Paddy O'Reilly's new novel

Paddy O'Reilly's new novel

The Wonders

by Paddy O’Reilly

Affirm Press, $29.99 pb, 301 pp, 9781922213266

A while ago, I was walking through Melbourne Central station when I was buffeted on all sides. Muscular minders were pushing back a crowd of jostling fans from a red carpet. Everyone was holding iPhones above their heads. They had come to see two Hollywood stars. But Hollywood is different these days. One star was playing a mutant who could grow adamantium claws from his hands. The other, an ordinary character, happened to be a dwarf.

Such is the modern freak show, where inspiration and tawdriness are all mixed up. We gawp and giggle at parades of biggest losers and embarrassing bodies, but we also celebrate dwarf actors, paralympic heroes, and chat-show hosts with missing limbs. We don’t call them freaks or crips or fatties. Yet the virtuous admiration of the differently-abled is never far from the raucous spirit of the sideshow. Deep down, many still have the innocent curiosity and cruelty of the child.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Published in August 2014 no. 363
Jane Sullivan

Jane Sullivan

Jane Sullivan has been a print journalist in Britain and Australia for more than forty years. Her column about books and writing, ‘Turning Pages’, appears every Saturday in The Age. Her latest novel is Little People (2011).

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.