The Jesus Man (1999) by Christos Tsiolkas is an enthralling novel detailing the byways and dangers of the mythical Melbourne suburbs. Australian Rules football features strongly, as do drugs and work, family and unemployment, neighbours and girlfriends. The dialog is sprightly and enjoyable, the story dark and uncompromising. There is a murder, a suicide, grief and stuggle. There might even be humour and companionship, depending on the reader's way of looking at this perfectly-shaped world of second-generation Australian children. Tsiolkas has made a name for himself in the Australian cultural scene; he has written plays and criticism as well as stories and novels. Three novels so far, and he was only born in 1965.
I bought this volume in Maroochydore, at the Duporth Book Exchange, a secondhand shop located near the second-best shopping mall. Surprisingly, it was displayed (cover-out) in the window among a sheet of religious literature — obviously the owner had neither read it nor knew anything about Tsiolkas, who is clearly, on the strength of only a cursory Google-search, a son of the inner-urban counter-culture. But, then, I knew practically nothing about him, either. Sydney and Melbourne are a long way apart. I'd read only one review in one of the Saturday papers of his latest work, Dead Europe (2005), and so bought the novel out of curiosity with that small memory intact after many weeks. The review had been favourable as well as memorable.
The other day I bought Tsiolkas' first novel, Loaded (1995) at Kinokuniya, and am now waiting for Dead Europe to arrive by post from Gleebooks, whose Web site provides for online purchasing. I look forward to reading both.