Published: Lightning Books (April 2018)
The fantastic lives of sixteen extraordinary Australian writers
WINNER: Australian PM's Award for Fiction
SHORTLISTED: Miles Franklin Literary Award
Absurd, original and highly addictive . . .
In Their Brilliant Careers, Ryan O'Neill has written a hilarious novel in the guise of sixteen biographies of (invented) Australian writers.
Meet Rachel Deverall, who unearthed the secret source of the great literature of our time and paid a terrible price for her discovery. Meet Rand Washington, hugely popular sci-fi author and inveterate racist. Meet Addison Tiller, master of the bush yarn and memorialised as “the Chekhov of Coolabah”, who never travelled outside Sydney.
Their Brilliant Careers is a playful set of stories, linked in many ways, which together form a memorable whole. This unpredictable and intriguing work has echoes of Perec, Borges and Nabokov.
OUT APRIL 2018, AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW
“Their Brilliant Careers is seductively authentic. These writers never existed, but they should have, so entertaining and eccentric are their peculiar careers and disreputable characters. Cleaving just the right side of believability, Ryan O’Neill plays out his conceit with deadpan wit and narrative verve from title page to index (even the latter contains a subtle joke), creating not just individual personalities but a whole literary culture into which he folds even himself. This book is original, funny and engrossing. You’ll half-believe that cult sci-fi racist Rand Washington, self-obsessed muse Vivian Darkbloom and shameless plagiarist Frederick Stratford were real, and wistfully regret that they aren’t.”
Jeremy Dronfield, author of The Alchemist’s Apprentice
“A funny, moving, intricately layered skewering of Australian literary culture in the guise of a series of biographies”
Michael Sala, author of The Restorer
“Their Brilliant Careers is a major work of pseudo-bibliographical scholarship. O’Neill has undertaken a Herculean labour – to find the previously hidden links between some of Australia’s greatest (and not-so-great) writers. He has risked the abyss, only to emerge from it stronger. An invaluable contribution to the field.”
CD Rose, author The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure
“Probably the funniest literary novel since Tristram Shandy, this unmerciful lampooning of ‘extraordinary Australian writers’ – barely disguised, bizarrely intertwined – doubles as a parodic, playful workshop in OzLit, and a portrait of the literary community and its politics.”
Professor Jen Webb, University of Canberra
“I loved the mix of vaunting ambition, vendetta, and sheer madness in [this] wicked re-imagining of Australian literary history.”
Nicholas Jose, author of The Custodians
“For the sheer seductive pleasure of it, this odd comic novel meant as much to me as anything I read last year. It purports to be a collection of linked literary biographies, but the authors it examines are wholly imaginary, and the portraits of them O’Neill offers are by turns lacerating, affectionate, absurd, embittered, tender and self-incriminating. From a few paces back, the book becomes a sort of Spirograph-novel, one whose revelations and cross-revelations keep spinning and overlapping right down to the index.”
Kevin Brockmeier, author of A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip
“Their Brilliant Careers … brims with crackerjack wit. Pressure is subtly built; punchlines are explosive.”
“[Ryan O’Neill] offers a book that is a piss-take, a celebration, a revisionist history and, perhaps most impressively, exceedingly good fun.”
“Their Brilliant Careers is a top-to-tail fiction that trades in plausibility. O’Neill employs a form of artifice that strives, stubbornly, for originality against dulling convention, especially in the rendering of human anguish. It is mercilessly funny in places.”
“You have to admire O’Neill’s delicious bravura. He’s been one of the few short fiction writers of recent years willing to play around with the form’s possibilities … Apart from the fact there are more funny lines in O’Neill’s 288 pages than there are likely to be in the entirety of Australian literature elsewhere this year, the profiles are woven smartly together, as the characters’ fates and careers intertwine.”
“Playfulness and wit go a long way toward concealing the seriousness with which O’Neill approaches his craft, but they shouldn’t obscure the depth of his achievements.”
“Superb on so many levels, which makes it a joy to read from start to finish.”
Good Reading magazine interviews Ryan O'Neill here.