BOOK REVIEW: Bindlestiff by Wayne Holloway

Bindlestiff is one of those books that took forever to read, forever in a good way…I just didn’t want it to end. I set about each evening to devour more of this offering from Wayne Holloway only for my mind to shut down after a few pages – it wasn’t through boredom it was that my mind wanted to savour every last word on the page, every last nuance of exquisite story telling, every flip between its structure and execution. This my friends will be a book that should and could go on to win many an award. It’s experimental, elegant, harrowing and satirical all rolled into a masterfully constructed novel.

I didn’t know much about this book when it arrived at my door, but after leafing through the book I soon discovered that you can’t unseen things, you can’t once witnessing a tragic accident forget those moments – that play again and again, over and over in your mind. The same can be said for Bindlestiff. On leafing through the book I soon discovered that it was a hybrid of a novel, part screenplay, part novel, part novelised screenplay. It shouldn’t work, but it does. This my friends is an experience I will never forget…trust me, once experienced it will live long in the memory, the craft, the ingenious execution and the bold as brass writing.

The writing carries a sharp satirical sting in its barbed tail, poking fun at the movie industry, inherent racism in that field, in America and in the minds of those bringing this tale to life. Holloway points the finger at the industry as a whole, the struggles writers, actors and creatives face in their pursuit to make something beautiful and see their life ambitions realised – only for it to be hacked up and spat out in the way the top brass see fit. Bindlestiff is comical, satirical and current – showcasing the struggles of our times and the quest for artistic freedom.

When reading Bindlestiff I couldn’t escape the voice of the piece, it conjured up the greats such as Bukowski, Fante and Henry Miller – what these guys don’t know about writing about the broken, downtrodden man isn’t worth knowing. Holloway seems to borrow from each of these writers and in doing so sharply addresses the many issues within Bindlestiff with an unrelenting, unabashed, unputdownable brilliance – the narrative voice is original and refreshing, disturbing and exhilarating. Making Bindlestiff a must read!

‘You put this Rat King of a fuck up into the movie business . Good luck. A guy in his early fifties, good looking in a very Semetic way, dark, tanned, looks great in a suit, has great hair, I can’t mention that enough, voluminous even, but whose haunted eyes, freighted with such black bags, tell of a hunt that has always been on, the sunken coal black pits reflect the real 20th Century Fox, snarling and feral snapping at his heels and stinking in heat, for it is a vixen and his nose twitches with her cunt stench as he scrambles from one unproductive meeting to the next, from one valet parking to another, ten bucks to ten bucks, that’s twenty bucks for two meetings, and lunches, minimum a 100 bucks sans booze, constantly weaving a way forwards, pressing hard towards his goals, from one dodged tab to the ones you can’t dodge, it’s fucking life as pinball with the flippers snapping at your heels, as you Tommy, are the last ball on the table, bouncing who knows where, triggering who knows what consequences, if any.’

The masterstroke with Bindlestiff in my opinion is its experimental hybrid structure, it’s something that I’ve never seen before and adds significantly to the novels appeal. Structurally we are given three separate books, cut up and pasted into a romp of a book. Think Memento mixed with Mad Max but as a novel – and you’ll kind of get where I am coming from, we have sections of  a novel about the writer bringing his manuscript to Hollywood, where he is meeting with agents, actors and screenwriters about adapting this into a film all set in 2016. Then this is inter spliced with excerpts from the screenplay (which read wonderfully well – and adds a change of pace to the book) and then we have the sections that are set in 2036 – a novelisation of the screenplay – these parts are written with such freshness, you would be mistaken for reading a classic dystopian novel.

Holloway is a genius, Bindlestiff is his magnum opus to the world. If this book was written by say George Saunders (who we all know is experimental) it would be lauded as being a masterpiece, a work that would change and challenge the creation of literature for years to come – winning awards left, right and centre for his sheer brilliance and structural panache. But what people don’t realise is that the publishing revolution is with the independent press, where risk is allowed and freedom of creatives is celebrated above the commercial merit of a book.

Influx Press have themselves a book and an author that will truly change and level the playing fields, bringing them toe to toe with the publishing elite!

Bindlestiff truly renews ones faith in the power of experimental literature.

Bindlestiff is published by Influx Press and is available here.

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Wayne Holloway

Wayne Holloway is a writer/director currently working in advertising. He shot his first movie, Snakes and Mongoose in LA in 2013. His second movie The Canal, based on Lee Rourke’s prize winning novel, shoots in London this year. He is the author of short story collection Land of Hunger (Zero, 2015)

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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