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March 16, 2009 | by  | in Books | [ssba]

Two Little Boys

I began reading this novel last year, and stalled some way in, as I have known guys just like Deano and Nige in my years growing up in the provinces (coincidentally, the book is set in the 80s of provincial Otago). Despite my love of Sarkies’ plays, and the movie Scarfies, I put the book down, thinking “I’ll get back to that.”

Roll around to the ‘Summer Books Alive’ Writers and Readers’ event at the Jimmy Bar, and there Duncan Sarkies performed a chunk of the dialogue-heavy plot and I was transfixed on the spot. It is very funny read out; I expect that Sarkies’ playwriting experience just leads to very auditory, scripty prose. The book cover has an endorsement from Jermaine Clement, no less.

My efforts to keep reading the story at home got me most of the way through the plot, so I’ll just crack on and give you a sheila’s point-of-view of this very blokey, strange story. About a couple of socially-challenged provincial guys, a dead backpacker, a new flatmate, a car, and a lot of really annoying dithering around the countryside trying to decide how to resolve the problem they’ve got themselves into.

It really is annoying to be inside the head of one of the characters, who becomes psychopathic as he keeps being thwarted in his delusional self-importance by the others, leading to some very nasty fantasies going on inside his head as he imagines what he’ll do to the guy he decides has disrespected him. I find myself fervently desiring never to set foot in provincial Otago, as the oft-stated “everything is material for a writer” fights with “but it’s only fiction” in my mind. God help us all if the natives really are this thick in Dunedin! As a study of ‘mateship’, Sarkies raise a lot of questions about the blind support ‘mates’ extract from one another, and in my mind, raises the question of when one does draw the line and just pass, saying ‘it’s not worth the candle, mate’. Definitely in relation to the recent student mayhem being derided in the Otago Daily Times, I ended up feeling glad they weren’t at all like any people I knew, despite the awful fascination of the story unrolling to their destruction. One for the rugby-club boys, I think, rather than this reviewer.


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