The first time I heard of Australian author Christos Tsiolkas, was in the months leading up to the premiere of the television adaptation of his novel, The Slap. I didn’t watch the mini-series myself, but the hype around it was monumental and I’m sure it had many people asking each other, “would you strike the child of a friend if they needed disciplining and the parent did nothing?”. Well, would you? I tried reading The Slap after the hype had died down and it’s one of the few books I have started and not finished. I found it quite depressing and got about four chapters in before I gave up. I’ll try again one day though, I’m sure of it. So when I saw that another of Tsiolkas’ novels, Loaded, was on the reading list for one of of my university classes, I was disappointed.
I was irritated and not looking forward to having to read it at all. So you can imagine my surprise when I began reading and ate up every word. When I had to stop reading, I wanted to keep reading and was thinking about when I could read it next. It’s not a long book, so I literally finished it in two days but even if it was twice as long i’m sure I would have finished it just as quickly. So what’s it about?
Tsiolkas’ debut novel published in 1995, Loaded is sex and drugs peppered with rock and roll. It follows a day in the life of Ari, a nineteen year old boy of Greek heritage living in Australia. He doesn’t work, doesn’t study, and he doesn’t define himself. He likes sex with men, he has had sex with women, he takes drugs like he breathes air and he is constantly lost in perhaps his only true passion: music. At his essence, he is seemingly without an identity. He doesn’t pigeonhole himself, he just is. The novel is about being someone who has so many different things they should be – Greek, Australian, gay, straight, bisexual, sober, high, brother, son, friend – that all of these things almost cancel themselves out and leave the person without an identity, for it’s not possible to be all of these things to everyone and be the one person you’re meant to be.
The content of this novel is not the sort of thing I would normally choose to read and I admit I only read this because I had to. Based on my initial impression of The Slap, I probably never would have picked Loaded up if I wasn’t required to. There is lots of drug usage, lots of sex, and lots of swearing. It’s confronting at times and it’s probably not safe for public transport (which is where I read all of it), but it is completely raw and stripped of anything that would make it less real. I know that it will make people uncomfortable while reading and I know some people will hate it – lots of people in my class couldn’t stand it. I think I might be the only person who hasn’t complained about it yet, or maybe there’s just some people who enjoyed it but don’t want to admit to it because of it’s content. But if you want something different to what you’ve read before and you want to read something real, pick this up. You’ll love it or you’ll hate it, but you’ll know the inside of a person.