CARP FISHING ON VALIUM by Graham Parker

CARP FISHING ON VALIUM

Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

From rock music legend Parker comes a debut collection of ten stories, only intermittently engaging, that chronicle the life of a young bird-egg enthusiast who grows up to be a jaded but respected figure in the rock ’n’ roll scene.

Young Brian Porker’s fascination for birds’ eggs in all their speckled glory, which is the subject of the first story, “The Sheld-Duck of the Basingstroke Canal,” turns him into an increasingly rapacious collector, until he accidentally drops one of the eggs, cracking it to reveal the fragile, still living form inside. This theme of real life overtaking fantasy is repeated later in Brian’s life, most notably in “Me and the Stones,” when the now-respected rocker Porker is invited by Keith Richards to audition to replace the newly dead Mick Jagger (run over by a bus after stumbling off a curb stoned), only to be rejected—not for his lack of musical ability but for the way he fills out his leather pants (or doesn’t). While several tales deal with the crassness of the music life, others leave it behind to examine decidedly underclass themes, including encounters with thugs and punks, such as the one in the title story, about two skinheads who threaten Brian and a buddy as they drink and dope their way through a midlife fishing trip, until the buddy drops a name that sends the bully boys slinking away. “Chloroform,” one of the rawest and best pieces here, pits the pre-rock Brian against dead-end working conditions in an animal testing facility with a slow-witted co-worker, to whom Brian sells a motorbike on the installment plan, only to realize that the buyer hasn’t understood the agreement.

Despite some original touches, mostly in the earlier stories, the collection overall relies on familiar, effortless images of disillusionment and sordidness.

Pub Date: June 21st, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-26485-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2000