Saturday 23 September 2017

The Demolition of the Century by Duncan Sarkies    {Reviewed by STELLA}
Last weekend I had the pleasure of interviewing writer, film-maker and performer Duncan Sarkies at the Mapua Literary Festival. As part of my preparation I read The Demolition of the Century. This is a novel that skips along apace with its curious plot, wry observations, clever characterisation and farce that borders on slapstick. The tale is told via two voices. Tom Spotswood, a ramshackle alcoholic who, through his association with the local racing industry and an insurance deal, has a big pile of cash, feels under threat. He believes his life is endangered, he skips town, leaving his wife and young son. Spud, the other voice in the novel, makes a living knocking down buildings and flogging their contents, making ends meet for his family. In this novel, the building which some of the action centres around is the Century Theatre, sadly being pulled down rather than restored. When Tom returns to town, looking to connect with his son, Frank, intent on making up for his inadequacies as an absent father, relationships become strained and paranoia sets in (Tom is sure someone is following him) as he tries to chase down the mysterious Robert Valentine. And someone is following him: Spud has a bone to pick with Mr Spotswood and he's tracking him on the streets of Dunedin. And just when it's all coming together, we veer off and realise that there's something else going on here too - a revelation that is both melancholic, bitingly real and heartfelt.

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