Inaugural Syntaxfree Book Giveaway!

“At work Veronique made a point of not mentioning that she had killed Princess Diana at the weekend. She had practised not mentioning it as she took César for his morning walk, and all the way to the office – on the street and in the Métro. She decided that the best strategy would be to not say anything at all, in a case a confession were to slip out by mistake, like the time she had meant to discreetly clear her throat in a restaurant and ended up coughing an oyster into the middle of the cheese board.”
The Little White Car, Danuta de Rhodes

After his third book Timoleon Vieta Come Home a few years ago, one of my favourite authors declared that he would never write another. I was unsurprisingly rather dismayed, but hoped that some miraculous change of heart might come some day.

As things turned out, I ended up getting a rather more miraculous change than I had hoped for. For even though Dan Rhodes has not published anything since Timoleon Vieta Come Home, a few months ago I came to hear about a new literary voice fast gaining attention for her debut work, The Little White Car. Her name was Danuta de Rhodes. She was apparently 24, French and female.

Highly amused, I emailed Dan to assure him that despite my conservative Catholic upbringing I would not be renouncing my fanhood, and would gladly support the creative efforts of himself and indeed all other transgendered individuals. I also mentioned, in passing, that I hadn’t actually read the new book yet as it was only available in hardcover in Singapore, and as a poor student I would have to wait for the paperback.

A few weeks ago, a package arrived. The Little White Car was in it. Inside was written:
“Pour Michelle,
Avec beaucoup d’amour,

I devoured it over that weekend. I loved it as much as I’ve loved all Dan’s other books, and at least this one didn’t make me feel like bursting into tears in the middle of a crowded train carriage. Also, there is really nothing cooler than reading a book containing an extended passage where the protagonist confesses her secret shameful love for The Roxette Collection: Don’t Bore Us – Get To The Chorus!, where the author of said book has previously made your mutual secret shameful love for said band public by blasting Fading Like A Flower at his book launch party in order to find you, because you’ve never met in real life before.

And so I decided that the time had come for the INAUGURAL SYNTAXFREE BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Here’s how it works:

  • Me, a grateful recipient of a gift from an author I love.
  • You, a resident of a country with a reliable online bookstore presence (Singapore, UK, US are all fine, but you’ll have to suggest a store to me if you live somewhere else), so that I don’t have to pay Amazon an obscene amount to ship the book to Easter Island.
  • Most of my friends no doubt already have a long list of reasons they wish they’d never met me, but here’s another: to participate in this giveaway, you have to be someone I’ve never met. Simply because I like the idea of buying a book for someone I don’t know in real life. Also, it’s pretty easy to buy books for my friends if I want to, but if I shove books into the hands of random strangers on the MRT they will probably think I’m an opposition politician and call the police. You don’t have to be a total stranger to me – if we’ve emailed before, or exchanged comments on a blog, that’s still fine. As long as we’ve never met in real life.
  • So if you qualify, post a comment (or email syntaxfree dot gmail dot com if you’d prefer) and make me smile. It’s pretty easy to make me smile, especially during the work week. Two of the best ways are to either kiss my ass or tell me an excruciatingly bad joke, but I’ll be happy with any effort which goes beyond “Pls give me the bk, k thx bye.”
  • If you elicit the toothiest smile from me, I’ll write back to you and ask where to send your book.
  • Deadline: Monday 7 February 2005.


  1. Hi Michelle, I’ve been a fan of your blog for a very long time. I’ve been fantasizing about meeting you for many years now. From the way you write, I’m quite sure that you’re really gorgeous and hot in real life. I even have a scrapbook of photofits that I made with facial features cut out from women’s magazine that I imagine would look like you. I sleep with the scrapbook beside me every night. I’d be absolutely delighted if you would send the book to me. It sounds really nice! A free book is always nice! It’d be nice if we could meet up too! Nice nice nice! Oh happy days!

    Pick meeeeeee!



  2. You know what, I really really like the idea that you’re connecting with people you’ve never met. I’ve always found it to be a rather romantic (but not in *that* way) notion, and it’s so much easier these days isn’t it? But sometimes, I wish such things would reach closure with a serendipitous real-life encounter. I’m happy for you that it happened so nicely with the author. I just wish it would happen with the person in the song I wrote…

    For other people who are reading this btw, this is NOT a competition entry…even if it was, I’m disqualified by at least a decade. (Ohmigod, has it been a decade???)

  3. So, ive just read your ‘Give Away’ – thats mighty generous of you ah!? …and i do like a good book. Maybe i could send you one back, i mean, it wouldn’t feel right taking a book from a stranger. Unless of course the stranger really really wanted to give me the book..then it would be fine..hee hee x x

    Take care Michelle – Have a nice day now!

    My Best Buys: His n Hers – M.Gayle, Any Tony Parsons Book & most recently Northern Lights (P Pullman).

  4. i think this book give-away is a great idea,i know i’m not eligible but I have just the terrible joke for it.

    Paddy Irishman: i say i hear that the exit polls in the iraqi election have been very Inaccurate.

    Paddy Englishman: yes rather, the voters have been running too fast.

    (worst joke ever)

  5. Hi I’m ‘Alec’s self esteem’. We’ve come very close to meeting many times over the last few years but somehow I always seem to get trampeled under foot.

    I suppose its possible we might hook up and do stuff together in the future – you know, like being tender and supportive in public but its more likely that we’ll continue to tear shreads out of each other.

    So please give me the book. I’ll have something to do whilst my dancing, spelling, organizational, dressing……skills are belittled. And perhaps it will help inspire caustic comebacks. I’m bound to think of a funny one eventually.

  6. Bennie: Verie funnie indeedie.

    Don: Strictly speaking, I think it’ll be a decade come June 2005. Which still boggles the mind.

    Princess Twinkle: Your place of employment suggests Tamara put you up to this. Did she? Not that it disqualifies you from getting the book, as long as you really exist! (I’LL RECOGNIZE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS, TAMARA, SO DON’T TRY IT!)

    Brian: Paddy Irishman should not be saying “I say”. Apart from that little authenticity quibble, good joke and by no means the worst joke ever. For that you will have to email Alec and ask about one of his latest bon mots. (It’s unprintable here.)

    Alec’s self esteem: But how can I give the prize to something which no longer exists? Tell Alec that if he can solve this metaphysical (that’s M-E-T-A-P-H-Y-S-I-C-A-L) conundrum, you might stand a chance.

  7. I own up, I did recommend 2 people for it :> Stacy [Twinks] was bemoaning the lack of books she’s been reading, so I thought this might incentivise!

    PS Bookseller of Kabul was crap

  8. I must say I’m sufficiently intrigued. *grin* Have we actually met before?? I know who you are and I’m sure you know who I am but… you know what, I don’t think we actually have, unless you count being at opposite ends of the same room (which we must have been at some point in our lives; such is the smallness of our circles in our little country).

    Anyway. Pick meeee!!! I would not at all mind reading a book by this author for whom you proclaim such love so vociferously.

    k thx bye.

  9. I only wished we hadn’t met so I’d be qualified, but oh well TOO LATE Hahahaha. I think this is an uber cool idea BTW! :)

  10. Hi Michelle!

    You don’t know me, I’m pretty sure. I stumbled upon your blog because a random friend sent me a quote, knowing I’d understand right away why “London is the Meanest Ex ever”.

    I don’t really know why I’d get chosen, except that I offer to let Alex’s self-esteem read the book first and I’ve never heard of the author and I’ve only just started reading fiction again. (I’ve only read God-boring books on China and financial research for the last year, except the Da Vinci Code and Angles and Demons, but that was sitting in an airport bookstore so that doesn’t count and I’ve recently started my own personal Oprah’s bookclub with my dad’s mangy copy of The Quiet American and my brother’s blue copy of Holy Cow!)

    Anyway, so I have a pun. Mahatma Gandhi walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of callouses. He also ate very little, which made him very thin and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. That made him…

    A supercalloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis

    Hehe. That made me giggle so maybe it’d elicit a toothy smile from you.

    bye, thx k.

  11. Yeah, so this rabbit, he walks into a pub, and he orders a ham-and-cheese toastie, and he eats it, and then he orders a tomato-and-cheese toastie, and he eats it, and then he drops to the floor in spasms, and as he’s breathing his last breaths the landlord asks him, “I don’t get it, why did you die?”

    “Mixin’… my… toasties…”

  12. Just to clarify, Jol’s not eligible for the competition, so that especially diabolical contribution need not worry any of the competitors.

    Keep ’em coming, people, from the entries so far, both here and over email, I’ve been having no shortage of toothy smiles. :)

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