Kim M Horwood
P.B.O.D. Live it. Read it.
Updated: Jul 5, 2021
There are many books that stay with me, long after I’ve read them, but it’s not often I find a book that has the power to change my perspective, and completely flip my view on both life, and on writing. I have just read such a book, that especially reminded me, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’. (Not that the cover illustration isn’t creatively original, but you expect by opening this book, you risk being blasted with sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.)
It’s written by an author whose ideas, notions and life is so different to mine; whose writing style breaks all the rules, but has somehow left an indelible mark on my being, in a way that I may never see life the same way again.
“Pull Back or Die” by Kris Fox has me questioning everything I do, every thought I have, and whether I’m living the life I want.
Initially thinking this book was about the nomadic travels of a tribe of five long-haired BMX tricksters, in search of their skate-bowl Valhalla, I soon realised it’s a journey into life’s purpose. With deep valleys of narrative, that lead you down a path into an enchanted web of philosophical clues on how we unintentionally (or intentionally), create our own universe.
Beginning with a first page dedication, “….to those who don’t know what they’re doing either”, not even the publisher is a clue to its content, evidenced by the single line, “Published by us”.
The book comes with a letter, addressed ‘To the Reader’, which begins with a Bukowski quote: “When I begin to doubt my ability to work the word, I simply read another writer and know I have nothing to worry about. My contest is only with myself, to do it right, with power, and force, and delight, and gamble”. Straight away, Kris Fox had me hooked and I hadn't read a single word in the book yet. In the letter he states, he wanted to write this book alone, to take the gamble, to put himself out there, ‘in hopes of bettering some weaknesses within’. Editing was a solo and ‘daunting’ task he says, so bear with him on the ‘few overlooked errors’. At the end of the letter, there’s a post-script suggesting the reader use the letter as a bookmark. Which I did.
"Pull Back or Die" contains stories of gulping down beers, BMX competitions in USA, Australia, Mexico, Germany, with long-haul travels in vans with nicknames like ‘The Joker’, and camping wherever they stopped, even if it was in a Walmart carpark. It’s about women, love, soul brothers and wrangling homesickness, as much as it's about relationships and connections with people and country. It’s about a lust for learning those things that neither school nor parents can teach.
The language is colourful, but the aura created by the narrative is so glorious, you’re not offended – with lines like, 'he had periodically opened his skull and gifted me fragments of his own wisdom'; and, 'she had... a face stained with loneliness and breath stained with tobacco'. Many times, throughout this raw and uncut novel, I found myself jealous of the words Fox had written, that I had not woven these words myself.
The imagery Fox creates with stunning unedited words, had me pining for magnificent sunsets, suddenly thirsty for beers, and keenly eavesdropping on conversations. Unlike his BMX skills, described as ‘fast and loose’, Fox’s writing talent is enduringly raw, and his writing credibility now securely locked in with the publication of this refreshing take on life.
In the dying chapters is a piece of dialogue from one of Fox's 'characters', that left me emotional and gave me insight into the brains of young men, which made me question everything I do.
“You’re a thinker mate, and sometimes thinkers don’t scare themselves enough because they overthink the moment and let off the gas. You just need to find ways to really scare yourself. That’s what helped me. You need to find ways to scare your bloody self to the point where all of regular life becomes a joke because you’ve seen how hectic the other side is. Then your own little problems become ways to laugh and the boring shit becomes fun because you’ll begin to understand how to make all of it your own way and fuck what everyone else thinks on the matter. I’ve found ways to scare me-self, now you just need to find yours, champion.” (pg.182)
It seemed to me, that this was the premise, the hinge on which “Pull Back or Die” pivots.
I met Kris Fox a couple of years ago and he made quite an impression on me, and many members of my family. I had some solid motivation for wanting to read his book because a ‘character’ who appears frequently, is someone with whom I share strong family connections, who I knew before he even opened his eyes to the world – ‘The Joker’ driver himself.
My hope for Kris Fox, is that his gamble rewards him generously, and that he has bettered those weaknesses within, because he sure did ‘work that word’.
To find Fox’s book, go to https://www.fastandloosebmx.com/
If you’d like some insight into Kris Fox and the people he writes about, go to Fast and Loose BMX on Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/fastandloosebmx/
But even then, what you think you know about life, won’t be true at all, until you read “Pull Back or Die”.