Man Vs Child
Random House AU
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Dan is a stand-up comedian doing the rounds in Sydney. He does alright for himself but he also has a “day job” to make ends meet and pay the mortgage on his Potts Point art deco apartment, working as a radio producer for a breakfast FM show. The show has regularly been rating #1 for its timeslot over the past few years but suddenly they are facing stiff competition from a new breakfast crew, who have been steadily gaining on them. When they overtake for the first time, Dan’s radio station, 2RYT decide that they need to change a few things up during their own breakfast show and they decide to add in Dan as a third presenter.
The new dynamic works well – Dan’s humour bounces off the obnoxious “star” host Bryan and his sidekick Sal, who changes her own role to compliment Dan’s. Together they often gang up on Bryan, making him the butt of their jokes and the listeners are loving it. Things are suddenly going much better in Dan’s professional life and his pay packet is increased to reflect his new role, taking some strain off him. He begins to feel as though he’s moving forward in an adult world.
A single man, Dan is seeing all of his mates paired up, married and having babies with their wives. What used to be nights out for drinks and chatting until dawn becomes brunch and shouting at each other over a screaming baby and debating the merits of dummies or breast vs bottle. Dan doesn’t see why anyone does this to themselves – until he reconnects with Penny.
His high school crush, Penny has recently separated from her husband and moved to an apartment around the corner from Dan’s. She has a 14 month old son and in spending time with Penny, becoming friends again, he finds himself spending time with Lloyd, even babysitting him on the odd occasion. To be a part of Penny’s life, Dan must accept Lloyd – and he’s finding that isn’t as big a hardship as he expected.
I really enjoyed this novel, set in and around Sydney FM radio and also the stand-up comedy circuit. My husband works in radio and has been an on-air co-ordinator at various times in his career and although he’s still on air these days, he’s broadcasted out from various locations by those working in the studio. However I’ve been to his station many times, so quite a lot of this book was familiar to me and it was something I could relate to and enjoy, because I get how it goes. I also really liked the angle this book takes on “pranking” – often a favourite past time of FM radio hosts for laughs. Recently a prank call made the news in Australia for all sorts of the wrong reasons after a breakfast crew pranked the English hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge had been admitted for hyperemesis. One of the nurses who patched through the call took her life several days later and it roused a media furore over what publically humiliating and embarrassing people for “fun” can do. This book contains pranks played on each other by the breakfast DJ’s of the two opposing radio stations, one of which seems to blow and up and go horribly wrong. What happens next apes in some ways, real life with public outrage, demands for the DJ to be sacked etc. It was interesting to read about a situation like this from “within” the radio station and the way in which it unfolded was clever.
Another part of the novel deal’s with the fact that Dan seems to be the only one left of his group of friends that hasn’t married yet and doesn’t have children. He regards most children with hostility and suspicion, not understanding them because he hasn’t spent time with any. He despairs of the loss of late night get togethers and can’t quite wrap his head around the new brunch times. He’s bombarded with opinions on parenting when he doesn’t really care and receives lectures for suggesting someone offer their screaming child a dummy. However it’s after he meets Penny and is drawn into her world as a friend-cum-babysitter-cum-something-else that he begins to collect tidbits for a stand-up show he is putting together – Man vs Child. He uses his experiences as a single man to generate humour, to make the best of things. His time with Penny has taught him that he doesn’t hate the idea of settling down, that he can see himself as a good father one day.
Whilst I loved Dan and his examining of his life, his views on his family (and others) I have to admit that reading stand-up comedy just isn’t…funny. Seeing a stand-up comedian is different, you’re far more likely to laugh in that environment and also the delivery is everything. Tone, expression, gestures, they all contribute to the routine just as much as the words do. Just reading a routine didn’t have the same impact at all. I found myself skimming the routines. The rest of the time, I loved Dan’s voice – it felt very natural and genuine and the radio breakfast show was quite entertaining (not because the show was funny, but more because of the ego of its main ‘star’ and Dan and Sal’s opinions on him).
I wondered if I’d be able to relate to this book because I am a parent and I left behind childless outings long ago. But I can still identify with a lot of Dan’s thoughts and his pondering about his life. This was a very entertaining read and I really liked Dan – I was hoping he’d find someone who appreciated him.
Book 203 of 2013
Man Vs Child is the 10th novel read and reviewed for the Aussie Author Challenge. It’s a new author to me as well.