A Shock is Keith Ridgway’s latest (not-exactly-a) novel (not-exactly-a-short-story-collection). In nine chapters his London based characters pop up in each other’s lives, sometimes peripherally, sometimes centrally, and the sections layer and themes build and it feels like both traditional and new storytelling. At the heart of Ridgway’s writing is his astonishing skill writing people who breathe on the pages. He digs beneath surfaces and reveals the interesting quirky parts of being human we all have. His dialogue is naturalistic, full of things unsaid, pauses and tangents. He takes a typical setting – the pub – and conjures it all so vividly, the boring mate, the pub weirdo, a shift in mood. People in the pub tell each other tales which echo those in A Shock. One story they make up cannot be told. “It untells itself.” Which is exactly the kind of headfuck A Shock offers.
There’s a wonderfully awkward exploration of racism within a long-standing friendship, the loneliness and sadness of a widow, gay sex and drugs, rented flats, and more rodents than I’m comfortable with. People go missing or are lost or hidden. The reader is gifted an intimate view and it’s all superb.
“It was a blank-sky day, all of London suspended in a bowl of hot milk, her headache spooning through the sludge of her brain, her eyes almost closed, a taste in her mouth of the metal in the air and the shit in the metal and the blood in the shit.” I mean, how fucking amazing is that?
The beginning story is of a widow listening to a party next door, the last story is from the party itself. There are loops and circles and echoes throughout this intriguing book. It’s a witty and smart and human and dazzling read and I think Ridgway is a rare genius. This is storytelling to be excited by. Such a treat to read something so cleverly crafted that it immediately demands to be reread and paid attention to.