In brief: OIiver’s just moved to Melbourne. He works in the KeepCup warehouse. He’s excited about working up the courage to ask Lisa out on a date. These are Oliver’s thoughts and observations, interspersed with reflections of growing up in Texas.
The good: It’s raw, funny, and honest and makes you think how privileged we are in Australia (and how we abuse that).
The not-so-good: Devoured all too quickly!
Why I chose it: It looked different and interesting, thanks to Scribe for the ARC.
Setting: Australia and the US
I wasn’t even at the end of the first paragraph before Oliver Mol was asking me to make a decision that had me squirming in my chair. I’ve never been thanked by an author in the first line for picking up a book, but he certainly didn’t waste any time getting to the nitty-gritty. The problem? Do I read the Author’s Note now and risk spoilers as Oliver has so kindly mentioned, or get ready for Oliver to ‘ruin me’? It was a difficult decision, but I chose the spoilers and got stuck into what is one of the most thought provoking memoirs I’ve read. Lion Attack! contains few, if any lions, but Mol has that way of sneaking up on you, making you laugh and then asking, should you really be laughing? In between the usual coming of age themes like life, aspirations and love, Mol is an astute observer of how middle Australia takes a lot for granted.
We meet Oliver just after he’s done a reading in Sydney. He wants to be a writer, but the reading didn’t really go down all that well (he thinks). It’s back to Melbourne and his everyday life, trying to write a book and starting a new job at the KeepCup warehouse. (KeepCups are reusable coffee cups – kind of an Australian institution amongst the socially conscious latte/skinny mac class). Oliver lives in a share house with no fridge (they keep the windows open to approximate fridge temperature), dreams of asking Facebook friend Lisa on a date and tries to make his eternally cranky housemate Mark smile. (Mark’s the kind of guy who gets upset if you borrow an onion and sets mousetraps every night, which Oliver cunningly sets off to save Arthur the mouse). In between these times, Oliver writes short fiction on his iPhone about growing up in Texas (the family moved from Canberra when he was in primary school) and posts it to Facebook. Oliver appears to enjoy his life superficially, but he’s a deep thinker. He relates conversations overheard on trams and in cafes, demonstrating that Australia is a lucky bunch, even though we don’t seem to know or appreciate it. He also ruminates on himself, forgetting to ask his brother how he is – it’s all about Oliver in Oliver’s world. But towards the end of the book, Oliver gains a greater insight into the world around him (beyond Facebook) and listens a bit more (like to Greek Martin Sheen).
I think Lion Attack! resonated with me because a lot of Oliver’s cultural and pop references are similar to mine (hello Savage Garden). We live in a world that is dominated by Facebook, Twitter and social media – every argument is solved by a quick Googling and people would prefer to look at Facebook friends than the ones in front of them. One of the parts of the story that made me grin wryly was when Lisa messages Oliver to look up now – and she’s right in front of him. It’s sweet, but you know, she could of said hello too! But I know that people my age wouldn’t do that. The casual use of swearing is another thing that I related to – bitch is pretty much a term of endearment and you can’t go anywhere without hearing a ‘f-bomb’ or three. I could go on – there are so many things in Lion Attack! that I nodded and thought, ‘yeah, I do that…my mates do that…I’ve heard that’. But there are also things that my generation can change – Oliver discusses how lucky we are in middle class Australia and yes, we are. It’s something that is often taken for granted but I think my contemporaries could do better (and if that means jumping on the beds at SNOOZE, well so be it!)
Thank you Oliver Mol for making me think about how I think and giving me a witty, crazysauce fun story to go with it. Thanks for the platonic kisses at the end of the book now, it was a little creepy but kind of sweet too.