“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” -Ray Bradbury
It is thanks to the above quote that I won a copy of Eddie Wright’s Broken Bulbs, and let me just say that Wright certainly knows how to find beauty in the strangest of places.
Broken Bulbs is a curiously surreal novella that reminded me of Donnie Darko and Requiem for a Dream. It follows the main character’s—Frank’s—addiction-fuelled quest for “somethingness”, for meaning.
Enter Bonnie, Frank’s elusive and mysterious muse and dealer, who sells a drug any creative would kill for: inspiration.
What follows is an ambitious, experimental tale, half novel, half screenplay, the latter being snippets from Frank’s drug-induced spurts of creativity. His addiction—to the drug? to Bonnie? both?—blurs the lines between real and unreal, teetering between patheticness and brilliance. It is dark, twisted, gory, cringe-worthy, but most of all, fascinating. It is, I think, a story that speaks to anyone struggling to make something of themselves.
Now let me be honest with you: I am not a big reader of experimental fiction. I often find it confusing and pretentious, striving to be meaningful but showcasing the author’s ego more than anything else. Yet somehow Broken Bulbs manages to break beyond that stereotype and give even me—sceptic that I am—something to think about.
The writing is raw, unpolished (perhaps a little too much so; there was a smattering of typos), and incredibly vivid. Several times throughout the novella I read sentences so unusual and striking that I had to go back and read them again, if only to relive the imagery.
The prose was erratic, jumping between Frank’s stream-of-consciousness rambling (which, to be honest, I found a little patchy in some places), to scenes with Bonnie, to my favourite: the screenplay, which follows main character Dusty’s life, one that parallels eerily with Frank’s. Yes, this mixture of styles is a little jarring, but I don’t think Wright was aiming for smooth reading. This is a story that is meant to disturb; addiction is not for the faint-hearted.
And yet, as disturbing as it was, there was something hauntingly familiar about Frank’s story, a desperation which I could relate to, a desire to be something. As for whether he finds that “somethingness”, well, you’ll have to read it to understand.
Let me just say, when I read the last line, I got a little shiver down my spine.
I think Wright still has room to grow, and am curious to see what he comes up with next. But in the meanwhile, if you like experimental, thought-provoking fiction, I recommend you check out Broken Bulbs.