I’ve read two Tsiolkas books now, and the trend is for them to end with an unprepossessing young homosexual male giving his opinions on his world, that being a very dull place indeed. In the case of The Slap it’s fair enough. The book is orchestrated so that something he does becomes the logical end. But here? There seem to be two books here. The one Tsiolkas wants to write about (so it seems) himself, and the other. The good book. I use those words advisedly.
We begin with the former, but the good book starts fairly early on and is an utterly engrossing account of the downfall of Tommy. What a pitiable fuck he is, searching incessantly for a safety which constantly eludes him. He finds it only for moments at a time. In his girl friend. Listening to music. Escaping into the TV. The ritual and revulsion of porn. However repulsive Tommy becomes during his descent, we never stop feeling sympathy. We want him to survive. To our shock, however, suddenly, with a lot of the book to go – you know this because you flick to the end to check – he checks out.
Which leaves what? Unfortunately, I think it leaves nothing of interest. The author tells us early on that the narrator, the irritating young man who is trying to find himself (I guess) will tell a story to which he isn’t really privy. That in itself is a big statement about him. He makes no effort to save his brother even though he purports to care for him. And having told us this story of Tommy, he proceeds to randomly tell the story of his parents. It’s all very weird, and entirely unsatisfactory and gets worse towards the end when he starts on himself and his friends.
There are two types of people in the world: readers and non-readers. Tsiolkas’ books never have readers in them. The people are all empty and trivial, they fill their lives with the noise of music, of TV. I live a protected life full of books and book lovers. But every now and again I find myself walking into a book-free house. It gives me the creeps. And I realise that Tsiolkas’ novels give me exactly the same feeling.
I deduce from the bizarre nature of the errors in this book that it was scanned – from a typewriter ms? – and that OCR was not corrected by a proofreader. Or if it was, the proofreader should be sacked.