Slapping And Bad SexMay 1, 2012 No Comments
After the publication of his fourth and most successful novel The Slap, which was turned into a TV miniseries in Australia and kicked off the 2012 Edinburgh International Book Festival, Christos Tsiolkas complained of the poverty of criticism of the sex in his book. I agreed.
The novel itself is written in eight parts, telling the story through the perspectives of eight closely linked people who attend a Melbourne barbecue where a man slaps someone else’s child. The story is about a tense, gendered, multicultural modern Australia, as well as the notions of intimacy, solidarity, identity and loyalty.
The sex in the book takes a distinctly hard line. Even in situations which could be interpreted as intimate, the author scripts the sex rather than writes it. A man walks into a room, has a conversation with a woman. Suddenly there are body parts, rapid utterances and crude descriptions. Then we’re back in the room.
It’s ugly and awkward, often with at least an undercurrent of violence, if not the overt hatred of Harry’s sexual monologues. That is the way the sex often feels; like a monologue, a solitary experience. Characters masturbate against other humans who become flat, a canvass the fury and unhappiness, or occasionally the happiness, of another.
Connie’s first sexual encounter is written with the awkward self-awareness of a precocious young woman, balancing what she knows of her sexual autonomy and what she knows of the misogyny that underpins her culture. Tellingly, she has a more advanced understanding of the older lover, Hector, who has used and unkindly pushed her away, than he does of her.
The rage in the book is told through sex. Harry’s racism and misogyny is illustrated when he fantasises about Rosie while he’s with Kelly. Rosie’s abandonment and self-loathing is soothed when she recalls her affair with a married man in England.
So what is the purpose of all this? The book is about much more than sex, but sex is one of the ways the characters relate to the world. They use it to understand themselves, to transport and change themselves, to banish or inflict hurt and distract themselves from reality. Sex is porn, for them. And maybe for us.
Contact the author here: email@example.com