Paperback 6" x 9"
Published October 2019
You can look at this book in one of two ways - entitled millennial
gets a job in retail and complains about apparently every single one of his
customers, or something deeper. I do think it's something deeper. It's a
series of poems about life from the perspective of someone who doesn't
usually get listened to. It's an outsider's perspective, because the cashier
is never really included. It's an unflinching analysis of working poverty
and the social strata of the working class.
One of my favourite books as a young man was
Keep the Aspidistra Flying,
George Orwell's first novel. The main character, Gordon Comstock, was a poet
who declared war on money. Paul Tanner reminded me of him. Not in terms of
writing style - all of Comstock's poems rhymed - but in terms of the
aggrieved passion that makes a poet want to declare war on money.
The poems are cynical, and angry, and judgmental, and misanthropic,
but they do have a point, which is that everyone seems to need someone to
look down on. No matter how far someone falls, they still see the retail
worker as beneath them, because they still serve the customer, no matter who
the customer is. There is a lot of frustration in this book. Parts of it
read like a confession, parts of it as an accusation. It's not all pleasant.
But it's powerful.
If you work in retail, you will probably relate to a lot of the
experiences described here. If you don't, you might see it as a reason to
fear a large angry underclass of the marginalised, driven to desperation by
survival wages, uncaring management and entitled customers who want to take
their problems out on those who can't really defend themselves. If that's
the case, I suspect the author has done what he intended. It reminded me of
an Orwell character, but it could also have been a prequel to
Usually my seeing there's a Journal submission is to think, O good,
one from Tell-it-like-it-is Tanner. And now the treat of a whole collection.
Like anyone else who has had to deal with the Great British Public I
have ranted about them at length elsewhere. When I worked as an engineer on
the Western Lady, ferrying tourists from Brixham to Torquay, we called the
GBP, with their sense of scoffing entitlement, five bob millionaires. Tanner
here, in his subtitled
poems for Shop Workers,
is way more explicit. And bang up to date (although published prior
to Corvid-19). Second poem in,
has this as its penultimate stanza:-
I'm serving a society that demands the right to infect me,
literally dripping money from their orifices onto those willing and able
to work until the infection takes hold.
If you have ever had to deal with the GBP while on pisspoor wages
you will recognise most every scenario related here, especially those
customers carrying before them the consumerist flag of my-right-to-complain.
I have had so many involuntary guffaws reading this, and so much that I
wanted to quote. (And when I wrote that I'd only reached page 16).
my only hate crime is that I hate
does come across here is how much he, and I love, just love the
right-on middle class who assume that the rest of us can afford what they
unthinkingly pay for, or carp on to a poorly paid sales assistant about the
no gender no ageno skin colourno religionand certainly
no social classcan stop the prejudicesthat a "HAPPY TO HELP" badge
Women's Fibs and Others
Aside from the poems - poems simply said but deceptively
well-crafted - there were some titles here that I loved:-
The Fine Line Between Being Misanthropic and Simply Being Tired of
You're Not Welcome So
You're Welcome, Suffering For Your Fart,
The Competitive Unity of the Damned.
This collection should be on sale at every checkout. A compulsory
purchase? I'll leave the last word to Tanner with the whole of his poem,
"I'm just giving you some feedback"
if my employers listened to me do you think I would be here
Tanner's latest hilarious collection describes the horrors of retail
shopwork. These oppressed troglodytes of the check-out have feelings too -
especially when confronted by stroppy stupid customers. Yes, it'd be a great
job if it wasn't for them. Actually, as Tanner explains, it wouldn't. This
downtrodden army of superstore lackeys looks forward to freedom - perhaps
from the likes of Jeff Bezos. Ken Clay