Review: Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat
Friday, May 13 2011
Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (TSMG): the title says it all. The obscurity and mystique, which grabs you the minute you lay eyes on the name of Australian expatriate Andrez Bergen’s debut novel, is initially dismissed as irrelevant.
However, once you read it through, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat begins to slowly and ironically unravel into significance in more than just one way. This seems to be a habit of the author throughout the novel, by playing both with the reader and narrative form.
This playfulness is necessary within TSMG, a story based around a post-apocalyptic Melbourne where consumerism, class division, discrimination and corruption run rampant. The humour and trivial observations injected into this subtle social commentary prevent Bergen’s novel from becoming cliché or a “doom and gloom” vision of the future that would probably leave you crying yourself to sleep at night.
Such observations include the numerous of pop culture references made by the protagonist Floyd Maquina. These are exemplified by the title of the novel, which is one of Bergen’s many tributes to 1950s film and celebrity, specifically a film called That Certain Feeling starring Hollywood actor George Sanders. Lost you already? Don’t worry. Much to the relief and interest of the reader, Bergen—without condescending intentions—provides a glossary.
The author’s self-deprecation helps ground his writing, preventing him from self-indulgence and losing himself in intellectual pretension. The use of an outsider-author voice again avoids a “bogging down” effect caused by heavy content, especially the blurring of reality and dream within the narrative.
All in all Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat is a great read: a well-rounded book from an well-rounded individual. Bergen’s experience in journalism, photography, music and art amongst other things, easily translates into this expat Australian’s homage to Melbourne and its culture.