Next Big Thing
I was never the future of anything. Most of us aren’t. Nor was I the next big thing, or the big thing next. I don’t even have a big thing.
So I reckon for the very small number of us humans who get the big wraps when they are just getting going in whatever area of endeavour they choose to have a crack at it must be very difficult. Back in 1974, very influential rock critics loudly proclaimed Bruce Springsteen as the future of Rock and Roll. His record company at the time picked up on the articles and turned them into a PR campaign. They needed to. His albums for them to date had been a mish mash of rock, folk, jazz and soul. They were wordy like Dylan and had some great songwriting. But the songs sounded better when other people sung them. The power of the E Street Band’s live chops was buried in their leader struggling to a place only he could see. And they didn’t sell.
But like Bowie he was determined and with the critic’s positive reviews of his live shows, the PR campaign and the “do it or die, throw a the kitchen sink at it” recording of the Born To Run” album he hit pay dirt and like Bowie when it finally clicked he was off and away.
With hindsight after long career filled with glory Bruce was many things but not the future of rock and roll. Actually given his powerhouse live performances with the E Street Band and his examination of the ups and downs of the American dream he has turned out to being the current heart and soul of American Rock and roll and more like the natural successor to Chuck Berry than the future of anything.
I say all that because I am 162 pages through Ex Courier Mail Journo Trent Dalton’s first novel, Boy Swallows Universe. And boy does it have big wraps.
Seems like every journo with some public profile plus every literary critic, well regarded actor, hell even Tim Rogers has given the book the big thumbs up and are claiming Mr Dalton can write up a storm. Looking forward to book number two etc. Australian Classic. So no pressure then.
So is Boy Swallows Universe that good?
Got to say that yes it is.
Based at least somewhat on Trent Dalton’s own upbringing this coming of age story for a boy surrounded by struggle, crime, addiction and tough love is, at least up until page 162, damn good.
His evocation of 1980s outer suburban Brisbane, hot and steamy, filled with migrants from everywhere and seemingly teeming with criminal entrepreneurs is fantastically vivid. The colourful characters, none of whom wholly good citizens, are vivid and he writes with the same love and detail of the Australia landscape as Tim Winton except this time it’s the suburbs of Brisbane. Eli our hero like all good heroes is about to go on a journey of discovery and rescue.
I will update you at about 320 pages.
At this stage I believe the hype.