decomP Magazine’s Spencer Dew chimed in with his thoughts on Songs of Vagabonds, Misfits, and Sinners, and I was surprised to read his comparison between my work and Henry Miller’s. While I’ve always been a big fan of Herr Miller, I don’t consider him a direct influence on my writing style. Yet, Dew saw in the stories a certain bent that reminded him of Miller’s commitment to working class folk. Or as he stated:
“Ken Wohlrob shares a certain ideal with Henry Miller, a commitment to ‘the streets’ as that which stands in opposition to ‘literature.’ As laid out at the start of Black Spring, Miller believed that ‘In the street you learn what human beings really are; otherwise, or afterwards, you invent them.’”
It is an interesting take on my style. To be honest, I don’t write about the people I do as a stance against literature. I do it because these are the type of people I grew up around and lived next to all my life. So those types of stories and the fate of those characters are fascinating to me. There’s a lot of bad in those tales, but also a lot dark humor, that laughing at the struggle. And to me it makes for a potent cocktail, one that is neither for or against anything in particular. It’s just what I like doing.
But I enjoyed Spencer’s review because it was well thought out and dissected my writing more than anyone has in a long while. And he gave me a few jabs as well, but that’s what makes for an interesting review. And I’m glad ultimately, he found more good in the book, than bad.
“…in the end there is an ample dose, too, of the ‘accident and incident, drama, movement’ that Miller argued was the inheritance of being born and raised in the streets.”
As for Mr. Miller, he’ll be joining Nathaniel West and Nelson Algren based on the reviews Songs of Vagabonds, Misfits, and Sinners has received so far. Not bad company to be in.