Monday, April 27, 2009

10 Books A Day: #8

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century...Barbara W. Tuchman...Knopf

The Penguin Dictionary Of Quotations...ed. J. M. and M. J. Cohen...Penguin

Fairy Tales And After: From Snow White To E. B. White...Roger Sale...Harvard Paperback

All Things Oz...ed. Linda Sunshine...Clarkson Poiter/Publishers

Great Ghost Stories...ed. Herbert Van Thal...Hill And Wang, Inc.

The Shroud Of The Thwacker...Chris Elliott...Miramax Books

Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West...Gregory Maguire...Regan Books/Harper Perennial

Son Of A Witch...Gregory Maguire...HarperCollins

A Lion Among Men...Gregory Maguire...William Morrow/ HarperCollins

Jurgen: A Comedy Of Justice...James Branch Cabell...Dover

The High Place: A Comedy Of Disenchantment...James Branch Cabell...Dover

Don't Open This Book!...ed. Marvin Kaye...GuildAmerica Books

I will give anything Oz a whirl; the story of The Wizard Of Oz (especially mediated through the movie) is one of the unique American myths/dialogues/dialects/dialectics by which and in which we commune with ourselves. Anyone anywhere can make an allusion to it and expect to be understood. The Sunshine book (surely a nom-de-plume!) is a great chunky little volume full of pictures from all editions of Oz, quotes from the books themselves and famous admirers, and images of merchandising and tie-ins. The Maguire books re-imagine the Wicked Witch as more of a thorn in the side of a stultified society who becomes a catalyst for change.

I have spoken of Great Ghost Stories and Fairy Tales And After before. The editions of the Cabell books listed here I have because they are reprinted with all the Frank C. Pape illustrations; Pape and Cabell both deserve a full post each to themselves, and they shall get it hereafter. Don't Open This Book! is an anthology of stories about forbidden knowledge, whose great primary example must be The Necronomicon from Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.

But the oddest of balls in this group has to be Chris Elliott's The Shroud Of The Thwacker. In this book the star and creator of Get A Life and Cabin Boy takes on the genre of "kitchen sink" historical recreation novels. In this sort of book the grungiest facts of the old times are emphasised, famous historical figures appear in unsuspected capacities, and all the sex and violence taken out of Victorian novels is put back in, in spades. Elliott kicks all this up a notch, adds the most outrageously overdone stereotypical speeches, liberally sprinkles hilarious anachronisms of expressions and attitudes (there are kerosene powered mobile phones!), and stirs it all up with his personal involvement in the tale. I leave you with a quote that left me wheezing with laughter. The "Teddy" referred to is, of course, Theodore Roosevelt:

"The two followed their informant out of the taproom as the bartender directed Teddy to the three giant wooden casks sitting on the bar. Each cask was open at the top and painted with a label. From the one labeled VILE SWINE XXX stuck the hind end of a dead pig, gently bobbing. Another one marked CHINAMAN'S FIRE TIPPLE had a decapitated head sticking out of it, his race--Chinese, of course--only barely recognizable. But it was the third keg that caught Teddy's eye--or rather the live, naked, obese whore protruding from the keg itself. Her chubby legs were splayed, sticking up in the air, while her round rump was completely submerged in the intoxicant. She laughed and beckoned Roosevelt with a coyly curled finger.

1 comment:

AlanDP said...

Wow, a book by THE Chris Elliot. That "gently bobbing" line had me LOL. I gotta get that book.