A review of Emma Strunk by Tony Nesca

This is an approach that has peculiar qualities. It never becomes poetry of the quotable and pretty sort but it avoids the pitfalls of a prose that needs connective tissue that is simply functional. It is not conventional narrative but it has an extraordinary fluency.

Reviewed by Bob Williams

Emma Strunk
by Tony Nesca
Screamin’ Skull Press, $17.00
504 Brock St., Winnipeg, MB.
Canada, R3N 0Z1
stalekisses@hotmail.com
PH: (204) 488 1729

This is underground literature by a man whose age is not given. Nesca has written six chapbooks of fiction and poetry and three novels. He was a member of a Winnipeg rock band where he finally settled after journeys to and from Italy. He began writing seriously at the age of twenty-seven.

Emma Strunk is a novel in poetry and the segments are of various lengths. It has the immediacy of a rock lyric with such stylistic devices as the elimination of auxiliary verbs and lines of nervous shortness.

old bag of caretaker
telling mike he’s too late on rent
she got hump on back
gimp leg
ugliest human alive

This is an approach that has peculiar qualities. It never becomes poetry of the quotable and pretty sort but it avoids the pitfalls of a prose that needs connective tissue that is simply functional. It is not conventional narrative but it has an extraordinary fluency.

Characters do emerge although it cannot be said that there is a plot except for the deterioration of Bob, Mike, Reggie, Destiny or Tracy and their friends. The anonymous narrator has reached an adjusted relationship with stimulants and sadly observes the downward path of the druggies, pushers and prostitutes that people Nesca’s world.

With undefined power Emma Strunk, a baleful influence, haunts the inhabitants of a world given over to desperate experiences and unrestrained excesses. Moments of tenderness alternate with senseless violence as the human instincts become swamped with drugs and desperation. Emma is elusive, a personification of the cruelty in which these harried characters are trapped. It transpires that she may not even exist.

This is a curious book that the reader may attempt to cast off but it cannot be done. Although the discipline of the writing is tentative, it suffices to mold an impressionist picture of lives that have cast off pretense as well as control. It pictures the lower, sometimes criminal, life of peg zero (Winnipeg) in a way that is convincing and commanding. There is poetry enough to distance the reader to some extent from the horrors of a world without many rules or much loyalty.

Not for the faint of heart, it is an honest and in its way a beautiful work for any reader that is willing to look over the edge and into the abyss.

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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