Old men write about women, young men write about death…
and death and death
and death and death
and death and death
Harry Fallon’s second novel, Every Fox Is A Rabid Fox (Dead Ink, 2017), was (I believe) the last book delivered to me before I ended up homeless for several months in 2017. It travelled with me around London and up and down the country for many weeks, then got left in storage when I tried to, like, straighten myself out psychologically. Reminders of the crumble of my – tbf hated – previous life were a bit dangerous, I felt, and Gallon’s novel got shuffled to the bottom of various piles of books as I sought the international escape I had been yearning after for years. Eventually, many months, much medication and lots of positive vibes later, Every Fox Is A Rabid Fox ended up in the middle of a pile, and after I’d read many books I’d been carrying around for even longer, Gallon ended up on top.
But, could I make it through this novel, encased within an object that was such a potent symbol of my lowest moments?
Gallon’s novel came to me in the weeks when I was under (non-professional) suicide watch, the weeks when I was making near-catastrophic financial decisions, the time when I felt utterly, utterly, utterly unable to function in the real world. This book reached me when I thought, basically, I was about to be dead.
I lost money buying a structurally unsound boat because I fundamentally believed I couldn’t live like a “normal” person (in a house) and had to take to the water. I felt like I was a drain on people’s time, I felt like I was abhorred by everyone, that I would never find somewhere to rent a room for me and my dog and I thought I would never be able to find a job any better than the demeaning Summer job I had serving pizzas. In the end, obviously, everything was fine, and I took this pain and made something beautiful from it (Bad Boy Poet (available now from some good book shops)) and also improved my mind and body etc.
So, yes, I reasoned, I could handle holding this book, with its rather beautiful cover and its haunting, somehow confrontational, title. Yes, I could handle holding it and I could handle reading it too.
Every Fox Is A Rabid Fox is a lot more structurally inventive than Gallon’s earlier novel, The Shape of Dogs’ Eyes, and it is also a great length. It’s a quick read and feels less than its 180 pages, which I don’t see as a bad thing. For me, a bad short novel can drag, much as a good long novel can fly by (e.g. Zone by Mathias Enard), so I do not mean feeling short as an insult. I think it was very well paced and very well structured, holding back narrative information just long enough to maintain momentum without causing frustration.
I don’t think it needed to be longer, or, perhaps, could have handled much more without becoming too bleak. This is a novel relentlessly about death, and thus any additional characters would have probably died, and any more detail on any of the existing characters would probably have incorporated other deaths. Every Fox Is A Rabid Fox chimes perfectly with that old (heteronormative) adage: “Old men write about women, young men write about death”, only for Gallon, here, it might be more appropriate to write:
Old men write about women, young men write about death… and death and death and death and death and death and death and drugs.
This book is very much a young man’s novel, so as a man who is no longer young (I’m “youngish”, innit), I did at times feel that it was not for me. Gone is the age of honking drugs in East London nightspots, gone is the age of having sex with people who I don’t think I should be having sex with, gone is the age of nihilism, gone is the age of not having a dog and gone is the age – I fucking hope to fuck – of crippling bouts of depression that leave me stupid stupid stupid and spiralling into patterns of more fucked-upedness than I need to be in.
This is not the case for the protagonist of Every Fox Is A Rabid Fox, a man (a boy?) in his mid twenties who is reeling from his culpability in the recent death of his elder brother. Alongside this, he is also haunted by the ghost of his twin sister, who died while they were still in the womb. Also he’s suicidal. And his uncle has just died from complications related to AIDS. And his dad is probably suicidal, too. It’s a book, it’s fair to say, about death. There are accidents and there are rumours about murder, about euthanasia, there are conversations about gun massacres and about poisoning, about drinking bleach and about destroying buildings by fire. There are methods of death and literal deaths throughout. Gallon takes an uncompromising dive into morbidity, and by keeping the text short he prevents it from being too much of a downer.
The protagonist is conflicted and complex, believably grieving, believably grieving in the manner of an East London hipster, and other than a worrying amount of detail about guns, Gallon’s text is a strong – though morbid – wander through depression, intoxication, nihilism and youth.
It’s a good read – tighter and more literary than Gallon’s first novel, and – in my opinion – much more successful because of this.
If you like a dark dive into death, this is one for you.
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Special Edition of Bad Boy Poet
Bad Boy Poet is the debut poetry collection from whingy hipster blogger Scott Manley Hadley. It is a series of “confessional-style” poems describing the life of a confused and conflicted youngish man as he tries to work out who he is, following a mental health crisis and the subsequent breakdown of a relationship. Also there’s loads about poo, illness, ageing, masculinity, Pierce Brosnan, sexuality and dogs. Purchase from TriumphoftheNow.com to receive a special signed edition that includes a personal dedication, a handwritten exclusive poem AND a high resolution full-frontal nude photograph (postcard size).