Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas
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|Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Explicit, angry, littered with drugs: the first novel from one of the great storytellers.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: June 2011|
Ari is just nineteen, of Greek descent but living in Melbourne with his family. He's gay, unemployed and not in education. He wants to get away from the traditional Greek life of his parents and their friends but has no idea how to do it. He falls back on the only life that he knows: clubs, parties, anonymous sex, a cocktail of drugs and alcohol. But will even this be enough to dull the pain? Told vividly in the first person and sexually explicit it's a short book – a novella – which grabs you and has no intention of letting you go until it spits you out at the other end.
The Man Booker Prize 2010 was a strange one. As ever some people disagreed with the choice of winner but the debate all seemed to be about The Slap, which didn't even make it past the longlist. It was a book which just about guaranteed that you would be offended by some behaviour somewhere along the line. Loaded is Tsiolkas' first novel and it's been re-jacketed and reissued in the wake of the success of The Slap: the chance to read and see where Tsiolkas came from was too good to miss.
I'm not offended by explicit descriptions of sex – either gay or straight – but it's not normally something I would look for. In Loaded you can't avoid it, but it's not gratuitous (I really ought to get another sex scene in) and is an essential part of the story, as is Ari's anger. The book peels back a corner of Australian life and exposes the contradictions in the immigrant lifestyle – the people who are there because they couldn't make it at home but who would still rather be at home. There's all the casual racism between immigrant communities. Yes, it's angry, it's edgy and it's explicit. It's also a superb piece of storytelling.
I expected to dislike Ari: aimless druggies don't usually appeal to me, but Tsiolkas deals with him sympathetically. We see the intelligence and regret that it's being wasted. We love his sharp tongue. As in The Slap Tsiolkas has a great talent for the juxtaposition of conflicting emotions and character traits. In a story told as brutally as this one is it seems strange, almost perverse, to say that it's subtle, but it is.
It seemed to me that The Slap was dismissed because it was controversial. Don't miss Loaded for the same reason. It needs to be read with an open mind – and you might agree with me that Tsiolkas is a great storyteller and someone to watch.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then we think you might enjoy Whatever by Michel Houellebecq.
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