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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Death of Gerald Locklin


Sad to hear of the death of the poet Gerald Locklin of coronavirus complications on 17 January 2021, aged 79:

 https://www.presstelegram.com/2021/01/18/gerald-locklin-csulb-teacher-writer-poet-dies-at-79/


Have read his New and Selected Poems (1967-2007) several times and have dipped into it over the last few days.

R.I.P.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Book Review: Wayne F. Burke TURMOIL and Other Stories (Adelaide Books, New York, 2020) 132 pages


This is the Vermont based writer Wayne F. Burke’s first published book of short stories. There are 13 finely crafted stories in the collection, some of which have first appeared, in different forms, in small press publications such as The Puckerbrush Review, Gihon River Review, Alien Buddha Zine Horror Sleaze & Trash and 63-Channels.


The stories appear to have been arranged in chronological order from innocence to experience as you will find in a myriad of books about growing up, such as James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (1916), Alice Monroe’s Lives of Girls and Women (1971) and Angelo Loukakis’s Messenger (1992). However, in TURMOIL the point of view alternates between a variety of first and third person narrators. As a consequence, we never clearly see the individual paths of the characters, but in glimpses, we are able to view the development of Burke as he orchestrates his vision for this book.

 

In a recent email to me, Burke says candidly of TURMOIL and the slow, torturous process of putting his book together, “Some of these stories are 25 years old. All have been rewritten more times than I care to think about. ‘Turmoil’ the story, for instance, sixty drafts at least, two versions published over the last ten years (3rdversion the one in the book—by ‘version’ I mean the mechanics of the writing tinkered with, sentence structure, punctuation, small changes in the language etc). All the stories in the book were published previously, at least once for each. Some stories under different titles (as ‘Demented’, formerly ‘Forget Me Not’. ‘Dog Days’ formerly ‘Sterl’).

 

The cover of the book depicts a bleak, overcast Manhattan from the Hudson River. The cover was chosen by an Adelaide Books editor in reference to the collection’s excellent first story ‘I Remember Buddy’ in which a young boy Eddie, recalls a visit to Yankee Stadium to meet the baseball legend Mickey Mantle before a game.

 

In a recent interview in Adelaide Magazine (see the link below), Burke writes of the inspiration for the book’s title, “At the time of selecting a title for my story collection, I viewed my tale ‘Turmoil’ as the strongest of the bunch. (I have since changed my view to ‘Buddies’). ‘Turmoil’ not only the strongest story, as I thought, at the time of selection, but the title itself, the word, applicable, I believed and still believe, to the emotional states found in many of the stories.

 

“Not the adolescent angst of ‘Turmoil’ the story, but each story with its own sort of TURMOIL, and thus the word itself, I thought, and think, an apt general description of the overall tenor of the collection. Also the story ‘Turmoil’—a tale of adolescence, as I have said, occupies a central position in the collection, making it a sort of link between preceding stories of childhood themes and the proceeding stories of adult themes. A centrality that, to me, of significance, and leading further reason to make use of the title.”

 

The story ‘Turmoil’ is a third person narrative centred on Leno Decensi, a nasty young thug who is being investigated by the local police for driving a car over a golfing green.  Burke displays great skill in creating his portrait of Leno and seamlessly advances the plot through his credible use of dialogue, his usual pepper spray of similes, and an apt, sensational climax.

 

The short stories primarily focus on a small group of young guys who grow up in an anonymous small town in America, perhaps in Massachusetts, where Burke lived as a child and young adult. The blurb on the back cover suggests that, “These are, mostly inspired by the real events which happened between early 60’s and late 80’s of the last century.” 

 

To Burke, the setting is “mostly inconsequential”- the town and the characters he describes in TURMOILcould be any small town in America, “The setting of stories are of small town or even of neighbourhood life; I guess you could say small lives’ as well, people caught in the matrix of provincial thinking and living—limited by their environment instead of enlarged. 

 

“The story ‘The Saboteurs’ is somewhat of an exception in being more “cosmopolitan” than other tales, in that the characters have a larger view of the world and life in general—or at least a more intellectual-based view, than that of the “townies” featured elsewhere.” ‘Theatre’, a satirical story about Billy Murphy, a self-obsessed aspiring writer, is another example of a character hoping to break out of a limited rustic mode.

 

Burke’s goal is to universalise his setting and characters to enable his readers to reimagine their own communities and experiences: “My hope is that people will recognize themselves, their friends, their family, in the characterizations of the book, and are able to relate their experiences to the environment of the fictional framework those characters exist in as “characters.”

 

The best of these “townie” stories, include the previously mentioned title piece ‘Turmoil’, ‘Pistol’ about Louis who wakes up and can’t remember where he has  parked his father’s car the night before, and perhaps the best story in the collection, ‘Buddies’. 

 

‘Buddies’ has a lighter, more spontaneous feel to it than most of the collection. It is told from the point of view of Kell, aged 21, who travels through Florida with his friends Leno and Louie to make a buck through seasonal or short-term work. The blokes have no other ambition but to fuel their lifestyles- thru drink or perhaps magic mushrooms. They work as orange pickers, 

McDonald's flippers and later in installing refrigerator units. The theme of being on the road and open to new experiences is reflected in the lively but fragmented structure of the storyline. The reader never knows what lies ahead.

 

Some of Burke’s other memorable short stories include his exploration of aberrant or dysfunctional behaviour. In ‘Dog Days’ the main character ‘Sterl’ believes that the devil resides in his stomach and he asks various friends how to “shut him up”. In ‘House Call’ a chronic drunk justifies her use of the bottle. 

 

In ‘Demented’ an old woman suffers from Alzheimer’s, and according to her daughter Edna, she “no longer knows if she were getting out of bed to start a new day or getting ready for sleep,” forgets to dress herself and at home, asks the same questions over and over. The really “demented” behaviour perhaps is exhibited by the old woman’s children- who heartlessly shunt her around to spurn the responsibility of having to care for her longterm.

 

‘Lean Pork Chops’ is a third person account of Raymond P. Peck who suspects his wife Irene is cheating on him. The sick mayhem of his mind is daubed in paranoid brush strokes by Burke as Raymond walks as if “he were moving underwater” to confront his missus. 

 

Burke says of the story, “The portrait of the murderer I took from a newspaper story, embellishing it into the demented, jealous obsession of Peck who, by anyone’s description of insanity, is more than a few cards short of a full deck.

 

“A story, by the way, in which I have attempted to use language to mirror or illustrate the guy’s irrational processes. As in the repetitiveness—“He knew they knew. Knew they knew he knew. Knew it for a fact. Knew it like he knew his daughter’s age. An attempt, as I’ve written, to get inside the guy’s head and reflect his disturbed state.”    

 

Burke’s writing is clear, highly accessible and typically written in a realist style. He loves describing in detail his characters, including their clothes & shoes and also the shape of their bodies & heads. 

 

Burke reflects on this fascination and how it contributes to his overall intent, “In ‘Turmoil’ Leno, on his drive into town, looks out the car window at cattails sticking up out of a swamp: later, he will feel the cattail, in the form of a club, a cop’s baton, a nightstick, against the side of his head. The doctor of ‘House Call’ walks “hunched, as if weighted down by his head” meaning being full of himself, as, subsequently, the narrative shows him to be. The interrelatedness, you see, of the description to the story—to events unfolding or happening in story-time. Meaning, that there are no mistakes.

 

“Everything in the story is there because it is supposed to be there—belongs there. Everything in the story, every story, is related to everything else in the universe of the story—the world created, by language, of the alternate reality offered within the tale, every tale. Nothing left to chance, you see. No randomness within the matrix. And if a false note heard, in description or comment or whatever, it is because that description, comment, or whatever, does not fit, is out of place, in the matter—of a different substance perhaps, or, I don’t know.”

 

Burke first published his poetry in book form when he was 58. In the Adelaide Magazine interview linked below, he says he failed beforehand to see his life experiences as relevant subjects to write about: “Until I found my subject matter I remained blocked. Not knowing I had a vein of gold to mine; thinking I was “nobody,” who had done little—certainly nothing worth writing about, I failed to understand the value of my life experience, such as it was, and is. Failed to see the quotidian and so called “common” experience—where mostly the nature of mine, could be as interesting or glamorous or adventurous, as any celebrated life, of movie star fame, idol, hero, etc., through the writing. The writing itself creates the interest, the drama, if you will, of any life, no matter what circumstances lived under.”

 

TURMOIL is a carefully crafted collection of short stories. It is a coming of age story aching to be continued.

 

 

Purchase the book here:  https://adelaidebooks.org/collections/short-stories/products/turmoil-and-other-stories

 

Read an interview of Burke on Adelaide Magazine here:  https://adelaidemagazine.org/2020/11/20/wayne-f-burke-author-of-turmoil-other-stories/

Thursday, December 24, 2020

New Release: Joseph Ridgwell She Moves Through The Fair ( Kilmog Press, Dunedin, 2020) 60 pages

 


Joseph Ridgwell's eighth book of poetry was recently released through the small Kiwi publisher Kilmog Press. Limited to 50 numbered copies. 

Buy the book here: https://www.deadsouls.co.nz/shop/joseph-ridgwell-she-moves-through-the-fair-kilmog-press-2020/

Find out more about Joseph Ridgwell here: https://josephridgwelljr.wordpress.com

Received my copy today 1/50! (19 January 2021)

Sunday, December 20, 2020

New Release: Mather Schneider 6 to 6 (Terror House, 2020) 222 pages

 


6 to 6 is a rebrand of Schneider’s earlier self published book Next Time Take Sunrise (2014) in which he recounts his tribulations as a taxi driver in Tucson, Arizona. Of the original 58 short stories, Schneider has retained 32 and has added 22 new ones. This collection is tighter and certainly a more solid read than its predecessor. 

 

Schneider says candidly of breathing new life into his book of taxi-driving short stories, “I sent a story or two to Matt Forney and he put them on his website Terror House. I sent a few more and he put those up too. Then I sent an entire manuscript, which he said he would publish if I was interested.

 

“He hired a cover artist, proof-read it and made the book. We all know how easy it is to do that these days. But, at least he didn’t bother me about bullshit.

 

“I cut the book and also added to it, and now it is a different book, with a different title. It’s called “6 to 6” which was a normal shift driving a taxi cab, a.m. or p.m. I tried to cut the boring stories and keep the interesting ones. I also changed a lot of openings to get more “hooks.”

 

Most of the stories are told from the point of view of Matt Glasford, a hardened and cynical fortysomething taxi driver who works for Discount Cabs in Tucson, Arizona. Many of his passengers are disadvantaged or elderly and are given vouchers which enable them to travel free. Much of our interest in reading these stories derives from the ongoing congo line of eccentric and damaged people that Glasford has to ferry about and his growing resentment towards them.  

 

The writing is clear and easy to follow. As in his excellent collections of poetry He Took A Cab (NYQ Books, 2011) and Prickly (NYQ Books, 2017) the reader is a fly on the wall inside Schneider’s cabs and we gain  an appreciation of the shit that cabbies have to endure- the long hours, the threat of physical violence, the poor and insecure wages and conditions, the boredom, and the occasional displays of humanity and compassion which sometimes make the job almost bearable.

 

Some of the better stories are more complex and unpredictable and often are character driven studies of his passengers or fellow cab drivers. ‘Next Time Take Skyline’, ‘Morenci In My Rear-View Mirror’, ‘The Thing People Understand’, ‘Bob’s Big Day’, ‘God didn’t Get Me No Weed’, ‘Turn Around, Dumb Ass’, ‘The Hideaway’, ‘No Way’, ‘Plasma’, ‘The Double’ ‘And Deliver Us From The Viking Amen’ and the meta-fictional ‘Somebody Say The Magic Word’ are highly credible and original. You can’t make this stuff up!

 

Perhaps the best and most entertaining story in the collection is ‘Drano’. It is a rare third person portrait of Cory, an ex-con who drives cabs after he gets out of prison. (The story is posted with the permission of the writer).

 

 

DRANO 

 

 

It was not possible to pass a kidney stone the size of a golf ball. Cory wouldn’t be able to work until after the surgery, which was in a couple of weeks. He needed a break from that taxi cab anyway. He had been driving taxi ever since he got out of prison 12 years ago, 8 years for dealing meth. His old lady rolled on him and she got off scot free, not a day in jail, even though she did as much dealing and smoking as he did. She never wrote him or visited him when he was inside. When he got out he tried to contact her. He found her on Facebook but she wouldn’t talk to him and then she blocked him. They had a daughter who was 6 years old when he got put away. He found her too on Facebook. They talked briefly, once, and she told him it would be best if they didn’t communicate. He didn’t blame her. She gave him her address and he sent a money order every month. She was now 26 years old and had a new baby of her own. He was a grandfather. 

He drove past Randolph Golf course on his way to Wine and More. The driving range was scattered with a million little white golf balls in the green grass, like stars in the sky. Men and women swung their sticks, thinking they were special, fit and tan legged cartoons. His doctor golfed every other day. The little golf carts puttered and bounced along in a big hurry. Martinis with olives waited in the clubhouse. 

At Wine and More he could hardly walk the aisles. He walked like he had walked that first time in county jail in Los Angeles, years before the prison stint: one foot in front of the other, slowly, head down. One inmate had stepped out of line and the guards jumped on him and beat the shit out of him with their sticks. It was hard to keep track of the timeline. What was it, 34 years ago? He had been only 21. This was before the meth, 1983 or 84. He had been arrested for multiple driving offenses, marijuana and coke. He chuckled to think of it now. For years he had struggled to let it all go but somehow now he wanted to hold it close to him. 

He bought a case of beer and drove slowly back to his apartment. The sun bubbled in the sky like a tick swollen with spoiled butter. How did he ever get to Tucson? Cars and trucks tailgated him and zipped past, only to brake violently and come to hard halts at the red lights and sit there stewing, angry at the universe, though the universe probably didn’t do it on purpose. He used to drive like that. Now he realized it made no sense, it did no good. It hurt to brake, it hurt to accelerate. It hurt to breathe. 

His apartment was on the third floor and he had trouble climbing the stairs. Inside he opened a can of beer and sat down to his computer. He popped a pain pill and took a sip of the cold beer. He opened Facebook. Every now and then he posted a photograph of the cosmos, all that space above and around us. There was something calming about the photographs of the galaxy and the stars and the Milky Way, black holes and lazy galactic winds, telescopic photographs that he found on the internet. Planets. Jupiter was his favorite with that red storm like a half-developed dragon fetus dropped out of an egg to poach in the churning atmosphere. He posted these photographs on Facebook without any words. What explanation could he give? Nobody ever “liked” his posts or made comments, which didn’t bother him. He didn’t reach out to anyone, he never trolled. He minded his own business. 

In the Los Angeles county jail, the cockroaches were the size of mice. At least he remembered it that way. He was in there for 29 days. Every few days he was given his street clothes and transported to a different court around the county to be judged and held accountable for the several infractions of which he was accused. Why all of the infractions couldn’t have been dealt with in one court on one day was one of those mysteries. None of it made any sense to him. He followed the guards, one foot in front of the other, handcuffed, head down. He was never asked questions. Other people did the talking. The judges sat smug and mighty and fat, sexless ghouls with warty souls. He was always given “time served” and then he was transported back to jail. It was like a game. 

In county jail his cellmate was a kid of 19. The kid had broken into a historical Tucson building and lit a fire and the building had burned to the ground. Before Cory even got snagged he had seen it on the news, the fire trucks throwing vicious arcs of foaming water into the inferno and the inferno just absorbing it. Later the ashes and cinders of the building, the brick walls still standing burnt and blackened. The news people made it sound like the “arsonist” was a hardened gangster devoted to the complete destruction of society. And there he was, just a zitty kid laying in the top bunk above Cory, crying. He was awaiting trial and would most likely do 20 years for burning that building. He told Cory he and a buddy had been fooling around, lit a fire in a garbage can for kicks and then it got out of hand. No sprinkler system in the old building. The kid’s buddy had turned him in. Cory celled with this kid for a couple of weeks, heard him jacking off in the night on his bunk and tried not to look when he shit in the toilet 5 feet away. Then they took him one morning. 

The food in county jail was terrible, but mealtime was still the highlight of the day. In the morning all they got was bread, cheese and coffee. In the evenings they got a little more. On Fridays they got a hot dog and beans. One Friday Cory was in line at the food window and the inmate who was standing in front yelled out: TWO HOT DOGS TODAY! Everyone in line became excited. But as soon as the screw slid the food tray to the front guy everyone knew they had been duped. The sadistic cooks had sliced each hot dog longwise and placed them on the trays in such a manner to make it look like two. One inmate laughed and got his ass beat later. Cory laughed to think of it now. There was almost a tenderness in the thought of it. 

On his 29th day in county jail Cory was again given his street clothes and transported to another court to stand before another judge. After it was over he was led to a door which he assumed would lead to the white van that would take him back across the county again. The guard took off his handcuffs and opened the door. When Cory walked out the door shut behind him. He stood there alone behind the court house looking at a freeway ramp. He was free, apparently. But what about his belongings? What about procedure? What the fuck was going on? He walked around the courthouse 

building to the front door and asked a few people and finally ended up in a clerk’s office. The clerk told him his possessions were in the LA county jail and wondered why Cory was so stupid to have left them there. 

It took him a day and a half to walk back to LA county jail. When he arrived back at the “glass towers” as they called it back then he asked around and finally another clerk told him that his belongings were at the original jail of arrest in Newhall, 100 miles away. He had no money, no way to get there. The clerk told him of a thing called “traveler’s aid” which he could get at the Greyhound bus station. He slept on the street again and the next day walked into the Greyhound station. He told the ticket lady his story and showed her his jail ID which was all he had. 2 hours later she told him she couldn’t get him all the way to Newhall but she could get him somewhere nearby. 

He had not eaten for 3 days. He slept on the bus. He woke up as the bus was pulling away from his stop. How he knew it was his stop is one of those mysteries, something in his dream told him. He jumped up and yelled at the bus driver, stumbled down the bus steps into the darkness. 

As he walked the dark road to Newhall a cop stopped him, his campfire top lights swirling in the quiet country night. Cory told him his story and the cop ran his ID and found out he was telling the truth. He gave him a ride into the town jail. He knocked on the jailhouse door which was locked. Someone came and told him he was lucky because they were about ready to leave. The officer let him in and disappeared for a bit. He returned with a big manila envelope and asked for Cory’s ID. 

The officer dumped the contents of the envelope on the counter and there it lay: his wallet with a wad of money in it, a bag of pot, a pipe and a jar of cocaine. His life. The officer asked Cory if these were his. Lowering his head he said yes, sir, they were his. Then, without any other questions, the officer pushed everything over to him and said, Ok, there’s a bus stop about 3 miles up the road, good luck. Who can explain these things? No one would believe it, but that’s what happened. Outside he was high within 2 minutes and it was the best walk of his life. 

He hadn’t learned a damn thing from all that and years later when he was 35 he ended up in the state pen for nearly 8 years for selling methamphetamines. After he got out he stayed out, cleaned up and found a job driving taxi. So many years sitting in that taxi, so many miles, driving, driving, going in circles, going nowhere. He could have driven to Alaska or down to Chile and back again. He could have driven to see his daughter and his granddaughter in Ohio dozens of times. He had no idea where his parents were or if they were alive. When he was 17 his parents went on a vacation to Ireland and never came back. Ireland of all places! He’d tried for years to find them and even now he searched for them on Facebook. They could be dead. Or maybe they changed their names. They could be any of a million anonymous voices that scratched their pathetic pleas onto the screen. 

Somebody knocked on his apartment door. He hobbled over and opened it: the girl who lived a couple apartments down in number 8. She stood there fidgety, looking around in a paranoid manner. She was as thin as a corn stalk except for the pregnant belly. Her fingernails looked like she’d clawed her way out of a worm bucket. She held a coffee cup. 

“He dude,” she said. “Can I use your microwave?” “For what?”
“To heat this up.”
It wasn’t coffee. 

“What the fuck is that?”
“Just a little Drano.”
“I don’t think so. I heat food up in my microwave.”
“It’s in a cup, man!”
He shut the door. She knocked again. He ignored it. Finally she screamed, “Bastard!” and stomped away. 

Those amateurs were trying to cook meth right in his building. The place might burn down one night. He sat and looked out his front window. He thought of his old cellmate, the kid in county jail who had set fire to the historical building. He should be out of prison by now, if he lived through it. Maybe he could look him up on Facebook? What was his name? For a second he considered going down to the girl’s apartment helping her. He felt the old cold urge pulling him. But the pain from the kidney stones kept him from moving. Not even Drano could clean those things out. 

Sitting at his computer he posted a photograph on Facebook, an image of outer space, just a random shot of some stars and a cloudlike cluster, ghostly chaotic, but with a kind of order and beauty. Maybe there was another planet with life on it out there somewhere? He opened the large manila envelope that his doctor had given him, much like the manila envelope that the jail clerk had handed him all those years before. He took out the X-ray and held it up to the window. His kidney stones shimmered, like shrapnel, a few small ones and that big one. His bones too, Jesus fucking Christ, his skeleton white and porous against the black background. He shuddered. If the stones weren’t removed, his body would fill up with poison and he would turn yellow and die. He looked at the picture of the kidney stones and he looked at the picture of outer space taken by the Hubble telescope. Then he went to his daughter’s Facebook page and looked at the photographs of her holding his granddaughter, Muriel. She was a fat little creature, like an alien. He imagined her squirming to escape her mother’s belly. He talked to her with his mind, and she understood what he was saying, and she gave him a fragile smile. 

The pain diminished a little. He stood up, went outside to the landing of the apartment building. The sun was setting and it lit him up and cooked him. The landing was old and rickety and crooked and slanted down and outward from the apartment building so that you were always being pulled toward the bars of the loose railing. Slowly he made his way to apartment 8, like a man with a limp, or a lost child walking crosswise on a hill or across the tilted floor of a movie theater. He heard people moving inside the apartment, sharp words, and noticed the familiar chemical smell coming out of the air conditioning unit. He imagined that was what the earth smelled like when it was young and steaming and toxic and there was no life yet. Either that or the smell of the earth after humankind had burnt it all up. The windows were covered with old newspapers taped around the edges. One of the newspaper pages was the comic page, but it was upside down and Cory couldn’t read it. 

He was about to knock on the door when he heard the explosion. The landing shook like a small earthquake, or like when you’re driving over a bridge with 18-wheelers and wind. The front windows shattered and the glass spit out at him like shards of crystal saliva. The door of the apartment opened and a man stomped out of the smoke, barefoot and bald, a tattooed shirtless devil with an ossified face. He knocked Cory off his feet as he ran off down the landing toward the stairs, which seemed a million miles away. The smoke rushed out inky and billowing and the torn newspapers that had covered the windows curled in filthy orange flames. The girl was still in the apartment with her baby in her belly but Cory could not get up. His kidney ruptured. He lay on the landing feeling the heat of the fire coming out the apartment door like a pizza oven. He rolled to the railing of the landing and gripped the bars. They were hot and he could feel his fingers melting. For a few seconds he saw the bald shirtless man running across the parking lot getting smaller. Then all his bones turned soft and he began to slip through the bars like an octopus. The air was like boiling liquid but it was as if he was born for it and it was salty and thick like blood and the screams he heard were like screams underwater. And then he was through and floating and he had dozens of arms but he couldn’t gather anything into them. 

 

In 6 to 6 you will find non-bullshit, unembellished accounts of a cab driver trying to make a living in America. The language is fresh, realistic and highly entertaining. 

 

Schneider presently lives in Mexico.

 

Buy the book here: https://terrorhousepress.com/6-out-now/

 

Find my 2015 review of Next Time Take Sunrise here: https://georgedanderson.blogspot.com/2015/11/book-review-interview-mather-schneider.html

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Empty Glass Musings

 

Locals in Wollongong often ask me whether the cover of my collection of short stories The Empty Glass (Alien Buddha Press, 2020) by Pam'la was inspired by the nearby magnificent Bulli Heritage Hotel (1889): 


No, I tell them- although it could have been any of thousands of similarly built pubs across Australia, it was actually based on the Railway Hotel (1879) in Grenfell, New South Wales, which we visited in 2019. Grenfell is the spiritual home and birthplace of the vagabond, drunken literary Australian writer Henry Lawson (1867-1922) whose presence can be found throughout the town. In the book, I try to contemporise some of his wayward, larrikin spirit.



In Alien Buddha Press 21 I briefly explain the processes in creating The Empty Glass:

Between 2011 and 2015 I wrote about 50 short stories narrated by a young bar worker and aspiring poet Toby Mulheron. Most were written quickly and were initially intended to be segments of a loosely strung together Künstlerroman, about Toby’s artistic coming of age. The stories are set in Australian pubs and clubs and many originated from tales people in the industry had told me over many years. They are intended to provide social commentary on our drinking culture but also to ridicule it. 

 

I was experiencing difficulty putting the stories together in novel form. A key moment in propelling the book forward was when I came across Jim Hayne’s Best Australian Drinking Stories first in a podcast on ABC Radio & later in hard copy form in the local library. I wrote a review of the anthology on my blog Bold Monkey: 

https://georgedanderson.blogspot.com/2019/12/book-review-jim-haynes-best-australian.html

I found some of Hayne’s compilation highly entertaining but overall, the material was bland, highly unrealistic and terribly dated. Many of the stories nostalgically put on a pedestal the notion of the 6 O’Clock Swill, where pub goers would drink furiously before 6 pm, because by law, pubs had to shut by this time. This historical anachronism was abolished in New South Wales in 1955 and 1966 in Victoria. 

Hayne’s anthology is tame, feel-good stuff. No drunks losing the plot, no cuss words, no hint of uncontrolled gambling or drinking addictions, no sporting heroes stuffing up and certainly no sniff of domestic violence. I reckoned the stuff I was writing about pubs had its limitations but was far more honest, contemporary and interesting. I shot some stories Red’s way. 

In an edit of my manuscript for The Empty Glass, I reduced my short story count from 50 to 23. In starting the collection, I opted with short humorous stories and anecdotes. To get the reader in. And as the collection progressed, the tone would get increasingly darker. 

In terms of style, my primary aim is to create clear, graphic images in the head of the reader. I include heavy use of Australian dialogue to allow the reader to imagine they are flies on a pub wall. The narrator often speaks directly to the reader and uses detailed insider anecdotes of working in a pub or club to enhance the credibility of the storylines. 

In putting together the book I built on the tradition of the classic Aussie larrikin yarn with the Church of Bukowski. I was influenced by many texts; in particular by Kenneth Cook’s Wake in Fright (1961) and David Ireland’s The Glass Canoe (1976). 

I was greatly impressed by how these Australian writers were able to combine sparse, working class language with moments of great lyricism. 

I initially tested a few of my stories through small alternative hard-copy presses to see if they were publishable. You will find a few of the stories in publications, such as The Asylum Floor, Rust Belt Review and Alien Buddha Zine.

More recently, my story ‘Black Betty’ featured in Last Call Chinaski!: A Homage to 70 Years of Bukowski’s Influence on Culture & Writing (Lummox Press, 2020): https://www.lummoxpress.com/lc/ Set in King’s Cross, the story is an Aussie appropriation of one of Bukowki’s most famous narratives ‘The Fuck Machine’. 

Despite the crudity and sensationalism represented in The Empty Glass, I reckon there is also a literary quality which shapes the events and helps to uplift the book. I was horrified but also fascinated by what I saw in the pub & club industries- the gambling, the excessive levels of drinking, the ensuing violence, the misogyny, the lip-service to environmentalism- just to name a few targets. 

In creating these short stories, I worked on the transitions in many stories to add complexity and unpredictability as to how they were to unravel. The ‘Albino Bandicoot’, ‘Dizzy’s Family Hotel & Restaurant’ and ‘The Tips Jar’ are probably the best examples of this experimentation. The language may offend some readers. My response is that I’m merely recording how people talk in a work place which can be hostile, particularly when some fools have had far too much to drink. 


Buy the book here on Amazon:https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/1704329604/ref=cbw_direct_from_1


Read some blurbs about the book: https://georgedanderson.blogspot.com/2020/02/new-release-george-anderson-empty-glass.html