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Review: Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar by DJ Connell

 Review: Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar by DJ Connell

I was lucky enough to score an ARC of Julian Corkle from the kind folks at Harper Collins Australia, and I have to say that after a rather woeful week in the life of Steph, this book was the exact pick-me-up I needed (save for perhaps a block of Cadbury Old Gold, but I digress).

I could be pithy and say that Julian Corkle, whose name is rather frequently misheard as Corker is exactly that'a corker of a novel. Except, of course, that I'm not from Tasmania and assiduously avoid using such language.

Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar is a hilarious romp through family life and black-sheepedness in small town and then slightly larger town Tasmania in the 1970s. The book epitomises cultural cringe, which is something with which Australians are well-acquainted, and draws admirably on our long history of books and films revolving around the theme of 'battler achieving against all odds'. If you've not seen such a headline in the newspapers recently, it's likely because you've either not been reading the paper, or because you hail from some other far-flung country. For those joining us from places other than the Vegemite-hoarding, chardonnoi-guzzling, cricket-ogling land of Australia, you'll get a general feel for what Julian Corkle is about by casting your mind back to such classy gems as The Castle, Priscilla, Strictly Ballroom, and Muriel's Wedding. You may wish to throw an episode or so of Neighbours in there, too.

Julian Corkle opens with the birth of our winsome hero, and from page one we find out that Julian, rather like a cubic zirconia from Zamels, veritably sparkles with star quality. However, Julian's mothers support for his small screen dreams (which she facilitates by letting him style her hair and gorge himself on packets of chocolate bikkies) has to remain on the sly, as Julian's dad, a sportswriter and all around blokey-bloke, is rather antipathetic towards a son who turns out to be more at home dressing up his tom-boy sister's cast aside Barbies than he is on the cricket pitch.

Still, Julian can't fight his inner sparkle, and we follow him through a pained childhood and subsequent adolescence as he seeks to both come to terms with his sexuality against a backdrop of narrowly defined masculinity, and to fulfil his star potential by making it big on the small screen.

Julian does get sidetracked here and there, and his exploits have the bizarre hilariousness of a Benny Hill sketch. The reader chuckles along as a tubby Julian decks himself out in lurid (and tight) clothing, dons a pair of glasses that he originally conceives of as John Lennons, but finds out are Nana Mouskouris, and asks quite the wrong questions of the Catholic Brothers at his school. Julian is a bumbling hero to say the least, and he suffers from perennial foot in mouth disease, which leads him into all sorts of ridiculous situations that he believes will gradually bring him closer to his chosen career as a small screen star.

Julian's attempts at putting together a career, however, are similarly as stop-start as a crusty Holden Torana with a burnt out gear box, and upon reflection, he realises that perhaps his dream is not the same of his mother's'rather his chosen calling is in the sartorial world, or more narrowly, within the world of male hairdressing. This is a career where Julian can exploit both his love of big hair and of chocolate bikkies, and he settles secretly into his new role.

However, so skilled is Julian at engorged bouffant and rock-hard beehives that he is soon enrolled in a televised contest for Tasmania's biggest hair, and at last he has his moment to shine.

Julian Corkle is a fun romp that pokes fun at the many aspects of suburban Australia, with its strange priorities and its painful idiosyncrasies. While the book does hit the occasional false note as it tries just that little bit too hard to be funny, it's designed to be a fun, feel-good read in the vein of the aforementioned cult films, and ultimately it succeeds in doing so. I wouldn't be surprised to see Julian Corkle up on the big screen (or at least a two-part small screen feature) within the next year or so.

 Review: Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar by DJ Connell

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Forthcoming reviews: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (young adult); The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living by Martin Clarke (mainstream; literary; literary)

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One comment

  1. Sounds fun, Im always looking for new Aussie authors, thanks!

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