Tuesday 2 March 2021

Review by Laurie Cusack of "Made by Sea and Wood, in Darkness"


These outsider stories are full of characters that could live on the fringe and margins of any society. Vital stories! A cracking read for the Greek taverna and Cafe Neon that awaits us. They stimulate and generate insight. Manna from heaven. Bravo! Alexandros Plasatis’s superlative new collection of Greek-cum-Egyptian-related tales are packed with crafted sentences that are balanced, punchy, acerbic, staccato and engineered with quirky detail. 

One gets a buzz when something as good as this blows its way in from left field. In Plasatis’s pugnacious ‘The Legend of Zaramarouq,’ for instance, two local hard men lock horns in a Kavala taverna: blood, sawdust, cigarettes and beer fly in this epic brawl that resonates with mythical undertones: ‘Pavlo moved. He jumped up from his barstool and ran towards the giants. He didn’t know what  he would do once he got there, he just ran, and, when he got close enough, he took a leap and smashed a shoulder against Zaho’s body.’ 

Also, expletives detonate within Plasatis’s prose like an air bomb repeater fired into the hush of night. Such language helps build a rich vernacular tone that fuses the text with verve and believability, often surprising and shocking the reader at the same time: 'Knowing that the young waiter was watching him, he would catch Pavlo’s face and pull a face: “Un-fucking-believable” – then get on with the story.'

Harbour life is often brutal and seedy in Made by Sea and Wood, In Darkness, and Plasatis portrays this in a compelling matter-of-fact fashion. Plaudits. I was reminded of Charles Bukowski, Lucia Berlin and Denis Johnson’s narratives, as I carved through  Plasatis’s pared-back incendiary tales. Life can be scruffy, dark, funny and invariably, tough within their prose. Renowned texts of such ilk have a ‘terrible beauty’ about them – blue-collar-kitchen-sink-dirty- realist-in-your-face truths that knock you for six! In every rollicking story, Plasatis manages to capture these sensibilities. And by the end of this dark harbour stroll, you, too, will be gagging for retsina, ouzo and tsipouro. Down the hatch. Yamas! One for the road, then?

About the reviewer
Laurie Cusack has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Leicester. He is currently working on his first collection of short stories. His story 'The Bottle and the Trowel' is published in the anthology High Spirits: A Round of Drinking Stories. You can read more about his work here

You can read more about Made by Sea and Wood, in Darkness, as well as an excerpt from it, on Creative Writing at Leicester here

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