While there have been many books documenting thrill of driving, the experience of the open road, it is Jack Kerouac’s On The Road that is probably the most recognisable travel fiction.
Charting the rise of the beat movement through the laconic prose of one of its most visible figures, this semi-fictionalised account of Kerouac’s picaresque adventures across the breadth of the United States captured both the thrill of freedom and the tragedy of youth and idealism. On The Road remains one a ‘must read’ for many lovers of fiction.
Perhaps less renowned but just as daring in its execution, J G Ballard’s Crash is a psycho-sexual thriller set in Britain. Written in 1973, it is about symphorophilia – the sexual fetish of car crash arousal. After suffering a crash of his own the narrator (named after the author) falls in with a group of outsiders led by Dr Robert Vaughan, a ‘former TV scientist, turned nightmare angel of the expressways.’ ‘Crash’ is a short, dense read that challenges our ideas of sexuality and normality in the face of new technologies.
More recently, former NiTH writer Lance Cross released his own picaresque road adventure, ‘Diary Of A Man Being Driven Around Africa On A Truck With Some Other People‘ – a mostly comic, sometimes tragic tale about Steve, a man who expected to holiday in spain, but finds himself being carted around Africa in a truck, hoping to survive for five months so he can see Sophie again. It’s just as much about the people as it is the places, something that Lance has shown to be an expert at during his time at NiTH.
The Custom Rims Shortlist
This week four authors vied for pole position in an award that asked us to consider the automobile from just about any angle.
The openness of the award gave us a wide variety of tales. NiTH favourite Lydia Trethewey kicked things off with An Imaginary Person Who Runs Alongside The Car, a conversation on the value of a machine, and the dangers of fetishisation, Lydia exploits a generational gap, expertly capturing differences of opinion and forcing the reader to think about their own moral compass. Here’s a quote.
“I’d be happy to teach you,” he continued “come by the workshop and I can show you what a car really is; a beautiful piece of art, a force to be reckoned with.”
“That’s a Boys Club mentality. You’re not talking about roads that lead wherever you want, actually being in a car. You’re fetishising the car as an object, something to be coveted and hidden away in a garage. It’s driving that makes the car what it is.”
Not wanting to be outdone, our other rising star of 2015 brought us Swerve. Ah Warren has bled tragedy for us before, but Swerve takes us right into the heart of a frozen moment in time, making use of the second person with powerful results:
You’ve actually been longing for that all afternoon. She’s been screaming at you for hours. Demanding to know why. Not accepting your answers which, even though you had patiently rehearsed them all week, had come out of your mouth tasting like stale bread. Just the usual lame excuses.
Joey To is a NiTH perennial, and his skill was on display again this week with the scythe-ingly funny Death And A Salesman’s Cousin. Winding a brutal, comic narrative into a revenge fantasy that characterises the usually sombre reaper as a party boy and more than a bit of an asshole, Joey takes us 100kms an hour to a finale that demonstrates it is possible to weave a complex tale in less than 1000 words.
The lanky figure in a black-hooded trench coat disembarks and glides into the showroom. Rod can’t quite discern its face but there’s something about the eyes… they’re either really dark or it’s just sockets. But a customer is a customer.
Finally Ian Harrison returned to the short list after a brief hiatus with Camikaze. It’s been a long time between drinks for Ian, but it seems the time off has been well spent. Camikaze is a pun-filled, witty mash up that reads somewhere between a Pixar film and an episode of Jersey Shore.
Cam looked her over afresh. Similar vintage, well-maintained, if not a showroom model, no bodywork dents. Modern pinstripes, not too many k’s on the clock and a new, sensible set of matt-black boots, slung close to the ground. Smart, sassy, no-nonsense, regularly serviced, well garaged and low maintenance, by her look.
The airbags appeared to be an after-market addition, though.
As the judges scores and comments filtered in this week, a lot of praise was given to the breadth of stories that made our short list. From humour and satire to tragedy and literary tet-a-tet’s the Custom Rims Award was a great showcase for NiTH and the variety of stories we see week in week out.
Our winner this week has always demonstrated a willingness to challenge themselves against any type of award. An author who works diligently at the fundamentals while fearlessly experimenting with form and function.
It doesn’t hurt that he does his own art as well.
Congratulations for Joey To for his excellent Death And A Salesman’s Cousin!!
Joey continues to show he is more than a flash in the pan, with published work spreading all over the internet. Make sure you check out his website at www.joeytoey.com for more on one of NiTH’s favourite authors.
Thanks to everyone who participated this week. It was a hard fought challenge and our judges were excellent in their assessment and feedback as always. Stay tuned for our next shortlist, The onerous Rat In A Cage Award, coming up later today, as well as a new award for you crazies coming out tomorrow.