Nobody’s Nothings, A: By Denis Sheeham, 160 pgs.

Jan 23, 2008

I tried. Lord, I really did. You ever go through an old journal from years ago and wonder just what the fuck you were thinking when you wrote down whatever it is you come across? Something where you wrote “fuck” a lot because you were fifteen and, well, saying it was cool at the time? Well, Denis Sheeham’s book is sorta of like that, reminding me of the little notebook I carry around all the time full of half-started story ideas and notes and journal-like entries, all of which have a long way to go before being considered “done.” It’s a compilation of random ramblings, poetry, excerpts from his zine Askew Reviews (including the story with the dude pretending to be Ben Weasel, which I distinctly remember having heard somewhere… it’s pretty funny), and various short stories. I tried to describe the book to someone last night, and I basically put it as someone just sweeping some old files, a zine, and whatever scraps of paper are lying around on his desk and in his pockets into a black garbage bag, then presenting the bag as his manuscript. Now I know that sounds really mean, but like I said, I tried. I’m sure Sheeham’s funny as fuck in person, probably, and an incredibly smart guy, but it just doesn’t seem to come across here as it should. I’m not averse to compilations of works or non-linear structure in my reading, but A Nobody’s Nothing just didn’t do it for me. Some of Sheeham’s fiction is really great, one story called “The Warmth” struck me as being perhaps the standout of the stories. The stories involving sex just seem unnecessarily over the top and not even as edgy as you’d think, and the “Brain Scribbles”—his random notes on anything from one-line thoughts that occur to him—to long rants on a variety of topics, including some girl at a Darkbuster show licking his face, to alcohol, to Oprah Winfrey (another gem), seem disorganized and somewhat shallow. You can make writing about dumb stuff interesting—I’ve read it before—and I just don’t really see it here. When his writing focuses on raising a daughter as a single dad, and some of the unintentionally funny shit that his daughter says, just brings a smile to my face (the closing quote had me laughing out loud on the subway to work in the morning as I read and almost missed my stop), but the fact is that the rest of this book just drags those great moments down. –Constantine Koutsoutis (Bone Print Press,

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