Friday, January 20, 2012

Some stories are true that never happened.


Bellerive Oval, home of the might Tasmanian Tigers. As seen from Rosny Hill. December 2011.

Two quick reviews today. Raymond Radiguet’s The Devil in the Flesh was written when the author was just 18 years old in 1922. A grubby little tale about a nasty, selfish young Frenchman as he conducts an affair with a married woman whose husband is off fighting in World War One.

I dunno, but the narrator – a very superior and self-aware bastard – put me right off the whole thing. This book has a world of admirers, but I can’t help that it has more to do with the author’s early demise than it does the quality of his prose. I didn’t like it much. Give it a miss.

Thankfully, I liked the second book this week much more. I’ve read all of Dan Rhodes’ novels, and have to say that his latest Little Hands Clapping is probably his oddest yet. If you’re familiar with his oeuvre, that comment might come as a little shocking itself.

A plot synopsis? Set primarily in a German museum dedicated to suicide – created by a well-meaning woman obsessed by Luciano Pavarotti – and features a cast of colourful characters: a dangerously apathetic polyglot caretaker; a child-abuse survivor turned cleaner (convinced that she is damned to hell); numerous nameless people of various nationalities driven to ending their lives; a psychopathic GP with a tragic past, very peculiar tastes and a chubby Black Labrador named Hans; a Portuguese male model with the most beautiful face in the world; as well as his ex-girlfriend and a love-stricken baker.

Straightforward? Not quite....

Rhodes’ black comedy reminds me of a modern day fairy tale, very Brothers Grimm (meets the League of Gentleman) in its graphic exploration of human foibles and desires. For such a monstrous fare, the book is surprisingly light in its touch and warm in its telling. This is not something I’d expect to write when scenes involve Hans (the dog) coughing up an enormous severed penis while walking in the park.

There is humanity in the horror, and more than a bit of humour. If this sounds like your bag, get cracking and read it now! Highly recommended.

1 comment:

Roddy said...

Looks like a small crowd, on the day.