nthposition online magazine

The wolf stepped out

by Tom Bradley

[ bookreviews ]

Jason Irvine, protagonist of Dave Migman's astonishing The Wolf Stepped Out, is "an exposed nerve."

But he wasn't always this way. There have been two good times in the past. Jason toured the British Isles and the European continent with Zoob Goulash, an underground band whose sound was like "a Bronze Age coin, dirty and corroded; but if you scraped it with a blade it shone like sunlight." And once he lived in the Scottish countryside with Rosa, a lovely woman, far from the poisonous city.

Zoob Goulash has broken up, and so has his relationship with Rosa, along with Jason's psyche and self-respect. For him, damned back in the hellish city now, "Life has teeth." And those teeth are sharp.

It's no wonder he's agoraphobic, when everyone looks at him "as though he's made of worms." He appears no less unattractive to his own self when accidentally looking into a mirror: "Shameful, guilty, ugly... his face was frightening. It was off-white plastic, bleached beneath the shock of unruly black hair."

The apartment he shares with two hellacious roommates is a disease in itself:
"Perhaps when people die they just leave some form of physical residue which taints the walls... like mould. Ageless misery ingrained into brick and mortar, sandwiched between each coat of red or green gloss paint. He had the suspicion that their flat had only ever housed degenerate losers and their memories filled the cracks and gaps‚the stupid waxy detritus of pathetic dreams coats these walls with a yellow stain of sickness."

Soon enough the entire cosmos begins to grow discolored by this pathology, and schisms into a horrible dualism: the Vain God of High Street consumerism is opposed by a being whom Jason, in his nihilistic perversity, reveres: the decay deity, the Goddess of Cracks, the Angel of Rust ("She's beautiful and I am her servant"). She reveals herself to him through a code of decaying cracks:
"Today the cracks made themselves known... He was lurking around the Zone, lured by the patterns locked into the pavement. The city was undergoing massive metamorphism. Her streets buckled and splintered. A web was formed, like protein seeking fronds of fungi seep within the soil so the cracks roved across the slabs and walls. They formed a cryptic alphabet; the cuneiform scrawl of his goddess unfolded before his eyes."

With exquisite, even sadistic virtuosity, Dave Migman causes Jason's desperation to increase, page by page, sustaining the tension to an unbelievable pitch, till, in a climax no less moving than bizarre, The Wolf Steps Out...

Here's an author, like Dante, equally at home in Heaven and Hell. It's incredible to relate, but Dave Migman evokes the Scottish countryside's loveliness with power sufficient to counterbalance the harrowing urban hideosities and the gargoyles who leave slime trails on the cobblestones.

In each locality, his language sheds light and darkness with equal beauty. This book explodes with poetry both infernal and celestial. And, if poor Jason Irvine ends at the furthest remove from redemption, Dave Migman's art constitutes its own damnable salvation.