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  • Writer's pictureGuillermo Stitch

Belfast speaks...

"What a fascinating book. What a strange and mad thing to have birthed into the world. 'Literature®' is a book about being intoxicated by language. Billy Stringer, our hero, is often intoxicated by whiskey too: this is a hardboiled, hat-wearing world: a neon neo-noir where people are fuelled on a diet of eggs and coffee and nobody sleeps. But words are his drug of choice, his secret obsession. Sadly for him he lives in a philistine age where literature has been re-purposed as fuel. It is the dream of every conservative politician: finally a practical use for the arts! Here 'the road is the page' and the motorist’s brain fizzing on fiction (it has to be fiction – it just doesn’t work with a sporting memoir) powers the car.

This is great news – the world of 'The Second Enlightenment' can finally manage and rationalise these dangerous and seditious objects, these books. And when you’re up against the literary terrorist cell 'Gilgamesh' that can only be a good thing. After all suppressing ideas never works, but finding a way to use books for the betterment of society – by getting people to work – robs Gilgamesh of their power. What’s so great about literature if it’s everywhere, fuelling your school run? It is simultaneously elevated and debased.

This book is a sustained howl of outrage at our dumbed-down society. Stitch sees a world where the best-selling books are memoirs by 15 years old You-tube influencers, where emojis and text-speak proliferate like germs at a sewage outlet, treading water with their mouths open. This is satire in a grand tradition: Fahrenheit 451 but with better jokes.

Stitch’s world is reversed engineered out of a dazzling armoury of tooth-rattling puns – a vehicle that resembles a steel armadillo is known as a 'Car-A-Pace' and follows the tale with its tail. Stitch can throw in these puns and get away with them too, because his tone is so deadpan and pedantic: he builds a fully functioning world about these little linguistic ruptures: he means it, man. And of course he doesn’t mean it at all.

In the novel Billy’s gateway drug is Harry Harrison’s 'The Stainless Steel Rat': James Bolivar diGriz is a fast talking, cigar chomping wise guy super-thief. Our Billy is somewhat less glamorous than his literary hero: badly dressed, recently dumped and living with his drunken mother. What’s worse he is now being followed all over town by the gigantic and cheerfully malevolent Alphonse, who has a big knife and a yen to use it. Never get involved with literature – that stuff can kill you!

This is a beautifully realised book and Stitch a clever and precise writer; there is restraint and coolness here, at odds with the subject matter. And there is love here, a genuine love for the magic and mystery of the imagination. As for Billy’s ultimate fate, well that’s about love too: there is an inversion of Rilke’s dictum that 'Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror'. His terror behind him Billy is about to become the beautiful.

This is an excellent book. Read it. While they still let you."

John Patrick Higgins, Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful.

Deep thanks.

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