The Garbage Times/White Ibis is not only Pink’s latest; it might just be Pink’s best so far. The book, which is really two books and thus comes with two covers (you have to flip it to read the second book), kicks off in the bars and freezing alleys of that dirty, rough Chicago that Pink has written about so much (I consider Witch Piss a quintessential novel for those wanting to understand the city). Life is hard in the cold, mean streets and bars of Chicago but there seem to be better times ahead. After a time on those streets and the dirty deeds the author/character is forced to perform to make a living, the narrative moves to Florida (the second novella), where Pink encounters plenty of fauna, goes to family gatherings, and is more or less forced to paint lizards for a birthday and then repeat the magic for a group of Girl Scouts. The result of these two narratives is a book that reads like a single tale of two very different cities and the people who make each unique as well as the couple, and the cat, that brings them together in a single storyline.
There are no easy descriptions when it comes to talking about Pink’s work. Unique comes to mind, but it fails to convey the ease with which he tackles deep themes like depression and self-loathing. Humorous also applies, but it doesn’t do justice to the way the author manages to bring readers into his life effortlessly and then shares with them devastating truths, both personal and universal. Likewise, words like entertaining, honest, wild, and self-aware all do the trick, but fall short because, even if used together, leave out some crucial element of Pink’s prose. The solution to this conundrum is easy: pull out a tired phrase and, as convincingly as possible, say to readers everywhere “This is special, and the only way to truly get a sense for what’s going on in this book is to read it.”
The Garbage Times/White Ibis is classic Pink in the sense that space, sentence structure, and even the humor are all there, but it also feels like a new step for the author. In these two novellas, Pink opens up as much as he has done in the past, but he seems more worried about things narrative arc and exploring briefly the meaning behind everyday things. He has always been a strange hybrid, part philosopher and part comedian with a thing for mental health, but he is now also emerging as an outstanding chronicler of not only himself as those around him but also of the connective tissue between all things and behaviors.
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