Coo by ABCTales' Mark Burrow - Available Now! Includes Review
Posted by Insertponceyfrenchnamehere on Wed, 14 Dec 2022
I am more than delighted to announce the publication of ABCTales' very own Mark Burrow's first novella, Coo.
Here's a review from Airyfairy:
Anyone anxious that Mark Burrow’s highly inventive ‘Pigeon Variations’ might have lost something in its restructuring to novella length for publication need not worry. The new version, ‘Coo’, is sharper, funnier and more insightful than ever.
The book’s nameless narrator is trapped in several cycles of desperation. Get lousy job, screw up lousy job, leave/get fired from lousy job, repeat. Find woman with space in her bed, piss off woman with space in her bed, leave/get chucked out of space in her bed, repeat. Get drunk/drugged/both, experience uncontrollable flashes of violent anger followed by intense self-loathing, repeat.
Meanwhile, people are transitioning into birds.
‘It’s hard, though’, muses the narrator, ‘what with the way the world is set up. It’s not meant for people like me.’ His increasingly futile attempts to fit in with the contrary world are rich seams of dark humour. His fellow wage slaves’ scrambles to get one more rung up the ladder, from filing clerk to being ‘on the phones’ or from warehouse manager to head of grocery, the internal politicking, the sheer mind-numbing tedium of it all – many readers will be both laughing and shuddering at their own memories of just these things. This reader certainly was. One of my favourite parts of the book is the series of answers the narrator gives to the questions on a job application form about examples of past ‘good practice.’ I wish I’d been as creative in my answers as he is.
The combination of sharp-edged satire and compassion is the great strength of this book. What Mark captures brilliantly is that ‘the way the world is set up’ both glorifies individualism – just keep fighting to be the one on the next rung – and totally depersonalises any individual who does not fit in with the set-up. The narrator searches for tenderness, despite putting a great deal of effort into dulling his emotions to the point of callousness. His most meaningful interactions are those with humans going through the agony of avian transition, but Mark is too shrewd a writer to portray such a transition as an uncomplicated and glorious ascent into freedom. An avian transition support group which is not quite all that it promises to be provides a very funny scene indeed, but also raises questions about identity and our personal fear and rage at changes imposed by some unknown force apparently picking its targets at random.
The ending of the book is bleak, funny and completely satisfying. It could be no other way. In that, and in its hilarious and savage take-down of ‘the system’, it reminded me of Terry Gilliam’s cult classic ‘Brazil’. And from this reader, there can be no greater compliment.
You can order from Amazon here; https://tinyurl.com/4a46jtek
Here's what Mark says:
Coo tells the story of a young man trying to make his way through dead-end jobs, booze, drugs and doomed relationships. The only people he connects with are those who are turning or have turned into birds, such as The Colombian, a foreign language student who may be transforming into a bird of prey, and Marcus, an ex-DJ who has changed into a swan. Slowly, the narrator starts to think that becoming a bird might not be such a bad thing after all – it could be the second chance in life he’s been searching for…
I posted this on ABCtales in 2020 as Pigeon Variations (it was supposed to be The Pigeon Variant, but the word ‘variant’ became oddly popular around that time). It was written in the third person and around 70k long, whereas this is much shorter (27k) and edited into the first person (after around 25 or so rejections). Fortunately, Alien Buddha Press liked the newly edited first person style and gave it the nod in early October.
All the feedback I got during 2020 was invaluable, such as from celticman, who may have read every chapter, along with skinner_Jennifer and marandina. I'm hugely grateful to everyone who commented (Ewan, Airyfairy, Drew -- who I feel has stoically read 3 versions --, Sean, Insert and others) as it really did help. The encouragement was lovely, but I also liked that it wasn’t all positive either and when stuff didn’t quite work (and loads didn’t), you’d say.
For those who do get a copy of Coo, I hope you enjoy it.
You can get it here https://tinyurl.com/4a46jtek
And thank you – ABCtales is a great site. I posted one of my first short stories here back in 2002 and was over the moon to get a Cherry. Twenty years later, the site is still able to create that sense of joy and community, as I think was shown at the virtual reading we held recently.
Long may it continue.
'No one wants to know us. We’re the driftwood. The low-life. The nobodies.’
Misanthropic and righteous, this novella is the angst-ridden howl of the working man as he navigates dead-end jobs, booze, drugs, and doomed relationships. It follows his struggle to find meaning in a delirious world where the human and not-so-human coalesce.
Except a change is about to happen, only this ornithological nightmare might not be the metamorphosis he, or anyone, would have wished for.
'Watch this book fly, Coo is destined to be a future cult classic.’
Drew Gummerson, author of Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel'