Tracing life from a childhood in an Italian-English family on Tyneside to becoming a Welsh-speaking freelance writer in Cardiff, Eisteddfod-winning author Tony Bianchi leads the reader through a series of increasingly bizarre vignettes. Each section is a free-standing short story but read together they form a ludic, untrustworthy autobiography where the rug of humdrum normality is constantly pulled from under our feet. Lured into trusting belief by the narrator’s direct, confiding tone, by the sometimes overwhelming weight of circumstantial geographical and historical detail, and by the photos and documents that seem to guarantee authenticity, again and again the reader is suddenly left rudderless, unsure of the boundaries between truth and fiction.
Did Bianchi ever play football in a Cardiff park with notorious Serbian war-lord Arkan? Is the floor of his local pub a concrete realisation of an M.C. Escher painting?
In England, Wales, and beyond, Bianchi introduces a series of extraordinary characters, from the devout, indulgence-collecting, organ-playing grandfather, to the plumber and Cumbrian nationalist Caedmon, or the piano-playing pharmacist with carpal tunnel syndrome. And whether at the centre of the narrative or reporting from the sidelines, there, constantly leading us on from one potentially disastrous situation to another, is the author as anti-hero, always earnestly self-deprecating, always reinventing himself, always challenging our assumptions about identity, time and memory.