It's incredible. The intensity... I think yeah, development has pushed us away from other people. You know, a lot of times people are rude because they want, like, immediate access or immediate information. You know some things in life can't be immediate, sometimes you gotta wait and let things happen
Street Guru (Part One)
By Nitin Sawhney
What a lucky bugger I am. And pardon my French, please. But, it's true, I am a lucky little bugger. As a blogger I have the opportunity to indulge in my very own nihilistic literary excesses, enjoy unbridled intellectual decadence and share my favourite topics with faceless souls in what I can only call a 'mènage à plus'. And to top it all I get sent books and music to review. Nice work if you can get it.
Gabby Hyman's 'Knives and Forks' is the second book written by a fellow blogger that I will be discussing on this forum. And to use baseball parlance it is two for two so far for me. That two refers to the quality of the writing, by the way. Last year, my compatriot El Yoyo was kind enough to let me pen a few words about his first novel. Now it's the time for the seasoned Dr Bob.
Gabby is a chronicler, as opposed to a story-teller. And to me there is a difference. A story-teller will distort his/her narrative from town to town, with no malice involved, mind, but the elephant that was grey and old in one village, will have become a young, sturdy fellow in the next one. A chronicler, on the other hand, is someone who will focus on the person riding the elephant instead, delving into her/his mundane life, right down to the colour of the mug from where they drink their tea.
'Knives and Forks' is a collection of eight short stories about the characters we come across in our daily lives and yet never give them a second look. Have you ever sat on the tube across a man with a side parting who is reading 'About a Boy'? Have you ever wondered what thoughts are roaming his mind, what little vices populate his life, what he gets up to on weekends?
This is the world Gabby presents to us. Meet Robert, a recovering food addict who moves out of New York after bottoming out in the big city. In his new digs he is introduced to a group of women who all have similar eating disorders. After initial distrust, he is finally welcomed to their group, only for fate to deal an unexpected card to him.
Or how about Carol and Sandy? Brought closer together by the death of Sandy's son, Steve, from Aids? 'Every faggot needs a lady pal, it's like having a safety on the trigger', Steve confesses to his longtime friend Carol one night. But even this reassurance cannot save him from his untimely death.
Or maybe it's Hanamoto's involuntary racism towards his neighbour, red-headed, language teacher, June Bishop, in contemporary Japan. Partnered up with Ichiro, a 'Half' - a Korean with a Japanese mother - June and her boyfriend are soon resented by the locals.
All throughout this fantastic collection Gabby applies a metaphorical microscope to human behaviour. His main strength is delivering the restlessness of otherwise ordinary lives with humour and wit. For instance, in 'Oh Burning Power of the Yes' he provides one of the better opening paragraphs I have read in a long time: 'This is inspiration if I ever heard it. I'm going out with this girl - okay, okay, woman - though she's a young 25 and the damn English language doesn't exactly have to rise and give her a seat. But she's a virgin, and I didn't know they stayed virgins past 25 and I have the crazy jones for her, so she goes up and down and hot and cold. Veronica Locke'. Some writers spend a lifetime trying to come up with a sentence half as good as that passage.
Hyman's stories carry all the baggage and dust of present and past generations in the same way a hobo carries his life in his rucksack. Each story has a spark in its eye and a wink in its soul. Each tale calls to that internal music inside us which chimes with the recognition of similar quirks in his characters.
Above all, Gabby's eight sketches remind us that in this mad, rushed world in which we live, where immediacy is everything, we would do well sometimes to pause and look around and maybe, who knows, ask the bloke with the side parting sitting across from us on the tube what he thinks about his book.
Next Post: 'Bach in Havana' to be published on 9th July at 11:59pm (GMT)