Thursday, 5 March 2009

Richard Milward - Ten Storey Love Song (Faber 2009)

I get the whole slab of concrete, high-rise ten-storey metaphor for the one long stream-of-consciousness paragraph that constitutes this book and much as there are those who will applaud the invent lack of punctuation, I found it impenetrable and slowed down what had the tenets of a great book. The arduousness in ploughing through thick concrete slab pages made the quick-fire wit and ‘Trainspotting’-esque inventive fast ticks and flashpans and drug-hysteria slow to a dull throb. Which is a shame because it had the makings of a great book. The characters are certainly colourful enough and rich with detail and enough pathos to represent the bottom of a nasty underbelly in a rough housing estate in Middlesborough, but they get lost in the dreamy acid-trip stream of consciousness. Bobby the Artist is an idiot savant artist, great with paints and hippish in his pursuit of hedonism, he excuses his need to get off his face at every opportunity with the love it brings him towards everyone. He loves Georgie, desperately, a drunk working girl who doesn’t see why anyone would go on the dole when it’s easy to earn minimum wage in a shitty job. Johnnie, the local dealer/pusher/bully, is a violent and jealous sweetheart with a soft spot for his gran and for out-of-his-league Ellen, a nymphomaniac he just can’t make cum because he thinks all girls wanna fuck like they’re in a porno. While Ellen loves Johnnie/fears Johnnie and after what he did to the last guy she fucked around with just for the sake of an orgasm is treading lightly around him. Meanwhile, Alan Blunt the Cunt is a racist paedo clambering his way towards a much-needed race war, one headline at a time. All these wonderfully colourful characters intersect in the busy traffic of a council estate block, all desperate and alone and needing human interaction, wanting to make it and for everyone to make it, and in their fucked-up dysfunction, they seem to form the perfect model family of down-and-outers. When Bobby the Artist’s crazed artwork finds itself under the coked-up nose of a dodgy arts dealer from the big city, the possibility of his impending fame and how it’ll elevate him and Georgie out of Middlesborough into high intensity of London, a trail of violent events is unleashed that zip our character along to a dramatic climax. It’s well written and the characters are constructed with imagination that it’s a shame the pace isn’t matched by the way it’s written. I don’t want to labour the point of it being written as one paragraph but it really does slow the book down, which for all intents and purposes, with a few chose line breaks, could have been brilliant. There are some raucous laugh-out-loud moments and moments of real pathos, sadness and melancholy, as well as blissed-out off your face hedonism. Richard Milward has the makings of a brilliant author, and at his young age has said more for Britain’s working classes than many of his writing peers. If you can spin your head past the concrete slab of text, underneath lies a book thick with hilarity, nuance and complete filth.

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