Title: Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars By: Inua Ellams Year Published: 2011
Long ago, life was far simpler and all I had to do on a weekday was: go to work, then eat, drink and chill* somewhere, then count how many hours sleep I could have before alarm time.
Around these times, a friend invited me to a gathering at a flat near the office so I went, expecting to catch up, eat and chill. It was the usual…. except halfway through the night a guy sits cross legged in the middle of the living room and starts reciting something from a pamphlet so I listened – because if a guy randomly sits Indian style in the middle of a room at a party, you’ll probably pay attention. It’s generally not a party thing to do.
I wondered why he sounded like Allen Ginsberg (or at least how James Franco made Ginsberg sound in Howl) but listened anyway. You’ve probably guessed by now, the guy was Inua Ellams. He was reading Of All The Boys Of Plateau Private School, one of the pieces in Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars.
Candy Coated Unicorns… is a collection of poetry and prose where Ellams lets his imagination run away with his memories so you end up with a blurry line between the real and the embellished.
Preferring prose to poetry, my favourite pieces were Clubbing, Class Zero and the Candy Coated Unicorns…. A few years later these still hold weight. Class Zero resonates with me because it perfectly captures the surreal feeling of the day we were sent home from school after 9/11 happened. His recollection is a bit like mine- such a normal day but something strangely movie-like had happened and as teens, we would only realise the gravity much later.
Broken sentences at the end of short paragraphs give Clubbing a cool rhythm as Ellams describes what feels like a typical unplanned London night out (out out) – the best part being that cab home.
The title piece is the most heart warming, Ellams finds himself consoling a victim of a beating, seeing the best in her (the candy coated unicorn). It includes my favourite verse in the book:
And when the backpacks become briefcases and this table
Stables wars, we will sit and converse
like all stars
It’s well worth a flick through, probably wont take more than an hour or two. I took a copy home with me.
Oh, just for completeness, this is how that night ended…On the way home (used to live far out), Southern Rail messed the hell up (no surprises) and I found myself walking alongside other similarly bewildered wanderers on the tracks between Goodmayes and Chadwell Heath. Uber didn’t exist then, I had to get some other rubbish cab home.
*Sometimes gym instead, not everyday food outings.
Edit: Finally saw The Barbershop Chronicles at The National Theatre, which is what triggered this little skip down Memory Lane. Barbershop Chronicles is by Ellams with his playwright hat on. Will attempt to post a review before a week is up