Fiction & Biography


Kelly + Victor (Jonathan Cape £10) 0..

Rain, mud, blood, bone, shite, rot. Hell of a menu but while you’re choosing between weather and body matter for starters, check out the primordial mission statement: ‘I want to put us back in our

slime,’ says Griffiths. Schlup.

Novel number three from this Liverpool-born, Welsh-raised, thirtysomething, Kelly 4- Victor is a love story about rupture as much as rapture. It’s drugs ’n’ dialect (hence the all too convenient ‘Welsh Irvine Welsh‘ tag), in-yer-face, sad, angry, absurd, twisted, disturbing, horrible, funny and fucked-up. As Victor says to his fat, flatulent, flatmate: ‘Everyone’s got a crack-whore story.’

It's about a lot of things but mostly obsession and damage. More scouse Punch ’n’ Judy than Romeo-and-Juliet-go-Trainspotting, Kelly and Victor are two lives full of drugs and sex but with little hope and still less self-esteem. Both are looking for freedom and joy beyond their crap jobs and prodigious chemical intakes, both believe they have chanced upon it with each other but . . .

Like Irvine Welsh, Griffiths deals in the highs and lows of the chemical generation, though he does so with rather more wit and warmth. His characters have history, context, heart, an inner life and dreams of how things could be. And this makes their fates all the more compelling.

Heartbreaking even.

Unashamedly and enthusiastically intellectual in his approach, the author comes across (in interview and writing about his literary influences) as erudite, political and, for the most part, accessible. Even if he does wish to wield ‘a speculum into the collective psyche’. Ouch.

Kelly + Victor is a challenge, nothing less. Almost psychedelic; a trip into a world of carnage and pain and horror. And pleasure. The writing is

good and the dialogue is there in the pubs and

clubs and five-a-side pitches. The characters walk it and

talk it. This is grim and relentless.

And ultimately it’s numbing, vexing of the spirit and testing of the stomach. So like one of the crack-whores in the novel, you start to feel that perhaps, just perhaps, your soul is a fairycake, left in a tiny box, in a lost handbag, placed behind the bar, in a rough-as-fuck pub, somewhere in Liverpool. Then maybe this reviewer has read too much Burroughs, Bukowski, Miller, Acker, Dworkin etc etc. A fill of filth, depravity, social transgression, boho mischief and artistic licentiousness.



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Another speculum into the collective psyche

Oh and slime. Don’t forget the slime.

Apropos of very little, but sort of in the spirit of ol’ Bill

Poems are written to be heard not read. so it's hard work to get lost in a volume of poetry while flicking thrOugh it on the bus or in the canteen during your lunch break. Better to find a $0und proofed room. lock the door and start reCiting out loud.

Scots bard Robin Robertson's first collection. A Painted Fr'e/d. won sweeping acclaim and several major awards on its publication five years ago. His latest. Slow Arr. is that rare thing: a poetry collection that is lyrically elegant and passionate yet feels contemporary and accessible. This set explores the paradoxes that exist in life and in the poet's imagination.

While his canvas is broad. Robertson is particularly drawn to that time-honoured tension between the romantic search for the sublime in nature that is :nevitably infiltrated and spoiled by the huindruin. the everyday. This abiding concern finds its most poignant expression in

Burroughs and Nick Cave (whose ‘Green Eyes’ track from Murder Ballads is name-checked in Kelly + Victor) the following is a cut-up of random lines from Griffiths’ favourite books. It probably reveals far more about his aesthetic than any of the above: ‘I am a leaper bold/Fled from house of sacrifice/He was going to be/ hanged in Caernarfon/Plug and splinter/Shin and fibula/A turtle in a hearse/Cracach/A tourist’s luxury/Dylan is dead/Or ain’t you noticed?’ (Rodger Evans)

'March, LeWIsboro' in which Robertson imagines an inspiring rural walk repeatedly invaded by memories of a lover's shrill nagging.

Elsewhere. his clear. sensual language is made to briefly capture an intimate moment or mood. whether that be a quietly shocking event like a glass shattering in dishwater ('Break') or the thrill of being with a lover in a romantic setting (‘Head Over Heels').

Though Robertson's style is unflashy, he occasionally has fun with self-conscious wordplay (‘Wedding The Locksmiths Daughter'l. while ‘AnXiety'. a trio of loose. dream-like meditations breaks down and challenges formal poetic structures. And poems like ‘Waves‘ and ‘Waking Late' betray a deep sadness at life's lost Or wasted time. tlisappointments and regrets. The abiding impression. though, is that Robin Robertson's second book is made compelling by the poet's obVious zest for life in all its cheguered glory. (Allan Radcliffe)

Shelf life

Classic novels revisited. This issue: The Passion Of New Eve

Published 25 years ago. What’s the story Angela Carter's fantastic. picaresgue satire follows protagonist Evelyn on a gender-bending pilgrimage through America. Fleeing riotOus. rat infested New York for the west coast. Evelyn becomes lost in the desert and is abducted by a deranged female scientist. Mother. and her tribe of Amazonian foot soldiers. Having raped him. lvlother then changes lA/elyn's sex. intending to impregnate the new hve With his her own seed and create a new messiah. i ve escapes but falls in With a one legged, hillbilly pimp. eventually ending up at the Hollywood liidea\.vay of enigmatic screen goddess Tristessa.

What the critics said 'If you can imagine Baudelaire. Blake and Kafka getting together to describe America. you are well on the way to Carter's Visionary and lurid world': [he Times.

Key moment In a grotesgue partle of the l‘i'ankenstein myth, there can be few more excruciating scenes in fiction than when the obese. many breasted Mother lays [fvelyn on the operating table. slices oft his genitals in a single stroke and tosses them in the bin.

Postscript In the year following Angela Carter '5; premature death in 1992’ there were more reguests for Phi) funding on her work than on the entire canon of 18th century literature.

First line test ‘The last night I spent in London I took some girl or other to the cinema and. through her mediation. paid you a little tribute of spermatozoa. Tristessa.' (Allan Radcliftei

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