I write them back to say that I’ve never written a review. Who writes reviews? I do like to read some, but who doesn’t? I write stories, and occasionally, when I’m low on words, a poem or two. Maybe they’d be interested in a poem?
Maybe, they say, but we’re all poemed up at the moment. Maybe at some later point they could use one of my poems. But, they say, we do have this book that we want to review and we’d like you to have a crack at it. If you could give us your address we’ll put the book in the box first thing in the morning. Hey, they say, if you can’t come up with anything, that’s all right. It’s a free book, right?
What kind of operation are these guys running? I wonder. I don’t know either what weak moment possessed me to put my address in that little box in the e-mail and send it off. I was giving Ralfie a bath and just sitting there thinking about this one story and how I hadn’t been able to write in months. Maybe writing this review might shake things loose or something, I was thinking, and once Ralfie was up and wrapped in a towel, I was back on the computer, putting my address in and sending it off to this kitchen thing, which, to be honest, looks pretty funky as far as writing magazines go.
Within minutes I get this enthusiastic reply saying that the book is in the box. That it’s called “Life and War with Mikey Fatboy Delgado” and that it should be there in a couple of days. Look, they say, writing reviews is just like writing a story or a poem. It’s just words, man. Read the book and write how it made you feel. You don’t have to go all fancy, pretending to be objective and well-read and shit. Just read the book and see what comes out.
Anyway, I was suppose to keep this short. I got the book, this “Life and War with Mikey Fatboy Delgado”, and I wrote the review and sent it back to them and they wrote me back all expletives and then asked if I could write a little note of introduction, something on how I came to write this review for this kitchen thing. Well, that’s this note, and not very short, I admit, but it’ll have to do. I’m not writing another.
To be honest, I don’t know why I got tangled up with these guys. Writing the review didn't loosen anything up either, I still can’t write, and a review is not a story, and it’s not a damn poem.
Life and War with Mikey Fatboy Delgado (laughing mushroom press)
A Review by A. Peters
Well you get this thing in your hands and it looks pretty neat, I must say. On the cover there’s a photo of a little country road with these black cars that all look identical with a big grey-looking sky above where a couple of airplanes have zipped past. When you flip the book over though and read the scribbles on the back there you find a sample mentioning Saddam Hussein and also a quote by GW Bush, and you get the impression that this might be some kind of satire. Some kind of left wing assault on the war in Iraq.
To be honest, I was little turned off by that. I like a well written satire, but if you give me a cheeky political leaflet hoping to score points, I much rather stay home and wash the windows. Politics and good writing, as far as I’m concerned, goes together about as well as a group of sugared-up second graders on a field trip to Monkey Town and the Sistine Chapel. One seeks to complicate and further our understanding of the world, while the other divides by confrontation and will ultimately eat you for dinner. Of course they might very well have second graders field tripping in the Sistine Chapel these days. I haven’t been in a while so I wouldn’t know.
You’ll be happy to know, as I was, that it’s not a leaflet send out to further the education of the masses concerning matters unknown, not Michael Moore in drag chomping on a carrot stick in front of thousands in sold-out hockey rinks, but instead, a rather calmly meditative and character driven story about little things. The little lives and little wars of everyday life.
Funny too. I was cracking up by page 13 and a half (and the book doesn’t even start until page 5) when Mr. Delgado and his missus engages in a bit of dress-up, and if that doesn’t at least make you smile your funny-bone must not be screwed on right.
The war in Iraq offers a background story to the more personal account of Mikey Delgado running errands in and around London, going to “the football”, hustling small crime and less small crime, hustling small time and less small time family matters, hanging out in an internet café called "The Inbox" run by the late absurd theater mastermind Eugene Ionesco, trying his hand at poetry, talking shit.
It’s a story told as a diary in snaps and shots over maybe a hundred days, sometime after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The writing is crisp, clean, relentless, favoring pace over lingering descriptions. A kind of pulp noir, but one filled with analogies and miniature stories as told and related between the different characters. This web of stories within the main story keeps it from going flat-after-reading as contemporary mainstream fiction often does.
It’s not empty of political phrase-turning though, but these are expressed through Delgado's diary accounts, either through the various characters or in “Mikey Delgado’s Dream”, a series of small vignettes punctuating the story throughout, where all the major political players of the War (with big W) make an appearance as bickering adolescents stuck in a surrealist play, fighting over top-bunk.
It never became “satirical”, to me, as that seems not the main attraction in this story. Nevertheless, it is a story that dresses and undressed these current times we live in (2003 still feels like yesterday, doesn’t it?) on just about every page with a humor, intensity and casual bluntness I haven’t read since Michel Houellebecq’s treatment of sex tourism in his novel, Platform. Where the Frenchman is about as cold as basket of chilled plums in February though and you never quite can figure out if he’s “taking a piss” or is a secret subscriber to Le Pen, Delgado can’t help to let his humanity seep through the pages.
Yes, take that, Mr. Delgado, I’m comparing you to a Frenchie.
It’s a scream, as this book will tell you and tell you again, but not all scream. There’s plenty of downtime, and I didn’t find myself drifting off to neitherland during these less snappy sections. In some respects, it’s what keeps the book from toppling over into frenzy, what separates literature from propaganda, the formers willingness to wrestle its maker. The life and war of Mikey Fatboy Delgado is not the Iraq war but a more personal life, and a more personal war on the home front.
I was skeptical to the premise, as it seemed to me, judging by the little information provided on the back of the book, and some minor snippets of information picked up elsewhere on the internet. Up against that I was pleasantly surprised to find a subtle (you can curse like a sailor and still be subtle) and finely layered story rather than the wild riot of a bulldozer it could easily have been.
I’ll conclude this review by quoting a brief scene that will show you, I think, the kind of observations you will encounter on just about every page in this slim (not that slim really, 250 pages) book.
And there’s Carrie-Ella, six years old, and she’s seen today what’s taken me thirty four years to see…these swan babies climbing up into the feathers of their mum’s and dad’s backs as they paddled away. Unbelievable mate, they just hopped on, burrowed underneath their feathers, and rode on them, like a water taxi. Brilliant.
-Andrew Peters (Official reviewer of all things kitcheny)
Kitchen note: You can find "Life and War with Mikey Fatboy Delgado" at your typical shopping online book holder, such as amazon. If you have anything that you wish to have reviewed by Mr. Peters, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org