, there then gone. Inga breathes out. Breathes mist. In the confinement of the underground space, she listens to her thoughts detonating one by one.

This is the calm before the storm.

This time—this storm—will be the end.

There is a chance to fix this, but it means breaking everything they believe in. All that they’ve worked and sacrificed to preserve.

“The heating’s gone.”

That’s Toshi, the eldest of them.

Inga looks about the bunker, observing her depleted crew.  Only   a handful of history’s incumbents remain. Some have died during their travels through time, or have taken their own lives. Most have been buried never knowing the truth about their nature—perhaps they are the lucky ones. Others are yet to be born. Might never be born, now. Those too, she envies. What is left of the House of Janus is a world-weary collective, traumatised by experience and the implausibility of what has happened to them.

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Non-Fiction: 'What Men Read in Hospitals' by Miriam E. Carey (1918)


What a man reads in a hospital depends on two things: the man himself and the supply of books

To put a man to bed does not change him fundamentally. His education, tastes and habits remain unaltered when he lays aside his uniform and dons pajamas and a bathrobe. His reading will be influenced by all his personal endowments and qualities.

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