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Free Book Giveaway! Φοβοῦ τοὺς Δαναοὺς καὶ δῶρα φέροντας…αστεϊσμός

I am giving away a copy of the astonishing one-sentence novel Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Tramp Press, 2016). I am doing so because I was lucky enough to win two copies as part of The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses raffle and wish to pass on my spare, currently cowering in my sepulchral storage cupboard, to someone that will appreciate the innovative style and ability to convey the beauty of the everyday that saw it take out the 2016 Goldsmith prize and find its way onto this year’s Man Booker Prize longlist.

If you send your details and a brief (or not so brief) statement of your interest in this novel and/or contemporary fiction via my contact page, I’ll send it right out to you.

 

Pieter Bruegel the Elder-Peasant Wedding

 

I looked a lot like a Vogue magazine/ Perfect and smooth, they all called me a dream/Flawless and loveless, no intimacy/I only lived to be seen/Not to be touched, too clean…

Judith and Mabel were sitting on their favourite bench, watching the ducks going at it. A group of drakes were pestering a female to mate, whilst nearby, a male that had already successfully copulated with her was preening iridescent feathers with his bright yellow bill.

Judith wiped the spittle that had gathered at the corner of her mouth before letting out a prolonged sigh.

“Why are people suddenly repelled by the skeletal? I haven’t had a date in weeks.”

“It’s all fashion dear. People will alter their preferences on all manner of things, depending on the majority. That is, the young majority.”

“That can’t be right. Beauty is beauty.”

“In prehistoric times, it was the hefty that were revered.”

“Really?”

“In ancient Rome, small penises were thought to be more attractive.”

“Oh me oh my. We are a fickle lot, aren’t we?”

“We certainly are, my love.”

“I think I’d rather like bulbous noses to be the rage next, and pointy heads!”

“The monobrowed haven’t had much of a run.”

“Yes, and the pigeon-toed. They should have their time in the sun.”

“They all will dear. That’s fashion.”

“How nice. I suppose I could be the most sexually attractive thing on the planet soon, if luck smiles upon me.”

“I shouldn’t think so dear.”

However, the very next year, Judith’s distinctive suite of features became the ideal. Young women began to draw on wrinkles, knock out teeth, and sag their skin by attaching weights to their arms, neck, and breast. Judith died between a model and a movie star.

That’s fashion.

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*Title of post taken from Funny Face by Sparks (Mael/Mael). A terrific song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Kill me, Ishmael- Blimpy boy

Now only celebrated for their victory in a four-legged race against Johnny Ramone, Johnny Rotten, and Johnny Thunders; Kill me, Ishmael were key players at the ferocious orgy that was the conception of punk. Their rouge-soaked antics and disgust of traditional musicianship broke new ground; and their explosive live acts could involve anything from shows that lasted seconds with the band members dressed as barnyard animals, to mad affairs during which the band uttered ‘lugubrious,’ before biting the heads off any cocker spaniels thrown on stage. Concertgoers were often left deaf, bloodied, and impregnated.

KMI produced 99 studio albums, all of which were largely neglected by the general public and critics alike. From their debut Candles for a troubled youth to their final album, a tribute to their fallen singer, Dust don’t mean a Hoover, they never stopped pushing the boundaries of their one-chord sound. Despite their longevity, they never entered the charts, but did attracted a cult following, with dedicated fans proudly strutting around town, sporting corncob pipes and carrying harpoons.

Their thirty-second EP, Blimpy boy, was the first produced with Kunterblast records and recorded in Berlin with producer MacAtic. Blimpy boy was KMI’s first attempt to modify their sound and image to conform to the subtler themes popular with indie bands of the 90s, with less emphasis on the sexuality, chauvinism and drug culture that had previously dominated their output. Guitarist Arthur Dinga dubbed this new music as ‘castrated love songs’. This saw the band ditch their extravagant codpieces, but not their raw energy. This new direction towards a less offensive image is also realised in the cover art, depicting the band at the New York public library shooshing a Nazi, a bishop, and a giant spider. This is in stark contrast to the explicit imagery of their other albums, and was the first not to be sold in foil wrapping.

The opening track, Squid in the sink, a heavy rocker by singer/drummer Louise Fester and guitarist Arthur Dinga, was very much in keeping with KMI’s signature sound up to that point. However, the story of an ill-fated relationship between a street thug and a marine biologist broke new ground lyrically, with the focus on a misplaced cephalopod rather than bodily fluids and broken heads. This became a popular opening number for the band, most notably the performance at their concert at Chumley Park, during which a giant inflatable squid crushed a lay preacher. Dinga performed his guitar solo underwater. Fester had also intended to sing under water, but found it impossible. She had to be revived several times in the attempt.

Tea for thee was written by bassist Sidney Beaterback, a touching tribute to his dying liver. This number is a much more restrained affair than anything KMI had ever previously attempted, with 4/4 timing and a piano present in the studio during recording. The lyrics that bookend the chorus inspired by Beaterback’s adoption of Eastern religions (all at once) and the classic novel by Augustus Feathersnatch (a favourite of Beaterback’s), Cantilever in my knapsack. The spiritual and literary references also represented a departure from the band.

Plucky duck, a heavy heavy number written by Dinga (who also provides lead vocals for the first time), was inspired by his early career as a cockney flower girl, and one old lady who just wouldn’t give up her purse. Unfortunately this was his last time the world would hear Dinga’s whining falsetto. His untimely death would come 3 months after the album’s release, after which he was replaced by Jerry Heave, who couldn’t replicate the signature KMI sound until he found the same Pog Dinga had used to strum his guitar. At the Arthur Dinga memorial service, held at the guitarist’s favourite playground at a fast food emporium, you could hear the children sing “P-P-P-P-P-P-P-P Plucky Duck, O’ she’s a Plucky Duck. Wha’ a plucky Ol’Duck” as they went down the slide. A touching tribute.

The final track is the two-and-a-half-hour instrumental masterpiece Ornate Coleopteran, rivalling a classical symphony in the quality of the suits adopted by the musicians. It was conceived during the band’s time in a broken elevator, during which they claim to have had a group hallucination brought on by too much camomile tea. It features the widest suite of instruments of any KMI tune, with the guitar, bass and drums combined with a bassoon, distressed hamsters, moans, tin foil, ice-cream trucks, and banjoettes in stunning cacophony. In concert, being too complicated to play live, they would put on the recording as loud as possible, and play a game of strip poker for the audience’s amusement.

This album is further proof that, whilst not producing a blip on the radar of critics or the general populace, KMI’s importance in the history of rock is considerable. Their music will surely be remembered alongside Beethoven, Bowie, and Brubeck; which is more than can be said of any of those throwaway ‘hits’ produced by their contemporaries.

I think the praise from Pete ‘Dirty’ Glandthorpe, the glam-rock legend from Jan Falls Down, says it all. “YEATHEBESTTHINGREALGOOOODLIKEATIGERWITHNEWSNEAKERSMANIMEANASSOONASILISTENEDITWASLIKETHISTHAONLYTHINGOOOHMAMA”

Enjoy the recording. Kids, if you wish to keep up, play a G-chord as fast as you can, occasionally allowing your fingers to slip as if you were a drug-addled teenager with a poor attention span.

-Porko Sandflake, Stationary Pebble.

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I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.

An excerpt from The essential Feathersnatch.

Introduction from Feathersnatch scholar, Assoc. Prof. Sandy Kitchens.

The works presented in this collection are amongst the finest achievements of the late Augustus Feathersnatch, arguably the most original writer of fiction in the 20th century. Included are the classic poem O’ baleful chip and perhaps his best known and most innovative venture, the 10,000-page epic, Cantilever in my knapsack.

Born in bed (he wanted to be near his mother), Feathersnatch soon took to reading heroic couplets found on the walls of the local privies, and was able to draw anatomically correct phalli by the age of three. Keen to begin school, he attended St. Trevor’s peremptory college at the age of four. However, being a rather symmetrical and muscular youth, he was an easy target for bullies and soon dropped out. The next day he was accepted into the PhD program at Columbia Atlantic University, studying applied cessation. He made terrific progress, handing in his thesis three short days later. It was here that he met his future wife, Mable Pachyderm, who sold used batteries to students behind the university gates.

On the strength of his postgraduate research, Feathersnatch, now Dr. Feathersnatch, obtained a lecturing post on the elements of style at the institute of interstellar research. It was during this time that he began to publish short pieces for Original York Daily, Ichthyology weekly, Kick!, and The Custodian. The rest of the great man’s history is shrouded in mystery, and not worth speculating about until the archaeologists have completed their excavation of Feathersnatch’s studio apartment.

During his lifetime he had a difficult relationship with critics, with some labelling him “a purveyor of random childish nonsense”, others suggesting “his words are often misspelled and misused…as if he’d never read a novel in his life”, whilst most refused to recognize his existence. Nevertheless, anyone who reads Feathersnatch must acknowledge the singular style, even if they question the value of said style.

We shall begin with a fragment of A rose for Kevin, left unfinished and published for the first time in this collection. This work was written as a semi-autobiographical account of the collapse of his marriage, and the beginning of a new life. The first chapter was written in the Summer of 1989, on a napkin at a garden party for T.S. Eliot’s, grandniece’s nephew. The second was started on his brown Hush Puppies whilst on a writer’s retreat in Valetta, during the ill-fated antiquing venture that cost him his life. It was here that witnesses claim the author, on noticing a young lady harassed by a honking brute, would run out his villa, into the street and scream “Brékkek Kékkek Kékkek Kékkek! Kóax Kóax Kóax! Ualu Ualu Ualu! Quaouauh!” before writhing on the floor and spinning like a top. A man of great integrity to the last.

Friends suggest that Feathersnatch was convinced that this last work would finally bring him the respect he deserved. It now seems probable that this may yet be the case, as the fragment is already garnering serious attention. In what is almost certainly Feathersnatch’s best review yet, the noted critic Isiah Nacklesnoo wrote in South American crustacean biology, “This man may not have had any jot of artistic sense, ability to produce comprehensible prose, or indeed much intelligence of any sort… However, the combination of words he has used for every sentence is entirely unique, and that is something that almost resembles the work of a true artist.”

If only the good doctor could have seen this review.

A Rose for Kevin

Chapter 1- Toodles to the lonely haberdashers

My skin is a tangled mess cowering under scything waves of grain. Splendid turnips ride my garden’s hedgerows, as the spectacular rotary iridescence blinds the sinful ravens. They hunger for my succulent achenes, the brutes! I tell her and she flip flops like a foul Lando, shattering my soul with cantankerous sardines. She thinks my fears are marmalade, and my tears merely hot streams of congealing pancake batter. Curse this aureate worm twined around my dainty digit, that binds me to this sinking ship! I must run from the mantis nestled in her moist palms. I’m the Plastic man and she’s the bloated ham in the rye. I will gleefully cast her from this rotten lifecycle. She can have her pompadours.

There is a price to my catharsis, about three-quarters of my pie. Still, it seems she will not be satisfied until she can have all of my precious innards. Her delusions of victimisation feed the legal’s greedy gobs, and they give me my just desserts while she gets custardy.  However, the blame does not lie solely with the on the acidic spewing of her legal-types. Those friends of hers are faecal sponges, who never could see the succulent blueberries underlying my dry crusty exterior. Hither, a dirty rat. Tither, the possibility of another dirty rat.

The fetching hostess asked if I could write short films for the chosen few, with long pretentious words. I said there wasn’t any long words to label my tenacities, but only long laments. I merely wish to demonstrate that hate hides in the cheese without scent, in the sterilised bread. Now a drink to the handsome barman that has me questioning my indemnity and my undertints. Lustrous doorknobs could lead the way to a new passion, a new raison d’être. Can candles hope to dream my sufferings end? Olive skin under the mercury lamp light smothers my resolve. Loins of curdling buttermilk! Ahhhroooooe…

To my new pate! Nevermore the case-moth society! Nevermore the jacketed pleasure trove! Nevermore in the class of thieving whatsits!

Chapter 2- Slandering sycophants don’t deserve pudding

I finally find myself in Caravaggio’s island hideaway, without a care and, by my side, a naïve young satyr to churn the butter. He keeps me churning along, this Kevin.

Antiquing is my newest fixation, ancient objects my sweet balming agent. The accumulation of gargantuan Keys is especially nourishing. You must unlock the door before you turn the knob, of course you must. This market is an arid wasteland, populated by hairy dormice that want my crusts before they’ve fallen. Worse, the tourist woman is a dreadful toady, tell them you’re a writer and they’ll suspend their eggs. How did I ever tolerate the vanity of the chiding evolution? I crave transcendent regression.

That key looks Manchurian. Perhaps it will slide graciously into the lock if I apply enough sunscreen. Pathetic rustic caustics. The contrarian fellow refuses to know my size. He just wants my Kevin’s tattling aperture for his own cankered nut. The oaf’s beaked nose offends, and I must tear at his pocketbook. His crab eyes are spiny and calloused. What can he….ooodprahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

 

*Sadly this is where the tale ends. It is a great tragedy. Not since Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon have I encountered an unfinished manuscript with more potential.

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Book review: Bring Me Your Love by Charles Bukowski

“Fishhead, my paranoia has often been the forerunner of an approaching truth…”

This is violent. This is vulgar. This is Brilliant!

Bring me your love written by Charles Bukowski and illustrated by Robert Crumb, is a story published in 1983 about a man visiting his wife in a mental asylum. Short and sweet, it felt like a sharp jab in the face that could, at least temporarily, rid me of the suite of pretentions and self-delusions I always carry about. *

“…She brought her right hand up, looked at it, clenched it into a fist and punched herself squarely in the nose, hard.”

In the edition I purchased, the story is in large print, almost in the style of a children’s book. A very adult children’s book. The stark illustrations by Robert Crumb are superb, and very well suited to Bukowski’s style. It’s all over in a minute which seems appropriate. Strangely beautiful.

I had heard that Bukowski could be nauseatingly chauvinistic, but in this story I felt that the poorly treated female protagonist provoked only sympathy. In fact, it reminded me of some of the more disturbing ‘feminist’ stories from The Doll’s Alphabet, though perhaps you could argue, as the protagonist’s sister from The Moth Emporium mentions when faced with art depicting an abusive relationship by a male sculptor, it is “…different when a man does it.” I am not quite convinced of that.

To conclude, I enjoyed my first sample of the ‘dirty realism’ of Bukowski/Crumb so much that I have already ordered another short story, There’s no business, published in the same style. However, I imagine that reading many similar tales in a collection, one after the other, may very well be damaging to one’s health. You’d be a bloody mess after all those jabs to the face, I’m sure.

*This is unlike the sensation you receive when reading a Chekhov short story, which is more like the author gently placing you in front of a microscope, thereby allowing you to finally discover the underlying beauty that can be found in the most seemingly ordinary events/people; and the absurdity of societies foolish pretentions, delusions, unnecessary complications…or something along those lines.

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Image courtesy of Jennifer Rogers, 2007.

Book review: The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova

 “Edward did not cry during his own funeral, but blinked solemnly. His glasses were folded and placed in his jacket collar, but he did not really need them, he could see perfectly fine.”

This is a short review of my last bus book, The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova (Fitzcarraldo ed. 2017). It is a collection of stories that successfully toe the line between the hauntingly strange and downright silly, with a suite of recurring motifs including dolls, spontaneous childbirth (met with cold objectivity), feminism, sewing/sewing machines, self-absorbed eccentrics, scissors, and fish. The first few stories were very exciting at the beginning, but soon petered off (Unstitching, and The Mouse Queen). However, the following tales were far more consistent.

My favourites from the collection are The Mouse Queen (the first half, with the delightfully eccentric Peter), The Gothic Society, Waxy (a brilliantly creative story about a dystopian future where women only care for men, who obtain money from ‘exams’–gets increasingly disturbing), The Mermaid, Agata’s machine (Agata was a fascinating character, and the story itself was always engrossing–would make a great animated film), The Moth Emporium, and Notes from a spider.

The feminism employed could be rather stark, and a little old fashioned (men depicted as useless and cold, always a little hollow), but arguably there is already a long history of woman depicted as inferior, (or worse, a paragon of virtue) in literature, so such work is warranted to right the balance, etc (though still a little sad, if truly believed). The men are almost always quite simple and selfish creatures (though the female protagonists can also be quite cold and self-involved, to be fair), that are either nasty and interesting (Peter in The Mouse Queen), or nice and physically small/weak and childlike (as in Waxy and Rhinoceros). This was certainly true of men in Unstitching, in which they had “no ‘true secret’ selves inside, just what is taught and known.” That said, it was a ‘nasty’ male character from The Mouse Queen, the dastardly, otter-eyed Peter, that will be one of the few that stay with me (along with the equally eccentric Agata of Agata’s machine). A grave-digging, Latin-spurting, organ-playing eccentric with “slicked back hair like a young Samuel Beckett;” Peter reminds me of the caricature of Lawrence Durrell in My Family and other animals, with a healthy dose of Bertram Flusser from Indignation. It was only the second half of The Mouse Queen (post-Peter) that was a little weak.

“Neither of us had twins in our families. It was the Latin that did it, Peter said, did I have any dreams of swans or bearded gods visiting me? He acted like I had betrayed him in a mythological manner.”

Overall, this was a very interesting read, I was completely absorbed by the offspring of Grudova’s darkly twisted imagination, and look forward to her future published work. However, I don’t think it is as consistent, original and profound as last year’s instant classic, Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (perhaps an unfair comparison). Nevertheless, this will almost certainly be considered one of the best works of fiction to come out of 2017. Definitely worth your time. Fitzcarraldo, you’ve done it again!

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Film review: Million Dollar Legs (1932)

President: Hello sweetheart.

Migg Tweeny: Listen, my names Tweeny.

The President: You’ll always be sweetheart to me.

Migg Tweeny: I know, I know, but there’s talk already.

Million dollar legs is a mad vehicle for W.C. Fields directed by Edward F. Cline, that can compete with A Busy Day for pure silliness, and makes just about all other wacky comedies, before or since, look rather disciplined and conventional (including most Marx Brothers and other Fields pictures). It concerns the president of Klopstokia’s (Fields) attempts to get his country out of debt by entering some of the citizens (all remarkable athletes) into the 1932 Olympic games to procure a cash reward, with the help of a visiting brush salesman (Jack Oakie) who has eyes for his daughter (Susan Fleming). All the while, a dissenting cabinet (which includes the always-beautiful Vernon Dent), only kept in line by the physical domination of the president, plan to take over by any means necessary; even if it requires using ‘the woman no man can resist’ (Lyda Roberti in a bizarre performance, her exaggerated gyrations reminiscent of Olive Oyl’s attempts at seduction) to destroy the morale of Klopstokia’s athletes. There are also “spies everywhere” (at least one played by the cross-eyed silent movie star Ben Turpin).

This Depression-era romp is so knowingly nonsensical, it’s difficult to form an opinion as to its quality. It’s just so different. There’s fast-forwarding, pausing, rewinding, abrupt ends to scenes, goats and nuts, goats and nuts, and…goats and nuts. The highlight of the film is probably the Major-Domo’s attempts to deliver a message in a goat suit to Migg Tweeny and Angela, using his super speed. Yes, a goat suit. I enjoy and admire it a great deal, but I can’t say it was quite as consistently pleasurable as a good Marx Brother’s vehicle, or some of Field’s other films (The Bank Dick, It’s a Gift, etc).

It must be an art-film precisely because it is such a purely creative experiment in artlessness. It’s one of the closest things I’ve seen to The Goon Show on the screen (including all attempts by the Goons, Python, etc). I don’t think major studios today would be bold enough to risk a comedy that is this inventive; with a David Lynchesque art film probably as close as you get, but even they are not quite so cavalier as to take any and all liberties with the technology available. This is the type of original venture that represents the ‘old Hollywood’ that could do with a comeback.

 

From the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

From the notebook of Hackey Beetlebrow, head scientist of the Mighty Mighty Tenebrionid empire, Stardate 94743.17.

Further observations of the dominant ecosystem engineer on Planet 90189998819991197253, still largely undescribed.

Why do these apes cover themselves up in such ridiculous garments? They serve to protect them from adverse environmental conditions (they do not possess the tough exoskeletons of the Mighty Mighty Tenebrionid race), but there must be more to the shame experienced in many cultures when an individual is seen in a state of undress. It certainly isn’t something common to all tribes of this particular species historically. How did it begin? Was it perhaps the work of a clever individual to mask physical traits associated with mate attraction so that particularly well-endowed competitors could not be so easily distinguished, and therefore not monopolise the members of the opposite sex? If that is the case, the adoption of this covering has served to produce another trait for sexual selection, in the form of the type and arrangement of garments, hair, etc. In fact, this could have induced the members of this species to have a greater reliance on stylistic and behavioural cues for mate choice, and adopt garment styles that give potential mates the illusion of desirable physical traits. I can certainly already see styles to produce wider shoulders, narrower waists in males; and more prominent behinds, and larger breast in females. That mimicry of the vascularisation associated with sexual receptiveness and arousal is just blindingly obvious. However, by and large, these silly things still refuse to accept that their very lives are run in a very similar way to many of their relatives,  just with some extra things like ‘economics’, ‘science’, and ‘art’; all of which are also influenced by their biology to some extent, especially the latter. Those that try to fight what comes natural seem to be prone to behavioural abnormalities, but most simply turn a blind eye to their own contradictions. Of course, I expect nothing less from the species that can’t even agree that its males and females are of a kind, and one that calls their closest extant cousin a ‘monkey,’ when in fact it shares more genetic material with them than it does with any other animal, including what their scientists call ‘true monkeys’ as well as all other apes.

Never before have I encountered a semi-intelligent species of animal that refused to believe it was a species of animal. What a mad bunch. Nothing like the omnipotent Mighty Mighty Tenebrionid race, who are beyond biological urges, and will surely be the masters of all that is forever! Now I must run out to be pollinated, a purely spiritual experience, quite unlike anything conceivable to the primitive beings I study.

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Film review: A Busy Day/ The Fatal Mallet

I am feeling compunctious. I made promises of reviews and impressionistic accounts of real situations, but instead piled on the fiction (most recently my first example of ‘flash fiction’, and a terrible one-act play). This is because I have committed to producing things spontaneously in the few hours I give myself over to this blog, and writing informed reviews and opinions generally takes time and research (but see my rant about Marilynne Robinson’s essay on Darwinism). However, I’m still keen to share my highly biased opinions like any other self-involved internet user, so here are some ‘fairly spontaneous’ short film reviews.

A Busy Day/ The Fatal Mallet (1914)

A Chaplin double feature seems a good start. These shorts are from Chaplin’s time at Keystone studios under Mack Sennett. Mainly under the direction of others, Chaplin was not yet the genius writer, director, composer, and all-round master of filmmaking he would soon become. Nevertheless, his masterful slapstick performances in these shorts were what made his name famous throughout the world. These films are primarily of historical importance, with the slapstick antics of the stars, rather than any sort of plot, taking precedence. That being said, there are a few gems that still stand up today, including the vehicles of many other stars, such as Fatty Arbuckle and Mabel Lormand (now considered a pioneering comedy writer/director/actor). All are worth a look.

In A Busy Day Chaplin adopts drag for the first time. The plot is apparently about a woman (Chaplin), who is initially sitting with her husband (big Mack Swain) watching a military parade, but is soon frustrated by her husband’s constant attempts to woo another (Phyllis Allen), and she sets out to put a stop to it. That dirty Swain!…so very sorry about that.  In her attempts to chastise her wandering spouse, she encounters a cameraman (Sennett himself), and a policeman (Billy Gilbert), both of whom she greets with such violence that she makes ‘the Tramp’ look quite mild-mannered.

I must confess, the first time I watched this I had a slightly different impression. To me it seemed as if a lonely psychopath (perhaps an escapee from a mental hospital,  and possibly even a man in drag) had decided to stalk and attack the poor man she/he happened to be sitting next to at the races, and the woman he was attempting to woo. Big Mack looked as if he was he was humouring the woman/man at the beginning, probably because it was clear that she/he was not stable. In this case, the unfortunate policeman was simply attempting to serve as protector to the innocent Swain. I personally think that this interpretation is more rewarding, and much more funny. Chaplin’s little rump swinging dance after attacking the policeman was definitely the highlight. Hilarious.

In conclusion, whilst this remains a lesser picture to many (some of his later attempts at drag are considered marginally better because he plays it ‘more feminine’), I think I love it. It’s one of the few Keystone shorts I’d happily watch over and over again. The visual reference to the tramps first appearance in Kid Auto Races at Venice was also rather nice. Now that was a good short, but I digress.

The Fatal Mallet sees Mabel Lormand being wooed by Chaplin (as ‘the Tramp’), Mack Sennett (as another tramp with tight clothes and tiny hat), and Mack Swain (as a big strong boy). Initially bullied by big Mack, the Tramp and Sennett’s ‘trampy’ character team up to torment him with bricks, before finally utilising a giant mallet that was lying around. Chaplin’s tramp soon betrays his comrade and pays dearly for it.

Naturally Chaplin is the standout. I can’t imagine the audience rooting for anyone but him in this scenario. I can’t stand Sennett in that get up (that infuriatingly tiny hat!), so at the end I was bitterly disappointed. Still, I suppose Sennett and Lormand were in a relationship at the time, and of course it was written and directed by Sennett. Big Mack did what he does best, playing a big angry brute (as he does in Chaplin’s brilliant early full length feature, The Gold Rush). As for Mabel, she does about as well as she could with the part, executing a few descent slapstick manoeuvres and coming across as the cheeky beauty she reputably was. Overall, it was a reasonably entertaining attempt, but hardly comparable to the best Keystone films, and less purely funny than the A Busy Day in my opinion.

Recommend:

Other than the Keystone boxset, I encourage Chaplin’s (not altogether objective) autobiography, all of the films he directed (full length and short), and the surprisingly descent academy award winning biopic, starring Robert Downy Jr.

I am a sick man…I am a wicked man. An unattractive man. I think my liver hurts.

The meat was incredibly succulent. Yukiko was allowing each piece to slowly melt on her tongue.

“This is delicious, Freddie.”

“I’m so pleased. It’s 3D-printed, you know? A quick swab of the cheek, and Bob’s your uncle. There’s no longer any need for pointless slaughter.”

“Terrific. Anyway, you’re clearly doing quite well for yourself. This place is a tad exposed though.”

“I’m not a slave to bricks and mortar.”

“Mmmm…Right. So, is this scrumptious stuff pork? Venison?”

“It’s me actually.”

“I’m sorry, are you saying…”

“You are currently enjoying a taste of Freddie. Isn’t modern technology marvellous!”

Yukiko, mouth full of partially masticated Freddie and asparagus, took on a distinctly green hue.

 

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