Monday, November 14, 2011
No Rules: EVA DOLAN
EVA DOLAN just sort of popped onto my radar a couple months ago, I'm not even sure how. She has this blog, see, called Loitering With Intent (which is a great name) and she mostly reviews books there.
But that's not really putting it as well as I could. She doesn't just review books-- she reviews the HELL out of them. She writes the sort of reviews you want to read. Fact is, Eva Dolan's writing has incredible style and flair and wit.
This extends to her fiction writing as well-- I was pleased to see that she is able to tackle short fiction just as skillfully as reviews, like this story of hers in Shotgun Honey.
How does she pull it off? Easy.
But I'll let her explain it herself... here's Eva Dolan.
As some of you may have already noticed I’m liberal hippy spawn; my mum rolled me my first joint when I was fourteen and we smoked it listening to Underworld. I had no rules and no constraints, the house was full of books, the vinyl collection was amazing, and if I didn’t feel like going to school I didn't go.
The only thing which was strictly verboten was gambling.
Naturally me and my brother Sean both gravitated towards it.
Sean’s had a regular home game going the last few years, mainly recruited from his builder mates, with me the perennial short stack among blokes who earn my yearly wage in a month and aren’t shy about mentioning it.
The first game I sat in on was just after I left uni. I was skint, waitressing in a hotel, not making great tips - can’t imagine why – and Sean said he’d cover my stake since I was getting arsy about not playing anymore.
Sean’s place looked like a drug dealer convention when I turned up, a grey Maserati sandwiched between two Range Rovers with blacked out windows and every extra the garage could fit on them.
Inside they crowded Sean’s little kitchen, three bulldozer built men in jeans and Ted Baker shirts, watches like steering wheels and uniform number one cuts, not a rough palm between them.
They were sweet and welcoming though, exactly the kind of mouthy guys it’s fun to be at a table with.
We talked boxing and football – I was the only Gooner among rabid Spurs fans – and it turned out they’d been hitting the spread betting pretty hard over the weekend.
Within an hour I knew the price of everyones cars, villas and golf club memberships. As well as the result of Bob’s wife’s vaginoplasty.
He held his index finger up in the air – “It’s fucking like that now.”
All three were the classic loose-aggressive types, they earned their money too easy to be anything else, but Bob made Tony G look like Dan Harrington. He brought every hand in with a raise, regardless of position or his holding, shoved almost every three-bet that was thrown at him.
I’d got the bum seat too, stuck on his right, which meant any speculative move I made got stamped on hard. I barely played a pot in the first hour, spent most of it keeping the drinks flowing, my tiny stack slowly shrinking.
The blokes got rowdy and even looser, trash talking like they’d seen the big boys do it on Late Night Poker.
Sean was up, I was down.
A tight range doesn’t play well against maniacs, so I thought ‘Fuck it, it’s Sean’s money’ and started throwing in some under the gun raises with high cards and suited connectors.
It got respect for a couple of rounds but the drink was kicking in and Bob turned bluff-catcher on me, forcing me to fold for a big chunk of my stack.
I sat tight for awhile, sulking.
Bob hit a two-outer to bust his mate, then launched into a protracted story about a Hamburg brothel and a red-headed dwarf with skills most regular size girls could only dream of.
He was distracted enough with the telling to check into a wet board and when he realised his mistake he overcompensated with his final bet. I snap called and turned over a full house.
Bob had – fucking inevitably – quads.
So, what did I learn from this?
About poker, not much, but I got a great character out of Bob and a story about a German prostitute I wouldn’t have heard from anyone but a pissed up, loose-tongued builder.
And that is the moral of my story. As writers we need tonnes of raw data if we’re going to spit out something decent, but cannibalising your early years can only carry you so far, unless you’re from circus people – in which case disregard this, you don’t need any help.
The rest of us grow up and start editing the crazy out of our lives. We slip away from the mates who are always borrowing money or getting arrested for some shit or other, start drinking in quieter pubs and having people round for dinner.
We still need the crazy though and where are we going to get it? From our nice, new friends who read The Guardian and think Kirsty Allsopp is just marvellous?
Proper on-the-page crazy has to be worked at; talk to the people your gut instinct tells you to avoid, the ones your eyes glide over like they’re furniture, because if you listen I guarantee they will talk. People want to spill, it’s perhaps the only good thing to come out of our culture’s confession-driven media, this widespread inability to keep it shut.
It is writer heaven.
Okay, I’ll admit there are risks involved in going slumming – especially for girls – but hey, that’s what knuckledusters were invented for.