KID STUFF (2003)

Kid Stuff
Arsenal Pulp Press
ISBN: 978-1-55152-153-4

It’s the summer before the Summer of Love in the 1960s. Small-town Ontario. Beer, fights, boredom, sex. Kid stuff.

They were falling through time together. Moth was being clubbed by Travis in perpetual night, in foreign landscapes. It was Day One. The sky was blue and Moth was dead. He fought Travis in the ring, in a palace, on a barge. He could see every fight imposed on the fight before, the past getting smaller the closer it got to the bottom of the tunnel. This fight was miles and centuries away from the first. They fought in a dream. Travis had a moustache and Moth was a boy. His hair hung down like Stanley Ketchel’s. He killed Travis with one thunderous blow to the temple. Hundreds of men surrounded them in a clearing in the woods without a woman in evidence. He had always known Travis.

Tom Walmsley’s first novel in eleven years is an expansive, visceral narrative that dissects the lives of young teens loitering at the edge of adulthood. Moth and Beryl are teenaged siblings anaesthetized by their emotionally broken family; it is only in the spectacle of feral violence and the unearthliness of sex that they come alive. But they are not alone: in the circle of teens and adults that surrounds them, the brutality of the empty landscape becomes self-evident, leading them all down a path of betrayal, deception, and even murder.

With an unwavering eye, Tom Walmsley captures perfectly the essence of small-town kids up to no good, if only because it is the only thing they can know. Ferocious and unabating, Kid Stuff is a bittersweet opera, about a time and place that is both then and now.


…this is what Canlit has been missing… Kid Stuff is a tense mix of fleshy, complex characters tearing themselves apart in search of security and sense. They want love, and hunt for it—sometimes clumsily, sometimes viciously—as if they have no idea what it is they’re looking for.

Michael V. Smith, The Globe & Mail, December 20, 2003

Occasionally you hear a critic claim that Canadian fiction is lacking grit and danger. Tom Walmsley’s new novel, his first in a decade, is the latest case for dispelling that idea. The book is called Kid Stuff, but like Larry Clark’s scandalous movie
Kids, it does not paint a rosy picture of childhood.

Quill and Quire, October 30, 2003

Walmsley succeeds in making his characters’ psychically barren internal landscapes compelling, in part because he understands deeply the rules of plot tension.

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