What We Thought: The Glue Ponys is billed as a short story collection but to my mind it is more a collection of vignettes. Anecdotal in form and substance, these pieces give glimpses into life at the lower end of society. We meet the drugged up and the desperate, the sick, the dying and the imprisoned. People live in cars or on the street; they con, steal and do tricks for drug money. This is a world of junkies, hookers and hustlers.
Though often fundamentally sad, these stories are never miserable. There is plenty of humour here – dark humour involving bodies in cupboards, beached whales, over-literal porn stars, and a redneck neo-nazi “being pinned to the wall by a six foot two black male transvestite with fake tits and wearing a spandex leotard.”
Chris Wilson spent time with “the lost and wandering of America” living on the streets and in the prisons of the USA before returning to the UK. Though this collection is classed as fiction, it would seem many of the incidents recorded are autobiographical or based on personal experience. The writing is straightforward and gritty, though at times I found the language of the streets and drug culture a little obscure. No punches are pulled and the reality of life in the gutter is exposed like a pus-filled open wound.
It’s difficult not to like these bruised and bleeding characters, though – the wily, the stupid, the drug-addled – and to feel for them in their deludedly optimistic quests for another score, another hit, another chance.
You’ll enjoy this if you like: Jim Carroll, William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski.
Avoid if you dislike: Anything too gritty, druggy or sleazy.
Ideal accompaniments: Jim Carroll’s Catholic Boy album.
Genre: General Fiction/Short Stories