Until quite recently, twenty-three year old Alexander Smokescreen – named and raised by his mother to do great things – was renowned for his affability and intelligence, and was widely considered to be a good bloke. But Alexander has lately become a completely different person. He doesn’t talk much to other people, has acquired a habit of muttering to himself as he walks along, and engages in lengthy discourse with his own mirror image. What’s more, his teeth have turned all gnarly from drinking port. Even his friends – privileged, obnoxious Huw Drop; alchemist, sneak and speedcook Smithton Smith – are struck by the feeling of something not being quite right.

It is Cup Weekend, two thousand and five. In a certain important place a certain phenomenon will occur — i.e., it actually will happen. Awake on a speed bender for the entire four-day weekend, Alexander traverses Spectacle City in pursuit of true meaning in life, or at least to find a place in the world where he can sit and drink continuously without being interrupted. But this weekend he feels curiously as though the universe is a superstructure bent on thwarting his existence: the city is overrun with Punters, taking up space in the traffic jams, taking up airtime on the telly and packing out the trains as they partake of the spirit of unmitigated celebration that attends the Cup. As the famous race approaches, Alexander’s life is rapidly ravelling out from the spool of the city, soon to be chopped like a length of thread once it is sufficiently drawn out.

A critical and satirical rendering of cultural identity in the city of Melbourne, Themistes’ literary debut proffers an unflinching analogical inquiry into the twin salves of social malaise: gambling and drug use. Spectacle City is at once comically absurd and deeply moving; invoking the magic and horror of contemporary life, the novel is a rich and tender exposition of grief, alienation and the tragic consequences of being bent on speed and utterly alone in the universe.

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