Review: ‘Vagabond’ by A.P.Wolf

If there’s ever a time or place to be reading novels set in the muggy heat of the Malay archipelago then I’m guessing a drab and wet November in Jersey is probably it. I’d been effusively recommended this novel by a friend, and after only a couple of paragraphs it wasn’t hard to see why.

We join our narrator enjoying a solitary Naked Lunch style breakdown in a Singapore hotel room. The prose is florid, fast and funny, and packed with some wonderful turns of phrase. It’s hard not to be instantly gripped by the sleazy heat of his surroundings, the prostitutes, gangsters and assorted wack-jobs in whose company we find ourselves. An elusive Boss is referred to – as is the sense that our narrator is in the middle of some serious strife – before we are transported back to the days of his equally wild, priapic and Tiger beer-drenched adolescence. It’s here that we stay (with occasional returns to his barracked future self), joining our teenage host for epic house-trashing parties, violent run-ins with the local Malays, cock-fights, riots, surrendered virginities, pubic crabs, shit, whiskey and death. In no particular order.

At times the descriptions borders on the incredible, but that’s just fine; the whole book is so entertaining and the narrative voice so engaging that I found myself simply handing myself over and enjoying the ride. There’s a narrative arc of sorts, with the novel culminating in a showdown with a cobra and the symbolic Samson-style shearing of our young vagabond’s locks (ironically at the same time as he becomes able to ejaculate), though the main impression I left the novel with was that of wanting more. 

At only one hundred and fifty pages Vagabond is a short read, yet its pages pulse with the filthy, beautiful vibrancy of life in the raw, featuring descriptions and dialogue that provide some genuine laugh out loud moments. This is top quality writing from a lively and unique voice; I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Updated: March 28, 2014 — 9:26 am

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