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Miles Walker, You’re Dead
by Linda Jaivin

Category: Fiction / Comedy
0 pages; ISBN: 1 87584756 1

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Ben Goodale


On the cusp of the millenium, a book about art, culture, politics and body piercing. Imagine, if you will, a country where art is society, where national funding for the arts is normal, corporations vie to sponsor experimental jazz, and sitcoms called "One for the Monet" dominate prime time TV. Where every corner of every street sees performance art. Hmm, not where you live I`m sure.

This may give you a taste of this unusual place, as our young hero Miles (an artist, of course) is accosted by a gang: "they wore the classic homeboy uniform of shiny tracksuit pants, moon-landing runners and hooded sweatshirts emblazoned with the names of foreign art galleries. Their leader, whose shirt advertised Barcelona`s Picasso Museum, grabbed me by the collar. "All right, pretty boy," he menaced, as his mates leaned in sneering. "What do youse think of Barrie Kosky`s interpretation of King Lear ? Reckon he took too many liberties with the text ?"

Of course the perfect setting for this cultural heaven is, you guessed it, Australia, or "Strayer" as it`s referred to in Linda Jaivin`s book. Culture vultures eat your hearts out.

Our protagonist is a somewhat neurotic portrait painter who is hired to paint a portrait of the new Prime Minister of this "little island". The snag is the new PM has just canned all the grants and support for the arts and driven it underground where it is flourishing. Miles, our hero, lives with a bunch of artistic delinquents who set out to blow up the new Prime Minister at the turn of the millenium, whilst our less radical Miles gets caught up in the flow including being kidnapped by a group of naked wild ladies and spending a week in the bush, before being bound and gagged in the general vicinity of the bomb.

Once you get round the notion of an arty Australia, the characterisation is great fun, the sketches well drilled, and the overall concept so original and bizarre it makes for a good weekend read (and you may even pick up some useful art references for your next cocktail party, although watch out as it is after all a huge send up of the pretension of the genre). All you need to enjoy this book is a sense of humour. And it`s worth it for the unrepeatable body piercing gag.


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