It is impossible to say anything that is both honest and positive about Rowan Dean’s Corkscrewed. Even the font is all over the shop. Its main joke is about how the protagonist (some thin kind of Mary Sue) keeps trying to sexually assault women while he’s drunk. By the time you get to the scene where a near victim throws up truffle vomit into his mouth while he’s trying to assault her while she’s passed out from alcohol intake, you realise that you could be doing literally anything else with your life except read this trash.
Corkscrewed is a deeply cooked book. It purports to be a work of fiction, but the subject matter (the production of some advert from the 1980s) is clearly something that happened in Rowan Dean’s life. Features of Rowan’s actual life keep dropping into the story as if they were already established facts (references to coming from Australia, for example) but the names of everybody else in the story have been fictionalised. This blurring of historical event with fiction creates an unwelcome problem for the reader: is Rowan telling stories based on actual times that he assaulted women, or is the fictionalised version of himself one who assaults women?
Not a single anecdote in the book is rewarding. Over and over, the same structure is repeated: the protagonist encounters somebody, an altercation of some kind occurs, and the protagonist yells ‘TWAT!’ The altercation is often that the protagonist has drunkenly tried to grope a woman, or the altercation is based on some kind of offensive racial stereotype.
You get the feeling that Rowan thinks this sort of thing is extremely funny. None of the jokes lands and, at 291 pages, the whole thing is exceedingly tedious. The ‘story’ — such as it is — is dull and there’s no critical engagement of any kind with its issues. The ‘characters’ are all very thin, a feature which is truly puzzling given that they appear to be representations of real people. It wouldn’t surprise me if this thinness in his representations of others reflects Rowan’s own inability to engage meaningfully with other people. The text is riddled with inconsistencies, typesetting flaws, and grammatical errors. It demonstrates no skill with language and could more accurately be described as a punishment than as a novel.
Forget the book. It’s awful and unreadable. Let’s talk about a bigger problem instead: Western Civilisation.
Rowan Dean is currently the ‘editor’ of the Spectator Australia, a dire cesspit of rudely stamped scribbles. It — along with its adult sibling Quadrant — is known for its campaigning in the culture wars. Universities, it is alleged, are betraying Western Civilisation by promoting something called ‘identity politics’. The Left, it is claimed, are winning their slow march against the institutions of the West. The Arts, it is complained, are being infected Marxists and Queer Theorists while being subsidised by the honest, hard-working taxpayer.
I therefore had the not unreasonable expectation that novels written by these belligerents would be — if not actually literary — at the very least literate. After all, we lead by example. If we want people to love the fruits of Western Civilisation, then the fruits of Western Civilisation ought to be loveable.
Corkscrewed is utter trash. It reflects poorly but accurately on this entire generation of Baby Boomer ‘conservatives’: talentless, selfish, narcissistic losers who have for too long grifted from the success of the generations that preceded them. It is a generation who has achieved nothing of merit and will leave nothing substantial for its successors to inherit.
It takes a spectacular lack of judgement to think that Corkscrewed should be either written or published. But, sadly, that spectacular lack of judgement is not inconsistent with the current behaviour of Australia’s conservatives. Hosting Milo Yiannopoulos. Encouraging Mark Latham’s career as an internet-based shock jock. Celebrating the victory of Donald Trump. And the entire No campaign.
If Western Civilisation is in crisis, it is because those people who are supposed to be its custodians are doing a dreadful job of protecting it. The current approach — crying, moaning, and hijacking the coercive powers of the State — doesn’t appear to be working for anybody and yet, until reading Corkscrewed, I had never considered that this approach was necessitated due to the crippling incompetence of its advocates. The jingoistic rah rah is less a celebration of Western Civilisation and more a scared bleating from mediocre hacks who cannot engage seriously with any discussion about its strengths and weaknesses. They don’t say anything intellectually serious because they can’t say anything intellectually serious.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Corkscrewed is that Rowan Dean is impervious to criticism. The man has a nappy between his ears. Worse, he craves attention. You can imagine him skimming over this (or, indeed, any negative review) and him grinning: ‘Aha, the joke is on you! The book is supposed to be bad, you twat. I got paid! I’m the one laughing! My friends all liked it!’ There’s no way to have a conversation with him to say, ‘Hey, “jokes” about sexually assaulting women — especially in the media industry — are never a good idea and certainly not in the current media climate.’ I don’t think anybody other than Rowan (if even that) read it prior to being published. If they did, they did Rowan an enormous disservice by not telling him that authoring this mess of words was unwise.
Corkscrewed is awful and Rowan Dean should stop writing.