by WYATT DOYLE
published 2010 by New Texture Books
illustrations by Stanley J. Zappa
I’m a little late getting to this book from 2010, but quality doesn’t age. I first discovered Wyatt Doyle many years ago through his DVD commentary (done with Chris D.) on the amazing film DEATH SMILES ON THE MURDERER. I then became familiar with his blog New Texture and the books he’s published by other authors under his New Texture imprint (the wonderful collection of over-the-top, hard-boiled “men’s magazine” fiction, WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH is a must-read). Wyatt is also a fascinating photographer, and KSE used one of his pictures on the front cover of Doug Draime’s 2013 poetry chapbook DUSK WITH CAROL.
However, I had not read his fiction until I stumbled across a copy of STOP REQUESTED. The book is a collection of short, linked pieces set on the buses and at the bus stops of Los Angeles…and for me, the book is a wonderful addition to the literature of the lost and the doomed in the City of Angels. However, there is no whiff of tragedy or of condescension in STOP REQUESTED…no philosophizing narrator, no ironic detachment. What Wyatt Doyle has done with this book is to re-create on the page a complete world, the world of those who do not or cannot afford to drive and who rely on public transportation and those who drive the buses. This is a world not noticed or seen by those driving by in air-conditioned cars with the windows rolled up…and like most worlds, it has its hierarchy, its people consigned to (or choosing) roles, its territorial grabs, its people full of dreams and regrets and passions and pain, its people acting on a stage for the view of others—-sometimes fooling them, sometimes not. As the press release for the book states, “Public transportation is a great equalizer.” It’s one of those places like a hospital emergency room or the DMV Office or a jury room at the county courthouse or at a parade where a wide variety of people are thrown together and they are forced to jockey for position. For some of the characters in this book, making the right impression on the bus is as important as a corporate takeover is to a captain of industry. In a self-effacing, lean literary style that shows the influence of the men’s magazine authors Doyle has edited/compiled but also has the elliptical, post-modern zen understatement of a Richard Brautigan, Doyle presents these mini-dramas and mini-comedies and slices of urban life with a poet’s gift for the carefully-chosen detail and a playwright’s gift for dialogue that rings true yet has a sense of both menace and comedy, like what one would hear in an Edward Albee play. This is 21st Century America. Someone who wants to understand this age 100 or 200 years from now should read this book. It’s all here. As an author, Doyle does not step on the page and pontificate. He has read the tea leaves of everyday urban reality, and he has fashioned a collection of details and situations that comes alive for us, and allows the readers to come to whatever judgments they choose to. Some will find the book funny….some, tragic…some, a biting critique of capitalism and the class structure….some, an insightful window into mental health concerns….some, a work of sociological significance…some, an installment in the proud tradition of Los Angeles fiction. Like life, it’s there, it’s all around you, and you can choose what to do with it and how to view it.
To create this kind of understated yet pungent urban poetry is a real achievement. Many of these pieces are primarily dialogue, and the first-person narrative persona is a kind of cipher and thus a window for the reader. He is laid-back, tolerant, and one with the world in which he’s living. That’s also a hard trick to pull off as a writer, but it works very well here and puts us on that bus in the narrator’s shoes (and jeans), seeing through his eyes, hearing through his ears.
I spent many years as a bus rider. I did not own a car during my many years in Colorado, as the Denver metropolitan area had excellent RTD bus service, and as long as I was a high school or college student, I could get an unlimited monthly bus pass for $12 or $15. And once I moved to Oklahoma, I needed the bus for inter-city and inter-state travel, and THAT world is an entirely different story, a world of E1 and E2 poor military recruits, young unwed mothers, persons with disabilities who cannot drive, migrant workers, elderly folks going from one small town to another, kids with guitars headed to Austin armed with a dream, etc.
I once gave the following advice to a young poet who gave me his work for critique, and his work was nothing but a bad channeling of things he’d read, with no jagged, felt, or REAL-seeming particulars. I told him, “I think a good exercise for an apprentice poet would be to limit yourself to a small area…the alley behind your apartment, the parking lot of the convenience store in your neighborhood, a city park…and take notes on the THINGS of that environment. The ground, the walls, the trashcans, the insects, the animals, the patterns to the discoloration of the paint, the ripped screens, the smells, the sounds, the textures. Then use those notebooks as the raw material from which you sculpt your creation, with each particular resonating and functioning as a deep image in your well thought-out, intelligently designed construct. That’s how poetry is constructed, and it’s hard work.” Wyatt Doyle captures those kind of deeply felt particulars in STOP REQUESTED. He captures the voices, and thus the hopes and dreams and fantasies and pain and joy of the kind of characters that folks coming out of MFA programs pass by on the street on their way to spend $5 for a cup of coffee. This is almost like a Los Angeles-set version of John Dos Passos’s MANHATTAN TRANSFER for the 2010’s, but minus the self-conscious literary experimentation. Doyle’s style does not call attention to itself. As with the work of a quality craftsman in any field, form and function are indivisible.
Anyone who appreciates the poetry published by KSE would be sure to enjoy STOP REQUESTED. I actually felt inspired at the end of this book. The author has a deep love of humanity and the book radiates an “everything that is, is holy” vibe. Grab a copy while you can…