Where laughter could have risen out on a grid, on its own separate track (lever pushed up, entering the audio’s thick multi-leveled nuance), a truck belches, a bus exhales, and winter’s malicious choir belts out its finest renditions. I look at the malnourished trees cinched together in sparse soil, potted and thumbed in a shallow grave in the parking lot. Barely six people in the parking lot: a gamey man and his buddies, a lone security guard, a gaggle of teen wolves slowly evaporating into the grey nightline horizon framed by television wires.
I sing the most beautiful hymn on earth: “Dried pineapple faces, sunken, hollow, and sore, how you hallmark a healthy regimen in me … You are the thunderclap, the seven-hour nightmare, you’re how I’ll survive in a pupa, the pupa I’ll be fetal within … and, oh, how my wings will soar me and, oh, how my kingdom will ignore me, pupa pupa, do not forget me … take me on your special imagination quest.”
How does one describe Toronto writer Nathaniel G. Moore’s second novel, Wrong Bar (Toronto ON: Tightrope Books, 2009) [a part of which appeared in the Descant “hotels” issue I wrote of, here]? The author of, as well, a new fiction chapbook with Black Bile Press and a second poetry collection with DC Books (neither of which I have yet seen), his Wrong Bar tells his story through the eyes of narrator and writer Charles Haas, resident of the fictional Maudlin City, spending his nights working through what appears, at first, to be a menial job inside a detective story inside a psychotic break, and his twentysomething days with friends, acquaintances and enemies who drink, smoke, party and just “hang out,” as he falls somewhere on either side of the lines between what is real, what is imagined and knowing at all the difference. Where Kingston author Steven Heighton wrote a main character in his novel The Shadow Boxer who has an earnestness that often made his life harder, turning what had been a frustration about Heighton’s earlier work into a strength, so too, Nathaniel G. Moore manages to bring in a surreal and manic energy as a strength, something working with his writing as opposed to against it. In Wrong Bar, this is easily the closest he’s managed to make the surreal train of illogical thought and jagged aspects of his personality (seemingly) in print, from previous writing that held back and sometimes couldn’t reconcile itself. Here, Moore’s writing pushes through himself at full force; but accomplishing, it begs the question, exactly what?
I turn on the computer and hit the white rectangle indicating another melee with myself and hand-to-eye co-ordination. This one I christen “They Suffocate At Night.” It’s all about my concern for Cate and her meet-up with Daniel, of whom she’s spoken so little. The things I recall are as follows: they dine on seafood twice a month; he is homesick, an incredible singer, possibly married, and enjoys classical music. in the story there is a teary goodbye over calamari and a possible double-murder that happens moments after Daniel leaves his apartment to go to the airport to meet up with Cate, and it’s revealed at the end that his true nature is quite nautical. Of course, Cate won’t really confess to me anything particularly accurate about her relationship with Daniel, so I have to make it up. The end of the story has Daniel with his wife in Spain, submerged in the late-night ocean, growing tentacles and making love underwater. Something like this:
“I love you,” Daniel said softly, his distorted reflection pixilated as their limbs submerged. Both sets of tentacles treated and swam in the water. Their smooth Spanish mouths filled with water. “I always will.” This must be underwater love, Daniel thought. And it truly was.
Everything in this book exists in a heightened state, and the points that aren’t, seem to exist in an attempt to ground the text, to keep it from going completely off the rails. Moore’s language is all over the place sometimes, but is completely the point, and somehow manages to keep itself together and askew all at once. Once you’re inside, there’s no mistaking anyone else for the electrical prose of author Nathaniel G. Moore, and that itself might be an acquired taste. Like the fiction of others, such as Matthew Remski, Daniel Jones, Margaret Christakos or John Lavery, Nathaniel G. Moore’s Wrong Bar is a dangerous beast, and isn’t for the faint of heart.