The blurb for The Terrible Event is so intriguing, I’m going to reproduce it here in full:
“A public memorial’s name is changed to avoid any mention of the tragedy it has been set up to commemorate. Two attention-seeking activists campaign against exclusionary policies adopted by the gift shop at a suburban shopping mall. A customer service representative becomes obsessed with a colleague who has worked from home for so long, nobody in the company remembers her. A middle-aged father loses his marriage and falls in love again with a cherished but damaged childhood toy. An academic’s research into roadside memorials takes a peculiar turn.”
I mean, don’t you just have to read that? I know I did! Many thanks to Transit Lounge for sending through a copy for review.
That blurb, plus knowing that David Cohen is a previous winner of the Russell Prize For Humour, gave me the impression that The Terrible Event would be like The Speechwriter meets Sadvertising (both of which were 5+ star reads for me). So, I went in with very high expectations.
What I found was that the stories in The Terrible Event are more smirk-at-the-page funny than laugh-out-loud funny. Some of them (like Bugs) are downright maudlin and melancholy.
My favourite story, the only one in the collection that really made me fist pump, was the last: The Enigma Of Keith – Another Memorial. That’s the one where a traffic management academic decides to research the impact of roadside memorials on traffic speeds, and the study gets away from him in the most bizarre way.
I think, in the end, I failed The Terrible Event by going in with my expectations set too high. I’ve read a lot of really good Australian satire and humour lately, so a perfectly good read still feels like it falls short in comparison. So, while it didn’t quite knock my socks off, I still recommend checking it out if you’re looking for bizarre short stories that interrogate the surreality of our increasingly bureaucratised lives.
Buy The Terrible Event on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)