Review: Two Little Boys – Duncan Sarkies

By Adam Roche

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This review contains spoilers.

Some of you may shake your heads in disbelief at me, but I have never seen Flight Of the Conchords, as much as people are always telling me I should. I have friends who constantly offer me their DVDs, quote from it, try to explain it’s appeal, and I have to constantly reassure them that I’ll get round to it. I’m sure it’s funny, I’m sure I’ll love it.

At least that’s what I thought until I read Two Little Boys.

Duncan Sarkies isn’t a member of the Conchords, but he’s been a friend of theirs for a very long time. In fact he introduced them to each other, and has been a big influence on their humour. He’s even written episodes for them. If you’d have heard him talk, as I did, on the Simon Mayo show a few months back, with such genial fondness for his mates, and with such passion about his book, you’d have done the same thing I did. Namely go straight out to your bookshop and buy the book (or download the ebook as I did).

It’s the story of two friends, Nige and Deano who have known each other since childhood. Deano is slightly unhinged, and feels it his duty to protect Nige from the world, even if it means splitting up Nige and his girlfriend, or generally obsessing about him night and day. Nige longs to break away from Deano and as such, has moved out of the place they share, and into a new house with his Maori friend, Gav. Deano hasn’t taken this too well.

When Nige accidentally kills a backpacker called Jeurgen while driving at night, Deano is able to force his way back into Nige’s life under the premise of being able to protect him from the consequences. They decide to drive to their childhood haunt, The Catlins, and dispose of the body there, with Gav in tow.

The reviews from the panel that day were glowing! They talked in raptures about the comedy, how every single line was a joke in itself, and could be endlessly quoted independent of the text! How the comedy masked hidden depths of homoerotic tension in what is essentially a buddy story. And inevitably, comparisons were drawn with The Flight Of The Conchords, and how the novel was like a continuation of the themes and humour of the show.

Backs were patted, endorsements rang like bells. A happy Duncan Sarkies left the studio with a skip in his step, and your honest reviewer determined to avail himself of a copy, or die trying.

This is the part where I say something like “it’s not a bad book…” which is perfectly true. It’s a terrible book.

For starters, it is written in such an unintelligible prose that you wonder to yourself if the publisher might not be a methadone addict. It’s sometimes punctuated, but in the end you spend so much time punctuating it yourself, you miss what you’re supposed to be reading.

Secondly, I didn’t laugh once. Didn’t even smile. I fell asleep quite a few times though. For a book that’s less than two hundred pages long, it took me an awfully long time to get through it. Four weeks in fact. Four weeks in which I read it every night, and every time I woke up to find the room dark, my neck cricked and Sarkies’ sacred text bearing a shiny pool of saliva. Not good when you’re reading it on an eReader.

Both Nige and Deano make numerous references to their relationship being “not gay” as if trying to convince themselves that they’re telling the truth. But the point is so bluntly hammered home at every available opportunity that it becomes tiresome. And then there’s a plot about Deano deciding to murder Gav, which comes so late and is so half-assed, you have to wonder if it was an afterthought.

So they argue and make up, then argue and make up again. And then they get rid of the body, I think. And then they smoke some weed or something. And then they’re in a car trying to say funny things. And then the end happens, which was described in the review as “audacious”.

They fall off a cliff.

All of them. All three.

And live.

And that’s it.

Four weeks of  telling myself that it must get funnier. That it must somehow justify itself. Four weeks of a saliva encrusted eReader, all for nothing. Well, not for nothing. I did get some of the best sleep of my life. Seriously though, I want to be moved when I devote myself to a book. I’ll even settle for a decent character, or even a laugh. Just one solitary, embarrassed laugh amongst the endless “dire-logue” but no. Just a wintery bitterness, a distrust of future radio reviews and a strange urge to add commas to every sentence I see.

I will still watch The Flight Of The Conchords. Seeing Jermaine Clement in the trailer for Gentlemen Broncos has all but guaranteed that. But it’ll be with my collar drawn up, one foot on the floor, finger lingering precariously over the remote control.

Shame.

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