I admit I dont quite know what to do with J. Bradley. He seems to be a poet who has watched one too many Tarantino films (not saying he did, I dont know) ; not thinking much about taking his meds while living on pizza and beer and watching poker games on TV.
It smells like plastic and hurt feelings is on the other side one of the best lines I can think of, and as a title almost a little too perfect.
It is a strange, and yeah bizarre collection of stories. The first I liked most: a guy paying every month for an abortion, being a ´moral support´ even he himself is a ´life-saver´. Just for being close to a young woman he is in love with who works in such a clinic. The morals going havoc have a comical, headshaking undercurrent. Its one of those ´you are sure you know why you are laughing now?´ tales.
A vampire, ancient Rome re-living on Mars tale, no less, doing the gladiator thingy left me scratching my head (ok, not quite) . Its also the longest story. Sure he punches hard but it never really made ´click´. The images seems always a bit going AWOL but plausibility is probably not what he is aiming for, so no biggy. Not for me, no.
A bizarre WTFery in words which seems more like doing the ´experimental´ stunt just for the sake of trying. (even thats kind of nonsense in itself and the word thrown around far too easily). His writing is strange, but in a familiar strange way - it sounds at least familiar but he turns it into an uncomfortable experience at times (his stories and the impact they have, not his use of language - quite a difference). At the same time I suspect there is something deeper hidden in his words which I didnt quite grasp. His protagonists are always on the edge: ready to kill to survive, not because it is pleasant. Its gory but the gore is like a pat on the back - see mate, thats whats going to happen. It aint personal, you know.
I appreciate Bradley´s writing though, stylewise anyway, but he isnt someone for instalove. More like someone you gotta get used to over time. Not a bad thing, having a friend instead of a lover.
Hand to Bone is art for the sake of art. One of those books that may sound wonderful in theory but are a pain in reality. A 50 page novella with out plot, an undefined and unnamed - what exactly? - protagonist who goes through his daily life for several weeks in a meticulous precision. Its so banal that is depressing. With countless word repetitions, deliberate word repetitions, a source for headache and comes pretty close to Chinese water torture. Its minimalist, raw, reduced to a skeleton of a text, to the bones. Staccato alike stream-of-consciousness rhythm without style. It never makes quite sure who is addressed in those ramblings - the protagonist himself, or me, the reader. Also that Sarah D’Stair totally neglects to use any kind of metaphors, similes or symbolism or even question marks (and lots of those sentences are clearly self-addressed questions) doesnt do the text any good. It is cold, lifeless - an intro-reflective monologue with no emotions attached to the images provided. Its a never ending process that is maddening in its simplicity. I understand what she is doing, and trying to achieve, but the final product isnt anything for entertainment, or enjoyment.
The ever so lovely edward j rathke mentioned this collection of stories Quintessence of Dust several times, named it one of his best reads of 2012 (I wont bore you with much of an introduction. Promise!) so who am I, weak woman that I am, to resist a trusted friend? I dont, and hence I was captured into the bizarre world of Craig Wallwork.
While these stories are very different in content they have something in common. In the core of the story is always a relationship of two people. It could be a father desperately trying to protect his young daughter; a deeply felt and long lasting friendship between a man and a minotaur; a man winning over the heart of a woman - with chocolate or killing off a demon; a woman giving birth to a child; husband and wife who are estranged from each other; a bestiality porn actress who meets a talking camel or a bit far-stretched but still within the limits of this boundary: a man and his doctor. (if you are confused now why these should be worth of mentioning: dont panic!)
I believe Craig Wallwork to be deep down in his heart a romantic soul, even more so a humanist in the best sense of the wor(l)d. His stories can be quite vulgar on the surface. He doesnt shy away from anal humor of the juvenile kind but he is a bit of a trickster. Craig loves to push a lot of things into people´s openings - from a couple of fingers into somebody´s rectum, fruit and vegetables into a woman´s vagina or even pets and pillows (and more!) into one´s ear. There is a bit of sex in those stories too, not of the sexy kind of sex - just pure raw human passion. If you have a sensible stomach you might want to hold someone´s hand you trust while diving into this bizarro fiction.
But at the end of the day its almost a Beckettian kind of outlook at the world: look at the ugly things in life long enough until you can finally laugh about them.
Wallwork himself is a digger, like the old man who digs a hole in his backyard to find the devil. And lets face it: he has a point. Where should hell be exactly if not down under (and I am not talking about Australia now!). But into what he really digs is the human psyche. Only on first glance he is one of the surreal, bizarre kind but if you think hard, or just a little, really, you will see how touchingly human his characters are; how ever sweet he understands the unspoken grey areas of life. No denying that there are blissful moments in those stories but often they are full of losses. Losses of friendship, of beauty, of hopes and dreams, and there is abandonment. But not all is lost because Wallwork let his characters remember their soul - and he makes them whole again.
My favorite story is those of the Minotaur. You dont have to educate yourself on Greek mythology if you are not familiar with the story but it certainly helps to recognize and catch all those fine references. Here Wallwork takes one of the most powerful Dionysian myths - even Ariadne is missing and replaced by a boy who turns into man - and makes it into something of its own. A unique and deep-felt reflection on friendship, how it changes and how it survives, how we mourn our losses and physical death, how ´we are all men of blood´.
This is one of the most absurd, strangest and weirdest novels I ever had the pleasure to read. Edward, Edward *shaking my head in dismay* Seriously dude, you need some help. :) Forgot to say that I love it, kind of, even I am not sure what I have read exactly ^^
Mark Chestnutt said it much better already:
Tell me what was you thinkin'
What was you drinkin'
I don't want none of that stuff
It must have made you lose your mind
(above is my first reaction to Ash Cinema)
I need to ask a question first:
Would you want to watch a 87min movie where nothing is happening but a guy sitting in a hole?
a) no way
b) yes, definitely
If your answer is a) I suggest you stop reading right here and now - this book isnt for you.
If your answer is b) welcome - you have made a fantastic choice.
Legal disclaimer and stuff: I did *know* edward (no idea why he doesnt use capital letters for his name) superficially since we have talked abit before but thats it. Since then we became GR friends so my opinion is certainly biased and I wont hide this fact. edward and myself have also talked a little about his novel.
First let me quote edward "I think it's my worst novel"
Thats pretty telling, isnt it? But to his defense Ash Cinema is his first and so far only published book so what does he know, seriously?
It makes zero sense to try to talk about a plot or narrative. The little there is, is so totally bizarre and fucked up there is no way anyone would believe me anyway. You really really need to dig it. He sometimes hides his ideas a little bit too much into the obscure, so he is definitely hard work - at least for me it was.
edward is pretty much a ´writer´s writer´ as opposed to a ´reader´s writer´ . He is tough shit and doesnt makes things easy. Especially in the first part he is a tiny bit too drunk on his own language and doesnt really focus on anything else but dude he pulls off some great stunts. How to show off solitude for eg? He does manage it via alot of mentioning of time, sleepless nights and gives the whole a dreamlike, highly emotional atmosphere. He is , and for the lack of a better word, cinematographic and highly visual as a writer. Definitely more influenced from cinema than from literature - which makes him quite special and unique. But he makes his sentences, his words fitting to the theme. They are disjointed, often short but doing so he breaks down the walls between prose and poetry.
He takes up the pace a bit once the stories come to together - there are some light bulb moments (aaah) and the story falls into its own rhythm. I like his cinematic approach quite a bit, maybe because I am more of a visual type. I need pictures as much as I need the words and if a writer doesnt manage to draw me one I feel lost and start to get bored. And I wasnt bored for a second even I am still not exactly sure what was going on all the time. So kudos to edward, you did just fine.
No idea to whom such a triptych novel (I am still stunned with what kind of ideas people come up) would appeal: maybe someone who thinks House of Leaves would be a better novel if it would not be only experimental but also innovative? Maybe. Izza an odd one for sure. Bizarre, weird, and very very good.
Two hours after finishing this strange collection of micro-fiction I still cannot really make up my mind if I have liked those stories or not. Guess so, but I cannot be certain. I am confused. Its interesting what you can do with 100 words (not *you*, Chris can obviously) but I also feel cheated. He introduces some great ideas - and then turns around... saying ´booh´. I would love to see more fleshed out stories, a novella maybe. See what this sucker can really do, not only teasing me.
The stories are apocalyptic, desperate with lots of solitude in them. They make one lonely in the dark. Despite their shortness those fragments of stories are scary. There is no protective fence around them. Nothing to hold on too.
If hell is other people, then what is heaven?
This small novella could become one of my comfort reads in time of stress and needs. Its funny, lovely, sweet, playful, chaotic, silly, strange, sexy and I had some laughing out loud moments with it, but mostly I was grinning like a fool. There is this frantic intensity that seems just perfect, so totally right. Bosworth just nails it.
Even the small meta-fictional parts in it are working, when Samantha is telling David ´to hurry up and skip ahead to the next chapter already’. Its the feeling that the world is here forever and it is here only for you. You enjoy the moment but at the same time you want more and you want it faster, you want it right now. More love, more sex, more everything.
There isnt really happening much. Eating, drinking, talking, having sex. Thats about it.
They are in love, totally nuts about eachother and the world they are living in consists only of themselves. Its Samantha and David, David and Samantha. They are four hands, four arms, a vagina, a penis and two heads.
The dialogues, same as the inner monologues of David are straight forward and incredibly witty. He scolds himself for being such a fool, for being so nervous, for being such a jerk (of course he is none; he is in love). As funny are his phone calls with his friend Mark. It circles around the one question "Will you fuck her?" Oh boys. They will always be boys, wont they?
Oh sex, yeah there is lots of sex. Its sweet, funny, awkward sex . The drunken I-dont-remember-a-single-fucking-thing-the-next-morning kind of sex on the lawn at 4 am in the morning. And the one time where they are trying to have sex but they are so wasted, still so drunk that Samantha is dry as a bone and David cant hold an erection. Hilarious but Bosworth as a writer doesnt make fun of them, he always let them have their dignity no matter how much they make a fool of themselves. And thats what makes this so great, so sweet, so lovely. Have you ever been in the same situation? Yeah? Thought as much.
There are two incredible long run-on sentences. The first time it works. (The second time not so much, but lets skip this now).
Bosworth shows through this deliberate long sentence the first (actually the second) meeting between Samantha and David when he comes to her house. Its awkward, they talk gibberish and he totally captures this feeling. It feels so totally real. All the nervousness and foolishness of such a situation. When you met the person to whom you feel connected is standing in front of you and you dont really know what to do, what to say and how to act. All those crazy thoughts they are running through your head, they silly things you say - yeah, he captures all those feelings in the right tone. It feels totally right, and so true, so true. It is love.