Posted on 29th May 2012

By Paul Kavanagh

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Nothing Doing

Willie Smith

It is not the Sword of Damocles that hangs over the boy/man/writer of these tall stories (it would be fatuous and easy to call them short): it is the atom bomb.  The boy/man/writer in this off-kilter Bildungsroman looks up and sees not the looming atom bomb, but a huge juicy nipple. This is what the warhead has been reduced to; go ahead, open up an old National Geographic and have a peek. That’s right, folks! A huge juicy nipple that could belong to one of those movie goddesses (Monroe, Mansfield, why not, the immaculate nipple that once belonged to Grace Kelly) that blaze across the silver screen and turns the real world into a technicolored kingdom.

Nothing Doing is a product of the sixties, but not the flower power, the love, the rocknroll music, the eastern philosophy; it is shaped out of the disequilibrium, the revolt, the violence. Each story is a body blow against the sanctimonious crowd that exclaims that death (the atom bomb) should be countenanced with solemnity and silence. These stories get behind the façade as a cockroach gets behind the wall and shows just what the sixties and seventies, hell, universal time is really all about. “If we are going to go down we are going to go down tugging on our member.” It is not the wisdom of Dionysius II of Syracuse; it is the wisdom of Dionysus the barfly.

Finished my cigarette. Ground it out on the cement.

Gave up guns. To hell with the military. Spit on the Government.

Willie Smith is a product of the fifties, but not the bubblegum fifties that we love to daydream about, It is the claustrophobic fifties, it is small kitchens, parents yelling, sometimes drunk on booze, most of the time drunk on something.  That something is fear. There was a War on. The Russians had very big bombs, and those very big bombs, lots of big bombs, which, as proclaimed by every person of authority and worth, had every street name of The United States of America, I mean every street name, chalked upon a warhead. Obliteration, the apocalypse, was a snap of pubic hair away.

At the range I shot baseball cards, toy soldiers and newspaper pictures of famous people I didn’t like. I remember shooting Francis Gary Powers completely to shit. He was the guy in the spy plane who told everything.How the hell were we supposed to beat the Russians with finks like that? As I fired away at the few remaining shreds of his gray forehead, I thought vindictively of Benedict Arnold, righteously of Nathan Hale.

Revolt, violence, and fear permeate each page, but with this revolt, violence, and fear, there goes, hand-in-hand, desire, sex, and overwhelming inebriation. The boy shooting away at baseball cards, the boy dreaming of spiders he has seen in a National Geographic, the man sat in front of the TV for three whole days, it could be as mundane as apple pie, but it’s not. Well, it could be, but I suspect the apple pie has been loaded with Lysergic acid diethylamide.

Nothing Doing is a collection of tall stories, linked like the Dance of Death, that explore the mind of a boy/man/writer refusing to bow down to death. Death is met with joie de vivre. I use the French not to sound pretentious, I am dreadfully pretentious by the way, I have a terrible proclivity to pretend, but because Willie Smith is the nearest we can come to François Rabelais. It is more than the spirit of the dirty old monk; Willie Smith has a love for words, a pedantic love, a profound love, a perverted love. He shares this love for words with the dirty old monk. Rabelais constructed the walls of Paris with words. He created a new etymology for Paris. Willie Smith reconstructs childhood and manhood the same way. You shake your head and say the simulacrum is way off the mark, but you know you are deluding yourself; life is really this messed up.

The sentences are pure poetry, it is here I should be caustic, bitter; it is here I should nip at the ankles; jealousy reduces one to such acts. I order you to buy this book, sit down, place Miles or Monk on the record player, and read the book over and over again.



Bogdan Tiganov

29th May 2012 at 20:28

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