by Mark Edwards reviewed by Doug Mathewson
Before the very first page of “Clearout Sale” author Mark Edwards tells us his purpose. The dedication page simply states, “for my mates.” I for one am glad Mr. Edwards has kindly included the reader within this circle. Clearout Sale (Andromache Books London UK,146 pages. 2008) is a love story. Not romantic love, though romance does appear more than once as a topic with in these pages. Rather love of place and people, love of language and the interplay of conversation. The title may suggest a clearance of odd remainders, a clearing out of mismatched bits and pieces the author has yet to find homes for, but this notion would be both untrue and a disservice to the author. What he done in fact is carefully assemble a fascinating and delightful collection of brief prose poems and equally brief fiction pieces.
The first section of the book is poetry. Short prose poems that are the strongest work featured in this volume. Our setting is contemporary urban Scotland, our cast an assemblage or well crafted everyday working people. Friends and neighbors of the author one assumes. The prose, the actual language is fascinating and exotic you my American ears. Read these poems aloud for a real treat. More than the accent Mr. Edwards conveys to us with his fanciful spelling is the cadence, the rhythm of of his characters speech. Among my many favorites a few are exceptional. In “kev” the author beautifully captures a man tell us a bit of his life. “CV -Promises” provides lasting images of high-rise life. My favorite “yir all shite” is simply brilliant. For anyone who is a poet, knows a poet, or has every attended a live poetry event this poem alone justifies the volume’s purchase. A drunken poet tells all assembled, in no uncertain terms, of his might and prowess. At a recent University open mic event I was sorely tempted to rise from my seat and read this piece aloud. If only I could manage the accent.
Short fiction, very short fiction that fits the ever changing description of flash fiction
comprises the second half of Clearout Sale. While the language and characters remain
just as captivating the selections themselves are not as strong or as lasting. Fiction that comes to us as “a slice of life” is often quite good. Tasty and memorable. When the “slices” are very small, as in all forms of micro-fiction, two problems arise. Which tiny slice to pick, and does it leave the reader satisfied? Mr. Edwards has mixed results in this area. Several stories are good. One that stands out is “Drama.” This short piece, too long for current flash fiction guidelines, tells a complete story well rounded between our central character’s internal dialogue and the well written dialogue he has with friends. “Holiday” is memorable as well. This first person narrative memory of childhood is done with just the right mixture of innocence, desperation, and humor.
I for one was glad to have read this book, and happy to recommend it. Being both poetry and fiction may work against it. Perhaps a future edit might intersperse the two,
arranging the work more by topic or theme. Happily would I read future works by Mr. Edwards, and look forward to additional offerings from Andromache Books.