Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars by Inua Ellams is something I read and loved a few years ago. Since my time management has been too wild to actually fit in a review this week, heres a throwback from one of my old blogs….

Long ago, life was far simpler and all I had to do on a weekday was: go to work, then eat, drink and chill* somewhere. This would be followed by counting how many hours sleep I could have before alarm time.

Round about these times, a friend invited me to a gathering at a flat near the office. I went, expecting to catch up, eat and chill. It was the usual…. except halfway through the night a guy sits cross legged in the middle of the living room and starts reciting something from a pamphlet. I listened – because if a guy randomly sits Indian style in the middle of a room at a party, you’ll probably pay attention. It’s generally not a party thing to do.

I wondered why he sounded like Allen Ginsberg (or at least how James Franco made Ginsberg sound in Howl) but listened anyway. You’ve probably guessed by now, the guy was Inua Ellams. He was reading Of All The Boys Of Plateau Private School, one of the pieces in Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars.

Candy Coated Unicorns And Converse All Stars is a pamphlet collection of poetry and prose. Ellams lets his imagination run away with his memories so you end up with a blurry line between the real and the embellished.

Preferring prose to poetry, my favourite pieces were Clubbing, Class Zero and the piece Candy Coated Unicorns…. A few years later these still hold weight. Class Zero resonates with me because it perfectly captures the surreal feeling of the day we were sent home from school after 9/11 happened. His recollection is a bit like mine- such a normal day but something strangely movie-like had happened. As teens, we would only realise the gravity much later.

Broken sentences at the end of short paragraphs give Clubbing a cool rhythm as Ellams describes what feels like a typical unplanned London night out (out out) – the best part being that cab home.

The title piece is the most heart warming, Ellams finds himself consoling a victim of a beating, seeing the best in her (the Candy Coated Unicorn). It includes my favourite verse in the book:

And when the backpacks become briefcases and this table

Stables wars, we will sit and converse

like all stars

It’s well worth a flick through, probably wont take more than an hour or two. I took a copy home with me.

Oh, just for completeness, this is how that night ended…On the way home (lived far out at the time), Southern Rail messed the hell up (no surprises) and I found myself walking alongside other similarly bewildered wanderers on the tracks between Goodmayes and Chadwell Heath. Uber didn’t exist then, I had to get some other rubbish cab home.

I’ve since been to the National Theatre to see The Barbershop Chronicles which solidified me as an Ellams fan! Such a brilliant play, will probably post a throwback post on that too at some point. I picked up The Half God Of Rainfall (for free!) at Literandra’s event last year. Will also review that soon!

*Sometimes gym instead, not everyday food outings.

Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars by Inua Ellams published by Flipped Eye Publishing In 2011

The Half God Of Rainfall, published by 4th Estate in 2019

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