How could any self respecting Dungeon Punk not want to get his teeth into a book with a title like What Would Gary Gygax Do? What we have here is a selection of autobiographical short stories from the poison pen of Mass Movement Magazine editor Tim Cundle that follows on from his astonishingly bleak debut novel, Compression.
Writers have a decision to make when putting these collections together. Are they individual stories standing or falling within their own tiny universes or are they thematically linked tale, sharing common locations, settings or characters? Tim Cundle manages to successfully combine both formulas within this impressive anthology. Thirty different tales of life, love, death, drugs, growing up and lashing out all threaded together by a bittersweet perspective that illustrates that in spite of all his piss and vinegar, the author isn’t quite ready to surrender just yet.
Sure, it’s bitter and cynical but the passion that drives the writing is not that of someone who welcomes defeat willingly. Tim survives his own abuse and disappointments with the dogged determination of an ageing prizefighter. Soaking up the body blows, still waiting for the opportunity to land that big right hand that changes the game. It’s an outlook I find myself very familiar with as the rebel yell of defiant youth slowly becomes a scream into the abyss of middle age as life grinds inevitably towards death. As someone who sits within the same cultural demographic as the author it’s hard to read What Would Gary Gygax Do? and not feel an immediate connection with the subject matter.
The Mclaren Theory is a salty observation on band life that anyone who has ever trawled around the toilet circuit in a shitbox van will surely be able to relate to. The eternal battle, on one side creativity, defiance, enthusiasm and anger vs the disappointments, the fist fights, the gigs where three people pay in, the inter-band conflicts that gnaw down to the bone and hollow you out and on and on. But still, in spite of all that disheartening shit, we persist.
There’s stuff about growing up as a bored punk in a shitty little town and all the wild schemes and the mischief you create just to kill the time until that chance to get out and get on finally arrives. Then there’s Bargain Basement Rebellion and its reflections on punk rock ideals verses putting a meal on the table. Convincing yourself you are maintaining your integrity whilst your mates drop the baggage and chase the high powered job, the nice house, the vanilla Instagram feed. The endless spiral of blood pact friendships born in the defiant heat of teenage summers slowly cooling into occasional acquaintance, inevitably becoming that person you used to know, that sometimes ‘likes’ your shit on Facebook.
All this sounds pretty miserable but Tim delivers his ruminations upon the species with enough caustic wit and blood in his teeth to keep What Would Gary Gygax Do? on the right side of naval gazing self absorption. Each story reads like a caffeine frazzled ‘Fuck You’ to polite society and it’s bullshit expectations whilst tipping a glass to still being out of step with the world.
If you have ever read and enjoyed Dan O’ Mahoney’s Four Letter World, Henry Rollins’ Black Coffee Blues or just simply enjoy the art of telling a good fucking story then What Would Gary Gygax Do? is definitely worth your time.
Grab it from Amazon HERE