Sunday, 13 September 2015

BOOK REVIEW: STORIES BY JOSEPH RIDGWELL


Prolific lit fiend Joseph Ridgwell is back with the long awaited, highly anticipated follow up to his 2010 debut short story collection, Oswald's Apartment, from Blackheath Books. This time New York publisher Bottle of Smoke press have taken the reigns and unleashed this mind melting medley upon an unsuspecting, under prepared world. Rumours of the imminent release of this potent cocktail of cerebral stories had been circling the literary grapevine for months, years even. Certain sceptical individuals even dared to doubt its very existence, dismissing the rumours as mere speculation. As always, the last laugh is on the faithful and all naysayers have since been silenced as Ridgwell's Stories finally sees the light of day.

Having been warned by several notable figures of the literary underground via a series of late night Twitter exchanges that reading this book could warp a man's mind, and even go as far as to distort his very personality beyond recognition, I wisely approached it with extreme caution. What can be found within its pages are twelve of the finest pieces of short fiction you are likely to find in one place, accompanied by expertly crafted woodcut prints from Southern California's greatest living artist, Jose Pepe Arroyo. 

The stories themselves traverse a profusion of topics ranging from cryonics to necrophilia, from booze and drug binges to romancing of the elderly. Ridgwell's deft, concise prose makes for a quick and energetic read. These short stories are exactly what they are labelled as; short. There is nothing more grating than picking up a short story collection only for it to contain four or five stories at fifty or more pages each. These stories are slick and succinct - no excess fat in sight - lean, red meat reading to be consumed immediately. 

Stories is a fine example of Ridgwell's patented 'cosmic realism' in full effect; Everyman characters thrown in to bizarre and surreal situations. Often with comedic, sometimes tragic, but always entertaining results. I don't know if my mind has been warped by this experience, I don't know if I am the same man that I was before I read it, but I do know that if you want to take the litmus test for yourself you will need to be quick off the mark as only 136 copies of this book exist. Head over to Bottle of Smoke's website and get ordering quick smart! Just remember: you've been warned!

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