Misconceptions of Hell by Michael Essington

04 Aug

Eddie Cook

Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell
Written by: Michael Essington
Essex Digital Media
June 25, 2016

Michael Essington is the author of five books, and to read one is perhaps to read them all. Essington is the chronicler of ragged, drunks, the pale, beer-bellied, out-of-work writer lounging in twisted sheets, the cuckold and those dreaming of becoming cuckolds–in short, a world inhabited with bad luck and smart-alecky snipes.

This beautifully grimy life certainly is evident in his new collection, Misconception of Hell, which, at nearly 140 pages, is a hefty portion of poems and short stories.

For Essington, the sordid life is inexhaustible. His first book, Last One to Die (2011), was peopled with oddballs on the edge of reaching their destiny: the exquisite hangover that resonates into another afternoon of cheap (and sometimes expensive) drink. Five years later, his new collection still feeds off the old obsessions–drink, “bad women,” a few good women, his father and mother, the race track, his years wasting away at dead-end jobs–and his loyalty to friends to whom the average pedestrian would give room passing on the sidewalk.

The pedestrian would make room for the hunkering characters in the story Bo. The story is about Hank and Bo, who, while investigating a suspicious husband, end up robbing him of his drugs and cash and inadvertently causes his suicide.

The portraits of downtown life are almost always moving–in spite of the grime and foul language spit through rotten teeth–in part because the author’s identification with the common life is honest and so bewilderingly caring that it can stump more than one reader wondering why he relishes this seediness. In the poem Last Call, he tells the story of Judgment Day in a rundown bar, while St. Peter cleans up. In Lazarus, he describes a man on the verge of suicide but has a change of heart after sharing his lunch with a flock of pigeons.

The finest story in the collection is Nam, which is about a farm boy from Kansas that longs for the big city. He gets drafted to Vietnam and witnessed many atrocities. Leaves the army and becomes a Kansas Police officer and views more atrocities, which sends him back to the farm.

In Jack, he describes someone suffering from depression. Someone that has given up on everything, but booze and his childhood blanket.

While we can say that the area of experience is the same, for many of his readers, it’s the welcome familiarity that calls them back.




Broken is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

One Response to “Misconceptions of Hell by Michael Essington”

  1. 1
    Roger Dean Says:

    Best book I’ve read in the last 5 or 10 years.

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