-Reviewed by Martin Macaulay-
I didn’t realise it at the time when I chose to review G. K. Wuori‘s Now That I’m Ready to Tell You Everything, but I really needed to read this book. It caught me off guard. A recent read had let me down; a real anticlimax having promised so much. My faith in indie lit had taken a bit of a skelp and unfairly, I approached this novella with a weariness through no fault of the author.
I should have shown more faith. As far as openings go, it’s up there amongst the most memorable:
“Serena didn’t know what to make of the toe she found lying in the street in front of the Able-Bodied Bookstore. While the bookstore, an ‘adult’ one of the genre, often attracted a kinky clientele, Serena felt sure that most of them both entered and left the store with all their toes intact.”
The toe is an unlikely subject to use as a focal point to lead us into others’ lives, their dependencies, weaknesses and desires, but it works surprisingly well. The toe is traced back to its owner, who turns out to be the landlord of her friend Mariel. It would be doing this book a disservice to simply retell and reduce this novella to its plot; it is so much more than this. We weave through interlinked stories at various points of time, shadows cross others’ paths and we see the interconnections between lives but it’s the effortless nonchalance of the writing that sucks you in. I warmed to Wuori’s book instantly. The humour and personality are so amiable and bloody funny that I reckon you’d be hard pushed not to love it.
The author eschews a direct style where words punch out staccato sentences. He uses commas like stitches, embroidering fragments into sentences or a patchwork paragraph. The rhythm never falters though, and the asides thrown to us offer more insight into personal histories. Just when you think there is no more to tell us, in the one sentence we are thrown another morsel. Normally this isn’t a technique that curries much favour with me, but it isn’t flowery or overly descriptive. It exudes confidence, control and utter craft. Dazzling.
It turns out that it was the amputee’s son who cut off her toe in exchange for a pregnancy termination she had planned. Sex and birth play heavily in Now That I’m Ready… but it’s never under a spotlight, or pulled from the narrative, it’s part of people and how they deal with living, however bizarre.
“’But Binky says he’s replicating the birth canal, the experience of it.’
‘In a culvert?’ Serena said. ‘He’s replicating a vagina in a ditch?’
‘It came to him last night. We’d just finished having a good screw and I said ‘Do you want me to see what’s in the tube?’ and he said, ‘Did you say in the tube?’ and I said, ‘I meant on the tube, the TV. Do you want to watch TV?’ and he just said, ‘Holy shit, something’s come to me Gladys.’ Then he stayed up most of the night jotting things down at the kitchen table, drawing pictures of oil pipelines, plumbing systems, and vaginas, lots of vulvas and vaginas with their functions drawn with colored pencils.”
Serena has taken work as a dancer. Her husband, Mitch Calloway had his job downgraded and they need the extra cash. She’s also pregnant. Sex is a spectrum in this book: commodity, giver and taker of life, fetishised, red-blooded and eager, straight-down-the-middle missionary, or a bond between close friends. As in life, it’s complicated (though the writing never is) and it means different things to many people. Angus, the dancing club manager, sees money in a pregnant dancer and Serena wants to talk this over with Mitch.
“Remember that one time, too, that I told you about, when I had the nosebleed?
They loved it. They didn’t want me to stop. I had blood all over my tits, and then when I sneezed, I got blood all over them. They cheered. They threw money and poured beer on my feet.
Blood and sex, M. Calloway would say, a pretty obvious connection.
This is different, darling.
What’s different, Serena?
This baby inside of me. Can I take it out there, on the stage? Should I take it out there? In front of all those men?
It’s just your tummy, Serena. What do you think they’ll see?
What they always see, I suppose, Serena would say.”
Life is sacred and fragile, but depends on work to exist. People need other people for sex, love and friendship, but things tend to get tangled up in a big ball of a mess. This book doesn’t preach; it simply holds up a fractured mirror for us to look into and reflect upon ourselves and those around us. It’s a small town, anytown, but we inhabit it people, with our neuroses and quirks and predilections. We should be grateful to G. K. Wuori for drawing us in such a memorable way.