Shouts From The Gutter

There’s a desire when reading Chris Walter to be critical of his writing based on the fact he’s self-published. But if you are familiar with Walter you know criticisms will be difficult to find. If you’re unfamiliar with his crude, slapin- the-face character descriptions (“With his low forehead and coarse features, he did not look like a nuclear physicist”) and raw, East Side humor, Walter will grab you by the throat in the first sentence and make it difficult for you to see straight, let alone find any faults in his stories. This is Walter’s 12th book under his own publishing company, Gofuckyerself Press. It is a collection of stories; grimy, half-broken windows that peer into the bars, hotels, cafes, and streets of the lower middle class and places most self-respecting straight and narrow business types would fear to tread. As an ex-junkie himself, Walter at least sticks to writing what he knows and boy, does he know down and out. Shouts From The Gutter opens with “Pork ‘N’ Beans”, a story of Andy Clements, a broken-down man living in a trailer court, getting by on disability pension and the odd royalty cheque for his short stories. The settings are vivid and Walter’s characters are strong enough to smell, from the whiskey on Clements breath, to the old man in a wheelchair (“Gamble”) watching the fireworks from his hospital room window. His personal short stories, which are familiar extensions of his two previous autobiographical novels, rival the fiction work by adding realism through Walter’s own depth of character, as in “Pain And Wastings”–the local term for Vancouver’s dilapidated East Side–where he describes a falling out with his girlfriend and their new baby boy. On Commercial Drive she pushes a baby stroller as she meets him on a sidewalk corner to give him back his share of rent, since he’s taken off to use drugs and couch surf. At the sight of her and his son, an insightful paragraph of honesty starts: “My heart twisted painfully but the cash in my hand changed everything.” That’s not to say his fiction stories are any less gripping. “King of Stanley Park” is an enlightening and oddly funny commentary on poverty, depravity and class system. Sprinkled throughout the pieces are Walter’s colourful and apt analogies and similes. Perhaps the most memorable of which is found in a story about a homeless man who craves a slice of banana cream pie, which he can not afford: “His pockets were as empty as the promise of affordable housing.” These blessedly short stories, most no longer than five pages and many much less, are as genuine and packed with punch as an Operation Ivy album, showcasing once again Walter’s dedication to all that is rooted in punk. (Emily Kendy)

by Chris Walter, $16, 232 pgs, Gofuckyerself Press, #34-2320 Woodland Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5N 3P2, punkbooks.com

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