(New Star Books) (Guest Review by Robert Dayton)
Work is Hell. Work is Hell. John Armstrong’s previous book “Guilty of Everything”, an unflinchingly honest account of his time as Buck Cherry of the legendary Vancouver punk group The Modernettes (soon to be a motion picture), presented a semi-un-glamourous picture of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. The follow-up “Wages” has not so much as a touch of glamour.The last time I saw John was a few years ago, he was in job-hunt sports coat attire, pounding the pavement, looking none too pleased to do so. For me, that was a foreshadowing of this book. “Wages” is a first-hand account of every job that he’s ever had. And it is entertaining! The cynicism densely drips and seeps off the pages, yet is tempered by being writerly and laugh-out-loud funny! He hones his pen with the most cutting and ascerbic of methods, facing such blinding realities head on with shirt-sleeves rolled up. Whether he’s shoveling shit out of chicken coops , hosing down the mysterious balcony seats of a skid row theatre, boxing up VHS porn, or desperately facing mortality as a newspaperman, all the while with bosses that are always out to screw everyone over, it makes for a compelling personal treatise on why not to work. He has funneled these years of utter drudge for our pleasure. What a drag that the book itself looks like the very concept of labour itself: totally unappealing. Why did the Publisher hire a graphic designer who makes everything look like CDs for late 90s Nickelback wannabe bands? And I can’t think of a worse pull-quote for the back cover of a book than “Enter-fucking-tainment.” Let the punishment fit the crime: we must subject this book designer to all of the miserable jobs that John Armstrong himself went through and if they wind up half as inspired as “Wages” is then those jobs will have done their job.