Wales Half Welsh
John Williams,

Trafalgar Square)
You remember that kids' doggerel about Taffy?

    Taffy Was a Welshman
    Taffy was a thief?


    Taffy was a Welshman
    Taffy was a sham?


    Taffy was a Welshman,
    Taffy was a cheat?

Well, it is as if writer/editor John Williams is out to confirm all this. We have here stories about thieves (both young and old), drunks (and world class drinking), feckless do-nothings, cheats, fat murderers, idiots, tired ex-rads, and shams --- all presented in a language that would curl your sweet granny's hair:

    christmas in the city. nites of drinking til ya bladder bursts, flashing cash & gettin em in, taxi cabs, police vans & valley smash, gangs of girls singing badly in too-tight out-of-date school uniforms & flashing reindeer antlers on their heads, pissing in doorways, losing track of ya mates, cashpoints, headfucks, alleyway beatings & good or bad sex.

Seventeen Welsh writers are represented here, those who have written for The New Yorker and The Guardian, as well as those who have published in the likes of Planet and Harpers & Queen.

One -- Niall Griffiths --- published a novel by the name of Sheepshagger. Another (Malcolm Pryce) shows himself, a picture of the author being a stuffed (or possibly plaster of paris) dog. His most recent novel, perhaps as a tribute to Wales, or even Marlon Brando, is titled Last Tango in Aberystwyth.

In our review of a recent book of short stories --- The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004, edited by Dave Eggers --- we reflected that the deficiencies of that particular anthology might be the fault of a writer who had pretensions to being a dispassionate editor. Wales Half Welsh, we fear, suffers from the same problem, the loss of critical ability of one who is equipped to lay down words rather than critique them.

Furthermore, editor Williams has the temerity to stick in not one but two of his own stories, both of them fairly bad. In the biographical notes, he reports that he likes Robbie Savage and "Brains Dark." Huh?

The only diverting stuff I could nugget out of Wales Half Welsh were the wonderful names: Llwydallt, Llandaff Fields, Merthyr, Aberystwyth (of Tango fame) and the best of the best, Cwmbach and ... Slott. "Where have you been?" "Oh, I was just over in Slott, doing the usual: pissing in doorways, flashing cash, alleyway beatings."

--- A. W. Allworthy
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