Book Review: Lou Ham

Lou Ham: Racing Anthropocene Statements, by Paul Hawkins, takes appropriated text from the world of Formula One Motor Racing and creates a series of commentaries. Each page contains just a few lines, staccato sharp experimental poetry that is scathing towards the attitudes of those who participate in the activity. The result is to provoke the reader to consider why it continues, and why the drivers remain so revered.

Climate chaos is a recurring theme, as is the money involved and the hollowness of the spectacle. In stripping away the hype, the inane and damaging nature of motor sport is brought to the fore.

None of the entries are straightforward text given the structure of their transmission. The humour is mocking yet effective in portraying the self-satisfaction of the driver, encouraged and facilitated by their team. The statements are the driver’s voice, divided into countries on the race calendar.

From ‘5 spain’

i’m happy with qualifying
fanfares should be ten yelps
i veered
i’m disrespectful

i was really happy with it
well i did get the win
it’s been a loudmouth of work

i was in teasels about it
still there’s no need
to get emotional
i got everything i could

a big congratultions
to this tearaway

The narrative builds, a sardonic exposure of a meaningless and detrimental spectacle, a costly entertainment. That cost is complex, and it is this that the percipient text delves into.

This is protest poetry that immerses the reader in the glittery, grubby world of wealth generation and its transient frontmen. Racing pollutes not just the planet but its participants. A challenging, persuasive read.


Book Review: Tumours

Tumours, by Chay Collins, is a challenging work of fiction to pin down. Narrated in the first person it describes a surreal and disturbing journey undertaken by four companions being paid by a government agency to take part in an experiment. As the story begins the narrator ingests what he describes as spawn from a beast. The effect of this substance is to distort his perceptions. He feels threatened by his surroundings, including creatures encountered. He seeks out tumours that he believes must be killed.

Amongst the four are a scientist and a temptress. Their expedition takes them to a restaurant and then a hotel. The narrator desires sex. Breaking away from his companions he allows his disturbed instincts to guide his actions. In doing so he threatens the veracity of the experiment. His companions are unhappy that their access to payment for their participation may now be compromised.

Interactions are skewed by a mind bending awareness of light and sound. Insights are distorted and frenetically intense. Those encountered are described viscerally although the portrayals are unreliable. The narrators drug addled sensations offer ambiguous interpretation.

The presentation of the prose changes in font, line balance and includes a scattering of blank pages at pivotal moments. These add the the power and distortion of what is being described.

At less than a hundred pages this is a short work of fiction. It provides unsettling, compulsive reading.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Ampersand Publishing.