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Toss this aside
on 10 February 2014
Every awful book I've ever read has had a collection of wonderful reviews on its cover; this one does, too. Published posthumously after the author killed himself at the age of 26 its content is typical of a beginner trying too hard to impress the reader. He may have thought that by focusing on the grim dreariness of his characters he would overcome the lack of substance in these pieces but he was wrong: his fixation with murder, joyless sex, death, ageing, decay, fighting, drinking, disillusionment, and more murder, didn't do him or his stories any good and no amount of contrived prose can hide the fact that there's nothing much happening here. There's one decent story - "Time and Again" - which works because it is understated, in contrast to the rest of the book. (It's about a serial killer.) "The Salvation of Me," "The Way It Has To Be" and "The First day of Winter" are tedious because the author lacked the ability to realise his ideas.
Most are fragments of dreary lives rather than stories; you can tell me that these pieces are realistic because life isn't like stories but real lives have some ambition, hope, optimism and even the possibility of redemption. These pieces don't, which is why they are one-paced and unconvincing. It was a challenge to finish the book but I'll never finish another one that is as unrelentingly grim as this. Life's too short.