Jack Ross, ed.: Spin 45 (March 2003)
Mark Pirie, Swing and Other Stories. Wellington: Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 2002. 80pp. RRP $19.95. ISBN 0-86942-026-8.
Mark Pirie: Swing and Other Stories (2002)
As usual, Mark Pirie’s done the hard work for us already, in the blurb:
These stories … represent a view of urban living in ‘90s New Zealand … and while displaying some of the characteristics of ‘grunge-lit’ and ‘new-lad writing’ of the time, they remain robust enough to take on a character of their own …
I really like those labels, “grunge-lit … new-lad” writing. If they’re reviewers’ clichés, they’re ones I hadn’t encountered before. I guess my own reaction would be simpler. These stories are about a bunch of useless slackers whose only interests seem to consist of scamming people, going on the piss, and getting laid. They have no redeeming nobility, no sense of moral purpose, and are completely unedifying. They’re also extremely funny.
Hunting for favourites is always a bit invidious, but I guess I liked the impromptu taxi-service one (“The Ride”) best, as it offered some useful tips on how to make some quick cash on a late night in the city – if you have a borrowed car and no scruples – as well as exemplifying the kind of plotless joie-de-vivre which is one of Pirie’s greatest strengths. I also enjoyed “It’s the Mornings that Piss You off Most,” mainly because it shows Pirie trying to get in touch with his feminine side – i.e. trying to inhabit one of his female bottom-feeders for a change. It wasn’t till the last page of the story that I even noticed, actually (it seemed a bit odd that a Pirie character should care about the colour of his thighs in the sunlight … Ooh, dodgy territory, Mark, I was thinking, until I realised). The more deliberately surrealist stories, “White Wash”, “A Man is Going to Start Installing Cable in this Suburb Soon,” work well enough individually, but they’re not as fruitful a direction for Pirie, I feel. They only really spark into life the moment there’s some dialogue or character assassination required.
On the strength of this book, I feel that Mark Pirie should certainly persevere with fiction: perhaps there’s an immense slacker novel lying dormant within him, waiting to arise and blow Trainspotting out of the water.