Yep, it’s that time of the week again. Herewith be the latest in an increasingly improbable line of Digested Reads, aka the Book du Jour in 300 words. This week: THE SLAP by Christos Tsiolkas. To wit:
“No-no-no-no-no!” Young Hugo was a bludger. Got caught lbw, everyone saw it, he was out. But he wouldn’t let go the bat. “No-no-no-no-no!” he screamed. So Harry cracked him a right bloody rippah.
“That’s child abuse, mate!”
“Nah, it’s just a slap.”
“I’ll give you a slap.”
“Don’t tie me kangaroo down, mate.”
Hector threw a few more tinnies on the barbie.
So then, like, the cops got involved and Harry got arrested and a trial date was set and some people thought the kid deserved a slap and some people didn’t and some people said whether or not he deserved it wasn’t the point and some other people said the point was there was no point, and so on.
Meantime, Hector the Greek wasn’t happy married to Aisha the Indian and Harry was Hector’s brother, the bloody gallah, and Hugo’s parents were hippies, the flaming drongos, and Richie the student was coming out of the closet and isn’t Australia such a wonderfully rounded multicultural country when people aren’t slapping other people’s kids?
“Yeah but, right, see, if the hippies had slapped Hugo when they should have instead of smoking all those joss sticks, Harry wouldn’t have had to stick his billabong in, would he?”
“Hmmm, maybe you have a point.”
“Yes. Except the point is there isn’t any point, isn’t it?”
“I take your point.”
So, like, anyway, Hector’s father thinks Harry did the right thing, but he’s Greek, so what would he know? Besides, wouldn’t the world be a better place if Hector’s mother was nicer to Aisha? Hey, maybe then Hector wouldn’t have ended up screwing Aisha’s friend.
“I say slap ’em all, let God sort ’em out.”
“You may have a point there.”
“I’ll take that point and ram it up your wazoo, mate!”
So, like, anyway, multiculturalism: looks good on paper, but it ain’t worth a flaming XXXX if you can’t throw it on the barbie.
The Digested Read, in one line: “What’s that, Skip? A mouthy kid got slapped? Rippah!”
This article first appeared in the Evening Herald.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.