Review of Fault Lines

Fault Lines     Gary Beck

Social commentary writ large.

four stars

A review is one person’s take on another’s work, and thus is personal and depends on background, expectations, and experience. So as always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to the real stuff, Beck’s book.

You will find some eighty-eight poems. Beck is a bit didactic, not surprising given the amount of social commentary present in this work. In more than one case I found myself wishing I’d said it that well myself, in a blog perhaps. The extreme evil of child soldiers is scarily depicted in Homo Homini Lupus, with an interesting side glance at the perpetrators of massacres: “They are not hallowed warriors /respected by those they protect. /They will have no parades.”

In State of the Union: “Yet we act surprised /when rejected offspring /erupt in tragic violence,/ while custodians of tomorrow, /failing in their duty, /are richly rewarded.” This is the country that elected Donald Trump, in part because of increasing inequality.

Somewhere I have a book of essays which includes one entitled “The War on ______”. Beck has a terse version of this in Ominous Signs, pointing out that the current war on terror follows the failed war on drugs and the failed war on poverty. No spoilers for this short punch to the gut; turn to this when you have the book in front of you.

Those scrolling for the tiny carps can give up. There might be a typo. Back to the real stuff.

Again, Beck reminded me of another writer, Noam Chomsky, who has commented on the USA’s moral position (the lack of one) as a terrorist nation. For a long exposition of America’s history of international action which profited special interests, turn to The Spoils of War.

In a favourite poem, Lost in the Land of Plenty, Beck gives us a first-person experience, forcing us, the readers, to be in the situation. Here’s the opening: “I live in a welfare hotel /and when the electricity /gets shut off again…”

If you’ve ever questioned the campaign / election process, and why it costs so much, you’ll enjoy Do We Get What We Pay For.

Anyone who has felt unsafe walking alone will identify with Urban Sorrow, where we find this: “Intruding beams from street lamps /sing illusion songs of safety.” It is not possible to give the full feel of this poem in a short quote.

Beck can be cynical, as in Learning Experience, and again in Compliance. For a short poem on alienation, turn to Super Highway.

I will close with another favourite, Pedestrian Traffic. Here Beck takes you in to the temporary occupants of a small park.

Now for my star count boilerplate. My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try hard to be consistent. Four stars feels about right here: Beck is extremely good at what he does. Strongly recommended.

Kindle Book Review Team member.