Hamish Hamilton, 256 pp, $29.99 pb
One of the few details we learn about the unnamed narrator of Ronnie Scott’s début novel, The Adversary, is that he is fond of Vegemite. Although only a crumb of information, this affinity for the popular breakfast tar reveals much about our hero. Just as Vegemite ‘has to be spread very thin or you realised it was salty and unreasonable’, his human interactions give him a soupçon of a social life, a mere taste that never threatens to overwhelm his senses.
Despite being in the prime of his life and free of obligations during university break, this young gay man rarely ventures beyond his Brunswick share house, preferring to ‘read books, take a break from study, and stare all day at Grindr’. Amid the sexual buffet of hook-up apps, his problem is not so much finding company as keeping those in his network in equipoise between available and physically present: ‘my ideal boyfriend would be found in a hard-to-reach location, large and silent, mythical in several important ways’. He is confused by the countervailing surges of lust and disgust he feels for the bodies around him. ‘I was basically a sexual being … I just knew people were gross and preferred them to keep their distance’.