Olly interviews Nathan Roche

Nathan Roche

In the lead-up to the upcoming Sydney Writer’s Festival, I figured I should interview an author. None of those PR circuit bookclub whores though. They’ll be busy with their teacake and ABC roundtables. No. I want want no one else can have… at any price.

This man is so unavailable that his book says to contact the publisher to purchase, but has no contact information. The book has no ISBN, so if you found it in a store, they probably wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway.

I know the man Nathan Roche for his music, live poetry and cycle fancying, he said he was going away to write a book and then this tome appeared in the post… but why are so many other books by this mysterious man listed in the cover? Where do they exist? And why is the cover so brown? The hallmarks of self-publishers perhaps, but what self-publisher lasts so many tomes.

We secured you an excerpt so you can read it and decide for yourselves.

Hi Nathan, Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Have you sniffed your book? It doesn’t have much odour. The closest I could find was the the subtle fine tooth smell of a Derrida, but it didn’t have the dank of the Rimbaud. My favourite odour in my library is J.G. Ballard, Cocaine Nights. I think they made it out of a rare wood. What is yours made out of?
The cheapest low-quality paper money can buy. I think this book was assembled by child slaves somewhere in Cambodia so I could save on the costs. When you’re a self-publishing author you’ve really gotta make some sacrifices. But that’s OK. All child slaves were sent an autographed book and a framed photo of me in a knitted sweater. I’ve got some big fans in Third World countries but unfortunately none in my own. Maybe in twenty years these books will get some sort of odour depending on where they sit unread. I’m too busy sniffing cocaine to sniff books though. You know, you’ve gotta have priorities in life and mine are in order.

What’s you favourite smelling book? No! Stop! It’s not a trick question. Sniff some of your books. What does the best-smelling one smell like?
Most of my books are in storage at the moment because I’m going away and possibly NEVER coming back. From memory, my favourite smelling book was Flann O’Brien’s “The Third Policeman” the 1974 edition with the Ralph Steadman artwork on the front. Or maybe a copy of “Tortilla Flat” by John Steinbeck. It’s a copy that a girl gave me when I was leaving North Queensland. It smelt like perfume. Cheap perfume. The best perfume you could get at Willows Shopping Centre in Thuringowa. For a Sydney person reading this interview: It smells like walking past Porky’s on Darlinghurst Rd on a Sunday Morning.

You should come sniff my Ballard some time. Maybe I’ll lend it to you, I’m getting tired of the thrill. What happened to the acute on the e? I don’t think the L’Académie française would approve of its absence.
Well, I couldn’t find the button in Microsoft Word that would give the acute on the e. I didn’t think anyone would notice. When I hand-wrote the novel in Noumea I didn’t bother with it. Is there actually a button in Microsoft Word that does it? I was contemplating copy-and-pasting the acute e from Google. But do you have any idea of how long that would take? Besides, I’d have to change the font each time too. No. We don’t have time for that.

Where did you go to write this tome?
Well, it was written in notebooks in Noumea/New Caledonia and then typed onto a computer in Coledale (on the south coast) and Ultimo just two places where I was subletting when I came back to Sydney from the trip. Just banged it out in a week or so. Doing the prose stuff isn’t very hard, it all just pours out naturally. As for the fiction stuff I’d done, sometimes that can take a little longer. But, like, only a week longer or something.

How do I get to there? Do I need a pile of money, I kinda just want a straight foreword way to chill for a bit, without ruining my life saving cash.
Goodness no, I don’t have ANY money whatsoever. I drunkenly booked a cheap flight there one night with my Centrelink money and completely forgot that I made the booking until three days later when I went to go and get the rent out. Basically, I don’t BUY things like possessions or souvenirs so I don’t really spend money. I think you’re better off going to Bali or somewhere a bit cheaper/more lively than New Caledonia. I just went out of curiosity. France is somewhat considered the “prestigious cultural capital of the world” you know… If an American author gets an award in France like Phillip K. Dick did, it’s a big deal. Anyhow, North Queensland is considered the “cultural wasteland capital of the world” and New Caledonia (owned by The French) is more or less a few bundy and cola jet-ski rides away from our coast. I went out of curiosity just to see what it was like. Besides, french wine is cheaper over there than it is in Australia. What more reason do you need?

Were you aware it was almost the Writers Festival in Sydney? Are you going to fan out?
What’s a writers festival? What do people even do there? Is it like Splendour In The Grass? I have a strict rule.. NO WRITERS FESTIVALS and NO POETRY SLAMS. Isn’t it more-or-less like a battle of the bands? I can’t be bothered defending myself to win the crown. What’s the point in that? I don’t like anything that involves competition or talking yourself up. I live down the street from Australian authors Louis Nowra and Mandy Sayer. They provide enough advice/alcohol and companionship. MOST writers aren’t very good at socialising I imagine. But what would I know? I would have loved to have a drink with Malcolm Lowry when he was alive.

Nathan Roche bookWhy is it impossible to buy your book? Are you trying to fuck with us?
They are ALWAYS available from the same place though? It can’t be THAT difficult. You just have to buy them directly off me – straight from the source. That will never change. Or they will always be at CREAM CLOTHING or REPRESSED RECORDS in Sydney. I can only afford to print 30 of them usually, so they rarely make it interstate unless someone makes an order. The book stores on the other hand won’t have it! Believe me, I tried years ago. They won’t have a bar of it. No real publisher? NO DEAL. Get out of here buddy, we’ve got Jane Austin novels to sell.

Some passages I really loved, then the next made me want to get the red pen out. Do you hate me, or is this an art thing? Or perhaps a function of writing in a vacuum?
Yeah, I completely endorse the usage of a red pen. Basically, let me lay it out for you. As soon as I’ve finished a book, I read it maybe one time, VERY RARELY twice and then send it straight to the printers. I can’t tell you how many friends have asked to help me edit it. I can’t be bothered waiting around for it to get edited, even if it’s a week. I know it seems outrageous. I’m fully aware of this. Its not an art thing, it’s a restless, lazy thing. Once it’s out of my system and printed. I can move onto something else. It’s like taking a dump and then eating again.

It made me think of the role of editors. I think my work has often suffered from being created in a vacuum. I greatly admire you, and feel like a coward by comparison…
I just stopped caring about any notion of editing, or making an effort to make things good. I’ll just let it come naturally. Don’t bank on anything otherwise you’ll always be disappointed. I knew I’d never write “the great novel” when I was younger, and you know why? Because “the great novel” implies that you’re hoping it to be successful, well-regarded, catapulting you to fame and getting a black & white penguin post-card with your mug on it. I don’t care enough to make “the great novel”. I just like getting things out of my system and getting inspired by something else. It’s a zestful life and I’m happy with how things are going. If I had just written one great novel, what would I do for the rest of my life? Try and live up to everyone’s expectations of the first one? Better off making half-arsed products and keep going without needing anyone to pat you on the back.

After they read the excerpt and want more, how do they get it? You can’t get complete ordering  instructions from the book and you need to have the book to get the incomplete ones anyway?
Just send a letter to “Glenlivet-A-Gogh Publishing, Unit 24/57 Darlinghurst Rd, Kings Cross NSW 2011.” Or you can contact the Glenlivet-A-Gogh Facebook for all things BOOKS as well. The only reason I didn’t include an address on the Noumea book was because I wasn’t living anywhere at the time. I was subletting in about ten different places. A new poetry book came out the other day called “How To Burn Out The Sun” – that one included the new address. I’ve got a permanent roof for the time being.

What is that shade of brown called?

Can you explain it all to me? Or read it out loud when I’m in the bath? Do you have any readings planned that our readers could come along to?
I’ve only done launches for the past three books before and they were mostly at Sedition which is a barbershop in Kings Cross run by a man named Mick. He’s a very interesting fellow. Always on the verge of insanity/genius. It’s a surprise most people trust him with a sharp pair of scissors. I think I’ll do a poetry reading thing before I go overseas, but maybe not. We can definitely arrange me to read it out loud to you whilst having a bath. For a minimal cost. But you have to wear bathers. I’d get distracted if I knew your penis is floating in the tub. I’ll be recording an audio book/readings thing soon I suspect so that might have to do for the time-being.

What was your last drink?
I think it was a $4 Heineken at the well-regarded Vegas Bar on Darlinghurst Road in Sydney about fifteen minutes ago.

Any advice for me? And don’t tell me to write a book, I’m not insane.
Don’t do anything. Get a steady job. Get a wonderful girlfriend. Get a first-home buyer’s grant. Settle down in Blacktown in a lovely neighbourhood near a train station, propose to the girlfriend, have a baby, raise it, educate it, love it, make some more money go on a holiday and then die.

oliver heath


Nathan Roche interview by Oliver Heath.