BOOK REVIEW: Shitstorm by Fernando Sdrigotti

Walter Turner – a dentist from Mississippi, has shot a lion. Not just any lion. He’s shot Cyril, a lion beloved by people such as Danny Gervais, Maria Farrow and Shane Osbourne [no points for guessing who they are in our supposed reality.] What follows is, predictably, a shitstorm. A shitstorm so big that Walter’s life is momentarily ruined.

The media descends into a frenzy – Twitter a vehicle for everyone who is anyone, and anyone who is no-one, to offer their opinion on the matter. Of course, other animals are killed in this shitstorm period. Other lions. But none named Cyril. And then a bomb goes off in the Eurostar terminal, and so begins a separate shitstorm, but no less filled with shit, and Walter Turner is all but forgotten.

Sdrigotti’s ‘Shitstorm’ is very much the ‘now’. The entire novelette a view finder to the spectacle in which we – in our modern western world – live. The way we demonstrate and exhibit our lives for all those to see. [I imagine there is much to theorise, and much theory written, about the spectacle which we live through.]

Here we are presented with repetition of our actions – the things we are so vehemently bothered about, until there are other things to be vehemently bothered about. A cycle I myself [and many others] find themselves in. In fact, I’m sure I have signed a petition calling for the outrage of something but have since forgotten what it was. We are but a self-parody of our own contradictions, are we not?

To the story at hand, ‘Shitstorm’ rallies on and on. Walter is the catalyst, but such is the very nature of a shitstorm to descend deeper, so does the tale. As mentioned, a bomb goes off in the Eurostar, which prompts Owen James [who could that be?] and Brandon O’Neill [hmm] to produce article after article of personal opinions. Then the President of the United States is accused of sexual harassment by a cam model. Then a missile is fired sparking The New Missile Crisis. And then, and then, and opinion, and opinion, until we are fifteen years in the future and no one really cares about Walter and Cyril anymore.

Whether ‘Shitstorm’ can be truly said to be a ‘fictional’ is an argument for another day [and for someone who isn’t me]. Fiction suggests the ‘made-up’ [on a basic level], yet everything Sdrigotti presents is so close to reality [which I assume is his intention, although maybe I’d do best not to assume things] that you could burn yourself on it. He borders the line between criticism and comedy too, as does most of modern life.

Yet there are times where I feel the novelette could be elevated. This, of course, is my own personal opinion, and my own personal taste, but I do wonder if Sdrigotti could be less obvious.  Could he be equally as critical whilst presenting a story that does not appropriate the current ‘moment’ as much as he does? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The ending reaches close to that. It’s not an allegory though, that’s for sure.

I wish too, probably in vain, that characterisation and dialogue made a stronger appearance. These tools are at his disposal, and he could’ve used them [even sparingly], although Walter does receive this treatment towards the end. But then again, does that fully suit the style, the narrative? I’m unsure and will remain so. Either way, Sdrigotti is funny and painfully accurate in his assessments throughout, and it remains the highlight of the novelette. The ending too – where we return to Walter Turner, is a highlight as well.

Shitstorm’ is written for the ‘now’ – and for the future too. A novelette that cements itself into a tangible moment. An intriguing read, it captures the global shitstorm through which many of us live, with both a critical and comedic eye. In fact, as I write this review another shitstorm is brewing, that of Brexit and whether May can finalise the deal before she receives a vote of no confidence. I might go and see what Owen James has to say about it all. Or I’ll just wait until tomorrow, for another shitstorm to blow through.

Shitstorm is published by Open Pen and is available here.

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Fernando Sdrigotti

Fernando Sdrigotti is a writer, editor and occasional translator. Born in Rosario, Argentina, in 1977, he was expelled by the economic crash of 2001. He lived in Dublin and Paris before settling in London in the early noughties.

Reviewed by Emily Harrison

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