Review: Wild Thing by Joolz Denby
“And Wild Thing is out there. On the frost-silvered black hillside. I know what he’ll look like; I’ve watched him so many times before. He’ll be a dark shape cut out of the icy ground and the sharp diamond glitter of the freezing stars; sinuous, silent, full of power; a shadow moving this way like thunder creeping over the horizon. You’d never spot him if you didn’t know how to look for him. But I know. I know.
He’s on his way home.
He loves me.”
Thus ends the first chapter of Joolz Denby’s freshly published novel, Wild Thing (Ignite Books).
If there were any justice in this world, then Joolz Denby’s latest novel would win quite a few literary prizes. It would be taught at GCSE and A-Levels, and would find its way into the English, Sociology and Philosophy departments of our universities around the country, and beyond. Wild Thing has captured the Zeitgeist of our times with razor-sharp precision, but with poetry and humour thrown in, with just, maybe, a dash of supernatural. And Rock’n’Roll. Loads of it. It will make you sing – there are actual songs in it!
Wild Thing is a work that started its life as a “literary virus”. About two years ago, award-winning novelist, poet, artist, tattooist, band manager Joolz announced that she was giving away her new novel for free because Wild Thing had been “turned down by publishers both in the UK & US on the grounds that though 'beautifully written' it is not 'in genre' and therefore cannot be 'marketed' - also that it is 'too harsh for the modern reader'. I would ask whoever gets it to pass it on & ask those whom they send it to to pass it on to people they think might like to read it and so on and so on - a kind of benign literary virus. However, if you don't like it and think your friends would not be interested, that's also fine, just delete it.”
I jumped at the opportunity and was one of the privileged people who were able to read the novel then. I read it in about two days, fascinated, overwhelmed.
Now it is back in “proper” book form, published by indie publisher Ignite Books, a small press launched as an act of defiance by Joolz and accomplice Steve Pottinger.
And you know what? It was even better the second time. I wouldn’t recommend reading it on the train unless, like me, you go from one terminus to another. You’d miss your station.
To quote one of Joolz’s sentences in this very novel “it is the book of the year because it’s so raw and powerful and cutting-edge.” It is all that and more. But I will not reveal too much of the story here, because it would spoil the experience.
There is so much in this book that it would probably take too long to list all the recognisable elements in it. What there is, though, is a cracking gallery of grotesque characters – comedian Phill Jupitus, in a short review of the book, correctly mentioned Dickens – from Annie Wynter’s horrifying “respectable” family to the corrupt politicians, the drugged up rock stars, the weak box-ticking civil servants and the pathetic, self-destructive underclass. The baby P case, the media circus, our revolted fascination for feral children, celebrity culture, our rabid voyeurism, but also our craving for love – this book is so full of LOVE that it could possibly bring the pages to spontaneously combust –and stability, companionship, relevance, recognition: it is all in the book, cleverly rearranged and weaved together, beautifully and vibrantly written. You can feel Joolz’s passion for her book, it burns the pages. Her prose is feverish, flowing and so very much alive.
Wild Thing is gripping, haunting stuff. It plays with your emotions at an alarming rate. One paragraph you could be laughing out loud, then further down the page, you freeze with terror and gasp in disgust).
Let me just say this: this is an important book. Not a self-important book, but one that concentrates the essence of the grotesque society we live in and of the ridiculously vapid and arrogant race us humans have become; our illusion of civilisation built on feet of clay.
Reading Wild Thing is like holding up a mirror to society, you know, one of those fabled mirrors that only reflect the real you, the one that shows the decaying, rotten bits beneath all that controlled, glossy, smooth surface. Or, on the contrary – and most certainly in the case of the book’s central and gutsy character, Annie Wynter – the magic mirror would find the beauty beneath the seemingly unpolished surface.
It’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” revisited, with Adam, (one of) the Wild Thing(s) of the title, acting as our portrait:
“Adam was the beast that lives in all our hearts, in our brains, the primitive creature we distanced ourselves from in order to be civilised, to eat pallid, cold meat we buy in Sainsbury’s, to go through ridiculous mating rituals and get married dressed in ludicrous outfits, to kill our enemies at a safe distance by pushing buttons and raining Hell down on them from a satellite. We didn’t eat raw, steaming meat straight from the kill, fuck anything we could catch, fight hand-to-hand or stink of our unreasonable selves anymore. We were nice. We were proper little ladies and gents. Weren’t we?
Adam was the man-beast […] Beware the man whose eyebrows meet in the middle – he’ll do more than break your heart, he’ll eat it. The loco lobisón that is a shapeshifting terror red in tooth and claw, the mark of the beast burning in his hands plain as the carnage he leaves in his howling wake. The most primeval of demons, the most feared of all the echoes of our long crawl into the light. He must be eradicated, or we acknowledge where we came from, which would never do. They wouldn’t spare him if they caught him. And me? Oh, my God – they’d throw away the key.
I was a traitor, the wilful betrayer of civilisation; the anti-mother, the False Maria. Anathema.”
A word of warning though. The last few pages will leave you numb for a while, and stay with you for a long, long time.
After you’ve finished it, Wild Thing will be gnawing at your minds and will make you rethink your nature, the world around you. You will have the impression you’ve been through Heaven and Hell and made it back in one piece – apparently.
You’ll take sides and make up your own mind as to what you think is right and wrong, if there are such things.
Would you choose passion or self-preservation? Annie has chosen, and in the end, she is vindicated.
In a way.
Because as always, there is a price to pay.
Can you hear me clap?
Bravo, and Encore!
To get your copy of Wild Thing go HERE
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