Analogue men: a novel – Nick Earls
Random House Australia
Imprint: Vintage Australia
Extent: 368 pages
“Do you ever feel like you might have just one more chance to get on top of your life and make things happen?”
Andrew Van Fleet has been a long-distance husband, father and son for some years as he flitted from one location to another trouble-shooting for his huge company (BDK) – turning around corporate disasters, salvaging failing business empires and moderating company debt levels – sort of like a corporate Superman really. As he nudges his 50th birthday, he realises it’s time to relinquish the demands of his position and reconnect with his home and family by taking a step down to manage BDK’s Brisbane radio station and restore it to its former glory.
After all he has the right pedigree, his dad having been one of Brisbane’s top radio announcers in times past and growing up surrounded by music and records. Dad, Casey, now resides in the family home’s granny flat following bowel surgery and his wife’s death, along with a rather unattractive bulldog named Winston.
Andrew’s wife Robyn, all medical efficiency epitomised, is pleased to have her husband home – if only because he’s the one who can make the best coffee in the coffee machine. Their twins Abi and Jack are routinely self-obsessed with the usual teen pursuits and pretty much distant from a father who hasn’t been around much.
Andrew faces not only the challenge of becoming the radio station’s general manager, with no real knowledge of the industry, but finds he is surrounded by the digital age which seems to have passed him by. Wife, kids and even father, not to mention all and sundry at the radio station seem to be permanently glued to their iPads and other devices. Andrew on the other hand is so technologically dyslexic that he can’t even manage his new mobile phone.
His other nemesis is trying to tame the radio station’s leading star – a fading middle-aged announcer, Brian Brightman, who styles himself as the epitome of ‘shock rock jock’ and is openly scathing of both Andrew’s arrival and moral issues in general.
Within this framework Nick Earls takes the reader on a hilarious road trip through Andrew’s journey to establish himself into his ‘new normal’ as he fumbles his way through family relationships, becoming the bad new boss of radio and finding his own place as the dreaded 50 looms nearer.
One cannot help becoming engaged with Andrew as he struggles with his return to suburbia and ‘real life’. His awkwardness with almost any situation is endearing and resonant. All who have raised teenagers recognise the anxieties he has around his children, all who have found that after a length of time – and distance – intimate relationships blur around the edges and all who have aging parents who need both support and understanding will immediately identify with Andrew’s dilemmas. His difficulties in establishing some kind of order at the radio station as the new boss will also be familiar to any who have stepped into a new workplace and been at a complete and utter loss.
As always, with any Nick Earls book, I snorted with laughter throughout. In fact, finishing the last couple of chapters yesterday at my hairdresser’s, I had to show the book and do a ‘book talk’ to everyone because I was so openly shaking with giggles.
If you are like me, a Nick Earls devotee, do yourself a favour and put this on your ‘to read’ list without delay.
Recommended for anyone with a sense of humour. Stay tuned for my blog interview with Nick Earls, coming up soon.