Merciless Gods by Chistos Tsiolkas. A review by John Cook

TsiolkasHe’s baaaack!

This group is well aware of ‘Loaded’ and its movie version ‘Head On’, ‘The Jesus Man’ (less well known), ‘Dead Europe’ and its film adaptation, ‘The Slap’ with an Australian TV adaptation and now an NBC version which is underway at this moment and ‘Barracuda’ which begs adaptation. Now published is ‘Merciless Gods’, a collection of 15 short stories. Not all the material is new with 8 of the items previously published though many in small circulation magazines over 20 yers.

The stories vary in intensity and readability (one lost me almost entirely) but the usual Tsiolkas intensity is still present as he exercises his themes of family and others relationships, love, growing old and death with an overlay of race relations and religion. The potential turmoils of a gay existence within an immigrant culture is also never far from his story-telling.

I particularly enjoyed ‘Merciless Gods’, ‘Saturn Return’ and ‘The Disco at the End of Communism’ (almost a novella) but I most enjoyed Porn 1, 2 and 3. These relative rarities examine the awkward but well-known reality of pornography making from a series of different perspectives (the mother, the bystander, the participant, the user). There is nothing didactic in them but I found them deeply touching and insightful.

Some, I know, find it hard to accept the harshness of what Tsiolkas seems determined to push into our faces, but I mostly found these stories stimulating and daring, not something to be turned away from. His skill is admirable and I believe it is a worthwhile enterprise to accept these confrontations.

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