Poetry Shelf Review: Eamonn Marra’s 2000ft above Worry Level

Eamonn Marra, 2000ft above Worry Level, Victoria University Press, 2020

Have you read Eamonn Marra’s 2000ft Above Worry Level yet? It is so good. It is so real it hurts, because there you are in the edginess of life that is seldom smooth sailing, that offers up edges and grime and spikes and unspeakable challenges and making do and doing the things you need to do to get through the day. I laughed out loud and I winced and I almost cried and then I laughed out loud again and I just didn’t want to put the book down. The sentences are freshly flowing, the dialogue pitch perfect. The voice of the main character feels so real I feel like I am intruding into the story. A gatecrashing eavesdropping reader who wants everything to go ok. The bloke is just out of university and is trying to find a job, trying to hold down a room in a flat, trying to keep his mind in balance with anti-depressants, keeping in touch with his ex-girlfriend who he likes more than any other subsequent date. painting his mother’s fence slower than a snail with the help of top tips from a well-meaning neighbour. He is trying to write fiction in between the daily demands, and when his ex-girlfriend complains his short story is based on her, he claims it as fiction. Who knows whether fiction draws on real life and real life collapses into fiction in this kaleidoscopic rollercoasting 3D realism!

The novel is episodic, collaging pieces of a life, scenes from childhood alongside university days and post university, and it comes together as glorious conjunctions with its adhesive threads. Think persistence, think daily detail, what gets eaten, what gets agonised over, what gets said and what doesn’t get said, think humour and everyday tedium and enduring family attachments. The writing is almost like stream of conscious, yet it is sweetly crafted in its poise, its delicious ease. And if you crash against the dark, especially a psychological dark and the awkwardness of fitting in and making ends meet, if you do feel affected by this, and I sure did, you also absorb hope and light and rejuvenation. I started reading the book when an incomprehensible and insulting tweet about two new zealand poets really pissed me off. Reading 2000ft above Worry Level got me back on track and I just thought yes! This sublime self-transcending reading experience is why books matter.

Eamonn Marra is a writer and comedian. He was born and raised in Christchurch and now lives in Wellington. He has a masters degree from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Eamonn’s shows include Man on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2014), Respite (2014/2015), I, Will Jones (2016–18), and Dignity (2018). 2000ft Above Worry Level is his first book.

Victoria University Press page

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