I've just finished The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I know it's a bit 2009 to be talking about this book now. It really was the book of last year. I've been wanting to read it for some time but reading time is always a bit of a rarity for me.
Christos Tsiolkas wrote Loaded, which became the wonderful, in your face Australian film Head On. I loved the book and I loved the film even more. It started with a very memorable opening sequence featuring Alex Dimitriades' cock. Thank you very much! The book and film, featuring a great deal of homosexual sex, were certainly not everyone's cup of tea. Personally I don't mind a bit of homosexual sex.
Speaking of which I am about 2/3 of the way through Edmund White's autobiography My Lives. He is one of my three favourite Gay American Writers. The Not Funny One. I am not sure what exactly attracts me to his work. Looking back I think I accidentally ordered his first three books when I belonged to a book club about a gazillion years ago and he sort of got under my skin. I went to see him speak at the Sydney Writers' Festival a few years ago. Any old how, Edmund, like Christos (like many gay authors I suppose) has a liking for blow jobs. Nothing wrong with that, I'm quite partial to them myself. However, some people don't seem to like reading descriptions of sex acts, BJs, or any other type.
This is one of the criticisms of The Slap which I heard a few times when it was discussed on radio. For me it wasn't the descriptions of sex which were problematic, it was the amount of sex the characters were having. Possibly Christos inhabits a parallel universe where people such as this exist. If people in my universe are having that much sex then they sure as hell aren't telling me about it. [Speak up people, I want to know.]
Apart from the sex The Slap touches on many issues which are the cornerstones of middle class Australian society: the complex relationships within marriage, parenthood, non-parenthood, immigrant families, getting older, being old, moving from childhood into young adulthood, sexuality and identity. The epicentre of the drama is the moment in time when a man hits a child who is not his own at a bbq. This one action leads the narrative which touches the lives of some of the people present.
I enjoyed the style of the writing, I enjoyed the characters, I enjoyed the story and it's presentation. It certainly made me think. Even the parts which didn't sit well with me were valuable because I had to question why they irked me. It may not be a book to change the world but I think it's a very worthwhile book.
Possible spoilers... read on at your own risk...
The question of THE SLAP itself had me swinging. A man smacks a very naughty, undisciplined child who is possibly going to hurt his child at a bbq in front of a group of his family and friends. The family of the smacked child call in the police and press charges of assault, there is a court case. Who is in the right/wrong?
I am 90% on the side of the slap-er, as oppossed to the slap-ee. I don't think anyone should be smacking anyone else's child, generally speaking. But this child is presented in a way which makes me loathe him and his useless mum and dad. He is four and a half, almost at school, and he is still being breastfed. That's a red rag to a bull for me. That speaks of a mother with deep psychological problems, not a child who is in need of nutrition. The child is badly behaved and uncontrollable because the mother won't discipine him, treats him like a deity. He is a little shit.
Would I smack a child like that? Probably not. But I would want to. Really badly. And I would applaud anyone who did in the circumstance which is described in The Slap. Overall it seems like such a trivial issue but these days it is not. I am sure twenty years ago such things were commonplace. No-one would bat an eyelid should some other parent discipline their child. These days it is an issue requiring police action and court intervention.
I know every generation thinks the same thing, but it's a funny old time we live in.