Tag: Barracuda

Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas

Posted December 13, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 8 Comments

Merciless Gods by Christos TsiolkasTitle: Merciless Gods (Goodreads)
Author: Christos Tsiolkas
Published: Allen & Unwin, 2014
Pages: 304
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

As most people know, I am a big fan of transgressive fiction and in Australia there is one author that doesn’t shy away from a touch or taboo subject. This author is Christos Tsiolkas and he is best known for his two recent novels The Slap and Barracuda. Merciless Gods is his first collection of short stories and deals mainly with sexuality, family and identity.

Author of six novels, Christos Tsiolkas was born in 1965 to Greek immigrant parents. Reading through his novels you quickly get the sense of what it must have been like growing up in suburbia as a Greek immigrant and a homosexual. He likes to explore these themes constantly and you get an idea of just how backwards people’s thinking can be. Then with his breakout novel The Slap, he challenged everyone’s thoughts, tapping into the universal dilemma around discipline and child-rearing.

Merciless Gods seems to be more of a “return to his roots” collection of short stories, which shares similarities with first novel Loaded at any of his other. There is this whole theme about social and personal struggle that play out within these stories. I am impressed with the way Tsiolkas challenges people’s views; particularly when it comes to sexuality and immigrants. There was a particular story that he wrote in Greek and then translated into English that was very powerful.

Christos Tsiolkas has officially become an ‘auto-buy’ author for me now and I will have to read the rest of his backlist sometime soon. Merciless Gods is hard-hitting and not for the faint of heart, he is pushing the boundaries but he does this really well. I am not sure when these stories were originally written, I think that will be interesting to know. However if you have never read this great Australian author, this is probably not the best place to start. Maybe begin with The Slap or Barracuda before working your way up to Loaded and Merciless Gods.

Holiday Reading

Posted November 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 12 Comments

When you think about the holidays, you tend to associate memories to those locations; the foods you ate, the sights you saw, the moments in your life that are special. I’m not sure if I’m a little different or if there are others but I also associate a book or two with the holidays. Now I was away in Adelaide recently and I got to thinking about this and wondered which books I might associate with this trip.

It is not just the books I’ve read while on holidays, it could all include the books I might have bought while there. It is weird; I associate my honeymoon with Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, while that is nowhere near romantic it was what my new wife was reading when we first got into America. If I actually want to break up my honeymoon a little further so the whole thing is not associated with Vonnegut, I could say I associate Los Angeles with Breakfast of Champions, A Study in Scarlet for Las Vegas (I believe I was reading that at the time) and San Francisco is associated with poems by John Keats, which is more romantic, we saw a movie called Bright Star while in San Fran and I brought a collection of romantic poems from City Lights.

It is not just my Honeymoon; Spain reminds me of The Long Goodbye, driving to Paris reminds me of the God-awful Nowhere Man and Paris itself reminds me of Red Harvest. Two trips to New Zealand included Blood Meridian the first time and The 5th Wave the second (with TransAtlantic the perfect book for the flight). Then there was a recent trip to Melbourne that reminds me of Burial Rites but the lonely trip home reminds me of The People of Forever Are Not Afraid and the list goes on. It is interesting how I associate these experiences with books and wonder if people do this with holidays or other moments in your life?

I wonder what my recent trip to Adelaide will be associated with; could it be Barracuda, Solo, Paddle Your Own Canoe or even High Fidelity? Let me know in the comments if you do something similar? I have to think about some key moments in my recent life and see if they are associated with books. I’m not too sure, I do associate one wedding anniversary with a beautiful copy of Frankenstein; I wonder if all those weird books I associate with my marriage says something about me or my marriage?

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Posted November 3, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 10 Comments

Barracuda by Christos TsiolkasTitle: Barracuda (Goodreads)
Author: Christos Tsiolkas
Published: Allen & Unwin, 2013
Pages: 528
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Danny Kelly’s dream is to win Olympic gold, and he even transferred to a prestigious private school to help realise this goal. But at this school he was an outsider and was shunned by the rich boys that attend. His coach believes in him, but the rest of the swim team doesn’t and this could start affecting his confidence. Danny’s win at all costs ferocity drives him and his psychotic approach earns him respect as well as the nickname Barracuda.

Christos Tsiolkas is best known for his highly controversial, but brilliant novel The Slap. Going into this book I worried that this wasn’t going to live up to my expectations of the author but I was surprised. My prediction for a clichéd ‘overcome all odds to achieve greatness’ type novel may be right but it is also very wrong. That is the basic plot but I forgot to take into account of Tsiolkas’s ability to incredibly layer stories.

Barracuda started off tame, full of angst but tame compared to The Slap but soon I was in unfamiliar territory. Unflinching, controversial and not afraid to tread into the dark side; the kind of book that is uncomfortable to read but enjoyable to finish.  The thing I love about Christos Tsiolkas, apart from the dark and brutal approach, is the profound and thought provoking story telling. He is the master of his craft.

This novel like The Slap is a great look at modern Australian life, but this one isn’t looking at parenting but instead the teenage years. Barracuda’s main focus is not about winning or chasing your dreams but for me it is all about alienation. When I was a teenager I was uprooted from all my friends in Sydney and moved to a small country town in north Queensland, where I had no friends and this novel made me relive that feeling of alienation (which I’ve never forgiven my parents for).

Tsiolkas doesn’t stop there, he likes to add layers upon layers and you spend a lot of time after reading this book just thinking about it. This for me is a sign of a great novel and I love how he dealt with alienation so effectively and then managed to look at struggles with sexual identity as well. I feel like Christos Tsiolkas is not afraid to put more and more problems for one character to deal with and it feels so real, the angst of an Australian teenager growing up in the 90’s was done to perfection.

I will admit while I loved this book, it was uncomfortable and sometimes poking at old wounds but the novel was almost a masterpiece. I did feel like it was a little long and dragged on a little at times but overall I was very pleased. Christos Tsiolkas is fast becoming my favourite Australian author and I really want to  read some of his other books; maybe not The Jesus Man but Loaded sounds really good.