We are introduced to the eponymous hero of Jacko by an Australian narrator who is writing a novel about China and teaching a writing class at New York University. The students in his class hero-worship Grace Paley, Alice Munro, and Raymond Carver and compose pieces for submission to the New Yorker. In one of them:
… a woman betrayed by men of average fallibility meets a Persian-American in a Soho bar. He is a gentle soul, but he wants to suspend her in an apparatus designed for men who like to see women swinging powerless from the ceiling. He is embarrassed to ask, but would she consider it? More conventional males have adequately traduced her; she consents. In mid-suspension though, as she gyrates in her captive state, he’s overwhelmed by the shame of his perversion and goes off and reads American Track and Field. Suspended between his desire and self-loathing, she swings in an empty room. It’s a poisonously accurate image, a wonderful New York tale.
If such stories have a fault, it is that they do not carry a sense of the wider world, the world of China, the world of Africa, in which the apparatus of suspension is even more savage and the yearning of women even more radically thwarted.
It is a passage very much about the priorities behind Keneally’s own novel as well.