The Zoom Zoom by Penny Goring

10th Aug 2011


I’m not sure where to start with this review.

Maybe here. Cities across England are descending into chaos; the world is making little sense as riots break out and smoke darkens the skyline. As such, I feel I can’t give this book my full attention – my brain is processing Twitter and news feeds faster than it can process what I am simultaneously typing.

But then, Penny Goring’s The Zoom Zoom doesn’t make sense. It revels in chaotic tumbles of clashing words and disjointed structures, disenchanted and disturbing characters. Apologies if that seems like an opportunistic segue from serious social disorder to a book. It’s not opportunism; it’s about wanting to focus on something that is black and white, tangible and comprehensible, in order to understand the world: a book.

But The Zoom Zoom is not a nicely packaged narrative, nor is it filled with familiar structures, and for that reason, my night has descended into absurdity as I flick back over notes about lecherous, tentacled men and trios of neon wigs whilst breaking news reports broken glass and fire in all my regular haunts. Penny Goring has a fearless approach to creating text, throwing words at the page, making collages from half-remembered experiences of dark tunnels – both physical and metaphorical – and the seaside. And dolls. In talking about her approach, she explains how she moved away from painting – which “became stifling” – to writing which presents her with endless possibilities.

The Zoom Zoom is published by the “brave, bold and innovative” Eight Cuts, who also brought us The Dead Beat by Cody James. Founder Dan Holloway described Goring’s work to DJ Eratic:

As a writer, Penny uses language in the same way a stick of dynamite can blast open a mine. There will be shards and slivers, but a perfect opening and then, a gloriously dark, incandescent space in which to lose yourself among rubble and bones and diamonds.

The simple take on The Zoom Zoom is that, yes, it is a collection of short stories and poems, but they only resemble the classic forms if you live in a sensory deprivation tank.

And this, dear reader, is another reason I feel I’d be selling the book short if I were to try and give you a synopsis of each story, a critique of the poetic styles used. It’s honestly like nothing I’ve ever read before. My criticisms lie in how I’d have done it differently, had I tried to paint those characters and encounters with words. But this is Goring’s show and she steals it with sweet, sleazy, salacious and sometimes sickening turns of phrase combined with a beautifully playful approach to rhythm and structure. My advice is pick it up, be blinded by the shocking pink cover and let the wave wash over you. I typed notes into my phone whilst reading this and the first section says: “T Rex, candy pink wig, trashy-sleaze-sci-fi, incestuous, rhythmic, bold and garish, Bowie, slurping daisy chain, grotesque, frenetic, raw, Gregg Araki, Samuel Beckett…”

Whatever else The Zoom Zoom may be, it’s honest and it’s powerful and it makes me giddy to think there are publishers and writers working together to explore the possibilities of language.

And to return, almost, to the beginning of this review, I’m tipping my hat to Eight Cuts. Not just for taking a chance and publishing exciting, raw and honest new writing, but also for offering up their stock, their site and their ideas to save Afflecks Palace, a place where I misspent my youth. Last night it was one of many victims of looting and destruction in Manchester. It has survived before, it can again. As words can, and do, in all their many beautiful and sometimes disorienting forms.

Whether you think you’ll like it or not, it’s well worth the gamble and the £2.14 it’ll cost you on Amazon (e-reader/Kindle; £8 for the paperback from Lulu)

Rating: 4/5

Other recommended reading: Check out the other publications from Eight Cuts: The Dead Beat by Cody James and Verruca Music by Stuart Estell (all three Eight Cuts e-books will set you back little over £5. GO!)

Alex Herod