Thursday, April 23, 2015

Slush Pile by Ian Shadwell (2015)

15 years ago, Michael Ardenne won the Booker Prize. The years following the Booker Prize were a blur of literary festivals, women and booze. Now, married and living in the countryside near Sydney, he is a drunk, in debt and unable to write a word. Given an ultimatum by his long-suffering wife Tanya to work or get a job, Ardenne starts to read a slush pile - the unpublished novels sent to his publisher. He finds one with some promise and then starts to rewrite it as his own. The book is a huge hit, catapulting Ardenne to the heights of literary stardom once again. But soon, the original writer of the novel makes themselves known...

This is a really strange book. It starts off as a biting satire of the literary novel and the typical literary "hero" (white, male, trying to find himself and obsessed with touching his own penis) before veering into domestic melodrama, crime thriller and Lolita fantasies. It was incredibly readable but the tonal shifts were really disruptive of my reading experience. It's a first novel and Shadwell has a lot of writing skill, so there is some good stuff here but I am hesitant to recommend it. It's just an odd book.

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