The power trio of George Saunders, Amy Hempel and Patricia Lockwood as Eamonn’s dinner guests would be something to behold. Join us for the launch of Eamonn’s debut novel, 2000ft Above Worry Level (VUP), along with Freya Daly Sadgrove’s debut poetry collection, Head Girl, (VUP). 6-7:30pm Thursday 13th February 2020. All welcome.
ABOUT 2000ft ABOVE WORRY LEVEL
Everything is sad and funny and nothing is anything else
2000ft Above Worry Level begins on the sad part of the internet and ends at the top of a cliff face. This episodic novel is piloted by a young, anhedonic, gentle, slightly disassociated man. He has no money. He has a supportive but disintegrating family. He is trying hard to be better. He is painting a never-ending fence.
Eamonn Marra’s debut novel occupies the precarious spaces in which many twenty-somethings find themselves, forced as they are to live in the present moment as late capitalism presses in from all sides. Mortifying subjects – loserdom, depression, unemployment, cam sex – are surveyed with dignity and stoicism. Beneath Marra’s precise, unemotive language and his character’s steadfast grip on the surface of things, something is stirring.
“This is the type of hilarious that can only come from a deep understanding of the horror of living. 2000ft Above Worry Level is innovative in its form and a joy at sentence level. Marra’s control of tone and mood breaks your heart with a belly laugh then puts it back together in a way that pulls compassion to the reader like wasps to Budget raspberry fizzy drink. This is a masterful work with a sharp eye, a raging intelligence and an incredible skill for telling a story. You can’t read this book and stay the same. Read it!” —Pip Adam
“A wonderful comic shagpile with a dark seething underlay.” —William Brandt
“Eamonn Marra writes about trying to grow into a complete human being in a world that wants only selected parts of you. He does it better than anyone I can think of. His stories are thoughtful and introspective, but each contains the hot wallop of insight that comes from forgetting that anyone but you exists, and looking up to suddenly see someone close to you in a flash of complex vulnerability.” —Annaleese Jochems
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eamonn Marra is a writer and comedian. He was born and raised in Christchurch and now lives in Wellington. He has a master’s degree from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Eamonn’s shows include Man on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2014), Respite (2014/2015), I, Will Jones (2016–18), and Dignity (2018). 2000ft Above Worry Level is his first book.
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
I don’t really know. I think a big part of it is in order to understand my own feelings. But I could just journal if that was the only reason. I read in order to make me be able to understand more feelings and feel a sense of connection with the world so I think I write for similar reasons. I guess I think that what I have to say is valuable in some way. Hopefully other people agree.
WHERE AND HOW DO YOU WRITE?
I mostly write at home at the kitchen table or in bed. Occasionally I will write at a library or at a friend’s place. I have struggled with finding a regular routine that works for me. Some days I will have the right amount of coffee, put on the right music, wake up at the exact right time and have an incredibly productive day. Then the next day I will do the exact same thing and it doesn’t work for me anymore. It made the book writing process quite difficult because every day I had to find a new way of working.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK(S)?
I’m reading Chappy by Patricia Grace, which is embarrassingly the first Patricia Grace book I’ve read. I read her short story in Black Marks on the White Page and needed to read more so my friend Oli bought me a copy.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?
I love Amy Hempel who can write about being scared in a way that no one else can. I love George Saunders for writing about far fetched yet relatable situations with an incredible amount of empathy. I love Grace Paley for writing some of the short stories that are jammed full of meaning. I love Patricia Lockwood for making almost every sentence in Priestdaddy a hilarious joke.
WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?
I don’t have a bedside table because my bedroom is too small, but I have some stacks of books on the corner of my bed and on my desk. The books I’m planning on reading next are Sport 46, America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo, Bad Behaviour by Mary Gaitskill & On Earth We are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?
I am really not a film guy and I cannot think of many off the top of my head but I saw Greta Gerwig’s Little Women recently and was hugely moved by it. I have never read the book but plan to soon, off the back of how much I loved the movie. When I was 19 I would have said One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because I loved both that film and book so much, but I now have very little interest in seeing or reading them again so I’ll go with Little Women.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?
I don’t really reread books, but I do reread my favourite short stories over and over again. The three I have read more than any others are The School by Donald Barthelme, In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried by Amy Hempel and Wants by Grace Paley.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?
Not a fictional character, but Patricia Lockwood’s mum in Priestdaddy. She was probably my favourite part of the whole book.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?
WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?
George Saunders, Amy Hempel, Patricia Lockwood. I’m sorry I just keep repeating the same authors for every question.
WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?
I like cooking burritos but I would feel very embarrassed cooking them for Americans who likely have a lot higher standard for burritos than New Zealanders. Maybe I would make seitan burgers because I’m pretty sure Amy Hempel is vegetarian. I think I’m an okay cook but now I’m questioning whether I would want to cook for my favourite writers because what if they hate it and think less of me. Maybe we could just have fish and chips.
HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?
They’re not really organised at all. I keep all my BWB texts next to each other, and my poetry books next to each other and I try to keep books by the same author together. But these are more guidelines than rules. To be honest it’s a miracle that they’re on the shelf and not just stacked in piles around my room like I have done in the past.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?
On the the morning she was moved to the cemetery, the one where Al Jolson is buried, I enrolled in a “Fear of Flying” class. “What is your worst fear?” the instructor asked, and I answered, “That I will finish this course and still be afraid.”
– In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried by Amy Hempel
author photo: Ebony Lamb