Try looking up `Willie Smith' in any of the available sources of information and likely you will have a fruitless search. Without a history (except that this collection of short stories is a collection of works over the past thirty years) we have to depend on picking up this book NOTHING DOING and discover this word artist for ourselves. The cover art (by Alex Chilvers) of a two-headed dog provides a strong hint of what absurdity is inside. But beware! Smith can embarrass you, assault your senses, and make you laugh till it hurts - all the while surprising you with some of the most weird but carefully crafted reportage on the way he envisions our world.
Fortunately for us the new publishing house that has wisely decided to take on this enigmatic writer - Honest Publishing - has provided some quality information about Willie Smith and it is so interesting and so in line with this writer's unique qualities that it bears quoting: ` Willie Smith is deeply ashamed of being human. His work celebrates this horror. He was born in a hospital outside Greenbelt, Maryland, a few short years after Adolf Hitler shot himself in the head while simultaneously crunching down on a cyanide capsule. He grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, just a pack howitzer shot from the White House. In the late sixties he worked as a logger in the same woods D. B. Cooper later jumped into. He received a B.A. in English or creative writing or something from Reed College in 1972. In 1995 he returned to academia to teach writing for exactly one week at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado; he was never asked back. He spends a lot of time, when he isn't making a living as a flunky in a Welfare office, sitting around reading and writing and waiting to be asked to recite or teach or go on a secret mission to rescue the princess from a gangbang he has secretly himself initiated. He is the proud father of a vasectomy and to the best of his knowledge has never replicated. He is lazy, rather homely and sometimes smells a little funny. He is addicted to classical music, self-pity, stargazing, whole grain, lean meat and fresh produce. He has never owned an automotive vehicle and does not possess a driver's license, valid or otherwise. His religion is walking; the world is his church.'
Willie Smith escorts us through his formative years, the influences that have imprinted this rather depraved set of circumstances on his mind and writing style, and the results are little gems of tales, like exposing us to his memories of excessive indulgences as in FINGERPAINTING IN THE VOMIT, incidents such as a very unfortunate cab ride with a cabbie who obsesses about porno movies and their extensions, edible bugs as in ANT RANT, a diversion into paleontology to lead into some perverse activities as in HOW EVERY ONE CAME TO PUT ON THEIR COAT, thoughts of suicide in THE HOSTAGE TRANSFIXED, or as one reader perceived, `there are recurring visions of bestiality (particularly with `man's best friend'); the image of the father passed out, self-anesthetized in front of the television after a few too many beers; and more shockingly parental rape also rears its ugly head. Historical influences tinge the narrative- there are references to Vietnam, the Cold War, to changing vocabulary, attitudes and emerging drugs, and a child's reaction to the Second World War and the Nazis.'
Now, not everyone will embrace the acerbic wit and raucous language of Willie Smith, but few can deny that he is a performance artists who dances on the page of this fascinating book. Give it a go - and `if at first he doth offend thee' you'll probably be back for more. It is that magnet of the strange that pulls at your fascination that is Willie Smith. Grady Harp, June 12