Loaded, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Ari is nineteen, Greek, gay, unemployed, looking for something - anything - to take him away from his aimless existence in suburban Melbourne.

Torn between the traditional Greek world of his parents and friends and the alluring, destructive world of clubs and drugs and anonymous sex, all Ari can do is ease his pain in the only way he knows how.




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I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this little book, having read such mixed reviews of Tsiolkas's better-known novel <i>The Slap</i>. But this one - his first, and pretty short at 151 pages - sounded right up my street, so I thought I'd give it a go!I was actually very pleasantly surprised. It is an almost stream-of-consciousness narrative from the fascinating mind of Ari, a nineteen year-old gay Greek boy living in Melbourne. Ari is simultaneously an aggressively confident young man, and completely conflicted about everything, veering between vehement certainty and utter helplessness. He isn't entirely at ease with his sexuality, his friends come and go around him, he despises the confinement of traditional Greek life, and he has absolutely no sense of where he's going - despite his occasional protestations to the contrary. All he really knows is that he loves movies and music, sex and drugs, and that being loaded keeps him calm, quiet and <i>almost</i> content. The novel drags the reader along for a 24-hour ride inside his head as he snorts, shags, drinks and meanders his way through another day.A few times as I was reading I found myself thinking, "Wow, THIS is what I wanted when I read <i>Catcher in the Rye</i>!" I didn't identify with Salinger's whiny Holden Caulfield at all, but I rather liked Ari. His voice is angry, passionate, intelligent and provocative, and even when I didn't agree with him I couldn't help but feel a admiring respect for his brutal arguments and perceptive observations. I think as a character, he is so interesting because he can so readily see the beauty of other people and places and situations, yet seems to be incapable of translating that beauty into his own life and future. I really felt for him!Despite all this, I didn't give <i>Loaded</i> a higher rating, because although I was completely absorbed in Ari's world, it was quite slow going (perhaps surprisingly, given that Ari is sky high for half of it) and I don't think it will ultimately be a particularly memorable read. There were one or two moments that really made me cringe, particularly the scenes in various clubs around Melbourne which invariably contain awful descriptions of dancing - frequent mentions of 'jumping around', and what moves Ari's 'working in' from his dance repertoire. I found these parts incredibly jarring - though perhaps Tsiolkas intended them to be that way, to reflect the way Ari's drugged mind made some unnaturally slow and conscious decisions about even the most mundane of things? Who knows - all I know is, I didn't like it much.At any rate, Ari was a wonderful guide to the seedier underbelly of Melbourne life - the dark alleys for fumbling liaisons, the tangled, insular existence of the many different ethnicities on the outskirts of 'skip' society - and I liked the novel enough to give <i>The Slap</i> a try at some point. I also ordered the screen adaptation, <i>Head On</i>, which I'm rather looking forward to. Recommended for those who don't mind their literature buzzing, explicit and occasionally a little uncomfortable, even as it forces them to stop and think about the world from a new perspective.

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