Degradation of the times
The Magic of It
by Michael Wilding
Arcadia (Press On Series 8), $24.95 pb, 356 pp, 9781921875373
Declarations of loathing for the other members of one’s species tend to be tedious in reality but hilarious in fiction. The characters in Michael Wilding’s latest novel repeatedly prove this point with their mock-serious diatribes against, among others, the habitués of Sydney coffee shops (‘black-clad, metal-pierced creatures’), the patrons of English pubs (‘maggots … a rabble’), and virtually every kind of male university academic imaginable, from the caddish to the cadaverous. None of this ranting, however, has much effect on the novel’s straight man, the private detective Keith Plant (or ‘Research Assistant’, as his business card coyly puts it). For Plant – someone who has to deal with ratbags for a living – misanthropy is clearly no laughing matter.