It was the sweet irony of life that I received the book that same day I had a shocking encounter at the local courier office. I’m mentioning this because the racist idiot who I met there could have well been one of the characters in the story (Commander and Co, for those who have already read the book), one of a colorful lot of canvassers visiting the Belgian capital and meeting the famed Labour MEP Charlo Pulis.
What happens in Brussels stays in Brussels, published by Merlin Publishers, is a colorful prism of stereotypes which we all meet in our daily lives. From the know it all rampant racist to the sleazy politician to the good intentioned journo.
There is much to be admired in Stagno’s new book. Firstly, and unequivocally, is the effortless read. Few local writers are able to drive the story along in such a smooth way. The lists and the dialogue are just a few techniques Stagno uses to achieve this, and it really takes great skill. I managed to gobble up the book up in around 7 hours collectively. The pop references also aid in placing the story in a specific time and place and give it a zesty gossipy feel, making it even harder to put down.
The social commentary is fascinating and at times I yearned for more characters rather than the development of the story. This possibly happens because the linear nature of the narrative doesn’t leave the reader guessing as to how things will eventually unfold. This is not in any way a criticism, it’s probably more about me being greedy and wanting more of such a brilliant book. This sheer brilliance can be found in Stagno’s attention to detail, that same detail that slaps us straight in the face in the book but in real life goes by unnoticed. Well known characters we meet in our every day life our colleagues, family members, neighbors, they are all there being scrutinized by Gustav’s judgmental eye and Stagno’s discerning pen.
The book is also quite funny and also has a few laugh out loud moments. One of my favorite passages describes the frenzy locals in Brussels get into whenever Twistees are available.
Another favorite moment is the kinetic sexual scene. With a very apt chapter title – is-sexy – whetting the readers appetite for the much anticipated action. Some cunnilingus and messy descriptions later – this is not your average 50 shades of grey sex, this is raw, testosterone filled, male perspective sex – I did get myself all hot and bothered. And finally, some description of oral sex. I am 30 years old and this is the first time I read anything of this nature in Maltese literature. Who knows, maybe Stagno will tempt some men out there to learn more about the allusive clitoris (and for that, the female race thanks you dear Ġuże Stagno).
The illustrations by Jimmy Grima also complement the narrative. Most of these are drawn in first person perspective, aiding the reader to better see the protagonist’s point of view.
My take on this one? Read it! No honestly, either click on this link and order it online or get yourself to your nearest bookstore and buy it. It’s a very enjoyable read, it will make you laugh but it will also make you think. Stagno definitely hit a few good sweet spots with this one.
And finally to all those who have read the book… Cesspit? Any thoughts?