Thursday, November 6, 2008

And here's a book to buy/read

Not that I've read it yet; I'm not even sure it's in the shops. But it's being launched in Melbourne on November 11, and here's the (much more than usually thoughtful and substantial) blurb:

By Christos Tsiolkas
Category: Literary Fiction
Published by Allen & Unwin 7 November 2008, RRP $32.95 Tpb

At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. For those who witness the incident, the consequences have reverberations that will affect all their lives, splintering families and friendships. What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity - all the passions and conflicting beliefs - that family can arouse. Told from the perspective of eight people present at the barbeque, the slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.

Christos Tsiolkas is a writer who loves to take on taboos, and believes his writing to be a form of activism. His work is often controversial, but it engages with and challenges the reader in a way they WANT to be challenged, forcing them to see a new perspective.

In The Slap, Tsiolkas dissects what “middle class” means in Australia now, and questions their aspirations and fears in this post-feminist, post-political, post-multicultural era. What are the responsibilities of parenthood? What are the limits in relationships between adults and youth? Is a slap ever forgiveable? What future are contemporary families creating?

Tsiolkas's writing gets up people's noses and shocks them badly, but he's an excellent writer and a passionate thinker, and this book sounds like a ripper. As someone with no kids I've often found myself on very shaky ground with OP's: the kind of behaviour that one parent has thanked me for ('It's such a relief that you have your own relationship with him and deal with him directly and don't expect me to do it or implicate me'), another parent has reacted to with suppressed outrage and sarcasm ('Rebuke administered?' Translation: 'That's quite enough from you, how dare you not let my child get away with being outrageously rude to you!')

Both of these women were close friends. It mattered, quite a lot. I'm a big fan of Helen Garner's novella Other People's Children, which examines similar dilemmas at the height of the 'alternative' age, and it looks as though Tsiolkas is picking that baton up from the same Melbourne backyards in which Garner put it down, though from a very different personal perspective, and a generation later.

UPDATE (with props to Mindy who called it to my attention): there's a cracker of a review by Tsiolkas's fellow-novelist Gerard Windsor, an excellent read in itself, here.


kris said...

It is out! I saw it 2 days ago at Paperchain in Manuka.

klaus k said...

It's been in gleebooks for a little while also. James Ley's review in this months ABR is encouraging. I'm a fan of Tsiolkas' previous novels: I thought 'The Jesus Man' and 'Dead Europe' were excellent and quite terrifying. 'Loaded' was a little weaker. Definitely something my partner and I will be reading this summer, especially now that it has your endorsement, Dr Cat.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Well, I can't really endorse it properly till I've read it! But I think it sounds great, enough to go to some effort to buy it. Have to go into the city tomorrow so will pick it up then.

I don't have my ABR to date (perhaps it'll be in the mailbox when I go out there) so I haven't seen James's review yet. But he is a really excellent critic.

klaus k said...

I agree about Ley. His review of 'The Slap' pretty much answered all of my concerns about it. I appreciate reviewers who are able to give me a very clear idea of what the book is actually going to be like to read. Ley is also quite correct about Tsiolkas being a moralist. And he uses the word 'horripilating', which I think is just about perfect in context, as you'll see.

Mindy said...

Someone in the SMH reviewed it last week. Maybe you could ask them to send the review copy on?

I'm in two minds about whether to read this or not. I've been on the wanting to do something side, and I'm worried that I've also been the parent of the little shit. Maybe a bit too close to home?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Mindy, thanks for that. Oh the irony of writing weekly for the SMH but living in Adelaide where one can only buy it from selected outlets during a one-hour window on Saturday mornings till they all run out, and I only found that review online just then by dedicatedly hunting it down with no help from the SMH website. The reviewer is an old friend of mine and I would never have been able to predict what he would make of it, but I have considerable faith in his judgement and I'm glad he liked it.

Fine said...

It sounds great. I really like Christos' writing. This feels very close to home. What do you do with the friend's kid who's driving you batty and who's behaviour appalls you? I remember my brother threatening such a child with; "if you don't stop doing that, I'll rip your arm off and beat you senseless with the bloody stump". Brutal, yet poetic in its own way. The child immediately stopped playing up.

Pavlov's Cat said...

I had a very similar experience, many years ago now, with the child of the friend who was relieved that I dealt with the kid directly rather than through her. He was a head-banger, and one day when he was about three or four and I was babysitting, he started doing his head-banging thing when I'd said 'No' to something or other, and after a bit of gentle reasoning about brain damage had failed, I said 'Okay, if you really want to bash your head against the wall, I'll help you.' He stopped at once, looked at me with an expression of wounded outrage, and wandered off to his room.

Fine said...

I had a very similar experience with a friend's kid who insisted on banging her head against a shop window. I said, "If you keep doing that you'll hurt yourself. And if you do, don't you dare start crying and looking for sympathy, because you won't get any". She stopped banging her head.

The novel received a great review in theAge today.

lucy tartan said...

The review by Gerard Windsor makes it sound as though it slightly resembles The Tax Inspector. Or perhaps that's just the motor-repair business part.