Reviews, Vol. 5.1, March 2011
Shipwrecked Industries, July 2010
Perfect bound, 181 pp., $9.99
Review by Cynthia Reeser
Chris Connelly, former frontman of the Revolting Cocks, released his third publication with Shipwrecked Industries in mid-2010, a novel titled Ed Royal. This release pushes Connelly further into a multi-genre capacity; his first two publications, Confessions of the Highest Bidder, and Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible and Fried: My Life as a Revolting Cock, were poetry and memoir, respectively.
As a native of Edinburgh, Connelly wrangles the youth culture of the 1980s into his novel, along with its gritty, hard-edged drug culture and the sensibilities of a young man in the throes of new love–a mixture that results in an unlikely bildungsroman. Throughout, Connelly surprises with a writing style that is alternately perceptive, passionate, and humorous, that startles with pared-down prose sprinkled with a Scottish brogue, as in the following excerpt:
The walls were bare except for a large, tattered poster advertising “Scary Monsters” by David Bowie. There was a tiny portable television, an electric heater sat awkwardly in the fireplace and a low, chipped coffee table which was the centrepiece.
The girl was a redhead and she was more beautiful in the light, what little there was. The others must have recognized her beauty because Monkey looked at her, lips in an “o” like a wet purple tire. “Like the smoke, hen, aye?” he asked, his words tumbling gracelessly from his mouth like dead fish from a bucket.
The novel takes some time to prove its cohesiveness, and at first, the brief chapters seem like disjointed reflections, like flash fiction pieces. But further into the book, it becomes evident that these vignettes are the early perspective of a main character who is, himself, coming into his own. The point of things coming together coincides with the chapters’ lengthening into more developed, more confident versions of themselves. Eventually, they begin to adhere, one scene to the other, like something you didn’t think could stick together but that ultimately proves that it does, and does it well.
But what were the eighties, if not disjointed, and further, as Connelly shows us, the eighties with drugs and young love and hotheaded mothers sprinkled into the mix. Ed Royal ultimately captures this scene, this time of life in particular for the young main character, in all his youthful, desperate hunger in a youthful, desperate age.