Thursday, September 2, 2010
Week End Books
Christos Tsiolkas -The Slap
"The Slap"' could be a book about parenting challenges in the contemporary Australian society where diversity and tolerance seems to be too often misguided and leading to confusion. Or a book about racial conflict or one about economic conflict. It could be a book about the conflict among generations and the way in which an abstraction such as "family values" takes different concrete representations for each character depending on his unique circumstances,
A suburban barbecue party. A multi racial crowd from all walks of life -the Muslims, the natives, the Jewish, the British, the immigrants, the straight, the gay, the rich, the college educated, the working class ones. A spoiled three year old from a dysfunctional family -the troublemaker. A cricket game. The troublemaker threatening another child with a bat. The other child's father losing control. An adult slaps a child that is not his....The police will be called, a trial ensues and everybody has to take sides...
Tsiolkas follows the barbecue hosts and several of their guests - their reactions, life changing decisions & actions- as the plot unfolds and brings into their attention other small facts that are their life: secrets, needs, deceptions, prejudices...He also attempts to cover several topics : from parenting to racial, religious and family values as they are confronted with an world which in its diversity cannot be proven right or wrong.
Now, my reasons for choosing The Slap from the ManBooker's long list were the anticipation of a provocation and a rich style based on the author's bio . And , in all honesty, if these were my only expectations from it, I wouldn't have been disappointed. Tsiolkas's writing style is engaging, it has wit and savor. It kept me up, reading, in the wee hours. Nor shall I complain about lack of provoking thoughts or points of view.
It's just that Tsiolkas remains a master puppeteer. An excellent one, no doubt about it. And as simple puppets Hector, Rosie, Connie, Harry, Manolis, Aisha, Anouk, Gary, Richie .... are playing only in his story. The story does not become their own and thus they lack the human dimension I do enjoy to discover when reading my favorite books.