on June 30, 2012 :
Confessions Of A Gaming Attendant was an historic read for me being the first complete or anything like complete novel I read entirely on a computer. Belonging to the generation which still prefers the musty aroma of books, it is a testament to its brilliance that I finished it without complaint and with very few breaks to take up company with a real book. So what’s the e-book equivalent of ‘I couldn’t put it down? ‘I couldn’t switch it off’ perhaps? Addictive, compelling, just like the slot machines that are the bane of author Mikey Lee Ray’s life at work, though immeasurably more interesting. As someone who has never understood the attraction of slot machines since they are boring, repetitive, involve no skill whatsoever and certain to bring defeat and heavy financial losses in an incredibly short amount of time, it was a trillion times more fascinating watching ‘pokies’ or ‘mug punters’ as Mikey calls them, through the analytical eyes and barbed quill of the author than actually playing them. Time and again Mikey slates these foolish pitiful zombie losers yet I never got bored of it. He says it a different way every time, and this is work, not Hollywood. When you work with people you don’t like it’s every day, week in week out, year in year out and the bullshit doesn’t go away.
Right now I’m feeling sad to have finished Confessions Of A Gaming Attendant. That deflated post- brilliant novel feeling, where a parallel life unfolds alongside your own before running out of pages, be they real or on a screen. I expected to feel this way as Mikey’s first novel, Pandora’s Market, printed in 2008, was one helluva fantastic trip! Then going under the name of Matthew Schafer, Pandora’s Market was my favourite novel of the ‘noughties’ – a wild, terrifying, powerful, apocalyptic and visionary satire on the modern politico-financial system that is now ravaging our world. Don’t say Mikey, or Matthew, didn’t warn you. Pandora’s Market took on some pretty huge themes in diverse places all over the globe and the wonderful and at times deliciously despicable characters take you to a thrilling conclusion.
Confessions Of A Gaming Attendant has a more localised setting; mainly casinos in various parts of Melbourne. You have the impression Mikey knows from experience what he’s talking about. It’s my favourite book from the 2010s so far and although it’s early days in the decade I reckon it has a fairly good chance of still being there in 2020, though who knows what other gems the author has up his proverbial sleeve.
Written in diary form with each day titled with an often brilliant word play in a style that reminds me of 1960s/70s beatnik/rock ’n’ roll journalism, enjoy Mikey’s weird and strangely exotic headfuck of a trip through casinos and all the absurd, disastrous and depressing shenanigans that go with it, from the point of view of a total outsider. Mikey Lee Ray doesn’t want to be working in casinos watching people put coins into slots and serving them coffee. He dreams of greater things and we share the dream. Enjoy the characters in Mikey’s world, notably two unwillingly drug-induced versions of himself who morph from the symbolic to the frighteningly solid. He tells us and we have no reason to disbelieve him, that 2010 is a drink and video game free year. Presumably these vices were taking up too much of Mikey’s psyche in 2009, but straight, sober and unaddicted, 2010 will turn out to be weirder. Sometimes characters have marvellous names; ‘Caesar’s Ghost,’ a slick silver-haired Tory politician lookalike of a slot junkie is a hilarious example. He fancies himself as debonair but is pitifully deluded and drunkenly bullshits his way through his tragicomic evenings. We all know a ‘Caesar’s Ghost.’
‘The High Roller,’ a dodgy-as-fuck shady bastard who is nonetheless kind to Mikey in his way, is comic and sinister, at one point described as’ a huge orange and green creature in a fuzzy suit looking like a cross between a bad guy out of Super Mario Brothers and a monster from Pokemon.’
Then there’s the aptly named ‘Gigantor,’ a monster of a woman hopelessly drowning in every addiction going.
I love the way the diary lurches from action to relationships to philosophical musing. Hearing Mikey think is a whole lotta fun, and he has some pretty original thoughts. His pet hates crop up often as he snarls his way through the year with biting Gonzo wit. Gonzo journalism may technically be defined as ‘unobjective’ but Mikey immaculately defends what he says as an ineffable logic often runs alongside his venomous pen.
A few pet hates to whet your appetite; Nicholas Cage movies (ha ha); Baby Boomers (ha ha again a whole generation dismissed with a wave of Mikey’s sweeping, slot machine killing hand, though we can see why as the generation which spawned pop luminaries such as Lennon, Dylan and Hendrix who promised a new world, tragicomically and pitifully end up as discourteous semi-cretins playing out their old age putting coins into machines which take your money. As the author points out, they have families, why are they dying here? ); Queen Elizabeth, who somehow still appears on the Australian dollar bill, and the English in general – the world ‘British’ or ‘English’ is irreverently never written in capitalized form (ha ha again though I say to Mikey that surely some Australian revenge has been exacted with the export of Rupert Murdoch); people who pay for small purchases by credit card (right on brother), vampires and Obama-style happy-clappy optimism. There are others but let’s not make the write-up a spoiler.
Mikey has enough confidence in his intellect to label Aristotle a ‘moron’ and Sherlock Holmes a ‘klutz.’ Love that.
The diary is a full calendar year and as in real life there are few clean cut conclusions as Mikey rails against mainstream stereotypes, clichés and hackneyed plots and becomes a spokesman for the post-financial collapse generation with the same conviction and force which heralded the onset of the now failed Baby Boomers.
There is intrigue as he gets involved with dodgy deliveries and gangsters, goes underground with his mates he sees as family and carries out some pretty serious anti-greedhead measures. He also gets mixed up with a pretty unpleasant pervert and a jealous writer. Hell hath no fury like the jealous artiste. Ask Mozart. Through all this the backdrop of the soul-sucking, life-bleeding slot machines remains a constant.
Mikey determinedly battles his way through the slots, his self-confessed inability to feel, bad trip hallucinations and other tribulations to emerge somehow victorious. Love and friendship and belonging emerge from absurdity and epiphany to leave Mikey walking off into the Sunset, in a warts-and-all, non- Hollywood, non- crap mainstream hackneyed novel sort of way.
I enjoyed walking just behind him….
(reviewed the day of purchase)