Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: A Year of Misanthropic Confessions by Andy Carrington

Get the book HERE.

Reaching a level of content drunkenness, by myself, and writing about my day-to-day experiences is an attempt to calm my hatred after my late shifts have finished. It’s not really working in that sense, but it is at least a method for recollecting my thoughts. It allows me to scrape by in life with a small amount of dignity intact, despite belonging to the same group of species as a majority of the KNOB JOCKEYS currently living on this planet. –Andy Carrington, A Year of Misanthropic Confessions (pg. 21)

This being the second review I’m writing for Mr. Carrington, and seeing the title and cover of this book, I had a sense of what to expect before reading. Carrington’s writing may be hard to swallow for some, as it can be raw, crass, and at times unsparing in the use of “offensive” language. What makes his writing bearable and at times downright brilliant, however, is his keen sense of social insight and ability to explain his perspectives with the use of various literal and figurative devices.
The Introduction section of the book, aptly titled The Reason I Don’t Want to Get to Know You, displays the author’s ability to perceive and analyze social situations around him. Ultimately, his analyses leave him feeling more justified in being an introverted, self-proclaimed “recluse.” There is a strong cynical tone to Carrington’s writing, likely due to an unwavering sense of moral conviction within himself, coupled with a seeming inability to accept those around him who don’t meet his standards of moral conduct. As I read through this book, however, I began to wonder how much Carrington actually holds true to his own sense of morality, and how much he uses his self-righteousness to cover up his own social ineptitude and as an excuse for what seems to be untreated alcoholism. Regardless of what is actually going on within the psyche of the author, it makes for some bloody interesting reading.
In the first chapter, Hometowns Suck (The Pontefract Experience), Carrington beautifully articulates what “many might say” is “the root of [his] ‘problem’” (pg. 7). He explains the rampant alcohol abuse and violence in his hometown, where inflated egos abound and vagrancy is commonplace. While judging his environment harshly, Carrington admits that “most who know me may be saying that I’m hardly a sober, level-headed individual at the best (and worst) of times, but at least I do it within the confinement of my own home” (pg. 9). From the author’s perspective, he is entitled to self-righteousness because he limits the destructive capability of his own internal demons. While he may be prone to the same alcoholic tendencies as the people in his own community, Carrington seems to sublimate his rage into his writing, which may be what prevents him from going out and joining the masses in their raucous behaviours.
In subsequent chapters, Carrington touches on the topics of superficial relationships (Chapter 2), dealing with employment agencies/being unemployed and in poor health (Chapter 3), the butchering of the English language by modern-aged “text-speak” (Chapter 4), working as a bartender (Chapter 5), his hatred for non-drinkers (Chapter 7) and idiotic bar clichés by patrons (Chapter 9 – great chapter), relationships, intimacy, suffering, illness, betrayal and heartbreak (Chapter 10), covert racism (Chapter 11), hatred of “Eminem Fanboys” (Chapter 12 – kudos for the hip hop culture acknowledgement!), big chain coffee companies (Chapter 13) and “Star Wars Fanboys” (Chapter 14 – the original three ARE pretty good, Andy…haha…), to the difficulties he faces due to his anti-social and harshly judgmental tendencies in everyday life (Chapter 15).
Part of the reason that Carrington’s writing is so inflammatory may be that he doesn’t consider it particularly safe to be vocally self-expressed in his everyday life. As he writes in Chapter 5: “I sacrifice my freedom of speech by remaining silent in my line of work and supplying these people with what they need at the time of asking just so that I am able to get by on a week-to-week basis” (pg. 16).
A major strength of Carrington’s writing is his self-awareness of what many would consider subtle choices that actually have a huge impact on his life. In order to hold his job as a bartender and “get by” in society, he knows he can’t be a loose-cannon and express his thoughts openly. As a result, he takes his frustration out by drinking and writing. Carrington also infuses his writing with an abundance of dry humour and wit, for example: “But people are people; they’re everywhere I go. Aside from them, I actually quite like my job” (pg. 21). While appearing to loathe most people around him, not to mention his belief that the majority of human beings are “fucking PATHETIC” (pg. 17), the author at times conveys what fringes on an affinity for his knowledge of human nature, even if he has contempt for the dark sides of human nature itself.
Being a poet who writes largely in stream-of-consciousness, there are some hidden gems of great poetry within A Year of Misanthropic Confessions. When describing his experience of betrayal and heartbreak while at the same time suffering near-death encounters with Crohn’s Disease in Chapter 10, his poignant words shine through: “I just deteriorated into a shell” (pg. 26). Again, his sharp sense of self-awareness as to the formative experiences that helped shape his current perspectives is evident when he writes how the betrayal of a lover he trusted was “one of my main catalysts for now hating and distrusting a majority of the people whom I come into contact with on a daily basis” (pg. 27).
There’s no shortage of UK slang and curse-words in this book, many of which are quite amusing. Some notable, personal favourites are: “fuckwit” (pg. 10), “scrote” (pg. 8), “toffee-nosed twats” (pg. 16), and “knob jockeys” (pg. 21). One complaint I have about Carrington’s writing is the frequent use of the CAPS LOCK. While it may be effective if used infrequently, words and phrases being completely CAPS LOCKED occur often enough to become a little distracting and annoying to the reader. His words and tone would come across just as loud and perhaps clearer sans CAPS LOCK (we get it Andy…you’re PISSED OFF!).
While this is a review of the author’s work, I find it hard not to express my own opinions about the author himself, in an attempt to provide some context for readers and possibly even make a difference for Mr. Carrington. For all of Carrington’s intelligence, wit, and social insight, it’s evident from his writing that he has a few major failings. He is unforgiving of himself and others, causing tremendous resentments and hatred to build up inside him. He refuses to take responsibility for his alcoholism, thus preventing him from dealing with his underlying emotional/spiritual issues. Finally, and most obviously, he chooses mostly to focus on all that is wrong in the world around him, rather than actively seeking solutions to societal ills. Let me be clear: Carrington’s writing is in itself a great contribution to the world. He sheds light on a lot of the darkness in the world that people don’t want to look or at the very least are ignorant of. Awareness is the first step towards being able to address any issue. I would love to see him take a step further, and provide some of ideas in his writing as to how to remedy the problems he sees and create change in the world. It’s my personal belief, however, that these insights will not be forthcoming as long as he refuses to confront and take responsibility for his own personal demons.
I’d like to end this review with my favourite quote from the entire book (from Chapter 8: Big-Chain-Coffee-House-Drinkers). If you agree with me that this is brilliant writing, or if it even amuses you in the slightest, I highly recommend you go check out Andy Carrington’s entire repertoire and dish out the couple of dollars necessary to buy his books and support this writer (not mention there's some free downloads!):

“Yes, with their fake smiles and big cups containing the BLOOD OF A THOUSAND AFRICAN CHILDREN, you’ll find them in there at lunchtime and then again around five-ish discussing the best way of EATING THEIR BOSS’S DICK in a bid to get higher up the food chain” (pg. 31).

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