Sydney Writer’s Festival: John Safran’s ‘Depends What You Mean By Extremist’

The Sydney Writer’s Festival is on right now! 

It was hard deciding which talk to attend; we always complain when there aren’t sufficient options to cater for everyone but I always seem to get overwhelmed when there are too many options. I was flip flopping between Roxanne Gay or John Safran but in the end decided on Safran since I’ve actually read one of his books ‘Murder in Mississippi’.

(I even brought my copy of ‘Murder in Mississippi’ for him to sign, which, by the way, is hilarious I highly recommend it, it’s like a modern day ‘In Cold Blood’.)

It was a beautiful day, it’s Sydney weather at it’s finest (you can even see the Harbour Brdige from behind, so this cannot be more Australian). 

The atmosphere was buzzing and the event was well organised, so for someone that’s as anxious and Type A about punctuality as I am, it made my day way more relaxing.

(Also I’m not going to lie, the demographic was very white, very middle-class and very middle-aged so I felt like a child playing dress-up, but you know what, I enjoy these things and I have every right to be here too.)

The bookstore Gleebooks even partnered up with SWF to be the sole provider of ny books discussed at his festival because that’s how you do business damnit. 

And because there is no point attending a book discussion without actual ownership of the book talk, I succumbed to the event atmosphere and purchased my own copy of ‘Depends What You Mean By Extremist’.

It cost me $35 and because I live off second-hand books, that is a lot of money, but it’s part of the experience. Just like you go to a concert and buy an overpriced t-shirt, you go to a writer’s event and buy their book brand-spanking new.

But what about the actual talk you ask?

Safran rambles before he gets to his point and there were so many times that I wanted him to dig deeper because I felt he was just skimming the surface. He does exactly what I do which is give people him and his dog’s entire life story instead of just answering the question but the topic itself is probably too difficult to to be answered nicely in a few sentences without some context.

I also wanted him to make some neat succinct remark about the nature of extremism and the people it attracts. But the topic is too complex to be wrapped up neatly and even Safran points out that this book is just him recounting his adventure with extremism, it’s hardly an academic essay and he’s just had to accept the cognitive dissonance in the rationale of extremists.

The talk was delivered in typical Safran humour; I liked that he was offended when one of the extremists he interviewed had been arrested by the police and he wasn’t interrogated as a key witness (“The newspaper said the police collect over a hundred statements, which means I didn’t even make the Top 100, even though I loved with the man for a year!” Safran indignantly points out to a laughing audience).

I wish I’d come pre-prepared with some questions but I’ll know for next time. I wonder if I would have had a different experience had I read his book beforehand, like would I have found the talk boring because Safran just reiterates everything he’s written about or would I have been able to get more involved. 

But overall, I loved the event and I’m so glad I dragged myself out of bed for this, I’ll definitely be going again next year!

Sick But Not Reading.

I’ve been stuck at home after being discharged from the hospital for a week and I am so bored.

It’s nothing too serious, but serious enough that I couldn’t go to work for a week and a half, or risk another trip back to the hospital.

You’d think I would have used that time to read, write more, and just be more productive in general, but you know what, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was too depressed and restless to do anything else other than to fidget and feel sorry for myself, which I utterly loathed. 

I hated being like that. I like to feel some kind of control over my fate and my own choices. And I hated the ridiculous state that I’d gotten myself into, which was to constantly feel sorry for myself.

If I hadn’t been bedridden, I’ve been nervously pacing around my house, and if I hadn’t been nervously pacing around the house, I’ve been crying my eyes out. Crying over my job prospects, my health, the pain I’ve caused my own family, and just getting upset at all the closed doors that I kept seeing in my future.

The one good thing that has come out of this health scare is that it’s forced me to reconsider what I really want from my life, as opposed to just ambling about and seeing what life threw at me. I can’t just accept things the way it is and I’m prepared to fight for the things I want.

Just to be clear, I’m still not sure what I want but I feel like I’ve taken some control back over my life, even if it’s just accepting that some things need to change.

I’m a lot calmer and happier than I was last week. I’m still uncertain about my future but there’s less trepidation and more excitement.

I Like Browsing The Books In The Gift Store In Art Galleries.

Art galleries never sell it for any cheaper, mind you, only ever at the retail price, but I adore their selections.

I was at the Art Gallery of NSW to look at the Andy Warhol exhibition and I did the obligatory walk through the gift store. And even though they didn’t have a large variety, they had a very good collection. An indie book store in a hipster town (like Newtown for you Sydneysiders) would be proud of their selection.

I especially love their coffee book selections, the books contain such exquisite photography (even f I don’t understand half of it). 

When I get my own place, I want to have a couple of fashion photography books lying on my coffee table; that is definitely part of the dream.

Chinese Movie Adaptation: The Devotion of Suspect X

So I was walking around the city and look what I saw:


I’ve just recently decided to post reviews of adaptations of books I’ve read, and lo and behold! Does the universe really work this way? If I decide to become a millionaire, will I win the lotto tomorrow?

I am a huge fan of the Detective Gallileo Book Series and it’s first installment ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’. The story was originally set in Japan and written in Japanese, but I think for the movie they’ve set it in China (at the very least, they’ve used Chinese actors).

Expect a review the moment I can get my hands on a version with English subtitles.

Adding Something New To My Blog…

I think I’ll start writing reviews on other forms of mediums that isn’t books (like movies/tv series/plays etc) but only for adaptations where I have read the book

I still want this blog to be book focussed but I really enjoy comparing between the written text and their adaptations. I had a lot of fun writing up my posts for the Jasper Jones play at The Belvoir Theatre, and the HBO series ‘ The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’.

There are many ways for adaptations to do justice to the original text, whether as a straight adaptation, or a stand-alone but as long as they capture the essence then I think it would be a success.

Have You Ever Been Mislead By The Title Of A Book?

Not necessarily mislead by the title but have you ever come away from a book and thought ‘the title has nothing to do with the story’?


Like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo doesn’t really focus on Lisbeth until later on in the Millennium series but then I discovered the original title of ‘Men Who Hate Women’ was changed because they thought it creeped people out (which is true).

And Jasper Jones was more of a symbolic character in Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’ than a real driving force.

I also still have mixed feelings about Patricia Highsmith’s ‘Carol’. I get the love interest is called Carol but the original title of ‘ The Price of Salt’ made the focus about Therese’s coming of age rather than her love for Carol.

Let me know in the comments of your choices.

Book Blogger Insider Tag

It’s time to do another tag!



  1. Where do you typically write your blog posts?

I used to write at my home computer in the kitchen until it died and now I’m writing off my old netbook that I used during my university days but I’m still in the kitchen. Occasionally, I type out shorter posts on my mobile on train rides to work.


  1. How long does it generally take you to write a book review?

So I try to write one in one-and-a-half sittings. I’ll write up the draft in one sitting. Then I’ll get up, do something else, and then review and edit in the second half. I never edit longer than it takes me to write a post. The whole process can span from thirty minutes to one day, depending on what distracts me (youtube, music, tv).


  1. When did you start your book blog?

January 2016. I’ve just had my one year anniversary.


  1. What is the worst thing about having a book blog in your opinion?

Coming up with different topics! When I first started this, I thought I’d eventually run out of book related topics to discuss (and I still do think about this). But I find that no matter how much I keep writing, I never seem to finish the list of things I want to write about because each new topic becomes a link to another topic, and it becomes a never-ending spiral down the rabbit hole.


  1. What is the best thing about having a book blog in your opinion?

I love that it gives me the opportunity to voice my opinion (even if it’s just a drop in the ocean) about what I read. It helps me to formulate what goes on in my head and it has given greater depth to my reading experience.


  1. What blog post have you had the most fun writing so far?

The most recent post that I actually quite enjoyed was The 50 Bookish Questions Tag since I only had to write short answers.


  1. What is your favourite type of blog post to write?

I love writing rants (hopefully, when I structure my thoughts better, I can call them personal essays). At first, I treated them as filler pieces when I couldn’t read fast enough to review and post as regularly as I wanted to, but these mini-essays give me the freedom to write whatever I want.


  1. When do you typically write?

Usually after work but I’ll write on the weekends if I’m not going out.


  1. Do you review every book you read?

Yes. I make it a point to review them all. Every. Single. One. I used to avoid the non-fiction ones because I didn’t even know how to approach them but now I give them a crack, even if I’m not usually happy with level of analysis.


  1. How do you write your book reviews? With a cup of coffee or tea? With Netflix? Cuddled with your fur baby?

I play music or youtube videos in the background. I just need some kind of background noise.


  1. When do you write your book reviews? Right after finishing the book? Two weeks after finishing the book?

I’ve been treating this blog as a very public journal of my reading achievements so I try to write my book reviews in the order that I’ve read them and as soon as I read them so all my emotions can be recorded when it’s fresh and raw. Sometimes I’ll have a review outstanding for weeks but only if I am unsure how I feel about it.


  1. How often do you post?

Every one to three days. But that doesn’t just include book reviews, it includes all my other short essays and rants, interesting pictures I find, memes, recommendations, news, or anything that’s related to books. I forced myself to keep to this schedule to make this hobby stick.


I tag everyone!