Won’t it just be safer and wiser to avoid contemporary events all together? Just zip lock your novel with timeless references to avoid becoming an irrelevant pile of paper. For debut author, Steve Totlz, there is no safe option. Toltz grabs the reader by the scruff of the neck, pulls them into a hotted up car and drives full pelt into modern Australia.
However it was 2008 when the novel hit the shelves with great aplomb, would it still be “devastatingly funny” when read today?
The short answer is – hells yeah it’s funny.
Essentially a story about a Father raising his son. While the Father takes his role as an educator very seriously, his advice and childrearing techniques aren’t quite run of the mill. With the family motto “there’s safety in looking crazy”. These bizarre thoughts flow forth from the “My Father the philosopher – he couldn’t even give a simple haircut without reflecting on it”.
The father and son relationship is more reminiscent of “Dad and Dave” than the Mr. Brady and Greg. Full of inappropriate jokes and naff notions “Most of my life I never worked out whether to pity, ignore, adore, judge or murder my Father.” The characters are so well fleshed out they have everything but a pulse.
Between all the bombastic, batty thoughts and tangents, there are some real gems of insight “there seems to be no passion for life, only for lifestyle.” Yet for all the navel gazing and bar stool philosophizing, the story has an unrelenting pace.
The novel is brimming with ideas, pulsating with energy, without feeling like we’re furrowing through the dregs of every last creative writing task Toltz has ever attempted.
In fact Toltz is a tidy writer - reining the plot with more skill than a cowboy born and breed in Wyomy, when it could have easily veered off the cliff into a sea of crashing absurdity (much like this metaphor of Toltz being a cowboy cum pirate).
Totlz captures contemporary Australia without resorting to cheap sucker-punch of stereotypes of a homogenous Home and Away society of surfer bums lounging at the local corner store.
And of course Catch 22, which has hidden itself somewhere in my bookcase...