Michael Essington’s second book is certainly a page-turner, despite grievous errors, many of which could be fixed fairly simply. I’d reviewed Essington’s chapbook he did with David Gurz, and found his fiction tale intriguing, if a bit rough. So, it was interesting to read some of Essington’s non-fiction and see how he tackles that material. These are tales from his life, his experiences with his family and celebrities, as well as show reviews and interviews.
Essington writes from the heart and has some great stories to tell, whether it’s meeting singer Eddie Money or experiences with his health. It’s the substance of the material that made me read this in two sittings (although I could easily have made it one if it wasn’t for responsibilities like work and sleep). The stories are cool in that they cover such a wide range of subjects, and ones that many of us can relate to as well: music, family, and work. Others are less relatable: going to prison and siblings who steal your inheritance when your dad dies. Some of the tales are short and to the point, while others develop over the course of many pages.
As an author, Essington knows what makes for a good tale and writes in such a way that allows the reader to feel as though they’re listening to a friend telling a story: it is comfortable and easy-going. Essington would never be accused of being formal or academic in his style and voice. And given the type of material he covers, it would be wrong for him to write in such a manner. He’s rough around the edges (the guy seems to get in more fights in one book than I’ve been in my entire life). Often times I felt as though I was reading a zine that was thrown together rather than a book that had been edited and revised meticulously.
Unfortunately, there is a line between being too laid back and too formal in one’s writing, especially in book form and especiallywhen you have such great stories as Essington does. As I’ve often been told in my writing classes, ninety percent of writing is revision. And Life Won’t Wait could use a great deal of it. More often than not, it was something where important details were left out of stories. For example, Essington served time in prison but doesn’t ever go into any sort of detail about how he ended up there. Other times, it was details that were kept in that weren’t necessary. In some cases, stories that were short could have been longer and vice versa.
An additional quibble—but one which needs to be mentioned in that it was affecting the reading—is the layout. There were blank pages at the end of a chapter where there didn’t need to be, line breaks out of nowhere, and, on approximately a half dozen occasions, content would just repeat or disappear entirely. I’d be reading a paragraph, turn the page, and suddenly find myself in an entirely different paragraph. Some might say, “Fuck that, this is punk rock. It doesn’t have to be perfect.” But it’s no different than listening to an album that skips in the middle of one song to a minute later. It’s not compromising; it’s about putting out a work that meets basic proofreading standards.
Just like you wouldn’t put out an album without someone mastering the record, a book needs an editor. What Life Won’t Wait needs is the heavy hand of an editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader. Yes, finding these people takes time and money, but it’s worth it to put out a work that you don’t have to make any excuses about or provide any explanation for. The voice doesn’t have to be compromised; it would be tightened and strengthened through the assistance of an editor. Providing such assistance for Essington’s writing would take him from being a guy with some good stories to being a respectable writer with a presence. –Kurt Morris (Michael Essington, 17105 Roscoe Blvd. #3, Northridge, CA91325)