1. Porter created a marketing sensation for poetry in this country with the creation of her verse novel genre. How effective do you think verse is for a novel?
2. Porter quotes Basho, Aristophanes and Dorothy Parker at the start of the novel. How did reading these inform (if at all) your reading? In retrospect why did she choose these three citations at the start of the ride that is The Monkey's Mask?
3. How did you find the concept of the poems and chapters having individual titles? Did it help/hinder the flow of the story?
4. Porter creates vivid characters with so few words. Poetry is often able to distill something down to its essence. How would you say she achieves this here? Why then do we feel so much more comfortable with the prose novel form? Is it more satisfying?
5. Did you know who the murderer was early on? Did this matter?
6. In crime fiction the city the murder is set in is said to take on its own character. How does Sydney get portrayed in the Monkey's mask? Would you need to know Sydney or the Blue Mountains to have this be more effective?
7. What is your opinion of the title? Why do you think she chose this?
8. The book has a glossary of Australian slang terms in the back. Do you think this is necessary? Is the book dated because of this language? Richer?
9. Porter employs comedy throughout the novel. Her dry wit is sexy and cutting. Why do you think she chooses to do this? How does this boost her protagonist above the description she applies to other female detectives in contemporary crime fiction as "female wealthy neurotics" who take themselves too seriously?
10. What is the effect of having Mickey's poems within the novel - the poems within the poems?
11. "Infatuation is blind" Do you feel sympathy for Mickey? For any of the characters?
12. What do you think Porter is saying about male poets? The poetry world? Do you agree with her?
13. Does the novel work as a piece of erotica across the board? Why? Is it appealing outside the sub genre of lesbian erotica? What was your favourite erotic moment?
14. Jill is so caught up in Diana she loses sight of her investigation? Is this her fatal flaw? Is the novel about murder, love or lust?
15. How does Porter explore sexual obsession in The Monkey's Mask? Mickey's mother is repulsed by her daughter's poetry "The she must have been a monster". Is this fair? Why is poetry such a common form of expression for teenagers in early love? Why do we lose sight of this when we get older? Why are parents often so fearful of their children's sexuality?
16. How does Porter subvert the hard-boiled detective genre (as made famous by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett) in The Monkey's Mask? Talk about the use of the "beat" in the book? The mood of the world she creates? The intimacy of the readers relationship with the detective?
17. Porter, tragically died two years ago. She was arguably the most successful Australian female poet and was in the thick of the poetry scene. She observes that poets are "hot haters", why do you think this is and do you think this book depicts that world well?
18. Is the end disappointing? What were you expecting? Porter says that she copped criticism for the end because it didn't resolve things. She wished to end with "a sense of real life ambivalence", is this satisfying? Ian Rankin writes different endings for European and American audiences as the US need things wrapped up? Where do you fall? Resolution is often part of the implied contract with the reader and writer of crime fiction, so what does this modern ambivalent ending do to the genre?
19. Why do you think Porter chooses to break the line where she does in the poems? To indent where she does? If poetry is about the white on the page as much as the black, does this work for you visually?
20. In the book the poet's women all do what they can to protect their philandering men? Why is this? Is this a feminist book? Is Jill just a hard boiled detective in drag?
21. Do the poems work on their own? Which is your favourite and why?
22. I read the intolerable John Law's poetry and was almost turned off poetry for life, re-reading this again was refreshing as it took all the navel gazing and indulgence out of poetry. How does the character of Jill undercut any of this potential in the book? Why did Porter choose her as the protagonist? Does she do any real detective work?
23. Is Porter a good dramatist? What does the inclusion of dialogue do for the book?
24. But is it a poem? Always open for debate, especially amongst the poets?
25. In many ways this is Porter's most successful book, what do you think of her other work? If you saw the film how does it compare?
26. Porter died at the end of 2008 and many found it hard to believe as she had been active and involved in the poetry scene until a few months before. She was an open lesbian and self described pagan. "She had such a vitality and a grasp of life which was extraordinary," said David Malouf, who remembers teaching Porter at Sydney University when she was a student. "She had enormous energy and she was a really feisty person. And I think you see that in the way she made her poetry work, in very spare tight verse. And she not only found a readership for her verse novels, she found a very large readership." How does knowing a writer or their reputation outside their books influence your reading. Is it courageous to be open about religion and sexuality as a public personality or essential?
27. Porter says when writing The Monkey's Mask she felt like Frankenstien wanting to mix poetry, crime and lesbian romance. Does she succeed? Do you like this cocktail?