Grand spectacle writ large

First-time novelist Nicola Themiste, 25, always knew she wanted to self-publish her debut work, Spectacle City: An Allegory. 

After a five-year slog, she’ll read from the finished product at Collected Works bookstore next week. Drawing on her own experiences with amphetamine addiction and depression, writing the novel was a very personal affair.

 “It’s a labour of love,” says the part-time hospitality worker. “I made an executive decision that I’m not going to make money from it, just cover my initial costs. Getting into debt – isn’t that what your 20s are for?”

Set during the Howard era over Cup Weekend in 2005, it’s an allegorical tale and loving satire she hopes will provoke discussion about the Australian cultural landscape. Themistes was inspired to write while buried in avant-garde novels when she was 19. Unable to find anything like the urban classics of James Joyce set in Melbourne, she set about creating her own with the help of friends, including Oliver Hunter, who provided the novel’s intricate illustrations.

The book will be available in independent bookstores around the city, including Embiggen Books, Readings, The Paperback and Brunswick Bound. Themistes hopes the reading and Q&A session at Collected Works will provide an intimate environment to discuss the book’s big ideas. “My only aim for the work was to get it into the hands of people who will find it meaningful and who’ll relate to it.” 

■ Themistes reads from Spectacle City: An Allegory at Collected Works, Level 1, Nicholas Building, 137 Swanston Street on September 12 at 6pm.

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