A review of The Do-Nothing Boys by Tony Nesca

Reviewed by Bob Williams

The Do-Nothing Boys
by Tony Nesca
Screamin’ Skull Press 
2007, ISBN 978-1-4357-0031-4, $20.95, 203 pages

Tony Nesca, author of many volumes of prose and poetry, was born in Italy and finally after many trips between Italy and Canada made his home in Manitoba. He was guitarist in a rock band before he settled down to writing. This is his thirteenth book and its price, I would guess, is Canadian.

The common assertion that the young consider themselves immortal and therefore do things that are dangerous is surely mostly wrong. It is more probable that many young men and women cannot grasp anything so clearly as their youth. The idea of a long life is unimaginable. The carelessness – and the bitterness – of such men and women adds a poignancy to their ventures and follies.

There is much of this as background to The Do-Nothing Boys. The narrator is Ziggy. He lives, not very comfortably, with his father. His mother and his brother live in Italy. Ziggy is in high school and is one of the dominant members of a crowd of about thirty youngsters who take sex and drugs and rock and roll with a considered seriousness that occupies the major portion of their lives. On the basis of this material, neither entirely new nor especially interesting, Nesca riffs with a command of English that is poetic and compelling. Here is a typical passage chosen almost at random:

So at around 11 or 12 bottles done acid trip coming down hard and sad we said goodbye on a school night and I watched my cousin walk out the door and I thought the world of him and us and everything that had contributed to this bizarre turn of events, two Italian boys born in Torino, Italy somehow ending up across the world in Canada dropping acid and wandering the streets of Fort Garry what a surreal experience, what an orgy-fest ordeal it all turned out to be, and the melancholy moment got me thinking about my mother and brother back in Italy and my broken family and my misguided adventures I sat there feeling the darkness and the aloneness and the ultimate undeniable truth, moonlight laughter is sad and lonely.

The poetic sensibility is almost pure in this as in many other passages and the ruthless disregard of niceties (like individual sentences) lends a rhythm and flexibility achievable in no other way.

Ziggy and his friends do much that we can expect. They attend a rock concert, camp out, escape from police, Ziggy stays away from home for several days, fights with his father, flunks school, another drives a car that doesn’t belong to him and crashes it. Ziggy decides to confess to his girl Judy that he has been unfaithful to her. He expected reconciliation and a deeper relationship but Judy disappoints him and walks away. He steals his father’s car, goes to another town, but finds he has to return. His school expels him for fighting. Drugs and rock and roll work for these young people but sex is something else and in a medley of frustration and promiscuity violence increases and the amity of the group begins to erode.

Some of this novel is clumsy and a little repetitive, but the ferocity of Nesca’s writing is indomitable and covers weaknesses with something that approaches indisputable glory. He is a poet writing prose and dealing with material that is so close to him that he often struggles to manage it objectively. It is raw honesty from one of life’s damaged angels and worth your attention.

More information about the book can be found at Nesca’s MySpace page.

About the Reviewer: Bob Williams is retired and lives in a small town with his wife, dogs and a cat. He has been collecting books all his life, and has done freelance writing, mostly on classical music. His principal interests are James Joyce, Jane Austen and Homer. His writings, two books and a number of short articles on Joyce, can be accessed at: http://www.grand-teton.com/service/Persons_Places