WHO THEY WAS
Gabriel Krauze's Who They Was is just out in the US, a year or so after the UK release.
I don’t want to say longlisted, that vernacular is already way too dispiriting. Or even mention the Booker prize at all. Or think about publishing classifications like Autofiction or whether Biographical Literary Fiction gives or takes too much, or even any of the shoe horns and all of the labels that exist to package this, to parse this outsiders tale of outsiders at the very heart of our culture, to convert it into a product that can be marketed and then consumed and nominated for prizes, and discussed in coffee shops and dabbled with by dilettantes and made a quarterly sales goal priority in executive suites and and. And then the whole caravan moves on to another name and another product by another author and how well you know the next author's name I write here will depend on who was in charge of marketing, and what the budget was. And that name is… Oh fuck no, I am not telling you. Probably the first author you can think of.
In the end, elsewhere it’ll be just regarded with a variation of the same narrative, the same vernacular, the same adjectives and then and then and then assuredly everything will just be smoothed lumpily over and we'll want it to be the same as it was before.
Maybe more people should and more people will read Who They Was than the bible this year. More people should and will suspend their suspension of disbelief. And maybe they’ll stop thinking that giving out spam sandwiches is a panacea for the hungry. Maybe more people will come to value the child on the way to school, staring each day at a bloody image of a murdered member of their community on a digital bus stop sign - asking them to dial in their witness statement. And then probably die too if they do. Maybe at some point someone is gonna say what’s it going to take to negotiate a truce in England’s Civil War?
Who They Was is a street level gangster novel where the fantasy is almost always non-existent, except for the kids for whom diamond encrusted grills and Aquaracers mean something. It’s a dangerous, exciting, fun and gloomy world, depending on where you stand. Depending on where you live. Who They Was makes past gangster guys read like they’re reciting Carry On movie scripts. Who They Was features no Joe Hawkins, Who They Was is no Skinhead in Trouble. Who They Was is a real horror story though, one of the many amazing horror stories published this year, Failure of State, say is another one of them. That one a story of a different class of gangster. Every page here is shouting aloud, if we are not valued, we will find our own value, our own values. Same as it ever was. Can’t wait to read what Gabriel Krauze writes next.
Main image: Gabriel Krauze by Steve Turvey