The literary event of 2015. Steve Toltz follows his extraordinary debut, the Booker-shortlisted A Fraction of the Whole, with a novel that's just as edgy, hilarious and compelling: Quicksand, at once unmistakeably Toltzean and unlike anything that's come before.
'Why should I let you write about me?'
'Because you'll inspire people. To count their blessings.'
Aldo has been so relentlessly unlucky – in business, in love, in life – that the universe seems to have taken against him personally. Even Liam, his best friend, describes him as 'a well-known parasite and failure'. Aldo has always faced the future with optimism and despair in equal measure, but this last twist of fate may finally have brought him undone.
There's hope, but not for Aldo.
Liam hasn't been doing much better himself: a failed writer with a rocky marriage and a dangerous job he never wanted. But something good may come out of Aldo's lowest point. Liam may finally have found his inspiration. Together, maybe they can turn bad luck into an art form.
What begins as a document of Aldo's disasters develops into a profound story of love lost, found and betrayed; of freedom and incarceration; of suffering and transcendence; of fate, faith and friendship; of taking risks – in art, work, love and life – and finding inspiration in all the wrong places.
Quicksand is a fearlessly funny, outrageously inventive dark comedy that looks contemporary life unblinkingly in the eye. It confirms Steve Toltz as one of our most original and insightful novelists.
Read Caroline Baum's Review
How scary would it be to have to follow a dazzling debut like A Fraction of the Whole? That sprawling comic novel announced an irreverent new talent and swiftly gained international acclaim culminating in being shortlisted for the Booker.
Then Steve Toltz went off to New York, wrote a play, became a dad and thought 'Now what?' Well the good news is that in Quicksand, his new novel, he plays to his strengths without repeating himself: his gimlet eye for society's hypocrisies, double standards, fads and contradictions remains as sharp as ever.
Once again he adopts an unlikely duo as his central characters. In A Fraction of the Whole it was a father and son, in Quicksand, it's a dysfunctional bromance between Aldo, a disabled entrepreneur and his bestie Liam, a blocked writer-turned-cop. Together they muddle through failed relationships, business ventures, testing their friendship to the limit, teetering on the edge of self-destruction and mutual annihilation. It ain't pretty, this suicidal mateship.
Using relentless wit like a weapon, Toltz skewers the very worst of contemporary values, from pseudo spirituality to creative neuroses. His humour runs the gamut from cheap pun to clever aphorism, interspersed with dazzling set piece rants, a section written as poetry and a prayer manifesto. The result is dense, challenging, provocative virtuosity. Sort of like Howard Jacobson on cocaine.
The axis between art and criminality offers plenty of material for dark comic potential as Toltz contrasts social extremes with graphic, hyper-real scenes set inside a hospital and a prison. No institution is safe from his aim.
Without a doubt, he's a literary flamethrower, one of our boldest risk takers, willing to walk on a very high wire without a safety net: his characters say and do the most politically incorrect things imaginable and somehow, he gets away with it - just. Nothing is off limits. To achieve his aims, Toltz is prepared to shock his readers; many of his laughs are astringently sharp. His satire hurts as he pushes boundaries. He's not always subtle, preferring a sledgehammer to a scalpel. But his blows land with deadly accuracy.
Navigating the world with Liam and Aldo as companions is a high octane, high intensity rollercoaster of absurdist misanthropy, pessimism tempered by edgy redemptive humanity. Toltz is a master of paradox, a highly gifted, subversive, contrarian existentialist, clearly vexed by the course of human endeavour and contemporary life, as the cover's image of a man rolling a giant Sisyphean boulder uphill suggests. My hunch is that he cares deeply about who we are and where we are going and that to dismiss his modern day fable as mere allegorical entertainment confirms our course is set for folly.
About the Author
Steve Toltz was born in Sydney. His first novel, A Fraction of the Whole, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the 2008 Guardian First Book Award.
'Exhilarating . . . A gloriously absorbing, preposterous and funny excursion to the brink of madness and the meaning of life.' Sunday Telegraph
'Comical, philosophical, picaresque, hugely enjoyable.' Sydney Morning Herald
'Wilfully misanthropic and very funny . . . Soars like a rocket.' Los Angeles Times
'There are more lines of genius on one page of Quicksand than in the entirety of many very respectable novels.’ Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed
'Toltz writes with a singular, propulsive energy, with sentences and characters that rise off the page with a force that leaves you almost breathless. There is more heart, and joy and compassion and hard-earned wisdom in Quicksand than seems possible for a single novel; it is life, literature at its fullest.' Dinaw Mengestu, award-winning author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and All Our Names
'It is very rare for me to laugh on almost every page of a book; it is even rarer for that to be accompanied by exquisite melancholy. Toltz is writing like very few other authors; he seems like an Antipodean Thomas Bernhard in his unsparing, agonizing comedies. I hope it is not seven years before his next novel.’ Scotland on Sunday (UK)
'The funniest novel of the past year . . . Genuinely moving.' The Saturday Times (UK)
'One of the smartest, funniest, angriest novels I have ever read . . . A brilliant piece of fiction, from a novelist who so clearly sees the outsized pleasures and terrors of our troubled time. ' Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England and The Happiest People in the World
'Quicksand crackles with such intensity it made me turn the pages with a harder snap, lean closer, want to gnaw the words. This is a novel of sneak-attack seriousness, so funny it fools you into letting down your guard—then knocks you upside the head with intense intelligence, probing thought, raw pain . . . the greatest thrill comes when it strikes you that you’ve never read anything quite like it before, that you just might have stumbled—startlingly, unsettlingly—on something close to genius in the writing of Steve Toltz.' Josh Weil, author of The Great Glass Sea
'What would happen if some genius were able to unite the high-wattage storytelling exuberance of Kurt Vonnegut, the combustive glee of Walt Whitman, and the reality-smashing despair of Franz Kafka? Impossibly, Steve Toltz has done just that, turning out a new masterpiece that is at once an old-fashioned page-turner, a tragicomic lament for the digital age, and an aching howl at the intractable existential dilemmas of our poor species. Quicksand is the sort of book that refuses to sleep between its covers on your nightstand; it is its own blazing, intricate, hysterically surreal universe, big and brilliant enough to swallow your own.' Stefan Merrill Block, bestselling author of The Story of Forgetting and The Storm at the Door
‘Toltz is a verbal magician and lunatic storyteller. Every page of this novel bursts with ideas and humor and pathos and incisive riffs that perfectly express the grand absurdities of the irrational universe, along with the smaller ones of a very particular friendship. Quicksand is the work of a writer in full command of his many outsized gifts, not least of which is his humanity.' Teddy Wayne, Whiting Award-winning author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
Number Of Pages: 448
Published: 22nd April 2015
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.0 x 15.3 x 3.7
Weight (kg): 23.2