Book Review

Tired by Joe Bielecki

dreamlike, dystopian, prose-poetry adjacent fiction

written January 16th, 2022

Tired by Joe Bielecki is a recent novel published by Alien Buddha Press, an American indie, DIY type publisher. When offered a free copy on Twitter, I (of course) said yes. Strange literary projects from outside the mainstream? Yes yes yes yes yes, I shout, aware of my own output.

Tired is a novel, though in many ways it isn’t especially “novelistic”.

There both is and isn’t a clear and continuous narrative, there both are and are not characters and character development… it is both realist and dreamlike, strangely compelling yet somehow devoid of affect: it is a breathless, stream of consciousness text that doesn’t really have a consciousness within it…

it’s very readable, and holds attention even though nothing really seems to happen, and lots of the things that do happen, haven’t happened, didn’t happen, don’t happen…

there are shifts and twists, but there are also reversals…

at one point one of the characters is turned into stone and then, after a while, they’re not stone again…

whole lifetimes flow by in a couple of sentences, cyclical, meandering, repetitious reincarnation and multiverse time loops appear, fracture, repair…

everything that happens has happened before and will happen again and is happening now in a thousand different ways…

Paragraphs extend for pages and pages, but are often made up of very short sentences…

We move from domestic settings to strange, dystopian, empty, cities that reminded me of Cittàgazze in His Dark Materials… it reminded me, too, of Haruki Murakami, i.e. the supposed narrative structure hinges on a MacGuffinesque quest to be solved, but nothing grows or develops from that…

the novel just is, just remains, in that valley between comprehension and confusion…

Bielecki’s writing is clear and direct, so the blending and blurring is not unintentional: by no means does this novel feel like it isn’t succeeding on its own terms

the ways in which past and present / future and past / place and no place circulate in the text makes clear that its soothing – yet disjointed – images are intentionally constructed

There are echoes of Kafka, too, and the final chapter even calls to On Chesil Beach, with an unexpected detailing of disparate, lonely lives racing onwards with each painful, empty, moment underscored by the fact of its fleetingness.

Did I enjoy it? I don’t know.

It didn’t make me laugh or cry, the characters are deliberately patchwork and inconsistent and often seem to switch/shift/change (rather than “grow”/”develop”, so there isn’t much space for the empathetic catharsis that I (I know, I know, reductively) still look for in literature, but it kept me rapt & Tired held me with its unrelenting prose that marches on and on and on and doesn’t really leave space for a reader to question what they’ve read: by the time I paused to question anything in the text, Bielecki’s writing had already pulled me into the middle of the next paragraph. 

If you like dreamlike, dystopian, prose-poetry adjacent fiction – which quite a few of you do seem to do – then this very may well be right up your street!

Read an excerpt directly at Alien Buddha’s blog


my latest – and imo best – book hip-hop-o-crit available now

sad prose book the pleasure of regret from Broken Sleep Books.

Humour ‘n’ Full Frontal Nudes in Because Earth Is Flat (with Sean Preston)

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Order my raucous poetry collection via Open Pen.

Order my sad prose chapbook via Selcouth Station Press.


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