Kevin Saving on
Losing Henry and other stories
by Ezra Williams
(Sixties Press, 2007)
A collection of eight interconnected short stories, Losing Henry signals Ezra William's full authorial debut -his work has previously featured in Forward Press and Sixties Press anthologies. Each story is a 'stand-alone' but several share charactors -in particular the two generations of a moderately-affluent, jewish family, the Albrights.
Williams adopts a number of different literary styles, and the narratives (mostly in the first-person) whip back-and-forth chronologically in a way which lends the book, as a whole, a slightly dizzying, kaleidoscopic quality.
Taxi Driver maps a day-in-the-life of London Cabbie, puzzle-addict and penitent, Gerry MacMahon - who later turns up in Whitstable Clarion: a surreal amalgam of Salinger, Kerouac, Kafka and Alfred Hitchcock - please remind me never to visit Whitstable. Life Fragments proves the truth of Wordsworth's contention that 'the child is father to the man' and, by way of passing, that the speed of light is not an absolute. Nana Tristana is the slightly more problematic tale of a youth (possibly with 'Asperger's syndrome'[?]), wheeler-dealing with his grandmother's pension money. The final short-story, from which the publication takes its title, is the most sustained -and substantial. Told by two (linked) narrators, it is elegaic, 'confessive', profoundly-moving and wholly-believable.
This collection is shot-through with themes of mental turmoil and long-digested regret. It comes as a surprize to learn that Ezra Williams was still under thirty when it was first published. His choice of imagery is entirely consonant with the subject matter, full of cars 'spluttering in cardiac failure', sunlight reacting like a 'cheap shampoo sludge' and the 'exemplary squalor' of an alcohol-induced migraine. Williams, who also loves a conumdrum, can actually write (unlike some of the part-time celebrity authors with whose pallid offerings our bookshops are presently crammed). He is currently working on a novel: I, for one, look forward to reading it.
Kevin Saving © 2008