STUMP by Niall Griffiths


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A downtrodden man with one arm is halfheartedly pursued by two equally hapless hit men, all in the semi-opaque but exuberant brogue the Welsh author (Kelly + Victor, 2003, etc.) is known for.

The one-armed guy (let’s call him Stump, as he is technically unnamed) has left—well, fled—Liverpool on a tip that he’s wanted by the mob. And he’s basically right. Alastair and Darren, two incompetent and mostly disinterested thugs, have been dispatched in an unreliable vehicle, armed with a Reader’s Digest map, to the small town in Wales where Stump has holed up after being ditched by his sort-of girlfriend, Rebecca, who is definitely responsible for the price on his head and partly responsible for the loss of his arm (she helpfully injected him with smack while his arm was in a cast; the tip of the needle snapped off, and gangrene did the rest). Stump puddles around his yard, takes up gardening, teaches himself to brush his teeth, eat cereal and masturbate with one hand, and endures the peaceful boredom of having given up sex (except for the above), violence, and alcohol (while gaining the universally colorless language of the 12-step program). Meanwhile, his would-be assailants are wildly bored as they botch their mission in between chomps of crisps and shouts of “cunt” and “who-er,” while debating hard (and probably relevant) choices, such as whether one would prefer to lose an arm or an eye in a bar brawl. Many moments encapsulate the toll taken by everyday violence: Stump picks yellow flowers en route to a drug-laced tryst with his girl, as he “vaguely recalls trying to hit her,” and the two men recount a bar fight in which a man did lose an eye—only afterward realizing that his young son witnessed it all.

Griffiths is best when he captures those small moments that punctuate the casual boredom of intermittently savage lives.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2005
ISBN: 1-55597-415-5
Page count: 228pp
Publisher: Graywolf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2005


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