Sunday, 10 May 2020

PLUMAS DE MUERTE: Tequila Journals and Dreams by Phil Motel @philmotel

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
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How I discovered this book: Already a fan.

In a Nutshell:  Non-fiction: memoir, journal entries and poems.

The Blurb
Life in a long-stay motel, overseen by the on-site muscle: 'if this was a movie, he'd be played by Steve Buscemi'. Twelve-hour shifts at a mundane job alongside a host of strange characters with their own struggle to make it to the end of the day. Anecdotes from journals of adventures past: wannabe musicians, ill-fated relationships and the bottom of a bottle.

Musings on life, death, dreams, and the frustrations of the writing process: the journal entries were written while during the creation of the author's debut novel, Rum Hijack.

Dream Diary
The second part of Plumas de Muerte is as it says: a small collection of dreams: what goes on while we are asleep?

A raw ride that makes no attempt to gloss over the darker side of the author's life at the time, while acting as a cautionary tale about the nightmare of substance abuse - and the final road of alcoholism/addiction.

My review:
The 'Tequila Journals', the first part of this book, makes up 80% of the whole.  There are two main settings: an unnamed place of work, and the motel in which the diarist lives.  Doesn't sound very thrilling?  It is.  PM is one of those scribes who has the knack of making an after-work beer in a fast food establishment or wrangles over his room rent with the seedy 'Steve Buscemi' as riveting as any 'fast-paced' action thriller. I once noted that memoir writer Val Poore managed to bring tears to my eyes in a short chapter about the lighting of oil lamps.  This was similar; it's not the subject matter, but the innate talent of the writer.  

When I got nearer to the end I felt that, although maybe not meant as such, it does make up an actual story.  We see how PM's frustration with his working life and writing increases, how he becomes jaded with (and fails to chase up) possible romantic opportunities, how his depression about events from the past deepens, his drinking becomes more and more out of hand, until happiness visits his life once more, only to be ripped away—and sends his life spiralling completely out of control.  At the end, I turned over the page and thought, 'What, no more?  But what happens next?'.  I'm hoping he will write the next 'chapter' at some point.

One of my favourite sections in the Tequila Journals was a look back at a crazy, chaotic time spent in Colorado, which reminded me of a Kerouac novel, though there's nothing pretentious, plagiarised or 'wannabe' about PM's writing style; it's unique, and appears to be the sort of effortless that tells me he doesn't realise how good he is.  Throughout, every character is perfectly captured in just a couple of lines of dialogue.

The dream diary at the end: I am one of those who dislikes dream sequences in films or books, and suppresses yawns when people go into detail about a dream they had, but I liked these; they were well put together, not rambling, and the style and structure varied.  Also, having read the book, I could see what was behind some of them—some aspects of loss, isolation and anger.

I've read the novel, Rum Hijack, that PM was writing at the time these journal entries were made, and I loved it, but in a way I like some aspects of this collection even more.  Includes some relevant artwork and photos.  Highly, highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Terry. Glad you liked it. Colorado was fun... It's hard to respond to these things but two things stuck out from your notes:
    jaded - absolutely.
    And my lack of details about the actual job, what it entailed. There's no need. Most jobs suck and are boring. Most face-to-face conversations about job details are boring and make me want to walk away so I really wouldn't want to read them either. People often say it's the people they work with that keeps them going in - so there they are.
    Thank you.