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.

Buy the book here.


“Double Bird” Is Full Of Wonderment and Thoughtful Turns

by Jerome Spencer

“When the institutions climb inside the meager house that is your humble body, and claim your body as your property, all you have to do is show no pain, and puke them back up, send them flying.”

When writing a review, I like to select a powerful line or two from the book and lead in with that quote. That proved a daunting task with Double Bird, because so many sentences absolutely blew me away. An anomalous and intimate collection of short stories, Double Bird is a solid emotional rollercoaster masquerading as intangible entertainment.

Quite a few of Bud Smith’s stories may be easy to quantify as absurd, but none are ever incongruous or inane for the mere sake of absurdity. Even the most bizarre stories in the book – like Gling Gling Gling, a tale of running-over a pedestrian and running errands with him as he dies in the passenger seat – is heavy with purpose and allegory. While Double Bird will elicit laughs and has more than a few wild turns, it’s also full of thoughtful prose and powerful purpose.

For all of its sense of wonderment and buoyancy, Double Bird excels at emotive substance. Bud Smith effortlessly pens passages that just creep into your psyche and are absolutely ruinous. When Smith writes, “There’s always someone somewhere screaming, just on the edge of earshot. You can choose to listen or you can ignore it” in the captivating story Pentagram, the insight is blatantly clear and enduring. 

Stories like The Paralyzer and The Moon did more than break my heart, I felt like I misplaced a little piece of myself after reading them and I’m still unsure of where it’s hidden. That’s the true merit of Double Bird, though; it’s so full of subtle, almost reluctant splendor that lingers and disguises itself as something, anything and everything else until it burrows into our very souls or whatever we keep deep in our chest cavities, respectively. It feels a lot like being in the wrong place and the right time. Or is it vice versa?

“So what if life is hurtful? So what if the bullet didn’t even have your name on it?”