The first novel from the author of the bestselling The Slap Families can detonate. Some families are torn apart forever by one small act, one solitary mistake. In my family it was a series of small explosions; consistent, passionate, pathetic. Cruel words, crude threats... We spurred each other on till we reached a crescendo of pain and we retired exhaused to our rooms, in tears or in fury. Ari is nineteen, unemployed and a poofter who doesn't want to be gay. He is looking for something - anything - to take him away from his aimless existence in suburban Melbourne. He doesn't believe in anyone or anything, except the power of music. All he wants to do is dance, take drugs, have sex and change the world. For Ari, all the orthodoxies of family, sex, politics and work have collapsed. Caught between the traditional Greek world of his parents and friends and the alluring, destructive world of clubs, chemicals and anonymous sex, all Ari can do is ease his pain in the only ways he knows how. Written in stark, uncompromising prose, Loaded is a first novel of great passion and power.
The 1998 Australian movie "Head On" is based on "Loaded".
I was actually very pleasantly surprised. It is an
A few times as I was reading I found myself thinking, "Wow, THIS is what I wanted when I read Catcher in the Rye!" I didn't identify with Salinger's whiny Holden Caulfield at all, but I rather liked Ari. His voice is angry, passionate, intelligent and provocative, and even when I didn't agree with him I couldn't help but feel a admiring respect for his brutal arguments and perceptive observations. I think as a character, he is so interesting because he can so readily see the beauty of other people and places and situations, yet seems to be incapable of translating that beauty into his own life and future. I really felt for him!
Despite all this, I didn't give Loaded a higher rating, because although I was completely absorbed in Ari's world, it was quite slow going (perhaps surprisingly, given that Ari is sky high for half of it) and I don't think it will ultimately be a particularly memorable read. There were one or two moments that really made me cringe, particularly the scenes in various clubs around Melbourne which invariably contain awful descriptions of dancing - frequent mentions of 'jumping around', and what moves Ari's 'working in' from his dance repertoire. I found these parts incredibly jarring - though perhaps Tsiolkas intended them to be that way, to reflect the way Ari's drugged mind made some unnaturally slow and conscious decisions about even the most mundane of things? Who knows - all I know is, I didn't like it much.
At any rate, Ari was a wonderful guide to the seedier underbelly of Melbourne life - the dark alleys for fumbling liaisons, the tangled, insular existence of the many different ethnicities on the outskirts of 'skip' society - and I liked the novel enough to give The Slap a try at some point. I also ordered the screen adaptation, Head On, which I'm rather looking forward to. Recommended for those who don't mind their literature buzzing, explicit and occasionally a little uncomfortable, even as it forces them to stop and think about the world from a new perspective.