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I finally got to the SLAP moment. What is the SLAP moment? It is when you are reading a longish book and thinking you hate the fucking thing but it’s not quiiiiiiiiiite bad enough to say THAT’S ENOUGH and there are these great billowing clouds of praise and for this thing urging you onwards and you’re looking, looking for the scene, the page, the paragraph which will make you stop dead and say THUS FAR AND NO FARTHER…. It finally happened to me in my reading of The Slap, so now I call it a SLAP moment. In The Slap it was the scene where Gary, the sex-starved husband, is wrestling with his young son for control of the mother’s breasts – please feel free to check my review which goes into some detail, but have a sick bag handy. In The Man who Loved Children, the SLAP moment arrived on page 133-134. It’s worth discussing in detail because this is a very well-loved book and I feel like a right pillock in not being able to join with the glad band of happy four and five star bestowers. I feel I’ve let the side down. I don’t feel good.But fucking hell, guys, seriously?You’ll all know that this long novel is about a husband named Sam who hates his wife Henny who returns the hatred with interest. Between them they have 6 children. The novel is about this family. Everyone uses the word “dysfunctional” to describe this family but I think that word, along with “subversive”, should be retired to the Home for Worn-Out Words because never have I heard a family described as “functional” and if one was the members thereof would probably feel mildly insulted, so “dysfunctional” is another horrible modern cliché, let’s find a different word.Vast swathes of this novel are about the insufferably pompous, all-knowing, all-self-regarding, all-put-upon, all-martyred, all-wise father Sam and his creepy babytalk with the kids. Other swathes are Henny’s sudden diatribes about how she wants to kill Sam, boil the children and throw herself in the Potomac. At least I could get behind Henny’s sentiments, because if I was her, I’d be thinking the same thing.I have read too many novels which describe in detail some insufferable male and his Everest- sized ego, from I the Supreme to John Hawkes’ Travesty to The Book of Evidence to Money and I don’t need another one, but especially when they indulge in this pukesome babytalk. Sam the father is speaking to his 11 year old daughter. The words in [brackets] are in the text.“Will you miss your poor little dad?”“Yes,” she lowered her eyes in confusion.“Bring up your tea, Looloo-girl : I’m sick, hot head, nedache [headache], dot pagans in my stumjack [got pains in my stomach]: want my little fambly around me this morning. We’ll have a corroboree afterwards when I get better. Mother will make the porridge.”You see she has to translate the babytalk as she goes along. So this stuff gets going very early on and you have to be pretty iron-willed to plough through it. I kept repeating the mantra “neglected modern classic”.But it doesn’t stop. Sam never shuts up. He’s supposed to be going off on a nine month foreign trip but by page 134 he’s still there. In fact only 48 hours has passed since page 1. Yeah. So here’s where I stopped. He’s talking to 11 year old Louise again and explaining exactly how and why her mother and father hate each other, in the course of which Louise queries Sam’s relativism in regard to the act of murder :“The Polynesians don’t think it’s murder: you said so. Old women collect money, then they get a young man to murder them and bury them. You said so. You said, it doesn’t matter if the people in the country don’t mind it.”“Oh! Yes I did say that, Looloo, murder depends upon the meridian, so to speak : the thousand and one tables of morality (when we objectively consider the facts of ethnic mores), teach us not to be hidebound about our own little prejudices, even in law. Consider what is supposed to be a heinous offence, murder. Now call it war, and it becomes a patriotic duty to urge other people to go and murder and be murdered. Foolish old Jo, who is a goodhearted woman, sent dozens of white feathers during the Late Unpleasantness or, in other words, desired young men to go and be murdered. En she could hev done with a young man herself: it was a combination of the sacred folly of race suicide, wilful sterility, and murder. En ebblyone thought Jo was a big gun of patriotism : I bleeve your little foolish Aunt Jo will get herself ‘lected to the DAR’s yet – she’s bin and discovered a Pollit what had no more sense than to go and fight long time ago…Now, wimmin is prone to murder. In wicked old Europe still, you get the village witch planning to murder husbings for them wives what is a bit tired of making coffee for the old man.”There are pages of shite like this. What are we to make of it? That Sam is a monstrous parent, yes. That he just uses his kids to broadcast monologues on all frequencies because he’s in love with his own voice, yes. That the kids themselves love him in spite of his egregiousness, yes. That this is in any tiny shred of a way representative of the real world? I hope not. He segues from patronising this 11 year old girl with babytalk to pontificating way above her head and back again. Okay we get this point, he’s awful. But by page 134 this same point had been made about 134 times. I did not wish to listen to another word. I wanted Looloo to turn into Hayley Stark in Hard Candy and lash him to a chair and threaten to chop his goolies off. Anything to stop that endlessly gurgling crap.Shut the fuck up, jackass.

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