Darker than I remembered it being – I read it overnight a few years ago and was thinking of lending it to a soccer playing mate. Just as well I re-read it first – I had recalled the integration of the Italian-Australian soccer club and some of the humour, but forgotten the undercurrent of bitterness and discontent. I’d also forgotten Dr. Goldsworthy’s unremitting ‘too much information’ detail on bodily functions and emissions – do we really need to know every time Mack is scratching his balls (and how many scratches, and how much relief it gives him)?
There are pleasures in this book. As ever Goldsworthy has given us authentic Australian characters. Mack has some camaraderie with soccer buddies, moments of real affection with his wife, and a redemptive penance with the liberation of his mother. However things are bleak for much of the time. I suppose that’s deliberate – Goldsworthy is portraying the classic mid-life crisis of a proud sportsman who’s not philosophically coping with his aging body, which makes him lash out at others. It’s a fine line to push – we’re supposed to like Mack, but also recognise that he can be a selfish jerk on occasion. The childishly nasty bickering with the other staff members can be particularly rough going (much, as a high school teacher myself, as I can empathise with the yearning to escape the oppressive drag of spending half your life trapped with bored teenagers who like you want to be somewhere else).
American Beauty offered a similar solution – of taking a lower paid job with less responsibility, although it offered more hope physically. KISS doesn’t get quite as surreal, but it does go melodramatic. Yeah, I suppose it’s well written, but I didn’t really enjoy the unpleasant situations (and often unpleasant company) in this slice of life. Hey, Goldsworthy doesn’t have to write sugar-coated crowd pleasers, he can explore some of the darker times if he likes. But I don’t have to want to go and hang out there with him, waiting a long time for the rays of sunshine.