Now that everyone’s going crazy over The Slap, I figured this was a good a time as any to finally finish off Tsiolkas’ backlist. Which is weird, ’cause this is his first novel, meaning I’ve pretty much done it backwards. There you go, though. This short novel was the perfect escape from my exams, which will be over in two days!
Ari is nineteen, not at university, and not in a job. He lives (sometimes) with his parents, and goes out at night to get wasted, stoned, and fucked. He’s not proud that his parents are Greek, but he doesn’t think of himself as Australian, either. He’s tired and frustrated with the world, but lusts after almost everyone he sees. His nights are full of clubs, parties, sex in club toilets, and his friends are just as gone as he is.
It’s interesting to plot Tsiolkas’ career as a writer, having now read everything. This novel is full of anger and frustration, and it’s nice to see that he’s calmed down a bit – though it’s clear that much of it still remains. While family relationships are vital in The Jesus Man and The Slap, here, they are simply degrading and unimportant. Ari seems to hate his parents, and the feelings are, though not fully returned, mutely mutual. There is this constant deconstruction of the family throughout Loaded – Ari’s parents are clearly no good, his friend Johnny’s dad sleeps in the same bed – and so young people are forced to look to each other for company. Well, each other, and gratuitous amounts of drugs.
This novel feels like one big trip. Not that I have any experience in this field. But still, I imagine were I to take drugs, my nights would be like two thirds of this novel. In fact, it’s not until you get to the final section that you realise all this crazy stuff that Ari gets up to takes place in the short space of one night. Insane! I actually lost count of how many people he got off with, and just how many pills he’d taken. Instead of plot, this novel reads more like a giant angry rant at the world, with Ari constantly telling us how shit his life is. But that’s ok – the writing is brilliant, and the novel has so much pent-up energy, it doesn’t feel particularly depressing. There’s so much feeling, so much – well, enthusiasm’s not the right word – fervour, maybe, that you can’t help being drawn into totally believing him to be correct. It’s damning indictment of modern society, but it’s all the better for it. There’s no wallowing in self-pity – just a reason to go out and get fucked.
Even though this novel is short, it packs quite a punch. There’s so much hatred and anger (and drugs) in here to fill a novel ten times its size. And yet, that’s what makes it so powerful. There’s little plot to speak of, the secondary characters are intresting, though uninspired, but Ari and his philosophy are genuinely enthralling. It’s amazing that one young man can find so much dislike for the world around him, but there you go. There is almost nothing he seems to find beauty in, and that’s what makes this novel so brilliant. It’s almost as though Tsiolkas has taken Eliot’s philosophy – the degradation and destruction of the modern world, where morality and humanity have been pushed into the dirt – to a contemporary audience. The story he tells is dirty, gritty, and altogether unpleasant, but it is brilliantly focused and on message. I think this may be my most favouritest Tsiolkas novel. That’ right, you heard it here first.
Also, sorry for the swearing in this post. I guess Tsiolkas will have that effect on you.