by Pierz Newton-John
Spineless Wonders, $19.99 pb, 173 pp, 9780987089762
In this collection of short stories from Pierz Newton-John, the author calls upon the suburban familiarity of a garden weed: couch grass, the fast-spreading pest whose rhizomes grow rapidly in a suffocating network, until the area it covers is ‘strangled’ and the custodian must ‘pull up the entire intractable tangle and start again’. This network of affliction that spreads throughout Newton-John’s characters – disaffection, self-denial, drug dependency, turmoil, ambivalence, sheer despair – is handled nimbly by Newton-John, who wields a superb descriptive talent. Each story ends with the dislodging of some kind of rot, or the threat of destruction, because a situation is no longer sustainable.