Shag Carpet Action
It’s not often that a book’s cover art captures the essence of what’s inside as well as the Ryan Lawrie illustration that graces Matthew Firth’s Shag Carpet Action. The revolting floor covering from the ’70s that gives the collection its title here looks like a writhing bucket of bait worms, or, more in keeping with the nature of the stories, a flailing sea of sperm. Right from the (literally) in-your-face opening, sex is front and centre. It is, however, a desperate kind of sex, typified by frustrated wanking, and gangbangs with drugged-up prostitutes. In the book’s final section, a novella about union politics, a magic marker is likened several times to a dildo. For many years now Firth has been at the forefront of a school of urban, gutter writing, both in his own work and as publisher of Ottawa’s Black Bile Press. Given the grotesque extremes and exaggerations it runs to it’s not strictly realism, but it does present a slice of life less examined in mainstream Canadian fiction and pursues its contemporary obsessions with determination and energy.