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Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers

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4.16  ·  Rating details ·  261 ratings  ·  76 reviews
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 discovers the secret female source of the great literature of our time – and pays a terrible price for her discovery. Meet Rand Washington, hugely popular sci-fi author
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Paperback, 274 pages
Published August 2016 by Black Inc.
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  261 ratings  ·  76 reviews


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Start your review of Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers
K.J. Charles
This is absolutely brilliant. Like, the sort of brilliant that I'll be going BY THE WAY YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK to random people on the bus for months.

The premise is that it's a collection of biographies of Australian literary figures. We get a foreword, a number of accounts of literary lives told by a literary biographer, and an index. Keep with me here, okay?

Obviously, the whole thing is a fictional construct. The bios are often very funny and excoriating about a lot of things including the
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Gumble's Yard
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Eye Books is a small, independent publisher, founded in 1996 with the aim of publishing books about the extraordinary things ordinary people have done: people who decide to stop talking about their dreams and actually go out and grab them, and Lightning Press their much newer fiction imprint.

Ryan O'Neill's Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers won the Australian PM's Award for Fiction and Lightning Press have now brought this wonderful bo
...more
Paul Fulcher
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Eye Books is a small, independent publisher, founded in 1996 with the aim of publishing books about the extraordinary things ordinary people have done: people who decide to stop talking about their dreams and actually go out and grab them, and Lightning Press their much newer fiction imprint.

Ryan O'Neill's Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers won the Australian PM's Award for Fiction and Lightning Press have now brought this wonderful bo
...more
Graham Senders
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a revelatory piece of history. I particularly appreciated the chapter on Sydney Steele.
MisterHobgoblin
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Their Brilliant Careers is a work of absolute genius. Right from the author’s previous publications, through the dedication, contents age, text, acknowledgements and index it never lets up. This is a pastiche of a serious study of influential Australian writers. Ryan O’Neill has creates a seamless world where these fictional writers rub shoulders with one another and with real writers and historical figures. They interact across biographies; some characters are ever-present: the luckless Sydney ...more
Karen ⊰✿
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wheelathon3
This is such a unique book that I'm not entirely sure how to review it! The author has written 16 short biographies of Australian authors and has given us their backstory and interesting insights.... and they are all entirely fictional! Most of the book is very tongue-in-cheek humour and there are so many Australian (mainly Sydney) references which probably added to my enjoyment of it. Although to others it means they would lose some of the meaning (like what it would be like to go from being an ...more
Jane
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A mystery and a satire and a history and a whole lot of other things at once, I've never read another Australian book like it (though it has some hints of 'Pale fire', particularly with its indexing shenanigans). With cameo appearances by the Australian literati and literary twitterati, as well as plenty of lightly and heavily disguised Great Authors of History, this will probably become required reading for anyone who's ever had a book published in this country ('are you in Ryan O'Neill's book? ...more
Jackie Law
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Their Brilliant Careers, by Ryan O’Neill, is a collection of sixteen short biographies of Australian writers you will never have heard of. This is because they don’t exist. Taking all the tropes and conceits of the highbrow literati, the author has constructed a literary world that is entirely believable. Many of the supporting characters are real whilst others are renamed but recognisable. This is a razor sharp satire but presented with dry wit and laugh out loud humour.

Such is the
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Douglas Mcdonald
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. Original, deadpan, insightful and funny in the most unexpected places. I'd initially expected a collection of short stories (or even just a book-long gimmick) but was sucked into a completely unexpected novel, in which characters dip in and out, raising their heads long after we know where their stories are headed. A marvellous satirical take not just on Australian literature but history, politics and society.
jeniwren
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I must admit when this was nominated for my online group read I was a little hesitant that it would not appeal. I expect that a lot of the literary references were beyond my knowledge of the subject but that in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment. A wonderful selection of stories about the writing life with many themes exploring racism, misogyny, plagiarism and plenty of comic moments to delight this reader.
Tundra
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an extraordinary collection of biographies that weave together the lives of a number of fictitious 19th and 20th century Australian writers. I found it fascinating and intriguing. The author has cleverly ordered the biographies so as to slowly peel back the layers of history and not reveal information before the pieces can be slotted into the bigger picture.
Nancy
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Finish date: 05 December 2017
Genre: fiction !!
Rating: A
Review: Short listed for Miles Franklin Award 2017...
I read this book in 24 hours. I was fascinated by the profiles of Australian authors I never heard of! The story of Matilda Young (poet)...touched a heartstring and Stephen Pennington's life long struggle to write A. Fernsby's biography was a page-turner. This is an excellent book...that engaged and entertained me. That is what good books do!
#MustRead
I really thought these writers wer/>/>/>
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Philippa
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
Funny, engaging and very, very clever.
Helen Stower
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Funny, clever, original
Alistair
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This lively and entertaining novel takes The Reader on an exhilarating trip through the history of Oz Lit via the 16 biographical sketches presented here. I'm sure I didn't pick up on all the clever barbs, but I got enough for me to feel I had a permanent smile plastered on my face (perhaps worrying fellow public transport users). Reader, you need to examine every aspect of this book, and for goodness' sake don't ignore the index! This whip-smart book is one of the finds of recent years.
Kirsten
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was, in a word, fantastic. A biting satirical take on Australian literature and history, so brilliantly executed that I started questioning my own knowledge.

I particularly enjoyed some of the themes on race and gender, a not so gentle admonishment of the literary elite.

What a way to kick off a new reading year.
Linda
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a wickedly funny, smart satire about Australian literary history, characters and obsessions.
Latkins
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've ever read. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it really isn't. It purports to be a collection of mini-biographies of 16 prominent Australian authors, but it is in fact a novel, as all the authors are made up. It's full of jokes and humour and wry satire of the literary scene - but you don't have to know anything about literature to find it funny and engaging. I'm pretty certain that much of it went over my head, but that didn't matter. It reminded me of a cr ...more
Belinda Rule
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
Absolutely hilarious, wonderful addition to the genre of fictional faux-nonfiction (if that's what you'd call it - Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a fantasy-historical example) which, as I'm an ex-historian who always reads footnotes, is my favourite genre ever. Readers worried that they're not getting the in-jokes should note the vast majority of the key players are fictional, and recur across the book - you should track them via the index so you don't miss their connections ...more
Imbi Neeme
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a unique and very clever book, which I enjoyed immensely. If gave it four stars instead of five, it was only because I generally prefer to have my fiction served up *as* fiction, so it took me longer than usual to get into it.
Cogan Chou
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 - Sydney Steele's bit and the index were my favourites
Rachel
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Technically brilliant, extremely funny, an absolute joy from cover to cover.
Tom Mooney
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Meh. It's alright but a bit up its own arse. I don't think I know nearly enough about Australian literature to really get most of the satire. But it's interesting.
Lisa
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Their Brilliant Careers is a brilliant work of meta-fiction, a collection of biographies of sixteen celebrated and completely invented Australian authors. There’s Addison Tiller, the celebrated writer of the bush who never left Sydney and hated his success, the experimental writer, Arthur ruhtrA who achieved the impossible and united the poetry world against him, the great Sydney Steele who may have struck a devil’s bargain for his talent, and the talentless Vivien Darkbloom who knew how to work a room ...more
Cass Moriarty
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recently longlisted for the 2017 Miles Franklin Award, Their Brilliant Careers – The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers (Black Inc. 2016) is an absurd, complex, diabolical and entertaining novel by Ryan O’Neill. In this completely rewritten imagining of Australian literary culture, O’Neill has created a hybrid of real and fictional literary characters, from authors and editors to biographers and poets. He has given us sixteen fascinating biographies of ‘famous’ Australia ...more
Tayne
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: oz-lit, favorites
A devious little corker of a book in the spirit of Bolaño's Nazi Literature in the Americas, posing as a series of 16 (fictional) biographies of Australian writers. In parts wickedly funny, zany, irreverent, and over-the-top, poking fun at all elements of the dysfunctional and insular world of Australian letters and politics. The final biography in the collection, for example, is a slice of pure mad genius (where a biographer's biography catches up with its larger-than-life subject, who is in tu ...more
Marcus Hobson
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is both clever and witty at the same time. It is an irrisitable combination.

Ryan O'Neill creates the lives of sixteen Australian writers, some born in the mid to late nineteenth century and others born as recently as 1969. He then tells their individual stories, but at the same time he manages to weave their lives together. At the same time he also weaves himself into the story as well as his deceased wife, adding to the humour and multiple connections.

One of my
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Lisa
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 16review, australia, c21st
If you enjoyed Gert Loveday's Writing is Easy (see my review) you'll probably enjoy Their Brilliant Careers.

The title is a satiric allusion to Miles Franklin's My Brilliant Career but the brilliant careers in question are, as the blurb says, invented. There are sixteen chapter length biographies of Australian authors who never existed, but who apparently bear uncanny resemblance to well-known figures from the Australian books and publishing landscape. Ambition and ego are common threads in all
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Susan Steggall
Ryan O’Neill, Their Brilliant Careers, Black Inc 2016

I first heard about ‘Their Brilliant Careers...’ on a books-and-arts podcast early one morning. The book was described as a playful and original take on the pantheon of Australian literature. ‘Sounds fascinating,’ I thought and promptly ordered it. And so it was, peopled with a cast of weird and wonderful novelists, poets, researchers and biographers ripped from real-life novelists, poets and researchers and biographers with just a
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Sorna Graetz
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Ryan O'Neill was born in Scotland, and lived and worked in Lithuania, Rwanda and China before settling in NSW, Australia.

His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including Meanjin, Westerly, New Australian Stories, Sleepers Almanac and Best Australian Stories. He is also a fiction editor for Etchings.

Ryan's short story collection, The Weight of a Human Heart, is published in A
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