Turning to the About the Author page at the back of Paul Carlucci’s A Plea for Constant Motion, I was surprised to find a young man looking out at me in black and white. Carlucci’s prose reads with a thickness of symbolism and confidence normally reserved for those men who have been writing for thirty-plus years.
Another fun fact delivered by the Author page is that Carlucci describes himself as a “recovering transient” who’s spent over a decade wandering the globe. So it comes as no shock to find within the pages proper of A Plea for Constant Motion a diverse and shifting set of locations for Carlucci’s stories fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Like a stage play, the book is divided into two acts and an intermission. The first act covers a number of depressing stories across the landscape of Canada (including one set in my own city of Hamilton). The intermission is a bizarre story hiding in the forests of British Columbia. Act II is generally set against the golden backdrop of Africa. The book never stays in the same place for more than thirty or so pages before shifting to a new place again. This constant motion speaks to the title and likely to Carlucci’s life as a transient.
Before you dive excitedly into the pages of A Plea for Constant Motion, I want to warn you that these stories are bleak. These stories are Chuck Palahniuk-levels of bleak. In fact, as I was reading through the book I drew parallels with Palahniuk more than once except Carlucci’s work is more substantial, less juvenile, and just as depressing. I love a good unhappy ending and these stories delivered. Act I was particularly devastating.
“The world is an ugly ball of shit, Ramona. You just can’t be too gentle out there, can you?”
—Paul Carlucci, A Plea for Constant Motion
The back half of the book isn’t quite as strong as the front half. The intermission verges on sci-fi/fantasy without using the tropes of either to its advantage. Act II is rife with new casts of characters in new locations, and yet their characterization doesn’t feel as complete as those in the Act I. In the beginning, I came to expect full characters and indefinite-but-satisfying endings, but the second half of the book felt like it was trying to live up to the strength of the first and the stories weren’t given as much care before they appeared in this collection.
Strongly-written, darkly comic, and depressing, A Plea for Constant Motion promises an emotional journey across continents. I squirmed uncomfortably, swore under my breath, swore outwardly, cheered on the protagonist, jeered at the protagonist, and left the book with a better understanding of the dark sides of society that only the marginalized and overlooked gain true insight into.