on Feb. 04, 2013 :
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´.
(review of free book)
on Aug. 30, 2012 :
A strange collection of some very off the wall stories. Craig has quite an imagination, and there's a little bit of something in his stories that is sure to horrify you, make you laugh, shock you, and get those little gears in your mind cranking away, often all within the same story.
(review of free book)
on June 20, 2012 :
‘Quintessence of Dust’is a collection of huge variety which is linked by the author’s style and faint echoes of theme that bring some overlap within the diversity of subject matter.
You’ll find out about Minotaur and a new labyrinth, a magical wall of photographs, how demons can help win a woman’s heart, the consequences of having a small neck and about the digging of holes amongst other things, holes being one of those recurring themes in the book.
The concept behind each tale suggests to me that Wallwork is a hugely creative thinker. Must have been a day-dreamer in classrooms. Is the kind of person who is able to take any thought to its extreme in order to find out ‘what would happen if?’ Again and again he produces ideas that are highly original and left of left field. You never know what’s coming next.
My favourite pieces in the collection are the openers.
‘Night Holds A Scythe’ is the first. I’d recommend the book just to get you to read this one. It’s beautiful and painful at the same time. A father is flying with his daughter trying to find safety. The problem is that, because of a deadly virus, the only way for them to stay alive is to stay awake. I guess it’s a straightforward concept, but it’s what Wallwork does with it that counts. It tapped into many of my own insecurities about being a human and a father. What wouldn’t I do to keep my children safe? How awful would it be to sense their inevitable destruction and to be the only one in a position to take any action at all? It’s tense and difficult, yet it is gentle and soft, the looping theme of alphabet cards that structures the unfolding of a family’s world. ‘E’ is for excellent. ‘O’ for outstanding. ‘L’ is for lump in the throat. ‘X’? ‘X’ is for X-factor, that feeling I sometimes get in the core of my body after a brilliant tale – a cross between awe, defeat, admiration and pain. And ‘B’ is for buy it.
‘Railway Architecture’ is a little less intense, but is superbly penned. It’s a moral tale about a man who has never been comfortable with others even though he’s a student of human behaviour. He’s found a passion for the making of fine chocolates and sets about using his skills to win over the heart of a beautiful lady colleague.
Problem is, he happens to be married. Wallwork takes the idea and turns the world on its head. I loved it.
These are my picks because they moved something within me.
They struck a chord with me given the experiences I’ve had and the person I’ve become. Pick this up and it’s likely you’ll find you pick different stories – a G where I’ve picked a C minor, or an F sharp instead of my B flat. They turn what for me what would otherwise be an excellent 4 star collection into a 5 star review.
Let me know.
(review of free book)
on April 23, 2012 :
I’ve known of Craig Wallwork for quite awhile. We both frequent The Velvet forums, though him more so than me. A lot like the other writers on The Velvet his work was one that I always meant to check out. His name has sat on that ever growing list of people I want to read. With the publication of Warmed and Bound, an anthology from The Velvet, that finally changed. After reading Craig’s story, Bruised Flesh, I wanted to kick myself for waiting so long to check his work out. Coincidentally, right after I finished reading W&B I came across the pre-order for his first book, Quintessence of Dust. I jumped all over that. It was really cool that while waiting for my copy of the book to arrive Kuboa Press made a few of their titles available for free on smashwords. I was able to download QoD and read it before the physical book was in my hands.
This is a collection of eleven stories, all well written and most are a bit twisted. There is one common factor that binds all these stories together, and that is Mr. Wallwork’s amazing talent. From the emotional impact of a father and his young daughter fighting to survive in Night Holds A Scythe; to one man’s duty to be there for his best friend, who happens to be a Minotaur, in Men of Honor. These stories are original, interesting, and extremely well written. Craig Wallwork seems to have quite the imagination, and he possesses the skills to expertly convey said imagination onto paper.
It would almost be too difficult to pick a favorite from this collection, but if pressed, I really enjoyed Morning Birdsong quite a bit. The character of Ralph was both humorous yet heroic when the time called for it. There could be a larger story behind this short one, and I would be all for reading it.
These stories will pull you into their world and you will know these characters like they are your friends, or your neighbors, or someone sitting next to you on the train. There is no doubt in my mind that Craig Wallwork is a name we’ll be seeing more of, and I for one am grateful. He writes the kind of stories that keeps me reading books, and he writes them better than a lot of the big names.
(review of free book)
on April 12, 2012 :
In Quintessence of Dust , Craig Wallwork provides a diverse range of challenging stories, each emotionally powerful where his characters face their own demons and come to terms with their loss or inadequacies.
What happens when you haven't married for love but then find it too late? How do you cope with loss? How do you find comfort if you live on the margins of society? Wallwork delves into these meaty subjects and writes interesting and well constructed stories that challenge, offend, hurt and ultimately make for a very thoughtful read.
(review of free book)