Joseph Edwin Haeger reviews $50,000 by Andrew Weatherhead. (Publishing Genius Press)
“Facts are innocent, like flies in a room, not even looking for a way out.”
With that, I went back and started rereading Andrew Weatherhead’s $50,000 again, a book containing a single poem. I realized I’d fallen into passively reading it when I began it early in the morning before work. When I read that quote and went back to reread the whole poem again, the language took on a new degree of importance through the short snippets.
Let me get this bit out of the way early: $50,000 is the kind of book we’re all looking for. We read piles of books—some are great, some are terrible, most of them are perfectly fine and adequate—and every once in a while we pick up something and, while we’re making our way through it, we’ll put it down for the briefest moment and whisper quietly, “Holy shit.”
These are the moments we’re yearning for every time we pick up a new book. When books like $50,000 pass my desk (a few notable books in the past few years are The Instructions by Adam Levin, Sirens by Joshua Mohr, and The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac by Sharma Shields), I want to tell everyone about it and hope I can get them all to read it. (And, of course, they’ll love it as much as I did.)
$50,000 is a life being lived in real time. This is a pitch perfect representation of what our emotions and brains do every moment of every day. We generally don’t walk through life thinking linearly. We constantly have thought-tangents as we remember and forget and prepare and perceive and, well, there’s a lot going on.
Weatherhead gets it, almost too well. This is something we’re all doing subconsciously, but he’s putting it into practice. He has reflected this mode of living through one long poem with solid statements about the speaker’s life. It’s nothing like what we’re used to with narrative storytelling—no, here we get a scattershot of information that we then take and construct into a fully-formed person.
When books like $50,000 pass my desk, I want to tell everyone about it and hope I can get them all to read it.
The way the narrative unfolds reminds me of Saul Williams’ , said the shotgun to the head. In his sparse and simple sentences, Weatherhead continually grows and builds ideas and situations off one another. It’s in that relation where each sentence creates a snowball effect: the emotion gets bigger, denser, and more powerful with each rotation forward. The way Weatherhead has written $50,000 transcends traditional narratives and provides the reader with an actual experience of someone who is doing their best to navigate the mundane tasks of life while carrying a heap of grief around on their back.
There are moments peppered throughout this book that catch you off guard. When thoughts are connected through more than a few sentences, our focus is wrangled and forced to make eye contact with these moments. We move from one moment where he’s mentioning the fact that water has been found on Mars, and then we’re shifted to another moment when a friend’s baby was born prematurely. The speaker isn’t sure how to respond to this news—should it be one of sympathy or congratulations? He’s immediately made uncomfortable and, without saying as much, we can also feel that discomfort and we’re made to live with it right alongside the speaker.
That’s the brilliance of $50,000: we’re flippantly living until we’re not, and it’s all important to the story. There is a deep sadness and a major shot of empathy sitting inside this book. There isn’t any effort or heavy lifting required to understand the speaker’s worldview—all you have to do is read one entry after the other and, like a mantra, you’ll tumble into a headspace where you feel all the intricate emotions.