Christos Tsiolkas likes to write about sex. His sex scenes are uniformly grim. ‘He was murdering her, cutting her, fucking her, hurting her. He farted and the room smelt of his acrid shit. He jumped into her, a machine, and he came in a spasm: groans, the kicking back of his body, a tremor throughout. The woman quickly moved away from him, turned and carefully took the condom from his now embarrassed dick.’ That’s Tsiolkas all over: the sledgehammer prose, the unrestrained nostalgie de la boue. He revels in bodies and their secretions: ‘His cock was wet, pink’; ‘The boy’s pale arse, the shock of red halo around the swinging balls. The quick ugly flash of his daughter’s thickly black snatch’. I won’t go on. But Tsiolkas does. After a while you start to feel sorry for his characters. Don’t any of them ever have a good time in bed?
The Jesus Man is Tsiolkas’s second novel, originally published in Australia in 1999 and now reissued in the UK to capitalise (we must presume) on the mega-bestsellerdom of The Slap (2008). Readers who were beguiled by the soapy shenanigans of The Slap should, if they decide to tackle