If you are not familiar with Sam Pink’s writing, TGT/WI is as good a place as any to start. If you are already a fan, you will get what you came for here – and more. You want more, don’t you? You mad, lustful, garbage-chewing animals… you came to howl at the Moon-God of literary ecstasy! Well in luck we are. 

The Garbage Times follows our narrator through a a few typically shitty months spent in the grimy shadow of the City of Chicago. Our man scrapes along the very bottom of the barrel. His days are defined by dirt, filth and muck. Garbage people, garbage times, shitty weather and crummy luck. Yet he goes about his business with an existential cheerfulness. By lowering himself beneath the worst of what Chicago can dredge up and dish out, he puts himself above, or just beyond, the judgment of the rat-like surface dwellers. The toll it takes on his soul are the wages of a god’s war. No less. 

The writing is what we expect from Pink and he’s in fine form. He has developed an obvious confidence over all these years and all those books. Pink is able to convey much with the simplest phrase. The trick is, you are invited into his world. And you are not told what to think. At one point the narrator’s cat dies and his emotional reaction is left a complete blank. After a certain number of hours he simply pitches the stiff kitty in the trash. And yet this event exists as an obvious emotional centrifuge to the book. That’s witchcraft, baby. I love TGT because it represents a culmination of Pink’s writing to this point; he has, more or less, described it as such. 

White Ibis is something different and I think it’s the stronger half of this here double bill. Our narrator has moved to Florida. He has a girl. He encounters wild life. The weather is fine. His psychic milieu has normalized somewhat. Ha ha! But don’t worry; our boy is just as dumbfounded as ever. It turns out that crawling up out of the slime and trying to make it as an artist and functional human being requires putting on a brave face indeed. It turns out the White Ibis, awkward and skittish, is just as queer a gatekeeper as the rats back in Chicago.

I’m reviewing a book (books) here, not the human being that wrote it (them). But at the same time; fuck that. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with Sam Pink. He is doing it right and for the right reasons. He’s humble, generous and kind. He’s an artist you can be proud to patronize. Not the type of guy to hammer out a classic for his fans, all the while keeping some naive, young acolyte locked up in a sadistic prison of hellish psychological and physical abuse, for instance. That we know of. 

Read more here.

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