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Review of Twenty-First Century Mankind Blues D.David Croot

This is my second book by this author, and I have a third waiting in the wings to be read. He is a guilty pleasure.

Sometimes I sum up books in one word, and this one would be described as observational.

He takes the town characters we all know and brings them into hard focus—and we do know them, the homeless man in the shop doorway and the drunk woman in the pub. The overweight menopausal housewife and the braggart with too much to say.

He turns them from a Lucien Freud painting into a person. We might not like them, but he makes them breathe—or wheeze in a COPD rattle.

While the style is sometimes childlike, the words are stark and beautiful. Some of his oneliners are sublime. And so critically astute that they are perfect.

Croot is the trick-cyclist of words. He throws every trick in the book at us. On almost every page, he hurls adverbs like missiles. He shouts in capital words, and when he runs out of those, he elongates other words to make his supply last longer. Noooooooo. Arrrgggggggg. He stutters… and… stammers in…ellipses…. talk, and breaks off wor—halfway through. He italicises words for emphasis and to make the poor things feel important. And he makes up words that have no meaning NNNAAAWWW, in capital letters, of course. He is the master of the exclamation mark!

It’s a style. It’s his style, and it adds a certain charm to the book.

Croots doesn’t play with his action men—he plays with words. And while the style can drive us mad, the results are poetic and cruelly beautiful. He sees the world as it is, and slathers his people in cold cream to remove any trace of makeup or embellishment before he writes them. The distinction that has to be made is that new writers do all of these things blindly. Croot ,takes overwriting and bad habits and turns them into written art. He knows exactly what he’s doing and it’s deliberate and morphs into a kind of beauty that pulls you in and traps you.

And then he writes sentences like these.

…for a woman, black, shaven headed, burns on her wrtists and no flicker beneath the eyes scares what little life he has left in him. She is chained to her body, wrapped in bandages and no love.

Marmite on a page, and I love him, thinly spread warm on toast.




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