Christos Tsiolkas's Loaded as Grunge Writing

Christos Tsiolkas's Loaded as Grunge Writing

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Christos Tsiolkas's Loaded as Grunge Writing

Grunge writing as described in Ian Sysons lecture and article Smells Like Market Spirit is to be a fad or marketing ploy to cash in on the grunge scene and to have the same properties and appeal as grunge music, which emerged from Seattle’s underground just before the emergence of grunge writing in Australia. The properties of grunge music are raw sound, distorted guitars, contrasting song dynamics, focus on music, rejection of theatrics, inspired by metal/indie/rock/punk, angst filled lyrics, and an appeal towards the disgruntled youth of generation X. Loaded does not fit into the genre of grunge writing in relation to the description of grunge music.

The only reason why Loaded is classified as grunge is because it was released during a convenient time of when grunge music became immensely popular due to the success of bands like nirvana. If it were released at another time or without the existence of grunge music it would have been in a genre called dirty realism, hyperrealism, urban realism, gay fiction or it just wouldn’t be published in the mainstream. It is possible it got labeled grunge in the descriptive context of being dirty because it has descriptions of harsh issues that are not in the norm of modern literature.

Drug references, homosexuality, anonymous homosexual encounters, trans gender characters, cultural/sexual identity, a father’s sexual abuse towards his cross dressing son, place, and swearing are the elements in Loaded, besides the swearing and drug references none of these elements are in grunge music. What exactly makes it grunge? Grunge music is about freedom, being free to do what you want, social discomforts, and social observations/commentary. Loaded on the other hand are 151 pages of subtle complaining since it is difficult to recall him liking anything. The lead character Ari is torn between his cultural and sexual identity, hates conformity, the consumption of drugs to get out of his hated reality, use of music when he has no drugs, coming up with narrow-minded conclusions based on generalizations, and lack of future direction which all doesn’t sound very grunge.

There are many books written well before, after, and during the grunge phase yet are not in the grunge genre, titles such as Fritz The Cat written in many stories during the late 1960s to the early 70s, featured elements such as references to music that inspired grunge, swearing, anonymous sex, place, drug induced orgies, street violence, and a social commentary.

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In factional account Generation Kill written in 2003, which was about a generation x battalion fighting in Iraq, their primary mission is to purposely become ambushed by insurgents. This included detailed graphic violence, references to rock/grunge/rap music, issues with cultural identity, swearing, place, drug references, social commentary of society in post 9/11 America, and a yearning for freedom. Mark “chopper” read wrote 10 books throughout the 90’s, the first five volumes were personal memoirs and anecdotes, which have the same sex, drugs, violence, place, swearing, and underworld elements, yet are not classified as grunge.

There is a plethora of homosexual activity and that is what separates Loaded with the aforementioned books. Does being gay make it grunge? This should not be the case since grunge music is not about being gay, yet it is the only difference. Using homosexual themes in a book during times of intolerance towards gay people is against the norm back in 1995 but grunge was never about going against the norm it was just a new style of rock music inspired and/or infused with other forms rock music that splintered into its own way and never going against the norm and eventually it became part of the norm.

The writing style Christos Tsiolkas uses is very abrupt with its short descriptive sentences of every detail that gets broken up by Ari’s opinions and dialogue between characters. Using these types of sentences does make it seem raw, but it could be how it is written with pessimistic tones and choice of words. The writing style is consistent throughout the book and doesn’t change its dynamic or flow, unlike grunge music, which distorts itself periodically within songs/albums/lyrics, is rarely consistent, and sounds unrefined.

Labels such as urban realism, hyperrealism, and dirty realism mentioned in Kristy Leisman article Australian Grunge and the Conflict Between Literary Generations doesn’t suit Loaded because the only thing that is real is the places. Gay fiction, transgender fiction, multicultural fiction and fictional account would suit Loaded as a genre. By placing it into the genre of grunge or using words like grunge, hyper, urban, dirty, and realism is a theatrical action to give it more credibility, which is something grunge music and musicians reject.

The character Ari is built up with an abundance of theatrics, so many in fact that contradictions come to light. Christos Tsiolkas tries to make his lead character intelligent but ruins it by letting him have ranting diatribes derived from generalizations and narrow-minded conclusions, unprotected sex, and giving his sister drugs. Other contradictions include the unaccountable extensive amount of drugs and alcohol consumed without harm or effect to his body, having no job yet always having money for alcohol/drugs/taxis whilst not mentioning where it comes from in such a condensed detailed novel, and no mention of what Ari does since he has no job or education to go to. It makes it seem exaggerated and over the top with all this added in your face events without a basis to work from. It just seems unrealistic and fake, in other words theatrical.

In conclusion Christos Tsiolkas’ Loaded does not fit into the grunge genre simply because it doesn’t appeal to the same people as grunge music, which targeted to the specific demographic of angry/depressed/questioning youth of generation x, as opposed to Loaded which targeted everyone from the ages of 25 to 45. The novel has no common traits with grunge music, and many books were written with common themes yet are not included in this genre and Loaded has not been excluded. Grunge is angst filled, raw, high-powered, distorted, contrasting dynamics, rejection of theatrics, and inspired by metal/indie/rock/punk. Loaded is not grunge.


Tsiolkas, C 1995, Loaded, Random House Australia, Milsons Point, NSW

Syson, I 1996, Smells Like Market Spirit, in Contemporary Fiction Unit Reader 2008

Leisman, K XXXX, Australian Grunge Literature and the Conflict between Literacy Generations, in Contemporary Fiction Unit Reader 2008
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