12 thoughts on “You Can Never Spit It All Out – Ralph Robert Moore

  1. I previously read the first work HERE in Black Static and this was my review at that time –

    DIRT LAND – a novelette by Ralph Robert Moore


    “Radishes are so easy to grow. Twenty-eight days, and that redness is ready to be pulled out of the dirt.”

    This is possibly one of the most difficult works I have ever had to review. How do I do it justice, how can I say to some of you that I love it when some of you will strenuously insist that I should hate it, how can I say to some of you that I hate it when some of you will insist perhaps even more strenuously that I should love it? Something like fighting on Facebook over this Dirt Land’s “gold award” for literature. Who can stoop the highest, who can stoop the lowest, in extolling its dire delectation or spewing on about its disgust? I give ALL of you the finger, and say that there is a special award for this work that is neither love nor hate – nor anything in between. There can be no name for such an award, but whatever the case, this work deserves it. Fighting it out each side of a septum, but that’s not half of it. At some points I could hardly bear to read it, then hardly bear to put it down.

    These people live in the ‘hollow’, Hollis’s hollow; their auras as human produce have a sense of believability as real individuals, believable with a deadpan acceptance of their crazy hard lot in life and of what behooved or befingered lot comes out of the ends of their life and limb, cloven or sexually precocious or foully frolicking quite unforgivably with stolen innocence, or whatever. They all have their mutual cohorts of sheer outdoing hate of each other; you gotta love how straight up they are in their hate, but with some shoots of love growing in that Dirt Land, a love that tries to raise its head between the hates, like that struggling love between Audrey and Roy. Roy who is scared of his own feet, and Audrey scared of her own blighted hollows, but love each other they do, not passionately, but enough.

    Rooting for Roy, you sense you are on a loser; rooting for radishes, though, from the Dirt Land is a rooting of quite another desperate sublimation of hope. Onions, too. Hence my raised bed in the lead photo for this my real-time review, taken and placed above hours ago before I had started reading it. This emotionally devastating story. This incredibly inspiring story.
    Inspiring that it was possible for someone to produce something like this at all
    – especially from scratch. Along with dirt’s gold coins. Sausages, too. The eggplant moussaka for Miss Abergine, notwithstanding.

  2. I previously read the next work HERE and this was my review at that time –

    Kebab Bob by Ralph Robert Moore
    “Hard to take your own life when there’s a hot pizza in front of you.”
    Or a brand new unopened see-through pack of Black Static. And I’m glad I cracked into it and read this story, as if I alone brought it to life by my reading it but I know in my heart of hearts that others are even now reading it, too. I am no-one special.
    This is a special story, though. You sometimes feel you are a downbeat Beeblebrox threaded upon a silver carousel pole like a kebab. Or at least one of them. Choices that make reality as you choose them, bikini polka dots and volley ball ricochets of Fate. Yet the intense poignancy of the final choice is not so much suicide the prospect of which you once took so lightly but the deadpan acceptance of a lost love as well as a lost life. As I say, a special story – Somerset Maugham on a skewer. Thank you, Bruckheiser.


    “deveining the shrimp”

    This story is so powerful you will wish you hadn’t read it by the time you finish it, but then there is nothing you can do about it.

    I can now see how the overall title of this book YOU CAN NEVER SPIT IT ALL – OUT could be thus read. The protagonist Pablo’s out of prison, and using spit as a a surrogate for having sex with someone else. I will not come out, either, with the nature of this plot, but it is as if the shrimp and macaroni cheese are connected somehow, the man emasculated as he helplessly – by dint of salacious sharing in a SORT of ménage à trois – watched the two women IN, inside each other by being OUT upon the skin of each other, until the whole armpit-grinding cure comes to fruition. And that gives you no idea, except it is all due to be re-reherased but with a different woman in place of his wife, a story retold, like his inevitability of never staying OUT. Back to the OCD prison cafe where shared spit becomes a precisely placed condiment. Bullied back into institutionalised clothes with tattooed stripes? A fable with a moral, but I will leave it to you to decide what moral and whether it was worth your risking the experience of this story to discover such a moral. Meanwhile, Alicia is a new type of monster you will never forget, however hard you might try. Relentlessly and grindingly deadpan.

    “Raised both her woman’s hands. Couldn’t say what it was about them, but they were incredibly sexy. Naked, bird-boned, strong.”


    “‘Russell! Where did popcorn come from?’ Russell, on his hands and knees on the carpet, hung his head. ‘Japanese shrimpers smuggled it into the United States in the seventeen hundreds inside giant paper Mache heads of carp.'”

    And there are cupcakes from the previous story in this story, too, but not a story as such, but more an unforgettable, wildly offensive, high-literary, avant-garde sex-and-Abigail’s-Party HAPPENING or word-installation to walk round in a bug-plagued gallery shaped like the inside of a motor-racing helmet, one that is all closed in with no air-conditioning.
    Ostensibly,y, though, it is also about a woman ‘sponsor’ (the hyper-‘Alison Steadman’ rôle, even more monstrous than Alicia!) of Ben and Emily, our world’s downtrodden couple, whereby spit in the previous story as surrogate sex becomes, here, a prestidigitive sleight-of-hand with playing card and tooth-molar… Don’t ask.
    It’s brilliant. Needs showcasing in posh literary anthologies.

    “Felt her hands under his armpits. So intimate, a woman’s hands up in your armpits.”


    “A ‘story’ is something that’s not true. Why should we care about something that isn’t true?”

    This story somehow digs right into your armpits, as some of its characters do to the gang member at the end, and drags you into this scenario for real, whether it be Mahler, Gogol, Nabokov, atonal music studies at a New York college, or the parents (who probably voted Trump) of our male protagonist, parents who hire a food-bullying chef (with two maids), parents who treat their children in turn as their great white hope, while the protagonist himself (their son and latest great white hope) subsists in the most nightmarish lodgings of a student share that you will ever be able to imagine – in or out of Jane Austen.
    And Gretchen, to be his girl friend, is here a RRM character-study to die for. I cannot do justice to Gretchen here or even broach some of the descriptive passages that will eat away at you – and then not only toothpaste can’t be completely spat out but also all manner of prehensile faces and blood sacrifices from synchronised orifices.
    Strong stuff, this pan-Sadean deadly-spiritual rite of a young man’s passage, from updated Dickens to distaff-hard Flannery O’Connor and beyond, now in your face. Atheism is so twentieth century, as it says somewhere.

    “Your molars hurt. You must have been grinding them.”


    “The best feeling in the world, when you smile at a stranger you’re attracted to, and they smile back.”

    “A lot of the world revolves around the promise of a fuck.”

    A worm on a fishing-hook, or the promise of shrimp cocktail after a nightmare, and the ghost that has haunted the whole of your life reveals itself…

    This is another highly powerful RRM work, one that makes you think that something’s happening to your brain, worse than its version of brain cancer almost, making you forget it’s only an absurdist fiction prepared for literary publication. But on top of the other stories in this book so far, it shakes its head at you and you know it’s got you.

    Chance meetings, a cringeworthy present of pearl earrings, another SORT of ménage à trois, meanwhile also helping your dying Dad with intimate ablutions, lifting him by the armpits, mimicking a Trumpish “transitional coma”, accepting the dire “ridiculousness” that only doctors or police officers seem to know about, a sort of pulp horror of, say, Terrifying Tomatoes or Shape Shifting that has actually never really been horrific even in your impressionable youth – till now.

    That ghost that has haunted your life, you compare the paternal to the maternal: “Mothers and daughters almost always get along. We carry the weight of the world in our wombs.”

    All accretes to mean something crucial, like breaking your tooth on the barrel of a gun? Blaming the maid for the untidiness of your low-grade apartment – or head?

    “See that glossy nub in his armpit? That’s the beginning of wing development. It’s as sure a sign as metastasis into an organ.”

    Are you the butterfly effect or what the budding butterfly leaves behind?


    “The world is crammed with little rough wheels that wear you down.”

    Don’t forget to order shrimp with grits, it says somewhere here. Sad memories of a mother and fond memories of eating her meatballs. A hair blower, too. And much more you will want to miss. This combines much of what has gone on before in this book so far, but even more offensively, with tropes of posh politeness suddenly or gradually disintegrating, then sex and food, and a shifting deadpan panning point of view as if a cinematic work. Except here it is a pornographic camera being used. And not just for human beings. Be warned. Seriously.

    How this work will eventually fit into the book’s often off-putting but stunning gestalt remains to be seen. Like trying to avert one’s eyes from a very bad accident, one often involving ineluctable human needs.


    “I’m in my sixties. Age happens.”

    Like me, in his sixties. Me in the late ones. Nearly in his seventies, then eighties, with his dream town merging with his daughter’s tabletop village. I wonder if there was a library opposite another library. And some good restaurants to house the love and food and hate and love again, spontaneous stabbing, sadness, and Mass miscarriaging, love again, her own daughter, abandonment, disloyalty, spaghetti, two molars missing, “sweat dripping out of her armpits”…

    This is the harrowing tale — eventually at the end, tragic but arguably rapturous and visionary — of the whole life events of Claudia and her intermittent Dad Tom, sometimes from his point of view, her various dodgy and variegated men. It is utterly synonymous with the growing context of this book, a story, like some others in it, alone worth the entrance fee to its searing world. And its sad songs as songs these days seem to be.

    “When you were in England, did you eat a lot of fish and chimps?”
    “Hmmm? Sometimes. In London. Mostly I ate beef.” He thought about it. “Lamb, sometimes.”


    “grinding with her back molars”, “armpits sweaty with lugging heavy pieces of wood”.

    After pills and peoples, photographed but now dead, Maggie, a widow whose husband committed suicide after seeing himself responsible for their son going missing, and now this sublime, strangely believable work of Magic Realism creates her as the Carpenter and later her new son feeding multitudes of apples from the basket, a son from God’s earlier visitation to her, surely a sex act that slides easy and has none of the wildness in the rest of this book, and even easier than Pedro’s beautiful sex act upon her later in the story, and the things God enables her to build, too, is not just carpentry but perpetual power, a square stage or raft that starts off as road vehicle, a stage for her own sermons… and naivety.
    I was delighted she ended up happy in Desham… (sorry for that spoiler)
    A perfect ending where the chattering foul mouth in the armpit is stifled with a simple sheet of paper…

    “That’s our lives. We crumple it, or someone else crumples it, and that flatness, that smoothness, can never be restored.”

  10. I previously read the last story HERE and this is what I wrote about it then…
    Drown Town by Ralph Robert Moore
    “Fish were finding the faces.”
    A long story, one where we waver between the manic short paragraphs of switching mouthpieces, and the more considered longer paragraphs of paternal backstory. This is a prison story, a Hannibal Lecter type of plot suddenly halted by the scenario having a dam bust above it making it a lake. This is so off the wall, I managed to escape by tearing my chains from their sockets. Just.
    Varying between this review’s earlier Bullman type of communication problems, dolphin now trying its talk to man by all means of diving contraptions, where the manic street prisoner is told to sit on his childhood toilet training seat, and later a father’s mishandled attempts to communicate with his daughter with bread slices at the other end of his body, like balanced on his head. “…unresponsive to his different conversational overtures.” None of it works. And that’s good. For any manic reader worth his salt. Spit out the mouthpiece, I say. Vicarious rape, like shared air. Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey / A kiddley divey too, Wouldn’t you?


    SPIT OUT THE MOUTHPIECE, I SAY, I said, all that time ago, about this prison story…

    I don’t think I can add anything more to my review of this searing book. That mouth is now clamped, its teeth pulled. Till I inevitably make myself read RRM again and another one opens….

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