The Free by Willy Vlautin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I heard Willy Vlautin speak at Adelaide Writers Week 2015. A likeable, engaging, laid back man he is, as you’d expect from an alt-country singer/songwriter. He spoke passionately about the fate of brain damaged ex-servicemen in the U.S.A., mostly struggling to survive under the huge burdens of medical expenses and depression.
“The Free” is about one such ex-serviceman, but also about other working poor and marginalised people struggling to keep their heads above water in neo-con America.
It does paint a gripping picture of their lives. But I struggled at times to follow the narrative, which switches between reality and anaesthetic induced dreams. It is in the dreams that the concept of “The Free” is introduced – apparently a band of tea-party type vigilantes (I think). It didn’t quite work for me and left me dissatisfied. But an author worth following.
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I popped over to Tram Stop 6 yesterday afternoon to have a look at the poetry signs and billboard. Looks good. Here’s a gallery of snaps of them. Click on the first thumbnail and it will bring up the slide show.
Back in late 2013, I participated, along with several other writers / artists, in a project to write words for a public art project at tram stop 6, about halfway between Adelaide and Glenelg. This is the very grey concrete tram stop:
I wrote about it here. The project was organised by Mike Ladd and Cathy Brooks for Marion Council
The project is in the process of being implemented. Here are some pics provided by Mike Ladd. I haven’t dropped by to look at it yet. There will be an official opening sometime soon.
I’ve won something. Something big. Two business class return tickets Adelaide – London and 3 nights in a London hotel. Just for updating my details on the University of South Australia alumni site. All I have to do is attend a function in London around April next year.
I did my M.B.A at the Uni of SA about 24 years ago. This is part of their 25th anniversary event next year. Previously, it was the South Australian Institute of Technology. I think the year I graduated was their first cohort of Masters graduates as a University.
I’ve won things before. I was trying to remember what:
- a joint of beef at a butcher’s shop in Acton, London, which I used to pass on my way to school. About 1969 I think. It had a free special ‘opening up’ raffle. When I took the joint home my Mum suspected I’d pinched it.
- 10 quid on a one-armed bandit in Cardiff in about 1975. For some reason it sticks in my mind. 10 quid was a lot of money in those days.
- Various bottles of wine for running races (hard work).
- Numerous medals for running races (hard work).
- A few ‘on the page’ poetry competitions. (I think $150 was the biggest – hard work).
- A few poetry slams ($50 a go I think- hard work).
- The Rostrum South Australia Speaker of the Year competition, twice ($500 a go, that’s significant – really, really hard work).
- And going back to the Uni of SA, I won the Alex Ramsay medal for most outstanding student on the M.B.A. course, and that was the most work I’ve ever done to win anything, so maybe this is payback.
I think that’s about it. I don’t have a track record of winning random stuff like this, maybe because I don’t generally enter random competitions. This one didn’t even seem like a competition. No skill required, just update your details on the web. Apparently 15,000 other alumni did the same thing, but mine was the number that the computer selected.
So one of those wonderful surprises that reminds you of the role of chance in life.