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May 18, 2014 | by  | in Arts Books |
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News Pigs by Tim Wilson

Victoria University Press
1 / 5 stars

VUP, the little publishing house that could and did, have been on a preposterous winning streak since their publication of The Luminaries. In the interim, they’ve given the compilation treatment to Dylan Horrocks’ genuinely brilliant and odd comics, and delivered a new collection of Vincent O’Sullivan poetry which was predictably good.

With the publication of News Pigs, this triumphant run has come to a careening halt.

News Pigs reads like a twentysomething’s enthusiastic but clumsy attempt at experimental writing and Pynchon-homage (and I know this because I am that writer). The plot is flimsy and punctuated by deeply irritating asides and interpenetrations. The social critique is ham-fisted and snide. ‘Acerbic’ jabs land with a cringe, not a thud. Wilson’s bizarre insistence on rendering swear words with other characters (‘ass’ becomes ‘@$$’, ‘motherfucker’ is stylised as ‘mother£%#$er’) shows how meretricious the attempts to play with language in the novel are – there is literally no coherent reason for the device other than an edgy attempt at originality.

Speaking of: the puns, of which there are many, are senseless and bemusing. A political columnist writes a column named ‘Swann’s Whey’. Like, what? Why? Attempts at emulating youthful vernacular, meanwhile, are as excruciating as you’d expect.

As I pen this diatribe though, I pause to make a more general observation: the generation I belong to have been the target of crabby Luddite jabs in literature more often than I can count. Two of our biggest writers, Franzen and Gilbert, have both penned entire essays denouncing the internet, mobile phones et al and lamenting the moral failings of the youth that use them. Delving into the reasons why their arguments are idiotic would take much too long, but suffice to say: it’s fucking galling. So when a middle-aged, middle-class white writer takes on a kind of hip youth-based dialect and ergodic touches, he better do a good job of it. Tim Wilson, despite his talent (that his collection of short stories The Desolation Angel was so good only adds insult to injury here), abjectly fails. Older readers might get something out of this, indulgently smile at the jokes and asides. I detested it, and I suspect that my target audience would too.


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