I really want to give this two and a half… I liked it, but it felt like a guilty pleasure. It’s a novel about alienation, about Ari, an unemployed nineteen-year-old boy who takes drugs and has unhealthy, anonymous, vicious sex as a way of life. Tsiolkas injects some politics into the tale – it reminded me a bit of a better, Melburnian version of Less Than Zero – but Ari himself hates the world, states at one point that he wants to destroy it all in a nuclear holocaust.
So I don’t know. On one level it was a fun read, but on the other… I felt that the political tangents didn’t really “fit” with the rest of Ari’s drug-fuelled evening, like it was too heavy-handed. There’s a lot of “Melburnia”, but unlike with The Slap I don’t think Tsiolkas got all his facts right; for example, he had Ari insist that Greek migrants settled here only north of the river, even though Oakleigh in the south-eastern suburbs is the hub of the Greek community. He also listed Bentleigh as a leafy eastern suburb, up there with Balwyn and Boronia, when it’s actually just west of Oakleigh and was for a long time a working-class area… populated by people who worked in the factories in Oakleigh (and also, like, in Moorabbin and such).
I guess it kind of bugged me that this was a city I almost recognised, but not quite. Its setting in time had a similar effect – having been published in 1995, it’s stuck in that limbo where it’s not quite old enough to be considered a representation of a historical period, but old enough that it’s quite dated. Ari buys two drinks at a club and pays $5 for them. He has to call people at their homes on Saturday afternoon to plan where he’ll bump into them at 1:30am. That kind of thing!
But like I said, overall, it was fun.