Wildlife, By Joe Stretch

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The Independent Culture

Twenty-four-year-old Joe Aspen would prefer to be a puffin than a human. Human life is difficult and painful, after all, filled as it is with abandonment and loneliness. His beloved girlfriend, whom he met at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and who much prefers incident to thought, leaves him on Christmas Day, to work in London in events management for an online company called Wild World. Thereafter, managing the events in his own life proves tricky for Joe, and he resorts to urinating in the sink to avoid washing away the last trace his girlfriend had left in his home – her excrement.

Joe Stretch, whose first novel, Friction, was a satire of social mores, arranges the events in his second novel around the theme of internet-based virtual worlds and the tangle of lives lived in cyberspace. Wildlife is filled with sex, scatology and stereotypes. The fractured narrative does not allow time for the development of its multiplicity of characters, so some of them remain two-dimensional and it can be a struggle to care about these half-baked identities – much like the shallow experiences provided by Wild World itself.