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The Jesus Man - Christos Tsiolkas

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Published: May 1999
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The Jesus Man is the long-awaited second novel by the author of Loaded, which was a critically acclaimed bestseller on its release in 1995, and was adapted into a brilliant and succssful film entitledHead On in 1998.

The Jesus Man tells the story of three brothers, Dominic, Tommy and Louie, who come from a Greek-Italian family haunted by its history. When Tommy is made redundant from work and can't find another job, he finds the voices in his head becoming louder and louder as he sinks inexorably into pornography, violence and madness. Tommy snaps and murders someone who may or may not be a serial sex killer of children, and then castrates and kills himself, leaving his family numb with grief and incomprehension and at the mercy of the ensuing media feeding frenzy.

The Jesus Man is told from the point of view of Louie, the youngest brother, who is struggling to make sense of Tommy's death and the kind of world in which such tragedies are commonplace.

Written with the remorseless, page-turning urgency of a thriller, The Jesus Man is an uncompromising and timely examination of the hell that is life for many people in the last decade of the millennium; a soulless void in which pornography takes the place of love, television the place of human contact and where individual worth has been superseded by economic rationalism. Counterpointing this unremittingly bleak vision is the sweet humanity and optimism of Louie, oneof the great characters of contemporary literature, who looks within himself to find a place beyond the casual horror and mundanity of everyday life.

It is his sense of hope for the future that shines through The Jesus Man, and that fact that we as readers believe in his optimism and are intensely uplifted by the book's final powerful message confirms Christos Tsiolkas as one of our finest and most original writers. About The Author

Christos Tsiolkas was born in Melbourne in 1965. LOADED, his first novel, was published in 1995 and later made into the award-winning film HEAD ON. In 1996 he collaborated with Sasha Soldatow on the dialogue JUMP CUTS. His novel THE JESUS MAN was published in 1999. His critically acclaimed novel DEAD EUROPE was published in 2005 and in 2008 he reached bestselling status with the bold THE SLAP which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award.

Laika was the first living creature in space. She was a dog. Her picture, wavering frames on a black and white television screen, had never been forgotten by Tommy. Her long thin face, and the pert ears. The accomplishments of humanity were listed in a monotonous tone by the scowling Mr Morris; the classroom replied by rote. Ancient Greece. The birth of Christ. The printing press. The discovery of the Americas. The Renaissance. The Indistrial Revolution. The World Wars. Man on the moon. Tommy mouthed the words but he couldn't forget the dog.
Starving to death in perpetual orbit. At home, his father drinking beer, his mother preparing dinner, Dominic reading Mad magazine in bed. Tommy started crying. Breathlessly, too fast, he told his story.
-Laika, Laika, they just left her. It's horrible, horrible.
He was screaming.
And Artie was laughing.
And his mother said, shaking her head, why are you worrying about a stupid dog?
And Dominic, who had got out of bed to find out what the tears were all about, joined his father in laughter.
-What do you care about some stupid mutt?
And Tommy called his brother a cunt, and shouted to Maria that she was a stupid wog, and before he could say anything to his father, the man delivered the thundering slap.
And then Tommy stopped crying and fell silent.

When Somers, coughing, not looking at him, told Tommy that he was to be retrenched, that the corporation was downsizing to reflect the realities of the current ecomonic situation, Tommy's first thought was of Laika, a fuzzy black and white image of a sad dog in space.

___________________

Failure has a smell - of sweat, but not the euphoric stench of physical exertion. Nothing of the erotic. Failure smelt of decay, of stagnation. Tommy leaned into the mirror, staring hard at his face. He pulled back. The fleshy cheeks, the beginning spread of a double chin. He surveyed his body.
-You're ugly, he said to the mirror. He could smell the ugliness with the failure.
He packed his briefcase, put on his jacket, and left. Swift goodbyes. Outside, the traffic screaming, he paused for breath. He was fighting an urge to giggle, to laugh and to skip. Beyond the moment lay a vast uncertainty. But within that moment, he experienced a freedom. Tommy had been spared the longing for liberation. Freedom was terrifying, not exciting. This moment, however, was an exception. He suddenly wished for music.

-------------------

The pain, when it came, was all white light. From somewhere beyond the room there was a shuddering howling. He opened his eyes. The pain was gone and there were loops of fine veins falling across his thigh...Again, the Lord's name on his lips, he raised the sliver and sliced. A thick injection of blood slammed against the mirror, spraying the room. He crashed onto the coffee table and the contents tipped around him. He looked across to God. The Virgin was white, her eyes a gleaming pride. The child-man too was smiling. Then there was the pain, a cruel, annihilating pain. But there was the face of God, her smiling eyes, forgiving him, loving him. The pain drank from her light and he was swimming towards it. Her love and finally her respect vanquished all.
There was the fluttering of wings, the angry flight of the demon.
Then there was nil.

--------------------------

The thesis is really about the media, how it works. I feel that I can put down ideas that are substantiated from my own experience. Tommy's murder/suicide, the cameras and the papers were on it. Great story. Tommy was:
Page 6 in The Age.
Page 3 in The Herald.
Page 7 in The Australian.
Three-page spread in Who Weekly.
Interview with the man who owned the house in which it happened. A Current Affair.
Interview with Mum on Channel Ten news. She regrets it all, they caught her, a camera in her face, asked the questions. She broke down, on camera. They played that again and again.
A photo of Tommy. We, the family, refused to give them anything. But someone contacted the last place he worked. They found a file of photos, from a Christmas bust-up party. Tommy, glass of beer raised, trying to hide his face from the lens, still smiling. This image was everywhere, blown up to half a page, full colour, in the Who Weekly spread.

I hate the media. They made their image my last memory of my brother.
I don't use them, I avoid them. I don't read the papers, I don't watch the news. The most astounding thing I discovered in those first few hallucinatory months is how the story being communicated in the news is so removed from your everyday experience. I don't think I thought at all about the guy who was murdered. Just once, really, seeing footage of his family at the funeral. He turned out to be an Aborigine. As much as I'd like it to be, that is no innocent fact.
The Age, Melbourne newspaper. Opinion piece about racist violence and anti-racist legislation laws.The journalist refers to recent race hate crimes, mentions the Tommy story.
The media created that story. That doesn't mean they might not have been right. But no one knows what happened in that house, on that night. Not the poilce, the investigating detectives, his family, Tommy's family. No one. That doesn't stop the media.
Was it a racist murder? I hate them, I hate them for leaving that question in my head.

ISBN: 9780091839420
ISBN-10: 0091839424
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 300
Published: May 1999
Publisher: Random House Australia
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 13.4  x 2.6
Weight (kg): 0.34