Homeless Takes Readers on A Not-So Magical Journey with Hank Williams
by jerome spencer
After all the tremors amassed their destruction, she somehow stood. And this, more than her excitable laugh or sophisticated shape, was what Hank Williams realized he loved so much about her.
I’m not going to pretend that This Hasn’t Been A Magical Journey So Far isn’t an odd read; it’s specific and weird and kind of obscene. It’s also brilliant and insightful and hilarious and heartbreaking. Homeless uses a storytelling technique so compelling, so masterfully crafted and so unique that it’s impossible not to get wrapped up in his bizarre adventure through what I can only assume is a subconscious gray dreamland that fades in and out of an even more gray reality. The narrative takes its reader through every possible emotion at an almost dizzying pace and is painfully visceral at times. But it is definitely odd.
This Hasn’t Been is about Hank Williams - not the famous country singer, but a guy that “could be effortlessly interchanged with the final note of a really sad, heartbreaking, old-fashioned country song” - and his road trip through his own mind with a giant talking cat named Sid in van they call Nancy. Not just any road trip, but a very harrowing, vulgar road trip on a gray highway through an endlessly gray desert while being lethargically chased by the abyss, eating everything in its path. This Hasn’t Been is also (and actually) the love story between Hank Williams and Patsy Cline - also not the country singer - in a psychiatric facility. It’s a fast and impossible love; the story of two human beings intertwined and doomed from the beginning slowly awaiting their demise. It’s about both of these things because these are the same thing.
The juxtaposition works mostly because Homeless is adept at weaving them together with purposefully obvious hints and indications, none that I’m going to give away here. The cast of characters is small and unsympathetic, lending itself to some uncomfortable moments that I don’t want my mom to ever find out I read and a very fluid moral compass. Homeless also pushes the story with the most brilliant and original similes, defying cliche almost instinctively, and the most obtuse and genius metaphors and symbolism since Lewis Carroll. It’s a fearless kind of writing and, while I’m reluctant to bring up Hunter S. Thompson, it’s reminiscent of the best parts of Fear and Loathing. The parts that actually withstand the test of time.
This Hasn’t Been had me laughing and reeling in discomfort while simultaneously enthralled and fully invested in it’s stakes. It pushes fiction to it’s most audacious limits while avoiding being weird for weirdness’ sake. It’s packed with raw emotion and unadulterated insight. I can honestly say that some of the most profound things I’ve pondered are in this overtly strange novel. It’s a hard sell - genre-bending and obtuse - but absolutely worth exploring and seeking out. If you get nothing else out of it, you’ll be wildly entertained.