Review: “Do It ‘Till You Die” by Edward Wells

Do It Till You Die

The underlying concept of Edward Wells’s short story collection Do It ‘Till You Die (Or Find A Way To Live Forever), is best explained in his own words. As he writes in the foreword:

These are works that I began; and published each chapter immediately to Story Mash online during the year of 2008. Each work was halted with the death of someone. Each of those deaths, as each death does, by acknowledgment of the fact that the individual is a member of our species and merits respect, seemed significant and in some instances significant in regard to the work I was producing.

Indeed. And the end result is a patchwork collection of vignettes; wandering monlogues that range about seemingly at random, but always with a very personal degree of honesty. In fact, many of these short pieces feel like extracts from a diary or journal; take “. . . A Thousand . . . ” and (following on from it) “. . . And Out. . . “. In these two consecutive pieces the narrator goes to see his doctor, and gets set up on a date. That (it seems, because there is little to delineate when one discrete set of chapters ends and the next begins) is all.

As one might expect, these unfinished narratives often go nowhere, or speak of potential that they do not fulfill. All the same, there is a haunting, reflective quality to them, backed up by an absolute frankness in the clean and simple prose. The stream-of-conciousness writing is reminicent of the Tao Lin crowd, though with a large dose of conventional storytelling thrown in.

However, the unique appeal of the collection (the tying up of each of these works with a death–the story behind the story) is never fully delivered on. In the foreword Wells states that he “postponed deciding whether or not to include or release whose death halted each of these works”. It appears that in the end he has decided against disclosing this information, which is dissappointing. Without this angle the collection becomes simply a set of incomplete bits of writing. Indeed, several of them seem undedited; the presentation is disregarded past the point of sparse, minimalistic approach, and into the territory of looking like the text was simply copy pasted into a blank Word document.

While the premise and the overall flavour are enticing, it is hard to shake the feeling that Do It ‘Till You Die is a collection that will mean more to the author than it will to any of his readers. It is experimental, unpretentious, and may well appeal to some, but ultimately the collection feels flat.

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Christopher Frost is a writer from the North of England.