Toltz, Steve 1972-
Toltz, Steve 1972-
Born June 21, 1972, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; married; wife's name Marie (painter).
Writer. Has worked as a cameraperson, telemarketer, security guard, private investigator, English teacher, and screenwriter.
A Fraction of the Whole (novel), Spiegel & Grau (New York, NY), 2008.
Born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on June 21, 1972, Steve Toltz lived in Paris, Barcelona, Vancouver, Montreal, and New York City before settling in his hometown of Sydney. He has worked in various professions, including as a cameraperson, telemarketer, security guard, private investigator, English teacher, and screenwriter. Toltz lives in the Bondi Beach section of Sydney with his wife, Marie, who is a painter. Rather than having a traditional office, Toltz prefers to work outdoors on benches beside the ocean.
In Toltz's first book, A Fraction of the Whole, Jasper Dean, the novel's primary narrator, relates the life of his father, Martin Dean, considered to be the most hated man in Australia. At one point in the book, Martin narrates his version of the story, reflecting on his life, his relationship with Jasper, and the influences he shares with a variety of strange and independent spirits who share his world. A Fraction of the Whole begins with Jasper sitting in a prison cell, contemplating the events that have led him there, and the love-hate relationship he has with his father. The novel is structured as a collection of stories, lectures, musings, and hopes told by Jasper, and partly by Martin as a confession to his son.
The stories all begin with good intentions, but end in disaster, such as Martin's idea of installing a suggestion box at the town hall. At first, the community finds this a refreshing and helpful idea, but it eventually brings out the worst in people, and unpleasantness ensues. Toltz presents these situations as absurd, ridiculous, and wryly funny.
Martin's chaotic and histrionic life overshadows that of his son Jasper, but Martin also feels outdone by his brother, Terry Dean. Terry used to be a sports hero, but became a career criminal who evolved into an evil genius and notorious murderer, outshining his brother in all aspects of his life. Even the woman Martin loves accepts him only because Terry is unavailable to her. As Terry becomes the most notorious and beloved man in the country, Martin, with his good will and philosophical insight, becomes the most despised. Known his entire life as "Terry's brother," his only way of establishing his own identity is to commit a crime worse that anything his brother has ever done.
Critics were delighted by A Fraction of the Whole, citing Toltz's humor, satire, and the complexities of his style. In a review for Commentary Online, Kyle Smith stated that the book "made [his] soul tingle." Donna Seaman, a Booklist contributor, called it "satirical fun" and "deliriously philosophical." A Publishers Weekly reviewer stated that the book is a "sprawling, dizzying debut," and Tina Jordan, in a review for Entertainment Weekly, declared it "laugh-out-loud funny." Esquire contributor Tom Chiarella stated that A Fraction of the Whole "is witty and intellectual, a physical comedy and literary rant all at once."
In a review for the Los Angeles Times Online, Richard Rayner praised A Fraction of the Whole, and stated, "Toltz makes minor characters jump off the page with a few strokes…. This long novel, which lives or dies in the brilliance of its writing, has, too, a subtle, compelling structure. The plot is, to say the least, eventful, and while some twists seemed predictable, I loved the wild ride. A Fraction of the Whole soars like a rocket."
In a review for the Guardian Online, Frank Cottrell Boyce called Toltz's book "brilliant." Boyce also considered the episodic storytelling structure of the book a primary reason for its success, and wrote, "Taken individually, they're funny; taken together, the unbreakability of the pattern and the inevitability of disaster is heartbreaking."
"The book haunted me," declared Phillip Winn in a review for Blogcritics.com. Winn added that Toltz's novel is a "masterwork" for "peeling back layers of the society in which we live, showing us absurdity from the inside, skewering us from the viewpoints of a series of odd characters." He concluded, "I hope there is more where A Fraction of the Whole came from."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2007, Donna Seaman, review of A Fraction of the Whole, p. 30.
Bookseller, November 17, 2006, "Aussie Writer Signs with Penguin," author information, p. 13.
Entertainment Weekly, February 15, 2008, Tina Jordan, review of A Fraction of the Whole, p. 71.
Esquire, February 1, 2008, Tom Chiarella, "Big Important Book of the Month," review of A Fraction of the Whole, p. 40.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2007, review of A Fraction of the Whole.
Library Journal, January 1, 2008, Bob Lunn, review of A Fraction of the Whole, p. 90.
Publishers Weekly, August 6, 2007, Judith Rosen, review of A Fraction of the Whole, p. 43; September 3, 2007, review of A Fraction of the Whole, p. 34.
Blogcritics,http://blogcritics.org/ (February 11, 2008), Phillip Winn, review of A Fraction of the Whole.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (March 2008), Alden Mudge, "Son of a Gun," review of A Fraction of the Whole.
Commentary Online,http://www.commentarymagazine.com/ (February 1, 2008), Kyle Smith, review of A Fraction of the Whole.
Guardian Online,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (June 21, 2008), Frank Cottrell Boyce, "In Another Man's Shadow," review of A Fraction of the Whole.
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (July 31, 2008), short author profile.
Steve Toltz Home Page,http://www.stevetoltz.com (July 31, 2008).