Updated on May 19, 2015
36. ‘E’s Complaint’ by Steven Clark
I’ve read E’s Complaint three times, not only because it’s really good but also because I edited it! This is the debut novel by Steven Clark and it follows the protagonist, E, a man who is working in a kitchen and dealing with romantic rejection, alcoholism and crippling depression. Not light reading, but a very stark and moving depiction of one man’s depression.
E is not alone inside his own head. Throughout the book he must deal with the ruthlessly acerbic Eric – the ‘little man’ who lives inside him and who provides a wickedly honest counter-voice to all of E’s thoughts. Eric tells E what to do, reveals brutal truths about the world and even jokes about suicide; he is the sort of ‘anti-conscience’ to E’s painfully self-conscious personality.
The subject matter is dark and so is the humour, so if you like your comedy black you’ll like E’s Complaint. Eric takes the piss out of E (of course) and E is able to poke fun at himself and those around him. The crude humour of the kitchen contrasts with E’s more personal, existential jokes – my particular favourite was a dream sequence in which E goes to Heaven and sees a summation of his entire life in statistics (number of lies told, time spent kissing, amount of snot excreted…). I kind of wish I could read my own stats (and am also really glad that I can’t).
E’s Complaint is filled with painful truths and also plenty of comforting ideas – it’s a book about depression, yes, but it’s also simply about life, which I think gives it universal appeal.
“It feels like you are standing alone on the planet, shadowed only by the sun; everything has disappeared and it is just you standing on the grass with your eyes turned heavenward and the planet spinning madly and endlessly through black space.”
The book is available on Kindle from Amazon.