October 07, 2009

Non-Running Man

Excerpts from some of this year's most imaginative new novels that didn't even make the longlist of the Man Booker Prize, which was won by Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall.

Cuntley! The name alone conjured up all manner of fantastic and fabled notions, stories passed down almost telepathically from father to daughter to daughter's Barbie. Iridescent, shimmering tales of bareback clowns riding inflatable goats through fields of cherry jam in the face of skin-scorching sciroccos. Muscular butterflies abseiling down cheese cliffs. Watergirls catapulting etiolated pomegranates across peninsulas of curved space onto canvases of glass. The ashtrays of good sense. Fighter planes with manic depression. Phil Collins devoured and regurgitated by the sailors on the raft of the Medusa. O! The calcium of it!

The wizened but cheerful old lady sitting in the seat opposite leaned forward conspiratorially.

"This train doesn't stop at Cuntley," she said. "You just missed it."

(from Miss Smilla's Addiction to Snow, by William Burroughs)

The sourd-muet looked at me admiringly but also with some suspicion, the way Christians look at Jews, envying them their good fortune but never entirely without the feeling that they themselves had something to do with it. Arrogance of the first order.

"Buy one of her trinkets," said Claire.

"What? These?" I toyed with them the way one pets a diseased animal. "They're tawdry gewgaws, probably made by some 6-year-old Filipino spastic in a sweatshop doubling as a brothel for his mother."

"Do it for me. To make me happy."

I'd already done more for her than she deserved and got nothing in return. She hadn't so much as licked my balls, and look how much I'd spent on booze that night just to get her pissed enough.

"What do I get in return?"

"My eternal gratitude."

She gave me that puke-inducing smile that all women imagine is endearing but in reality just increases your contempt for them.

"Not from you," I said. "From the mong."

"Shut up!" she squealed with mock horror. "He's NOT a mong. He's a deaf-mute. There's a difference."

"Like he can hear me," I said. "Or that it matters. We're all dead in the long run. Some of us sooner than others."

I handed over a five euro note knowing that it was gone forever. Five fucking euros!"

"Go play in traffic," I said. The sourd-muet bowed gracious thanks and stepped under a bus. Hilarious.

Claire gave me that look again.

"What?!" I said, affronted.

(from I Was a Teenage Nazi, by V. S. Naipaul)

"More a weapon of masturbation than mass destruction," the professor quipped, still holding the used teabag to his forehead.

"Does that explain how he managed to get them through customs, then?" Davidoff was in the process of catching up. The wind outside was still knocking over the Greek dancers tied to the chicken run, their pitiful howling drowning out that of the wind itself. The professor was too engrossed in MacArthur's ingenious technique to care.

"More than likely, Danielle, yes. A classic case of misdirection accompanied by blackmail and, quite probably, telekinesis."

"Telekinesis?" I said. "But Professor. You're a man of science. Surely you don't believe in all that daft mumbo-jumbo."

He brushed back his hair to reveal a brow furrowed by confusion.

"Science, dear boy? Good grief. Whatever gave you that idea? Why, my doctoral thesis was on swimw—"

At that very moment the pickled onions exploded.

(from Hiroshima, Mon Oncle, by Alain Resnais and Jacques Tati)

Giselle licked her lips, parting them suggestively.

"Get thee behind me, Stan," she said.

He had no choice but to obey her. She knelt down and raised her arse into the air, looking at him over her shoulder with a steady gaze all the while. Leaning on her elbows she pulled her buttocks apart for better access. The ruby asterisk of her anus smelled of Amarige by Givenchy. Stan couldn't help but think of that old joke about being pulled off at half-time.

"But Boss," he said. "What about the Ramifications?"

"Fuck 'em," she replied. "When I took over this club, it didn't even have a supporters' association."

"No. I mean, for me. My career. Does this mean I'll be the starting Number Two?"

The unfortunate turn of phrase sparked an idea in Giselle's already overheated brain. She winked at him and reached for her strap-on.

"Let's just say, if you can't perform for the boss in a squeeze, I can make your time on the bench extremely uncomfortable indeed."

Stan gulped and tried to remember which shinpad he always put on first.

"Don't worry, boss. You can rely on me when things get tight. I'm famous throughout the Conference for my sliding tackle."

(from Balls! by Martin Amis)

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Fat Sparrow said...

And here I had given up reading modern novels years ago because they were formulaic.

I can't believe these were passed over. Well, maybe that one with the Amarige. That was totally unbelievable, as my mother wears Amarige and I cannot imagine her as a pillow princess.

Wait, I just did.

That was just wrong.

Prenderghast said...

Hi Sparrow--

Yes, it's a travesty beyond comprehension, although Amis didn't help his cause by giving his protagonist the nickname of a former Ireland manager whose sexual antics nobody in their right mind would want to imagine.

Your mom sounds classy. Got any photos?

Fat Sparrow said...

"Amis didn't help his cause by giving his protagonist the nickname of a former Ireland manager whose sexual antics nobody in their right mind would want to imagine."

Ah, there's always something a non-sports-following bloody Yank is going to miss, isn't there?

"Your mom sounds classy. Got any photos?"

No, but I have some of yours.

Prenderghast said...

When I asked "got any photos of your mom?" I meant, "would you like some?"

Fat Sparrow said...

You know, I was trying to come up with something there, but I'm just going to admit that I got zinged and go hide my head in shame.


Prenderghast said...

We only zing our friends, Sparrow. The rest just get abuse.