A review of About a Girl by Tony Nesca

Through the narrator’s reflections we accumulate an unusually exact understanding of his aims and character. His life is not pretty and he may waver and wobble but he is grounded in honesty. He waves illusion away and sees life with a directness and acceptance that is refreshing and, rightly apprehended, renewing.

Reviewed by Bob Williams

About a Girl
by Tony Nesca
Screamin’ Skull Press
2004, ISBN 0-7795-0073-3, 161 pages, $17.00
A reader may order from:
Tony Nesca, 504 Brock Street, Winnipeg MB_R3N 021, Canada

In Ulysses Leopold Bloom reflects that it would be a puzzle to traverse Dublin in any manner without passing a pub. It would seem to be true also of Winnipeg as Tony Nesca presents it.

The unnamed narrator encounters a young woman on a bus. She is part Native and part black and suits him so well that he gives up the idea of showing up for work even though he assumes that this will cost him his job. He and the woman go on a drinking spree that takes them and us to taverns, strip bars, and rock and roll clubs. On their way they encounter a lively assortment of Winnipeg denizens. We are in the dimly lighted world of decidedly raffish and down-at-the-heels musicians, writers, and rejecters of polite and orderly society. Various degrees of drunkenness and the use of marijuana and other drugs are almost universal. Fights are frequent and the bouncer is the magister ludi.

To this Nesca brings a largely unpunctuated and lyric flow of observation and thought. There is no plot in the accepted sense of the term although there is a progression in the relationship of the narrator and the young woman who ends up in the narrator’s apartment. In place of plot we have a studiedly precise description of a gritty life-style. It is a sufficient answer to pretensions and falsity in the dominant culture, sick with its material glut and fast food ethics. Through the narrator’s reflections we accumulate an unusually exact understanding of his aims and character. His life is not pretty and he may waver and wobble but he is grounded in honesty. He waves illusion away and sees life with a directness and acceptance that is refreshing and, rightly apprehended, renewing.

The flavor of the book is not reproducible in a short account like this one, but Nesca has written poetry (Emma Strunk and other chapbooks) and was once a rock musician. There is a constant poetic tone and musical sense in About a Girl. There are also some shrewd observations of great penetration. When the narrator attacks the notion that everything has a equal value, he expresses it in this way: “you can like whatever the fuck you want but don’t be telling me that Britney Spears is just as valid as Tom Waits.” About the shortcomings of his own social milieu he observes in disgust: “all that’s needed to stir things up is a bit of violence how we ever crawled down from the trees is a mystery to me.”

Tony Nesca, born in Italy in 1965, has spent years in Italy and in Canada of which he has been a permanent resident since he was fifteen. He was a member of a rock band until he became dedicated to writing. There is little or no resistance to identifying his experience with that of the narrator in About a Girl. If this be true, he sold copies of his books from his backpack on the streets of Winnipeg.

About the Reviewer: Bob Williams is retired and lives in a small town with his wife, dogs and a cat. He has been collecting books all his life, and has done freelance writing, mostly on classical music. His principal interests are James Joyce, Jane Austen and Homer. His book Joyce Country, a guide to persons and places, can be accessed at: http://www.grand-teton.com/service/Persons_Places

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