I don’t know what possessed Tristan Egolf to publish this book. Of the three he published (wrote?), it’s something of an odd duck: it’s barely over 200 pages, written in the first person, with loads of dialogue, and ends on a downright positive note. It’s also not nearly as epic in scope of execution, though it does manage to fulfill Egolf’s fetish for riot scenes.
The story of a down-and-out Cambodian/Negro fiddler who befriends a huckster named Tinsel while eeking out a living in the ghetto, Skirt and the Fiddle features rat-thwacking, large-scale vandalism, a humorous jab at communism, and of course the odd ongoing love story, which is interestingly—if briefly—executed in small strokes.
It’s a tease, really; something like a novella to whet our whistles between his debut novel, Lord of the Barnyard and his final work, Korn Wolf. I would have loved to see this as a 500-page epic, with the riot scene extended to a fifth of that, more of Egolf’s marvellous character development, and—well, you get the picture. In my mind, this book’s only failing is that there isn’t more of it, especially since the author’s creative juices have, well, stopped flowing, along with the rest of his circulatory system. Otherwise, the story is grand, though of course dwelling on recurring themes of poverty, social anarchy, riots, and truly disgusting jobs. Because of it’s a first-person narrative, I think that we get the deepest and most sincere characterization of any of Egolf’s books1. It’s a must-have for any Egolf fan.
- I have a feeling some of the main character, Charlie Evans, was based on Egolf himself.[↩]