:: Article

Dan Rhodes’ Gold

Dan Rhodes, Gold (Canongate)

When I was at high school, my best friend Steve drunk a pint of lager by pouring it onto the spread pages of Chaim Potok’s book, My Name is Asher Lev, using the inner spine as a funnel of sorts to direct the beer into his mouth. It wasn’t in any way an attack on Jewish culture, but rather a realisation that he was to be tested on the text the following day, and he hadn’t actually read it and was in the pub the night before drinking heavily. From memory, I think he spilled a fair bit of lager over his face. The reason I mention this is because I drunk a pint of ale out of my proof copy of Dan Rhodes‘ latest book, Gold. I drunk it in a pub I often visit at lunchtime during the week. It’s full of old gents this pub, and it would probably do well to change its name to God’s Waiting Room. Like most pubs, it is filled with regulars. ‘Regulars’ are people who go to the same pub, sit in the same seat, order the same drink, read the same newspaper, talk about the same things (sport/work), and tell the same jokes.

gold.jpg

Gold opens with a similar collection of characters. Much of the story in fact, is set within a pub called The Anchor in a small coastal Welsh village. The regulars there follow a fairly rigid routine, taking up their designated positions in either the public or lounge bars, joining the Monday night pub quiz, buying in pints of ‘Brains’, and commenting on the constantly noisy fridge: “…that fridge needs looking at.”

Gold reflects this sturdy, dependable environment. It is heart-warmingly regular, and even the arrival of a Japanese lesbian is quickly accepted because she too is a pseudo ‘regular’. It is not long however, before we meet a landlord who tells his regular customers “to stick their pickled eggs up their cockholes.” And we then read of a character who might well drink “his own urine from a chipped gravy boat” and masturbate “into his dead sister’s wedding dress.” Welcome to the charming world of Dan Rhodes.

rhodes_1.jpg

This is Rhodes’ sixth book, following a collection of one hundred (100 word) love stories, a further collection of short stories and three novels (though one of these was written by a female relative). I wanted to meet with him to discuss these, and his new work Gold, but his website “allowed no scope whatsoever for any author/reader interaction.”

I very much enjoyed reading Gold in my regular lunchtime pub, and at one point I wondered what Dan Rhodes’ pub would be like if he were to own one in real life. What would the piped music sound like, for instance? I decided that there wouldn’t be any piped music, and that all the patrons would instead hear a wet, slapping noise dispersed with some cellophane crinkling. And the soap in the bathrooms would be soap-on-a-rope. In summary, I would like to compare Gold with a pint of ale. The pint of ale I would choose is a Summer Lightning Gold Ale from the Hop Back Brewery: “IN A FLAT, WATERED DOWN WORLD OF TASTELESS NEW BOOKS, GOLD SHINES LIKE A FRESH, WELL-POURED ALE, SUCH AS A HOP BACK BREWERY SUMMER LIGHTNING.” (The regulars in my lunchtime pub shook their heads despairingly as I celebrated Gold by drinking my pint off its pages. But I didn’t spill much ale over my face because I think Steve and I have both grown up a fair bit since high school.)

m_57cfecaf854ae345b39cbf17cf8c01ab.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Paul Ewen’s first book, London Pub Reviews, is being published by Shoes With Rockets, available April 2007

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, March 9th, 2007.