One of the main themes through the book, to me, seems to be the notion that we live now, in Australia, in an age of new conservatism and over-the-top political correctness. Is this something you wanted readers to think about?And that statement makes it even more imperative that I pick up a copy and read it.
At one point while working on the second draft of the novel I was tempted to put a prologue and an epilogue, the prologue being just before the "Tampa" election and the epilogue being just after Rudd wins the most recent election. I'm glad I didn't do that as it is obvious that readers can do that work for themselves and that it might have been misread as an end-of-an-era critique which is not how I imagine the world and communities the characters in The Slap live in. It is too simplistic and facile to place all that is unsettling or ugly or uncomfortable in contemporary Australia on John Howard's shoulders and not to see the continuity in politics and practices between Keating, Howard and Rudd, for example. It seemed to me that a significant change occurred in Australian society over the last twenty years that has seen a withering away of traditional notions of Australian class and of a supposed ethos of egalitarianism. That was a very conscious decision to set the novel in the backyards and bars and coffee shops of a new middle-class which does not necessarily look or sound anything like the middle-class that usually inhabits the pages of Australian fiction or is on our cinema and television screens. This is a middle-class as much wog as it is anglo, a middle-class that emerges as much from the working class as it does from the world of universities and the eastern suburbs. This shift in the cultural landscape of urban Australia is about money, the global economic boom of the nineties and early twenty-first century, and because it is about capital and status the values embodied in this shift are conservative and materialistic. In a strange way the book may turn out to be an end-of-an-era work not because of the electoral shift from Liberal to Labor but because of the consequences of the contemporary economic crisis.