Well, let’s get one thing straight: there’s nothing flimsy about Ellis Sharp’s The Dump. Don’t let the book's scant ninety-two pages fool you. Oh no. The Dump, published by the inimitable Zoilus Press, is a behemoth, a howling caterwaul of gargantuan proportions. A relentless ninety-two page outpouring so dense, so deliciously jam-packed with literary allusion, linguistic inventiveness and socio-political truisms it should leave you salivating dribbling maddening for more. And it does, it truly warrants immediate re-reading. As Mac Daly opines in the blurb: “I opened, read and closed The Dump in a state of bewildered excitation. It prompted so many questions; only a re-reading will give some more answers…” And he’s right of course, this book is chock-a-block with answers, you just have to dig deep that’s all – as one would looking for treasure within a mouldy, stinking rotten terrain. The Dump’s candour slugs you with such force, such bowel-busting ferocity it leaves you wondering why this book isn’t face out on the shelves of every major bookstore the width and breadth of the country. The Dump is a cry out against all that is wrong with society and with late Capitalism in particular (its politics, culture, art and literature). Just as in T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland Ellis Sharp’s The Dump is where the forgotten products of the urban sprawl and rejected end up; all the dregs, the slops, the scraps and tit-bits, the ugly discarded leftovers we don’t want anymore, the used and abused – The Dump is the state we’re in, the last refuge of the endless, mindless marginalised, the stripped and dejected throngs who have been chewed up and mercilessly spat out into its desolate, damp and bitterly cold environs. And just like Eliot’s Wasteland Sharp’s Dump will leave you exalted and, to reiterate once again, quite breathless in wonderment, eager to find out more. But be careful not to misconstrue me here, unlike The Wasteland, The Dump is non-exclusive and it’s far from elitist. The Dump, quite frankly, is open to all.
Plot? Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin actually: “[The Dump]…takes us inside the mind of a half-deranged inhabitant of ‘The Dump,’ a vast waste tip on the edge of London, where the outcasts of our society wander amidst its filth and rubbish.” Ultimately The Dump is “a void, to be avoided” (Pg 19), and its opening scenes fully clarify this statement. Reminiscent of the ferry crossing incident in Celine’s Death On Credit, or anything Francois Rabelais could muster in his faeces-drenched Gargantua and Pantagruel, the opening pages to The Dump are a wonderfully observed descent into scatological surrealism. Imagine, if you can, the entire Royal Family, in the company of various dignitaries, floating over the vast waste tip and its contained occupants in a giant air balloon (or Aerostat). Then, en masse and in perfect symmetry, whilst opening shutters and flaps, baring naked buttocks and cocks, the Queen and her assorted dignitaries proceed to piss, puke, spit and defecate with gay abandon on the unfortunate inhabitants below. Picture pandemonium as The Dump dwellers scatter and scramble for cover, rolling in the Queens shit and piss, reeking and shrieking. And all the while the queen basking in the hilarity of it all – elucidated and painted expertly within the Proustian confines of Sharp’s mellifluous prose of course. But this isn’t some act of juvenilia on Sharp’s part, the symbolism is quite apt. Leonardo da Vinci is stated at believing human beings were mere machines invented to pass excrement through. If this is the case Ellis Sharp’s The Dump takes this simple thought one step further – a rather logical step. In The Dump society is the mechanism in which the excrement trickles through slowly from the pristine top to the soiled bottom. In fact the narrator’s journey resembles the journey of, some once fresh, food-stuff as it travels through the digestion system, the numerous dietary tracts and winding intestine where it is dutifully, slowly stripped of all nutrients until all we are left with is rancid spleen and bile before it is passed through the bowel into the unwashed abyss.
We see the products of inertia exemplified in The Dump, people are loners, they drift off into their own worlds, they are distrustful and on the rare occasions people actually do congregate it quickly descends into violence. There is no escape because, quite simply, nobody cares – nobody cares about each other on the inside and outside The Dump nobody cares about anything else other than their immediate lives. The metaphors are abundant.
The Dump is a rather loud novel; the cacophony of voices is rather alarming, a multitude of sirens alerting the outer world to its inhabitants struggles and plight. Yet, etched into the barrage of vernacular and colloquialisms is a solemn tranquillity – that same sombreness First World War Diarists often speak of: the inexplicable beauty in a silent flame, the smoke, ash and embers of a ruined past. The splenetic narrator, in true Metafictionist style, constantly disassociates himself with the narrative, changing facts and dialogue after various rewrites and drafts of the manuscript before finally letting go and tying it, rather poetically, to a balloon, sending it up into the stratosphere and over the electrified walls of The Dump forever.
The sheer flight of Ellis Sharp’s imagination is the true strength of this intense novel; it is relentless in its scope. The book needs more than just reviews and deserves a full case study regarding its linguistic, literary and political mechanisms and allusions. Ellis Sharp’s The Dump needs further unravelling. Quite frankly a short review doesn’t do this book the justice it so thoroughly deserves. In keeping with Mac Daly’s earlier statement Albert Camus once harangued, regarding the reading of Franz Kafka: “The whole art of Kafka consists in forcing the reader to re-read. His endings, or his absence of endings, suggest explanations which, however, are not revealed in clear language but, before they seem justified, require that the story be reread from another point of view.” (Pg 112 Myth of Sisyphus). And just like Kafka Ellis Sharp demands the same, it is with The Dump, as the narrative falls/slides into the abyss at the final/mid sentence of the narrator the reader is forced to return to the very beginning for further scrutiny, albeit a tad wiser and self-assured. One assumes the reader must take into account a deep literary understanding here on Sharp’s part, more in line with Joyce’s “recirculation” rather than a flippant abruptness invented to tease and bamboozle the reader. So there it is. Ellis Sharp’s The Dump. As for me, you. Read this book.
Lee Rourke © 2005
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