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Pan Macmillan

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“What would Brodie Lomax do?” Alex van Tonder Launches This One Time with Lauren Beukes

Lauren Beukes and Alex van Tonder at the launch of This One Time

Alex van TonderThis One TimeAlex van Tonder was joined in conversation for the launch of her debut novel This One Time by her good friend Lauren Beukes. The pair, and the large audience Van Tonder’s book attracted, were welcomed to The Book Lounge by owner Mervyn Sloman. He assured everybody that the lack of lighting was a deliberate attempt to match the mood of the novel and not, as everyone suspected, the inconvenient result of pressure on the national grid. It was a believable story, given the themed decorations, snacks and the “What would Brodie Lomax do?” biscuits on every seat.

Van Tonder began the event by putting her best foot forward and reading an excerpt from This One Time. This novel is about Jacob Lynch, a New York blogger who creates an outrageous and offensive alter-ago called Brodie Lomax. Beukes asked Van Tonder about the parallels between this character’s online experiment and her Cape Town Girl blog. Like Jacob Lynch, Van Tonder was also “an asshole blogger with a sunglass contract, who gets lots of free swag,” and she used her own learnings from the Cape Town Girl experiment to inform this book.

Cape Town Girl was very successful as a brand experiment, but Beukes said, “It kind of made me ill, because that wasn’t the Alex I knew.” She described how she met Van Tonder to explain how different her real personality is from the persona she put forward for Cape Town Girl. Van Tonder and Beukes became friends years ago via email conversations, and then decided to meet at the movies. Because it was before Facebook, each didn’t know what the other looked like. So they went wearing very recognisable, somewhat ridiculous items of clothing – bunny ears for Van Tonder and a cheeky “Bite my cherry pie” T-shirt for Beukes.

Beukes says that in this book, Van Tonder returns to her more natural writing voice that is “smart and dark and vicious. It gets the knife in, and it’s really, really funny.” Van Tonder said that this story grew out of her engagement with blogs and brands. With this book, she wanted to tell the story of how this aspect of media operates now. She says no-one is talking about how “these manufactured influences are going out into the media, all the time. No-one is being honest about what is honest and true, and what is actually made-up, and what is actually a kind of branded veneer.” This One Time is about how wrong that can go, and how badly it does go for Jacob Lynch.

Beukes compared Alex van Tonder’s writing to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, saying: “I couldn’t put it down.” She described how her interest in the book grew as she read it: “Yeah, this book is okay … Oh my God!” She ended up bumping into things around the house and putting off her child’s meals because she was so enraptured. The book, she says, is Flynn meets Chuck Palahniuk because “it has a real heart of darkness.” The book promises a great read and worthwhile consideration of an important aspect of contemporary life.

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Erin Devenish (@ErinDevenish811) live tweeted from the event using #livebooks:


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Alex van Tonder launched her debut in conversation with Lauren Beukes

Posted by Pan Macmillan South Africa on Tuesday, 19 May 2015


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