The first line of Welcome to Oakland, Eric Miles Williamson’s sequel to East Bay Grease (see review here) sets the theme: “I’m always happiest when I live in a dump, and I’ve lived in some serious shitholes.” And Williamson’s narrator, T-Bird Murphy (who was also the narrator of Williamson’s East Bay Grease), is not being metaphoric when he refers to living in a dump. Throughout much of this book, T-Bird, now a twice-divorced man, is looking back at the period when he worked as a garbage man, literally living in one of Oakland’s city dumps, sleeping at night in his garbage truck parked at the dump. Continue reading Eric Miles Williamson’s Welcome to Oakland – Back on the Streets Again
You want perfect? Read someone else’s fucking book. This book, if I’m doing it right, is anything but purrfect. I don’t want you to finish it and lean back in your expensive chaise lounge and sigh, reassured that all the stupid shit you’ve done in your life really all adds up to a fine and dandy ending, your fat ass retired and happy and laying out on a beach in Hawaii drinking cocktails and watching chicks you’d like to bone hula hula in front of you while you try to hide the hardon you wish were better than a half-limp slug of cottage cheese. I don’t want you to finish this novel and, if you’re the rich fuck I suspect you are (because unfortunately my people can’t read, and if they can they read something that matters to them like Sports Illustrated or Hustler), you think that the shit-for-life you’ve imposed on my people by your very existence is something that is not your fault and that everything works out in the end, your sins forgiven and your virtues rewarded in the great steakhouse in the sky, extra cheese and sour cream for the potatoes please, belch apres. Quite the opposite, good sir, ma’am. I want you to finish my book and be a little apprehensive, just a little, a bit concerned, ol’ boy, good lady, that maybe, just maybe, maybe we’re gunning for you. Maybe we’re just waiting for our chance to take you the fuck out.
— Eric Miles Williamson, Welcome to Oakland
In East Bay Grease, Eric Miles Williamson has created the ultimate novel of a child living in Hell, a story of brutality, transformation and transcendence. The narrator, T-Bird Murphy, is a poor kid from the Oakland slums, living in a world where people violate each other horribly—a world of vandalism and violence where no one ever calls the police because the police are the enemies of all. No one ever files lawsuits. It’s vigilante law. People take their revenge themselves. They use knives to maim and torture. They burn down houses. They murder. Everyone knows whodunit and they know why it was done. It’s the real world that the poor in the big cities in the U.S. live in, but though the poor make up a huge segment of our population, this world is invisible to anyone not living in it. Continue reading Eric Miles Williamson’s East Bay Grease: A Portrait of the Artist in Hell