The Dissolving Zinc Theatre by Chris Kelso. Book review

The Dissolving Zinc Theatre by Chris Kelso, Villipede Publications, £8.90

Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

This is a joyfully dystopian, fascinating and challenging book. There is a distinct risk you will get to like it. It may well ruin books for you.

At certain moments within the culture of our times someone presents a book of this nature. My first experience of this form of fractured narrative combined with free-flowing informal illustration was in the small press scene of the mid to late Sixties, usually related to poetry. Not long after it almost entered the mainstream via the so-called underground magazines, then, just as I was going away to earn some money, it reappeared in the late Eighties combined with fringe political narratives. Now it has popped up again like Dada, presaging another of those small nudges that alter perceptions and attitudes going forward.

Cultural history, and I can bore for Britain on the subject, and visual interpretations apart, this work does not stray far from a conventional book so don’t be discouraged by its chaotic appearance. Anarchy is the true state of nature and literature only seems organised. In reality it is utter chaos. This book still has its descriptive parts, its narrative links and conversations, perhaps cross-dressed and, like festival goers everywhere, trying to be something alternative but they are all there lurking, yearning for discovery and appreciation.

The writing group I bless with my presence often discusses the optimum method for expressing speech in the written form. Kelso is to be congratulated on resolving the matter. For example:

<< What is the Zinc Theatre?>>


<<How can it be everything?>>

`The Zinc Theatre is everything you see around you, the great screenplay of life on this planet.’

Great punctuation! Said he. No recourse to `he said’, `she replied’ or `it barked’. Just clarity. Wonderful!

The narrative tells us that only a few film directors have been banished to the harsh reality of the Zinc Theatre and returned to a full professional career. The story starts with this guy making films, see. He reckons he is good, but he isn’t. He’s fucked and in the process screws everyone else. You see Hollywood and the Zinc Theatre are alike – bloated, moody, welcoming and inhospitable at the same time, even designed by the same utilitarian architect: all show. Like time itself, another fucking prison. Like Lady Chatterley’s Lover, posh people won’t want their servants to read this novel as there is a risk the reader can lose themselves, ensuring drinkie-poos won’t get served on time.

<< …all those assholes who go on journeys to find themselves, that’ll cure them of their indomitable selfishness, so they think. Well, Jesus, isn’t that the most egotistical voyage imaginable? Trust me, I am helping society. I was a sensitive guy once, oh yeah. I loved anything that was deep and meaningful, then I got my heart handed to me on a plate and now I know better.>>

To this Jungian, Kelso relies too much on Freudian psychology. There is this penis with an eye – oh my god, I could have used one of them back in the day – but no sign of a clitoris with teeth although Glen Ommensetter does encounter a modern chastity belt on Mylar5. Kelso still has some distance to go before Patrick makes that deep belly laugh as Polly cries out in orgasmic joy.

You see the world has changed for the worst. Doesn’t it always? There has been World War III, the Slave State rules and you really never know who is or is not an immitant- that is an imitation human being or android to the robotics people. This adds a whole new, deeper meaning to the phrase `recharging your batteries’, defining who or what you are. There are immitants being created to allow the crooked rich to continue to line their pockets, along with immitants intent on destroying their original, real personalities. Then there is Stanley, the child actor the Director manipulates and abuses with the horrible way the immitant Klopp dies. Stanley grows up into Stanley a pig killing misfit, who chops off the head of the Director to give to Isabella, the Director’s girl-friend, only to be shot and cremated by Isabella who knows the Director was a shit but still loves him. Nobody is spared, not even the reader. You might just get out of the pages in time!

I like Kelso. I like Glasgow as well. If you like a challenge then I recommend that you go out and buy this book. If you like a fight then do the same, it will at least give the busies the night off. If, however you are of a milder disposition then I suggest you go to a bookshop and ask `what the fuck is going on’. But why worry, life is too short.