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Meet Paul Dalgarno

Paul DalgarnoPAUL DALGARNO’s debut novel, Poly, is a hilarious but moving story of modern relationships in all their diversity, and an exploration of the fragility of love. gr asked Paul, when he’s not writing, reading, parenting, or cycling vast distances, which books adorn his reading pile.

What are you reading now, and why?
I tend to read a few books at the same time – mostly by Australian writers these days as I feel (even 10 years into living here) I’m still playing catch-up. I’ve just finished Throat by Ellen van Neerven, and The White Girl by Tony Birch, both of which I loved. I’m currently flitting happily between Normal People by Sally Rooney, The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower, and Mammoth by Chris Flynn.

What are some of your favourite childhood books?
I didn’t read much as a child – hardly anything, in fact. So, my childhood reading has mainly been reading to my own children and enjoying that. Matilda and just about anything else by Roald Dahl rates highly. And when the kids were younger, all of Julia Donaldson’s books. Weirdly enough, my nine year old also really enjoyed me reading him Slaughterhouse-Five recently, with some real-time editing from me whenever death and decay reared their heads.

What books do you think portray love and relationships well?
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro is such a beautiful love story – an elderly couple setting off from their home on foot to find a son they are struggling to remember, and supporting each other in a world of ogres and dragons. For a study of desire and its drivers, I couldn’t look away from Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.

What books have made you laugh?
Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko is one of my favourite books in recent years. That made me laugh a lot. And then cry. Shirl by Wayne Marshall also has a nice mix of laugh out loud and sadness. Zadie Smith sometimes makes me spit out my tea, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams always gives me a chuckle. I’m particularly drawn to black humour, so had lots of laughs with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

You’re currently living in Melbourne – where is your favourite place to read?
Honestly, at home in Coburg. But otherwise, I really like reading in the Queen Victoria Gardens, which is close to where I work … or used to work, before the pandemic.

Your debut unpacks the salacious topics of polyamory and sexuality. What inspired you to write about these themes?
My wife and I opened our relationship a few years ago and it quickly became clear that there aren’t many fictional stories out there about what those types of relationships look like or how they might develop over time. There are plenty of how-to and theoretical guides, some of which are really helpful, and many YouTube videos of glam young people without kids explaining their polyamorous lifestyles. I wanted to write something that seemed truer to my own experiences and those of polyamorous friends and their families.Poly, Paul Dalgarno

The book follows Chris and Sarah Flood, a married couple who open their doors to polyamory. What can you tell us about them?
Sarah used to be a professional dancer and loves poetry, particularly Rumi. She’s great in a crisis and is kind and compassionate, if sometimes a little loose with the truth. She’s studying for a health sciences degree while working part time in a myotherapy clinic. She loves her young children but feels worn down by years of domestic drudgery, and she’s also grieving the death of her long-term extramarital love interest. Chris is an introverted people-pleaser who works in a comms role for a library, plays guitar more or less competently, loves music and reading, has cratering self-esteem, and wants to be a good father and husband. While grieving the recent death of his mother, he frequently despairs at his sexless marriage and wants very much to reconnect with Sarah.

If given the opportunity to host a dinner party and invite six authors – alive or deceased – who would they be?
Indigenous writer Bruce Pascoe, whose book Dark Emu has been on the Australian bestseller lists for many months, British author Bernardine Evaristo, Japanese author Haruki MurakamiHunter S Thompson, who was a journalist, author, and the founder of the gonzo journalism movement, cultural historian and writer Maria Tumarkin, and journalist and author of White Tears Brown ScarsRuby Hamad.

Poly by Paul Dalgarno is published by Ventura Press.