Boy Swallows Universe Review Conclusion, Working Class Men and the Zombie Apocalypse has its Good and Bad Points
So I finished Boy Swallows Universe and it came home with a rush. Got a bit action packed, nasty and violent too. In the end it was a pretty good read and I look forward to Trent Dalton’s next book. I am still not completely convinced that the two themes in the book worked all that well side by side but the good bits outweighed the clunky ones. Also I think the hype is a little too big for the product but hey; I wish I was in his position so good upon him. And after all it’s the publisher who is in charge of the publicity not the writer. So in conclusion I liked it but I can’t say I loved it as much as the blurb writers on the back cover.
Also read this week is Jimmy Barnes’s second memoir “Working Class Man.” In this one Jimmy writes about some personality traits in himself and other singers blindingly obvious to anyone who has had even the most basic exposure to rock and roll and Cold Chisel in particular. The lead singers of rock bands are generally narcissistic arseholes with drug abuse problems. The very thing that makes them so good at being lead singers in bands is what makes them crappy human beings in a general sense. But if you are one of these individuals like Keith Richards and others, the longer that you incredibly survive, the more you become liked and the more a living national treasure.
Cold Chisel were a fantastic live band and Barnesy deserves full credit for his part in that but his solo career did bugger all for me as frankly he was the third if not the forth best songwriter in the band. The US influence on the solo career turned him into a bigger star but an even worse human being and for my money a less appealing performer. All nuances went and it was just a guitar riffing scream fest.
The story of all that is here and it rings true but frankly the writing like those records is pedestrian and boring. I know he had a shit childhood and that redemption finally comes through the love of a good woman and family. But Jesus it took a long time before he finally mended his self-destructive crappy ways. And well before halfway through this book I really couldn’t give a shit.
As I already know what’s happened, the journey has to be interesting. It isn’t and if this stuff floats your boat Keith’s autobiography or Tim Roger’s Detours does it so much better.
Kind of related in a very distant way is the book Janesville, the US Financial Times business book of the year by Amy Goldstein.
It is the true story of what happens to an industrial town in the USA heartland when the major employer, a GMH production line building SUV’s shuts its doors. Over five years Amy Goldstein a journalist with The Washington Post covers how the community copes and what working class men and women do to attempt to rebuild their futures. It is strong sobering stuff and along with Hillbilly Elegy another fine book on this subject by J. D. Vance it gives vital insights into the current US psyche and Trump’s America.
This next segue is even more of a stretch but lets try it anyway.
Don’t all those deserted factories and boarded up houses in the decaying US industrial cities like Cleveland and Detroit remind you of the street scapes of The Walking dead and its spinoff Fear The Walking Dead?
All of which makes Zombies the perfect monsters for our current times. As any keen horror fan like me will tell you, the monsters and sub genres in horror that are popular at any given time are actually accurate stand ins for what is troubling us in the real world at that time.
I was writing last week about How I Met your Mum and I stated that TV shows, like us humans, really never want to die. Here are two shows that started brilliantly but now stumble along like their own undead monsters. Their fantastic premise unfortunately held the seeds of their own demise.
This is because if there is a zombie apocalypse once you get through the initial event only three things are ever going to happen.
Either a cure is found or there is nothing left but zombies as sooner or later the last human dies or humans fight back and start the slow process of civilising the planet again.
By the way the cheap trick ending where the lead character wakes up and it was all a dream is the biggest copout in movie making and has no credibility ever. Well, maybe just once when you do the double fake out and the lead character wakes up and you think it is all a dream but then something happens and you and he find out it is not. See the 1981 American Werewolf in London for a good example.
But like a knock-knock joke this only works the first time you come across it.
The trouble with these two Walking Dead shows is they have not gone for the cure option or the black, bleak nihilism of all will die but instead punted on the optimistic we can rebuild option. Now admittedly the source material, an ongoing Graphic Comics series goes down this path and we are talking about a TV series so, so be it.
There was visceral excitement, chills and thrills in the first few seasons, watching the cast cope with the new world and its horrors. And believe me there were some great scenes in those early seasons that I will always remember because they hit you like a brick in the face. But now we have routine.
Routine is good in a way but it is like watching four hundred years of the middle ages reset into the modern US countryside and so mini kingdoms rise and fall, there are tyrants and good guys, heroes and cowards, battles and of course the ever present ever increasing dead. After a few seasons the gore and the makeup can only get you so far.
The shows’ creators have tried to combat this by doing something more untraditional. They decided that any character no matter how important, heroic, handsome or identifiable could die at any time and often badly at the hands of zombies or the ever-present semi automatic rifles [something that will obviously help the USA far more than Australia if the dead do ever walk the earth]. Not a bad move for a while and it was refreshing and unsettling to suddenly find a favourite character getting eaten alive or suddenly shot but then the show’s runners chickened out and rescued a key character from certain death through a shitty plot twist. So now we are on slippery down hill slope, the villains are getting cheesier, the plot twists sillier and set pieces repetitive. Building civilisation is actually quite boring.
But what I do like is that you don’t need to do housework in the zombie apocalypse. There seems to be little clothes washing, minimal personal bathing, and fuck all dishwashing, vacuuming etc. Car washing is non-existent.
Obviously too much time gets taken up eating out cans, looking for medicine and petrol and defending yourself from cannibals, scavengers and rival kingdoms to worry about such niceties as soap and water.
What also amazes me is that given the situation most people are not pissed or taking any drug they can get their hand on. I suppose those folk are long gone and it is the fighters that are left. I am also not surprised there seems to be little sex. No medicine, little food, the threat of sudden painful death and bad personal hygiene can’t help the libido. But I tell you if I was there I would be doing a Barnesy/Keith Richards all day every day.
Even now both shows [especially Fear The Walking Dead which is only four seasons old] can still give you frequent chills and make you think about what is really important in life and what would you do to ensure survival for you and yours but the peak has certainly well passed for The Walking Dead.
We seem to be stuck in an endless zombie shuffle and for the life of me, like the scriptwriters and producers themselves, I can’t figure out a good way to put the shows out of their misery.
Six scary songs
Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus
The Monster Mash- Boris Pickett and The Cryptkicker Five
Release The Bats – The Birthday Party
Come to Daddy – Aphex Twin
Riders On The Storm – The Doors
Just about anything by Throbbing Gristl