Review: People Live Still in Cashtown Corners, by Tony Burgess

>>Published: October 2010

>>Finally got around to it: November 2010

I sit without taking my eyes off her. The hole in her forehead isn’t closing or healing, but it isn’t festering either. Her eyes are shaded prettily in blue and purple. Bruises that haven’t changed. She pulls her long black hair back behind her shoulders.

***

Tony Burgess is a very disturbed man.

From the author of Pontypool Changes Everything comes a sparse, economical novella about one gas station attendant’s sudden decision to become a mass murderer. Why would he do this? Boredom. A break from the everyday. Because it beats pumping gas for a living.

Or, more likely, because he has simply snapped—completely splintered from reality (something which is fairly evident later on when considering his connection to the girl mentioned above).

There isn’t an action in People Live Still in Cashtown Corners that isn’t unsettling. Gross. Barbaric. But that’s why it works. The “spare no unnecessary text” approach of Burgess’ writing gives the book a strange duality: on one hand, it’s incredibly quick to read, compelling enough to keep turning the pages, and will likely be breezed through in a morning; on the other hand, the bluntness to some of the events, descriptions and the main character’s internal thoughts will twist your stomach into knots, causing you to want to slow down, to want to take a breather from Bob Clark’s rampage.

From start to finish, the book reads like a disaffected child’s attempt at self acceptance—immature and removed from the behaviours of a “normal” human being, Bob Clark’s blood and brain-soaked journey is a tangent to a life he hasn’t yet figured out. The death and destruction left in Bob’s wake could be seen as the classic Mustang of some midlife crisis spending spree—the ability to accept his life for what it truly is and the inability to connect to the failed attempt at a life well wasted until the final line of text.

And fuck you, Tony Burgess, if “blood moving through the cruiser like spiders jumping” pops up in my dreams tonight.

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