by Pat King,
*DISCLAIMER* I've known Pat King in some capacity since 2004/5, but i'll try not to hold that against him in this review. *DISCLAIMER*
EXIT NOTHING is about a young man who bounces from Birmingham to Philadelphia to Baltimore. He tries to make enough money to survive, keep his various relationships afloat, and enjoy life with the creative folks he meets.
It's a novel thinly veiling real life events spanning a couple years. The main character, a young man called Nothing, is remarkably similar to the author. The other characters have real-life counterparts too, but i'll only reveal one of them, West Philadelphia's Frank Walsh aka the "Mad Poet." Here's an excerpt that shows off a bit of the MP:
It was only in this context that the outburst outside the restaurant nearly a year before made sense. The Mad Poet saw ghosts and souls everywhere. Cities had souls. Trees had souls. Everything had a soul and everything was alive. He was convinced that he was an old soul. He meditated every day and once had a vision in his intense concentration that he had begun his cycle of lives as a demon.
“I ain’t no fucking aristocrat and never have been. In feudal England, they executed me for stealing a landlord’s sheep.”
The vessel, man. The Mad Poet was an old ghost and he was a vessel for ghosts. He was open to something that I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand because I never believed. Not literally at least. But I was able to accept that he felt things I couldn’t imagine. The wealth of his emotional bank was nearly limitless.
The narrator seems completely honest, and he's the only one that comes out in anything close to a "bad" light, but a couple of the real-life human inspired characters might get an emotional prickle from some of the things revealed in the book. That's the author's business surely, but it's hard not to notice as a reader.
The character Nothing is unpredictable and complex. In fact he is a poster child for why not to get romantically involved with a writer, or any other human possessed by the creative temperament. But at the same time he's destroying his relationships and being a boor, battling the void, his sensitivity and kindness show through as well, even if the end results of his actions are often a great mess. Yeah, a poster child. But writers write, and the good ones are honest and open as they can be. So be forewarned, civilians.
The book is skillfully written. The clarity is excellent and no words are wasted. Most of the characters are well-developed and the dialogue is excellent. I've read Pat's zines and his online work, but this book is a cut above. I'd say he is growing quite steadily as a writer, and Exit Nothing has benefited from some excellent editing and revision. Read the book then check out an early excerpt still floating around Red Fez, and you'll see what i mean.
It isn't hard to identify with the contents of Exit Nothing. If you've messed up in life or been hurt, if you've struggled, drifted, searched, strived, tortured yourself or followed voices, this is a book you'll want to check out. I'd call it a drifter's adventure, a failed romance, an ode to cities, a class-conscious novel, underground writer porn.
There is a free e-book available, or the $2.95 print version, a paperback of simple and attractive design that is conveniently small. As far as i know the book is not currently available on Amazon, but you're hip enough to know it's better to order it from KUBOA press anyway, or contact the author.
For The Love Of Oona:
by Steven Gulvezan