Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Read This - it's Good for You.
Welfare Wednesdays, by punk icon Chris Walter reads like a fairy tale - set in an urban slum, starring two of society's most woeful outcasts.
To anyone who's lived in or around the stark Hades of Vancouver's skid row, Walter's prose reads like a familiar stroll down junkie lane, littered with vomit, used syringes, and the filthy, life-battered bodies of the drug ghetto's walking dead. But for all the voyeuristic grit, despair and disgust Walter's writing conjures, the reader can't help but grow fond of his desperate protagonists, who, while strugling with multiple addictions, reveal a raw human frailty and hope. And in the midst of the relentless misery, Walter never forgets his sense of humor. One senses this is the very resource that helped him survive his own personal battles.
An unexpected and delightful touch is when he pulls a Hitchcock, writing himself into a scene with amusing self-deprecation,on page 121.
Welfare Wednesdays isn't going to win a Pulitzer, but then, that was never Walter's intent. This is real blood being spilt onto every page, by a soul the reader instinctively senses is driven to tell his tale to release the caged demons inside him. Catharsis makes for compelling prose.
With brash, rude, boyish charm, his story works subtly, rubbing the grime from an ancient penny, to reveal the coppery brilliance beneath. A trace of nostalgia runs counterpoint through the pages, a wistful appreciation for the dirty ease of the dives and the flophouses, the hellholes and the familiar hurdles of the daily life of the desperate. The main characters convey an odd sense of comfort in the knowledge that they've struck rock-bottom, and life can't possibly get any shittier - simple pleasures can become all the sweeter when one surrenders to the tide, acknowledging the struggles have become futile.
Each of the characters is drawn with authenticity, as is the scenery through which they wander. Although the reader knows from the outset that things are not going to turn out well for them, one can't help but root for the Johnny Cash- and beer-obsessed Jack Offley and his sweetheart, the disarmingly innocent reformed streetwalker Lucy Blanchard.
This is a book that demands of its readers "Who the Hell are YOU to judge?" It's an important question - one we should all be grateful is being asked.
Welfare Wednesdays and many more of Chris Walter's works are available direct from GoFuckYerself Press, online here:
The Kindle version is now available here: