Tuesday, June 09, 2009

twenty-six lies/one truth - Ben Peek

From Silence Without

buy - author site

There's a pile of books on my desk, each of which I've read, each of which I have not yet written about. It has become a health hazard. It's going to topple and crush me. It's so big it's become too big to contemplate, so I keep letting it grow instead of dealing with it.

This particular book I read last year. That's how long it's been. I am a bad person.

Also, it is fucking freezing in here. I'm not mimicking Ben on the cover there. I'm dressed to survive freeze slower.

This book is fucking OARSUM.

I was greedy and devoured it too fast. I inhaled it, taking tokes on it at work when the supervisors weren't on the prowl. I finished it far too quickly, well before I was ready to stop reading, and so went back and flipped through the pages, rereading bits and pieces on whim.

It's a bit of a masterpiece of juggling and jigsaw. Three distinct threads present themselves in the pages; that of his relationship with Geraldine, that of his own personal history and place in what he knows as Australia, and a third, tongue-in-cheek look at author forgeries, and the general question of truth in the written word. It's a topic toyed with to great affect, as he uses himself as the vessel to carry these three narrations, and the title alone is enough to make the reader pause at the other end, and wonder what the lie was.

It's fiction. It's all true.
Or; it's autobiography. It's all lies.

I've chewed on the subject, having used myself in fiction recently. Does it lend some extra authenticity, knowing that the author is leaving themselves truly bare instead of hiding pieces of themselves in a cast of characters? I don't know. I suspect that's something for the reader to decide. Maybe there's some greater sense of connection to be had, as with the more personal of personal blogs. I don't know. I just know it felt right at the time. (Like so many things that later aren't.)

Does it matter? Perhaps, if you buy into the notion that authenticity leads to authority.

Does it matter to me? Yes. But no. Regardless of where this book is pigeon-holed, it remains fucking OARSUM, a little book of brilliance. Ben is a master at playing with structure, and has done so to great effect here, striding through the alphabet and giving the reader a neat catalog of his life and thoughts and opinions. The mosaic is superbly balanced, and the pieces bounce of each other with an ever-growing resonance.

People often talk about the next Great Australian Novel. When I'd finished it, I sat on the train, full of all the meat contained in this slim volume, and thinking of everything it had to say about Australia here, now. I think this is that long awaited Great Australian Novel.

It is only fitting it be written by a white heterosexual middle class male, one who recognises how he fits in the world around him. It is only fitting that this book not be published or available within Australia, and as with the majority of Australia's culture, must be imported.

Whether you agree with me or not, it remains an amazing book.

Verdict: Let me say FUCKING OARSUM a third time. Also, illustrated by the amazing Anna Brown who went on to draw Nowhere Near Savannah, which is equally as brilliant.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10/6/09 16:51

    You look like a surprised gangsta holding up the gang manifesto.

    I agree it's an awesome book.