Shorty Loves Wing Wong by Michael Smith
|Shorty Loves Wing Wong by Michael Smith|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: Michael Smith looks back on his youth, growing up in the grim north of England in this unusual take on a memoir|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 60||Date: February 2007|
|Publisher: Faber and Faber|
By now I had hair like Ian Brown and some vintage '70s Levis I'd wear with a pair of maroon Converse... I looked pretty cool come to think of it, but my mind was shot, having sunk into a permanent low-grade jittery cannabis psychosis.
Have you ever seen a piece of work by a renowned artist and thought it looked like a 3 year old's scribbles? That's what this book reminded me of: I couldn't figure out whether it was a whole lot of nothing, or whether it was in fact the work of a genius, and I was just missing the point.
The official blurb says this is "Michael's memories of growing up in Hartlepool... illustrated by Jim Medway in a series of cat drawings of Michael and his friends". Aside from the fact that Michael's a bloke and not a cat, that seems reasonable.
But, it seems that these days anyone who wants to can write reminiscing tales of their childhood and find an audience for these tales out there, somewhere. The key is to be specific enough to trigger the memories of the readers, while being suitably vague so as to appeal to as many people as possible, even those who weren't living right alongside you during this period. I think that's where this book goes a bit off track. Some of the descriptions, memories, feelings, recollections are just that smidge too specific, too defined, too set in stone, so you can't always feel the moment being described. It's like when you're having a conversation with someone and they, like the author does here, drop in the names of people you've never met. You don't need to know them to get the gist, but for it all to make sense you really could do with a bit more than a fleeting "old Bob Mason the printer" .
From a first cigarette to mis-spent summers on the beach, this a book primarily about adolescence and the trials and tribulations thereof. It wasn't a book that made me laugh or cry, but it did keep me suitably intrigued most of the way through, even if only in a "how the other half live" sort of way.
The book doesn't even have what you would call a clearly defined start, or distinctive finish, but instead you join the memories midway through and leave it when there's still no real end in sight. That's fine if you just want something to read that's a bit more original than some other books out there, but if you're looking for a point of some kind, a meaning or a message, you won't find it here. The lack of recognized grammar is both infuriating and endearing. The book is written as though the author is thinking out loud and you can flit from one memory to another without break. It's different, that's for sure, and if all books were written like this then I would be tearing my hair our, but because they're not, it's just this one that is, you can humour it.
The book is not long, and the text even shorter than you think thanks to the copious amounts of illustrations. These are at best unusual and at worst just a bit bizarre, but they certainly add a certain something to the whole reading experience, and while the chav-cat is something I'd never contemplated before, seeing one on paper did liven up my day somewhat.
I'm still undecided about this book. Rubbish or genius? You decide... .if you can, because I just couldn't.
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