Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Magnificent Bastards by Rich Hall (4/5)

The back says: Comic genius Rich Hall introduces a series of magnificent bastards and lost souls in this hilarious collection of tall tales.

Meet the man who vacuums bewildered prairie dogs out of their burrows; a frustrated werewolf who roams the streets of Soho getting mistake for Brian Blessed; a smug carbon-neutral eco-couple; a teenage girl who invites 45,000 MySpace friends to a house party; the author of a business book entitled Highly Successful Secrets to Standing on a Corner Holding up a Golf Sale Sign; and a man whose attempts to teach softball to a group of indolent British advertising executives sparks an international crisis.

I say: Once again the brilliant writing of Rich Hall has got me in stitches and shaking my head at the same time. We once again meet an array of confused, conceited and sometimes cruel people that either can’t seem to catch a break or simply don’t want one.

One of my favourites was Werewolf in London in which we follow a werewolf trying to get dinner somewhere in Soho in London, something that turns out to be a lot more problematic than it sound. He can’t uses chopsticks and the waiter gives him tableware made out of silver, a little later on he gets mistaken for Brian Blessed (whom we love) and goes along with it, but my favourite part was the hilariously accurate description of Soho at night.

“[...] a nonstop procession of alcohol-drenched cretinoids, lager-sozzled wage slaves, shrieking gaggles of suburban hen-party sluts in short black dresses looking like they’re being swallowed by a mamba snake, forlorn shopping sociopaths with their accumulated Primark purchases, guttural Eastern European gangsters, louche pimps, skunkweed hustlers, neckless club bouncers with advancing foreheads, vaguely trollish cab drivers, gypsies peddling carcinogenic roses, grifters, drifters, thugs, lurid fluorescent drag queens, fluttering swarms of mosquito-like gays, gutter-crawling winos, the stagnant slime of a crumbling civilization laying itself at the foot of an open doorway promising ‘models’ three flights up [...] a chunderous parade of human rodentia. And yet, I’m the freak.” – p 86

There’s a certain sense of poetry in the way this werewolf looks at people, and also the reason he doesn’t bother them. “As a werewolf I am obliged to mutilate someone, but frankly, I have such a low view of humankind – particularly on theses streets – that I can’t be bothered” (p 86).

I love it all.

Although I know that some of the stories are built on personal experiences and truths, the way Hall takes them all that inch too far – making you wonder where the truth ends and the additives begin – is what makes this stand out. His sense of humour is raw, sarcastic and very intelligent (in spite of how low-brow it sometimes may come off ) and it’s clear that he’s a keen observer of life and people. Being American and having lived in England for years he brings a nice twist to his stories; a sometimes American view on English behaviour and vice versa.

4/5 because all of the stories weren’t as hilarious and/or profound as the rest, and I’d be the first in line if Hall decided to write a full length novel, because his writing is just brilliant.

Favourite stories:  Fifty-Cent Words, Tennessee Basketball, Werewolf in London, Golf Sale, Emily’s Arrival, Musical Ephemera, Sealed.

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