The characterization of Desmond Poole in “Meatworks” by Jordan Castillo Price is some of the best protagonist work I’ve seen in a while.
Desmond Poole is a punk, a drunk, and a dirty asshole. He’s disabled and living off the government (though not well), and his ex, Jim, is his social worker.
At this point the faint of heart should probably put the book down. It’s not the rest of our problems if you thought you liked it gritty but then realized that you were a pansy.
If you do stick with it, then I promise that you’ll be in for a treat. The truth is that Desmond isn’t that bad-assed. Sure, he scowls, smokes, and swears for fun, but so do a lot of people.
One of my first glimpses into the real Desmond Poole was when he freaked out at Corey because he realized that there was a possibility that a robo-finger could have gone up his ass. Desmond rolled to face the wall and told Corey to leave. That’s not the reaction of a bad ass. It shows him to be:
Vulnerable. Afraid. Depressed. Sporting an incredibly low self-esteem.
Later he mentions that he liked his ex to light up his cigarettes for him, and he wears a padlock around his neck belonging to said ex.
Romantic. Lonely. Likes to be cared for.
Desmond is incredibly relatable and authentic. Even though his favorite hang out is an abandoned warehouse where the shitter is broken and he does drugs and listens to loud music, he’s not a complete bastard. He just thinks he is.
JCP reveals the light and dark aspects of his personality with raw and bracing diction. He’s broken and beautiful. “Meatworks” is like an urban-style Grimm fairy tale with a happier ending, but not too happy. It may be make believe, but don’t let that fool you. It’s real, and if you read this book you’re going to fucking live it.
And fucking love it.