Life Knocks. Craig Stone.
Published February 16, 2012. 311 pages
Life Knocks by Craig Stone is a hysterical yet profound and heartfelt story about Colossus Sosloss and the world that happens to him. Told in first person narrative, the story begins when 23-year-old Colossus sends a memo to staff and management at his place of employment, ranting precisely what is on his mind. Six years later, we see where Colossus has arrived, and the path that he took to get there, from the moment he quits his job. He meets a girl, falls in love, drinks too much, and both deprecates and defecates himself. After six years of great love, world travel, near death experiences, indulgence, and loneliness, Colossus has come full circle. In other words, he has fallen into the same rut. I don’t recall ever reading a contemporary novel that made me both laugh aloud and feel deeply moved as did Life Knocks.
Colossus is an aspiring writer who lives in a studio flat in Willesden Green, London. He wants to be alone, but is afraid to be alone publicly. He wants a girl but is too insecure. When he gets what he wants, or almost does, he sabotages himself. Since Colossus has a difficult time being honest, unless he’s writing, he cannot address his concerns and frustrations about Mohammad, his paranoid, sexist, and racist landlord. Mohammad enters his flat without permission, and expects Colossus’ aid when he becomes caught up in unusual predicaments, particularly one involving a prostitute. All of Mohammad’s failings and faults are clearly defined, yet he is painted as a strong, sympathetic presence, demonstrating Stone’s keen observance of humanity. The characters don’t leave you when you put the book down. This includes characters who only make a brief appearance, such as the Israeli veteran turned hippy Colossus met in Thailand. “He talked about love because he knew hate; hate for those above him, hate for those he had served with, hate for enemies that were not his but became so and, lastly, hate for himself for how his mind had been controlled.”
The transition of time between the past and present is fluid, and the description of one event to the next shows how time plays out in life. It gives a sense that we are often simply biding time, sometimes in thought, other times trapped in patterns, waiting for life to happen, but not realizing that it already is. The details of Colossus’ past, from the moment of his resignation, focus on his girlfriend Lily, and the evolution of that relationship. Stone’s narrative is packed full with simile, such as “I look back one last time and see a single grain of rice standing out on the corner of the rug like an opposable thumb at a prosthetic limb convention for monkeys injured during moon landings.” However, when Colossus meets Lily, the descriptions become more point of fact, as if to suggest that nothing compares with her. This bodes true during more of the significant experiences for Colossus, less simile, more the way it really is.
The humor in Love Knocks is almost unrelenting. Some moments are absurd, and the comical commentary embellishes circumstance that would otherwise seem trivial. For example, “I’m so hung-over I feel like Bruce Willis has crawled into my brain and personally thrown out Alan Rickman. I miss you Alan Rickman; you made my brain hurt less and encouraged me to take and interest in German politics.” Beneath the surface of the humor is an insight about thoughts, expectations, and disappointments that connect us as human beings. The story begins with the impetus of youth acting against what we oppose, yet realism and necessity protect us from that impulsivity. It’s a choice we can relate to, whether or not we have the tenacity to follow through; we at least have probably thought of it. However, despite our similarities, we don’t always connect. “I wondered how we could be speaking the same language, and talking about the same subject, but failing to understand each other so spectacularly.”
Life Knocks by Craig Stone can be purchased for $3.99 in the US and £2.62 in the UK (prices may change). It is available through:
For Paperback, 609 pages: Lulu