Out of all the books I bought back (adding like 5 kilos extra weight to my bag) the most twisted books are all by Australians. I think that says something about me, but am not sure what. I mean there's Big Man's Barbie by Leonie Stevens, which involves a female Elvis, more drugs than all the 60's combined, and an ending that involves a cow being ritually slaughtered at a bbq so one underworld Mafia boss can outdo another underworld Mafia boss*. And Maude lovin' huge-arse Maori wrestlers called Mel and Kim.
There's also my all time favourite The Last Days: The Apocryphon of Joew Panther by Andrew Masterson which always makes me want to read the Bible back and front and cover to cover, purely so I get all the jokes. Jesus Christ being a hooker-screwing, torturous (he learnt a lot during the Inquisition.) drug-dealer living in inner-city Melbourne? How can you go wrong with such a tale? Now that's a boy with father-issues.
And one I had forgotten about, that always blows me away is The Prince by Tim Richards. Everytime I read this I find something new that chills me. This book was written w-a-y back in 1997 - before reality television took off - and I can't help but wonder if we're not that far away from this happening. If Paris can have a hit show, what's next? Anyway, this book has a simple-ish idea. A small suburb on the outskirts of Melbourne called Hampton is dying: the money has left the town, its children are having to leave to find work, and the council is trying hard to keep the place together. They put their heads together to try to think of a way to bring money back to town, and the idea that has the most merit is a Festival. 'Cause everyone loves a Festival. The biggest problem is what kind of Festival - all the good ideas seem to have been taken. Until someone comes up with :drumroll please:
The idea is every year 7 people will be killed. Killed - not murdered. You don't use that kind of language in this here town. They employ a young man from the town to become 'The Killer.' Everyone knows he's The Killer, and everyone loves him for it. He is a celebrity due to his prowess with a cross-bow. Or poison. Or handy cliff. If you wish to live in town you sign a contract saying you're fine with being randomly killed for the greater good. Children - children - from the age of 12 until 18 sign yearly contracts as well. If a child doesn't want to sign that's okay. But they'll have to go to school elsewhere.
We pick up the story during the 5th year of The Festival of Killing. So far there have been 33 killings, and they are remembered at The Shrine of Martyrs. Ages of the Martyrs (not victims. There's no such thing as a victim or a murder in this fair place) range from 15 - 86. Men, women, single, married, mothers, fathers, no one is immune. Something goes horribly wrong during the 5th year between the sixth and seventh murder that blows up in the faces of the community. Please note - it's not The Killings that go wrong, its the gambling and government corruption that pulls the chair out from under them. And isn't that a chilling thought - the towns population don't find the Killings immoral - just the gambling. Isn't "Thou Shalt Not Gamble" the first Commandment? No? My mistake.
Everytime I read this I find a passage that floors me. That makes me want to slowly put the book down, back away from it without any sudden movements and go and hide under my blanket.
This is the part that made me squirm for Humankind this time:
(Taken from The Killers journal.)
I'm getting fat. I've put on two kilos in the past couple of months, and seven kilos since I too the job. Too many functions, too much wine. I wonderwould Hampton tolerate a Killer who didn't match the desired image: an active, youthful man who could be projected positively to the tourist market? This is the era of the Health Papacy. A fat and slovenly Killer would look too immoral. A flabby Killer would look like someone who might get pleasure from the act of killing. If you are slim and you've got a good smile, you can sell anything to a society educated to buy things sold by slim people with a good smile. All the initial market research indicated that people wouldn't accept a female kiler. It violated their assumption that an admirable woman - whatever her achievements in other fields - was one who was still primarily concerned with caring and nurturing. For fairly obvious reasons, it wouldn't have done to give the role of Killer to a black, or someone from an ethinic or religious minority. What is it about the WASP male that makes people feel comfortable with him as a Killer?
There's so much wrong with the above statement, and yet so much spot-on about the world we live in it makes you worry.
On an related note - I need a non-fandom book icon.
*Is there such a thing as an overworld Mafia boss? Doesn't being famous for being a Mafia boss kinda take the underworld-ness out of the job??