Genre- Fiction, Humor, Comedy
Blurb- Do you hate your job? Ever find your mind wandering to things you know it shouldn’t while at work and you’re forced to deal with one annoying customer after the other? If so and you’re looking for a laugh then this is the book for you!
Review- Ray storms back with his third novel whose title sets the tone for over 300 highly entertaining pages of sledgehammer wit and words most certainly not minced. Narrator Mike is a guy who is surely far too intelligent to be working in the ‘hospitality’ business – not, in this case are his customers the rich and famous but a ghastly and dissolute assortment of sad and tiresome slot junkies. The whole book is a rather circular, dizzying, nauseating motion round and round and round in circles – namely around the gaming floors from machine to machine to coffee maker to till to machine to coffee maker to till etc etc. It’s a sign of the quality of the writing that I became unpleasantly claustrophobic about three-quarters of the way through and just wanted these sad gits like Big M, Angry Joe and Voula to leave me alone too! Not even an excursion by bus to a different gaming hall the other side of Melbourne gives the reader any sense of air as the bus is filled with these very same creatures. These characters are gambling junkies but of the most tragically pitiful kind – they lose most nights on slot machines which involve no skill whatsoever yet come back for the next day and moan about it before losing again. The narrator has no time for these sad and beautifully drawn characters but the descriptions leave the reader with an overwhelming sense of pity and futility. In contrast to Ray’s last novel, the epic ‘Confessions of a Gaming Attendant’, ‘How to Lose Money and Irritate people is about half the length and set almost entirely on the gaming floor. This gives it a marvellous intensity and focus – the narrator’s personal life doesn’t much come into play and there is no meandering from the constant click, whirr and flash of those gaudy machines. Mike’s is the constant biting wit and citric cynicism of a man stuck with a small cross-section of human nature due to his job. I don’t much care for cops even though I appreciate the brave job they do, mainly because many (not all I hasten to add) of them have a sneering, suspicious, sarcastic attitude towards their fellow man that mixing with criminals all the time must engender. Basically Mike is stuck with largely people who are obsessed with money but are not very good at keeping it (the pokies) and people who are obsessed with money and VERY good at keeping it (the clubs) while hardly rolling in the stuff himself…. and how much more interesting and enriching it is than reading about the rich and famous.
My favourite character is probably Julius, a deluded Walter Mitty-esque fantasist with pretentions of aristocracy. He doesn’t play the machines at all yet comes to the club to chat about his impending marriage to a dead princess and drink gallons of tea. It does beg the question, why does he hang out there? Despite sounding or at least wanting to sound like a Tory and a Royal at the same time (never two things to get off on a good footing with me anyway) he is rather endearing (at least from a DISTANCE) and provides at least some smidgen of humanity among the clientele, Perhaps my favourite aspect of this hilarious and at times depressing romp is the daydreaming of the narrator. As the drudgery shimmers and fades into the background, zombies, terrorist attacks and extravagant insults fill the club until some shitty task throws Mike out of his reverie.
Anyway, buy this! You shan’t be disappointed. It’s hilarious, it’s pitiless, it’s relentless, it kind of hits many of the same funny bones Hunter S Thompson hit in its orgy of misanthropy. Fortunately Mike does have some light relief in the shape of two colleagues he gets on with, one of whom sets up the final scene of descent into farce. The main villain of the piece, a lazy and obnoxious stand-in boss, will get what’s coming…