Hawking Up Hairballs

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Broken Shore

Peter Temple is big stuff in Australia. Five of his eight crime novels have won the Ned Kelly Award for crime fiction. The Broken Shore is the first of these novels with a specifically American edition. I don't really know what that means. The last I heard, English was the language down under. Perhaps it is only the American edition that has the glossary of Aussie slang in the back.

I liked The Broken Shore, though it isn't quite as good as all the hype. It's an intelligent book, and reasonably well written, which is no small thing these days when it comes to genre fiction. In quality, he reminds me of John LeCarre in his heyday, and that's no small accomplishment. The trouble is that The Broken Shore is a crime novel. The conventions have all been long established. Joe Cashin, the protagonist, is the typical noir detective hero. He's cynical, but honorable, a good guy at heart who's been disappointed by the world and, of course, he's flawed. I wish Temple had chosen a plot that's more original and not so desperately trendy. The murder that starts the book, and the subsequent associated crimes, can be traced back to a ring of pedophiles. Why doesn't he just bring in Da Vinci and the Holy Grail while he's at it? He wraps things up a little too neatly at the end as well, but I'm picking on him here, and I shouldn't. He's not a serious writer, and I shouldn't judge him by those standards. I enjoyed his book, and I've put a hold on his latest at the library.

That said, Aussie slang has to be some of the most uninteresting in the world. It doesn't have to be that way. Cockney rhyming slang is fascinating, but these Aussies don't display a lot of creativity. There's an awful lot of dropping the trailing syllables and adding the "ie" sound. For example, most of us are familiar with "barbie" for barbecue, but there are plenty others. "Chockie" for a chocolate candy bar. A bickie is a cookie or biscuit. There's "brickie", "corrie", "footy" and "spaggy" for "bricklayer", "corrugated" as in corrugated metal, "football" as in the Australian rules version and, of course, "spaghetti". Come on, mate, give me a break. Now "suckhole" I like. According to the glossary it's an obsequious person, and I enjoyed this comment that closed the word's entry. "A future leader of the Australian Labor Party once described those in the Liberal Party who looked to American for leadership as a conga line of suckholes."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

new australian slang for you....wanker....or is that global?

7:20 AM  

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