Zack Wilson's book “ Stumbles and Half Slips”could be described by many flattering adjectives, however the writing in these twenty four short pieces is exemplary in its negatives; its very lack of pretense, lack of mimicry. Words come alive, seemingly bypassing the thought process as if poured straight from life itself, expressed in un-sanitized language of common streets. Open brain stream of consciousness relates the meanders of daily tedium in full view.
The sense of place reads as a travelogue to Work Town UK. As the reader rides shotgun in the van with the main character, a whole countryside unrolls, a whole retinue of mates unfolds; it is a situational series at its best portraiture. No need for prompts and adverts, no mandatory formula; a film develops steadily in mind toward satisfaction. Nope, no flashy ending or painful suspense, just a sense of having been an intimate witness to the process and essential revelation.
No sensational descriptions to tease the reader, visions come in ground level realism...sparse and short as a clean phrase. Each segment a complete tableau of work day complexities. Each story apart and yet a part of the whole of daily drudge for a Brit, for a man, in that place, in this time. Anywhere between short skirts and tattoos, youth and geriatrics, people bob in and out of pure text as experienced by the main character.
Modern in tone and tense, yet a classic struggle of coping and maintaining personal integrity amid a cash hungry society which equates work with identity. Moral meanderings of workplace ethics visible in the mandatory safety vests and hygiene gloves. Out of construction rubble surfaces respect and patience, the hard way. Out of white coats and blue hair nets, emerge a whole range of perceptions.
Discontent exposed in riffs of ill spent energies in the pursuit of some happiness or drunkenness. Relationships on the rungs of job hierarchy weave and wobble along definitions and expectations.
“rouge patches of distress cloud his dirty cheeks”
Scuttling feet and giggling grimaces boil up toward explosion or fade in flattening depression.
“but the unguarded rage in his eyes was terrifying—our foreheads locked together at the focal point”
No clever titles to hype the chapters, no substitutes or clichés; colloquialism is served raw, the picture is clean.
“I'd been spending another night down the local, the Green Man, trapped in the kind of immediate after work session that's becoming a bit of a worry”
Sex and loneliness ooze out of text between pubs and trips. Age and gender evident in subtleties.
“one of those girls that's so gorgeous it's physically painful to look at her”
The pace is present, personal and proud, each scene a dramatic capsule of life on the pavement.
Dialogue exposes the immediacy of blue collar England.
“What’s going on with this Barbados thing and that lad there?” ---“Oh, ‘im,” a swarthy young fella with bad acne scars smirked. “’Ave you sin the paper today?” ---I know he probably means The Sun, so I say, “No. Don’t read one mate. Which one?”---“It’s bin on telly too, mate,” he responds.
Between spliffs and pints, cider and coke, painless details smoothly drive the discourse to full spectrum of interrelated actions and reactions. No artifice, no hide and seek, and best of all, no psychological games to lure the would be reader to unnecessary emotional expense.
You listen to the sounds, the accents, the punches and trenches of muddy yards and pub atmosphere.
“I decided to head down to the snap wagon for a sausage sandwich and a cup of foul grey tea, the bloke asks me...”
You revisit the faces, the twists of emotions and deliberations, knowing the dance and avoidance of voices escalating, observing body language toward aggressive stance, no gore needed, no special effects wanted. The scenery in place, a panoramic setting for the next plot.
No one ever told him to face how much they hated him, though they whinged plenty when they thought he couldn’t hear. It seemed to scare them that he was blind. They tended to be very fond of his guide dog though, a big golden retriever called Morph.
Author, sports writer, poet, reviewer and word collector, he stacks stories straight out of mind in Sheffield England. Able to dive under philosophical layers without a breath, he surfaces with concise prose and manifests his observations in multiple publications.
Lescar: volume 1, Blackheath Books.
The Mirror: prose collection, Erbacce press.
Poetry reviews of Rob Plath' s and John Yamrus books, Epic Rites.
Film reviews: Seraphim Falls, The Great Silence...
and an impressive et coetera on both side of the pond.
Stumbles and Half Slips: is available through Epic Rites press.
(Wolfgang Carstens editor)