Barney Farmer – Coketown

Pasts remembered,
pasts forgot,
pasts denied,
passed are not.

When childhood friends meet again to reminisce and compare scars a fresh wound waits just around the corner. One rainy night at the wrong end of town, and a pub crawl along Memory Lane takes a hard right down a dark dead end in Barney Farmer’s second novel, Coketown.

Not really a review, more a general, glowing endorsement today for Coketown by Barney Farmer. I consumed it in a single sitting but don’t confuse my binge reading for a lack of depth (or length, fnar) – as easy as it was to get lost in I’ll still be going back for a second read.

Like Barney’s first book – Drunken Baker Coketown is, to be honest, a dismal read. Beautiful too mind, definitely immersive, thought provoking, richly written and all those other good things. But dismal too. The story he tells and the world he writes about are both delivered with heavy honesty and as always honesty isn’t necessarily joyful. There’s definitely something sublime in that though, seeing reality recognised without adornment or falsified profundity to make it more palatable. Even more so if you can recognise it bleeding into your own experiences and your own living landscape.

Too often people try to lay a veneer on the mundane. They erase the absurdity and the poetry and the sometimes grimness of it to create something that can be sold to an audience which, a lot of the time, wants an acceptable translation of life more than a raw version of it. And, to be honest, that’s boring. People trying to beautify or dramatise or use words to disassociate a story from a recognisable human experience pretty much always end up being dishonest. Something that neither of Barney’s books have done. Which goes back to the dismal part, they’re both reads that’ll stab at you a bit, leave you feeling a bit more aware than you maybe wanted to be of the world you live in. But as I said, that can be sublime too because, at the very, very least, it’s a pleasure to read something which affirms life as it often is and even if that can be a dark thing it’s made lighter by a writer who shows that none of us are alone in it.

Anyway, as I said, not a review. Would be a terrible one if it were given the rambling. But I can definitely, without a moment of hesitation, recommend both of his books – go buy them. Now.

You can get Coketown here
Drunken Baker here

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