Thursday, 25 January 2018

BOOK REVIEW: EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE BY ALICE FURSE



Okay, so I am a little late to the party with this book. It was published in 2014 by Burning Eye Books, and has been sitting on my bookshelf for about two years (for shame), but it's fashionable to be late, right? Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is the debut novel by Alice Furse, about a nameless protagonist who struggles to find meaning in her hum drum post-graduate life.

I related to this book SO HARD. Like, I have literally lived the life of these characters. From post-graduate shitty mind numbing office jobs to relationships built on foundations of fire and passion that quickly crumble after that fire goes out. It was all a little too real at times, and I won't lie, at certain points I found myself frustrated with it. Largely because, well, nothing ever really happens - it isn't so much a story as it is a moment in time. Which is fine! More than fine, in fact, it is just not what I was expecting... 

The tagline on the front cover is "A Girl. An Office. The Apocalypse" and the blurb on the back reads "As her days fill with low paid office work and her boyfriend abandons ambition, a young woman believes there must be an apocalypse on the horizon and hatches a dramatic plan to escape". Maybe, naively (?), I was expecting a wry take on an impending apocalypse, something akin to Seeking A Friend For The End of the World or Don McKellar's Last Night. But there is no apocalypse (other than, perhaps, a metaphorical one), the protagonist never mentions the imminent destruction of the world nor the salvation of the righteous (the word apocalypse is mentioned more times in this review thus far than it was in the book), and the protagonist does not in any way "hatch a dramatic plan to escape". I don't know, maybe I missed something, maybe I am just an idiot, or maybe I am just focusing on the wrong thing here, but I feel that the selling of the apocalypse angle does a massive disservice to what is otherwise a really bloody brilliant book.

To not only see the extraordinary in the couldn't-be-more-ordinary is one thing, but to bring it to life and make it sing the way Alice does is exceptional writing. There is a funny passage when the protagonist criticises Charles Bukowski's novel Women for being too unrealistic, and you could almost level the opposite criticism at Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. It perfectly captures the realities and the restlessness of being twenty-something and lostAt times it is uncomfortable. At times it is hilarious. At times you want to grab her boyfriend by the scruff of the neck and tell him to turn his bloody Xbox off and at times you realise that you were that boyfriend that was more interested in his Xbox than anything else (No? Just me then?). This really is a brilliant read and I highly recommend it. Just don't get too hung up on the whole apocalypse thing, like I did.

Grab a copy right now from Burning Eye Books.  

Monday, 15 January 2018

I READ ZINES [#16]


 A CATALOGUE OF FAILURE

I don't normally like to review zines that I appear in (I have a poem in this one), but this particular little zine is worthy of special praise. A delightful collection of literary material on the theme of failure, put together by author Alice Furse (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Burning Eye Books, 2014). In her own words, from the introduction, "There is no Hallmark card that reads 'Sorry you didn't make the grade this time mate', there is no FAIL button on Instagram, there are no speeches for relationships that didn't work out". This collection is designed for the reader to take those feelings of failure, of messing up and being messed up, and help them work out how to unpackage those feelings and use them in a positive way. It is an inspiring read, I especially enjoyed strong pieces by Harry Gallon and Laura Winnick, but the closing lines by Louise Cox are perhaps most poignant, "If we didn't fail we wouldn't have cause to celebrate the successes, and the success can simply be not being crushed by our failure". Get a copy right here.

IF THE DIVINE IS IN YOU,
THEN THE DIVINE IS IN ALL OF US
BY SALLY JENKINSON

This poetry zine by Sally Jenkinson is a real beauty! I saw Sally perform a headline set at a poetry slam last year and fell in love with her poetry there and then. I was lucky enough that she agreed to trade a copy of PAPER AND INK for a copy of her book Boys (Burning Eye Books, 2016) and I was delighted when I saw that she was making her own zine. This contains a set of poems that were mainly written when Sally was on a trip to the USA and they're full of wonderful insights and intimate intricacies that make it a joy to read. Sally is fast becoming one of my favourite poets and I can't wait to read her next zine (if there should be another). Visit her website right here for details of how to purchase a copy.  

RAZUR CUTS IV

Editor Derek Steel has upped his game with the fourth issue of his punk inspired lit rag Razur Cuts - The biggest and best issue yet of the street literature mag out of Falkirk, Scotland. Featuring a who's who of international talent, including PAPER AND INK favourites Jared A. Carnie, Fee Johnstone, Ian Cusack, Jim Gibson, Jamie Thrasivoulou and Wesley Cooke, as well as many more great writers. Not only is there the excellent literature content but that is interspersed with interviews and album reviews. Great stuff and well worth the meagre price of £4. That will barely get you a pint these days! To order yours email Derek at deeko1963@googlemail.com

Thursday, 23 November 2017

BOOK REVIEWS: SUNNY SIDE DOWN AND LOOKING DOWN BOTH BARRELS




SUNNY SIDE DOWN: A CHARLES BUKOWSKI TRIBUTE

I don't normally review anything that I am in (I have a poem in this), but this Charles Bukowski tribute chapbook is well worth mentioning. Edited by Katie Doherty (Patchouli Press) and featuring a stellar line up of writers, each with their own unique take on the infamous poet. Whatever your thoughts about Bukowski the man, there is no denying his literary merit. It goes to show that some 23 years after his death, he is still held in such high regard. Some of his opinions and attitudes may have been problematic but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I would not have started writing poetry, or created Paper and Ink Literary Zine, had I not discovered his words. Sunny Side Down is a fine collection of work and a must have for any fan of Buk. Order one for yourself from Patchouli Press right here.



LOOKING DOWN BOTH BARRELS BY ADRIAN MANNING AND JOHN D ROBINSON

Another outstanding chapbook of poetry from Holy&Intoxicated Publications, featuring the work of two poets whom I would have no problem mentioning in the same breath as the aforementioned Charles Bukowski. Honest, raw poetry, dredged up from the gut and laid bare on the page. This is Grade A material, and a young upstart poet such as myself can only dream of being able to tame the written word as well as these two gentlemen. Special mention should go to Janne Karlsson for the terrific cover artwork. Get your hands on a copy by emailing John D Robinson at johndrobinson@yahoo.co.uk


"If you're gonna
write a poem
write words
that will burn

words that will
burn
the paper they are
written on

the eyeballs
that read them

and leave
nothing
but the message
scorched
into the
earth
and the
memory"

- Adrian Manning, 'And Fahrenheit 451 Evens The Score' 











Thursday, 16 November 2017

BOOK REVIEW: RETURN TO THE MADLANDS (THE MIRE MAN TRILOGY BOOK III) BY DAVE MATTHES



Return to the Madlands is the third and final book in prolific wordsmith Dave Matthes' Mire Man Trilogy. The story picks up with everybody's favourite misanthropic, whisky drinking, son of a bitch, Arlo Smith, a decade or thereabouts after he drove off into the sunset at the end of Paradise City (the second book in the trilogy). Now in his fifties/sixties (his exact age is never stated), Arlo has been living a relatively normal life (by his standards). Shacked up, playing happy families with Beth Jensen - the former teacher he had a relationship with in high school, and the woman who sprung him from his self imposed exile in Moriarty's Institute.

After ten years of normality, Beth has now passed away and Arlo discovers that she had been hiding letters from him. Many letters, sent to him over a number of years, by his former lover, Constance (the love interest from the first book of the trilogy, Bar Nights). Having almost given up on life after Beth's passing and feeling the effects of Father Time on his weary bones, he decides to roll the dice once last time, and hits the road in search of his long lost love. What follows is a madcap adventure across the country which leads Arlo to a destination he did not expect, nor could ever have imagined in his wildest dreams.

Return to the Madlands is the longest book of the trilogy, clocking in at just over 300 pages, and departs from the flash back/memory recall motif of Paradise City. It is much more in keeping, stylistically, with the first and shortest book of the trilogy, Bar Nights. Madlands plays out like a series of vignettes from the open road, documenting all of the crazy, weird situations that Arlo finds himself in during his trip, with all of the strange people he encounters, and the trouble that he inevitably lands in the middle of. At the end of my review of Paradise City I said that I would not be holding my breath for a happy ending for Arlo, and after reading the heartbreaking epilogue after the conclusion of the story, I was certainly right not to! However, heartbreaking epilogue aside, the end was not all together bad for Arlo, in fact I would say that Madlands was very much the redemption of Arlo Smith. I imagine we have not seen the last of this character, as there are plenty of gaps in the story that Matthes could explore, but if we never see Arlo again, then this was a very fitting end for a very interesting character.



READ MY REVIEW OF BOOK I AND BOOK II AND SUPPORT INDIE AUTHOR DAVE MATTHES BY BUYING HIS BOOKS ON AMAZON UK OR AMAZON US AND FOLLOW NEWS OF HIS FUTURE WORKS ON HIS WESBITE.