In God, Grace, Dumb Luck, Phloyd Knucklez writes self-deprecating urban prose that explores the connections between his experiences with women, and snapshots of life in short story form with down-on-their-luck characters.
In a way, this is a difficult book to read because it’s not entirely clear if the writer understands how deeply depressed he is, even if his expectations for life are so low as to wear his distress and apathy as a badge of honor. His characters seem to reflect memories and situations he himself has been in, or search for meaning in their dark and squalid settings.
Addicts commiserate with losers, the writer is highly criticized by his mother at the same time as he disrespects her completely, a man feels displaced as he backtracks through ex-girlfriends’ sofas when he’s down on his luck, but still is not able to try to better himself. This lack of luck and engagement doesn’t stop Knucklez from having many opinions for how others should behave and think. Pieces such as “Something Distinct and Challenging, All On Its Own” question why others expect the world to change – however, the author has no alternatives or answers, only more questions that really lean toward “why bother?”
All of this may lead the reader to feel that this book is just too uncomfortable. It is, but it’s also full of brilliance. Yes, it’s raw and abstract and bites the hand the feeds it at every turn, but if for once the reader lets go of the initial defense felt that the author is presenting material that pushes him as an anti-hero of the most Bukowski barfly-style dropout type you can stand, the book is highly entertaining.
Knucklez has a fantastic knack for joining the dots between socially distressing situations and what they mean in a sterile and whitewashed environment we live in today. He’s digging up the roads paved over by shallow city living and the current lack of exploration of feelings and the soul. He forces a riot with his words, and therefore has to suffer the consequences as he pushes the envelope. This is controversial stuff, and maybe that’s why it’s so refreshing.
It seems in a way Knucklez is carrying the torch for a tradition of urban poetry that is all but lost, watered down in the somewhat diluted and sterilized in the tattered city scenes of Open Mic in LA and NYC – scenes that seem to consist of mildly humorous blog entry-style storytelling from privileged young diarists with bright futures rather than cantankerous failed novelists with addiction issues and no money. But this is the heart of the writing, and the fuel for the work, and he’s reclaiming the scene for Post Office and Howl.
Knucklez needs to have more faith in the material he produces, and needs to pay attention to tightening up the proofreading and presentation, as there are typos throughout. He will also have to ignore the opinionated if his work is to develop. There’s going to be some marketing ahead if the work sees the light of commercial success. Maybe we need to know more about Knucklez himself, as he seems a fascinating character, and the key to the work’s meaning.
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