I must be an idiot for pointing out the failings of a novel that’s so screamingly, self-denouncingly about failure. Steve Toltz’s Quicksand is a nutty, occasionally hilarious, flaccid carrier bag of a comic romp, all dazzling one-liners and no comic paydirt. Like his debut novel, A Fraction of the Whole (about a misfit philosopher and his troubled son), it is narrated by a pair of human catastrophes: a New South Wales police constable, Liam Wilder, who’s a failed novelist; and his best friend, Aldo Benjamin, who’s a failed husband, entrepreneur, everything. Toltz probably intended this novel to be a failure. It’s that difficult beast, his second book, after all (his first made the shortlists of the Man Booker and the Guardian First Book Award).