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SHOP TALK

Paul Tanner

Paperback 6" x 9" 143pp  -  ISBN 978-1-913144-10-4   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 Fight Club

 

Andrew Barber

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, The Devolution, 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

everyone equally. OK? - No, Seriously

 

What 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 price.

no gender no age
no skin colour
no religion
and certainly no social class
can stop the prejudices
that a "HAPPY TO HELP" badge
inspires

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 Everyone's Crap, You're Not Welcome So You're Welcome, Suffering For Your Fart, and 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
serving you?

 

Sam Smith

 
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

LULU
AMAZON