The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is a novel that examines social mores, conflict and domestic life in early-21st century Melbourne. The book stirred significant debate among readers and was adapted into a successful television series.
– Part One of this trail examines the broad appeal of the book and the discussion it generated.
– Part Two examines multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism in The Slap and in Tsiolkas's work more generally.
– Part Three examines the connections between sexuality and politics that appear in The Slap and Tsiolkas's earlier work. The trail concludes with book reviews, interviews, and suggestions for further reading. Some of these critical works and other resources are available to read online.
Click the hyperlinks in the citations below to be taken to the full text.
'At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.
'This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event.
'In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye onto that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue.(...more)
Christos Tsiolkas, the son of Greek migrants, lived in a working class, predominantly Greek, Melbourne inner city suburb and attended state schools including Blackburn High School. He completed an Arts degree at the University of Melbourne in 1987 and has worked as a novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and playwright.
Christos has been shortlisted for several awards including the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and won many awards including the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal and the Melbourne Best Writing Award.
The Slap was adapted into a television series that aired in 2011.
In October 2013, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that The Slap had sold 300,000 copies in Australia, a massive number in comparison to average domestic book sales. The book was avidly taken up by book clubs and individual readers around the nation, stirring debates about parenting, Australian society, and ethics––as the resources below demonstrate.
This article discusses consumerism, liberalism and the middle class in The Slap, arguing that 'it is a novel about the failings of middle-class life'.
Skidelsky, Will. 'The Slap, a Novel That is Bringing Out the Worst in the Middle Class.' The Guardian 22 Aug. 2010. Online at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/aug/22/will-skidelsky-the-slap-success. Sighted 4/12/13.
In this blog post, Bethanie Blanchard discusses the structure and style of the book and its television adaptation. She also discusses some of the controversy generated by both versions.
Blanchard, Bethanie. 'Australian Stories: ABC TV's The Slap.' Kill Your Darlings blog. 7 Oct. 2011. Online at http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/2011/10/australian-stories-abc-tvs-the-slap/. Sighted 4/12/13.
This interview was recorded and can be viewed online courtesy of Slow TV.
Papastergiadis, Nikos and Tsiolkas, Christos. 'Hospitality, Multiculturalism and Cosmopolitanism: A Conversation between Christos Tsiolkas and Nikos Papastergiadis.' Journal of Intercultural Studies 34.4 (2013): 387-398.
Davis, Glyn. 'The Slap's Resonances: Multiculturalism and Adolescence in Tsiolkas' Australia.' Interactions : Studies in Communication & Culture 3.2 (2012): 173-186.
Critics have noted that Tsiolkas's representations of sex and sexuality relate also to his books' political and ideological concerns. The resources below discuss these links, and Tsiolkas himself discusses the politics of his work in the interview below.
McCann, Andrew. 'Christos Tsiolkas and the Pornographic Logic of Commodity Capitalism.' Australian Literary Studies 25.1 (2010): 31-41.
In this discussion with Antony Loewenstein at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Tsiolkas discusses vulgarity in writing, writing for a diverse audience and not only the educated, and whether success means changing the way he writes. He also discusses what writing means to him, and how he is influenced by political engagement.
'On the publication of The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas has become a major figure in the literary life of Australia and beyond. This article examines whether this novel continues the concerns of his earlier fiction, especially those of his first novel Loaded, or whether, in style, content and characterisation, it abandons what many would see as a predominantly queer literary and political project in favour of addressing the concerns of mostly middle-class and straight inner-suburban Melburnians.(...more)
Treagus, Mandy. 'Queering the Mainstream: The Slap and "Middle" Australia.' JASAL 12.3 (2012):
Denes writes about the style of and characterisation in The Slap, with a particular focus on the anger and sex in the book. Denes argues that the novel is 'one-dimensional,' and the 'characters lapse too regularly into cliché, the language of teen fiction, porn or advertising.'(...more)
Denes, Melissa. 'Freakazoid.' Rev. of The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas. London Review of Books 32.16 (19 Aug. 2010): 26-28. Online at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n16/melissa-denes/freakazoid. Sighted 2/12/2013.
Ashton discusses narrative technique and the notion of family in Tsiolkas's The Slap, Cunningham's Bird, Flanagan's Wanting, Leigh's Disquiet, and Lohrey's Vertigo. The review spends most time on The Slap, and Ashton argues that the novel's focus on family should be seen not as a flight from politics, but as 'a flight to the politics of the middle-class family' (93).(...more)
Ashton, Kalinda. 'Forms of Hunger and Hysteria: Recent Australian Fiction.' Overland 194 (2009): 93-96.
Starford, Rebecca. 'Fading Irate Energy.' Rev. of The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas. Antipodes 22.2 (2008): 171-172.
Johnson, Heather Taylor. 'Me and My Country: Where to Now?' Interview with Christos Tsiolkas. Meanjin 72.1 (2013): 178-188. Online at http: http://meanjin.com.au/articles/post/me-and-my-country-where-to-now/. Sighted 02/12/2013.
In this interview with Sophie Cunningham, Tsiolkas talks about his approach to generational issues, class, and writing about parenting despite having no children himself.
Meyer, Angela. 'Discomfort is Sometimes What is Most Precious to Me About Great Art.' Interview with Christos Tsiolkas. Crikey Jan. 29 2009. Literary Minded blog. Online at http://blogs.crikey.com.au/literaryminded/2009/01/29/discomfort-is-sometimes-what-is-most-precious-to-me-about-great-art-christos-tsiolkas-on-the-slap/. Sighted 03/12/2013.
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