The City In Ruins: Joel Lane’s Lost Distract

CaptureThe more I read Joel Lane (working through my second collection The Lost District..) I’ve begun to realize that the hidden monster roaming the underbelly of the Black Country is the cityscapes of late capitalism, the ruins it has left behind, the corruption and toxicity of its duplicitous deregulation and dehumanizing processes. It’s this more than even the stubborn misfits and darkening minds that inhabit his bleak inscapes which is the true anti-hero of his fictions. Knowing he was a committed Socialist makes me realize that his works are personal critiques of our dark days under the broken system of capitalist culture and society which Marx described as “dead labor, that, vampire-like, only lives sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.” Joel’s ability to touch the human in the midst of this wasteland is at the core of this bleak vision, and knowing as he does that nothing in our time is not stained by this corruption gives you a sense of the horror that most of us try to pretend isn’t there. He makes you not only see what is right in front of your face, but also touch that which cannot be made visible: the bloody beast of capitalism itself wriggling like some demented archon of madness just below the threshold. As Ramsey Campbell once said of Joel:

“As for his own work, it was as profound as his critiques. It was driven by the political beliefs he passionately held without, to my knowledge, ever trying to impose them on anyone, and by his deep humanism and his sympathy for his characters, often the excluded or oppressed.”