Wednesday 17 April 2013

A Pretty Mouth

Molly Tanzer, 2012
(April 2013)

Sod’s Law, isn’t it? You wait ages for a Lovecraft/Wodehouse mashup, featuring everyone’s favourite Gentleman’s Gentleman pitting his wits against eldritch forces, and then two come along at once.

Four short stories and a novella, tracing the history of the benighted Calipash dynasty back through to Roman times. Some efforts are more successful than others, as is always the way. The opening story (A Spotted Trouble on Dolor-on-the-Downs) is that Jeeves adventure, and I think I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t read the Black Dossier recently enough for it still to be stuck in my mind.

I realize that marking down a pastiche for unoriginality is somewhere towards the deeper end of the “Well, duh” scale, but as with last time you can’t unread some things and that’ll inevitably affect what comes after. As the stories move back through time we also get 19th century pornography and a schoolhouse romp set towards the end of the English Commonwealth, amongst others. Each of these is written in a manner broadly fitting to the periods.

The risk in writing in an older style is that there are good reasons people don’t write like that now. There were quite a few occasions I found myself teetering on the edge of exasperation or –worse– boredom as Tanzer played her games with style and voice, obviously to her own great amusement. However, it never quite tilts over into a full-blown bout of authorial onanism; she has lovely control and a wonderful way of undercutting her prose.

              ‘… I find Gothic fiction so very tiresome. I really cannot account for its popularity, but I am sure that is the reason Susan is so beside herself with excitement over this project. “Dearest Chelone, you shall write me Jane Eyre–but with lots and lots of fucking!”’

Anachronisms are deployed liberally towards this goal. You could, I suppose, interpret this as authorial ignorance but it’s so consistently done, and done well, that I can't but feel it’s clearly deliberate. Also, more importantly, very funny. For all that the weird, Lovecroftian aspects may be what sell this book, in the main part it’s not really horror – in fact it’s unexpectedly sweet and endearing in places. It’s comedy; comedy of style, innuendo, bathos, and incest. Quite a lot of incest, if I’m being honest.

Twins, too. So ‘twincest’ then. Oh I am a card; Mr. Martin eat your heart out. The gags in A Pretty Mouth are better than that, generally, but it’s clearly a good fit for my sense of humour which is frankly a little too puerile for a man of my age and standing. Tanzer’s next book is slated for publication this year and apparently goes by the name of Dyldoe: A Novel. I think it should be pretty clear whether you’ll like it based on that title alone. Mark me down for a ‘yes’.

A Pretty Mouth is published by Lazy Fascist Press, and I’m going to link to them twice simply because they are called Lazy Fascist Press.


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  2. I kind of hope you leave the above spam in, just because it seems to fit well. Soy milk, paleo findings, and twincest!

    This book may be right up my alley, but maybe it needs more tentacles.

    1. I think you might like it. The tentacles appear to varying degrees in the different stories. It's not mind-blowing like Jagannath was, but still worth checking out.

  3. Lazy Fascist Press is an awesome name.

    The first part of the spam seems like an excerpt from some sort of futuristic book where the character relies on fundamentalism as a replacement for regular nutrition. A dark and doomed country in a state of perpetual war, with an insufficient food supply due to excessive militarism in 2084 perhaps?

    I mean, who needs calcium when you have reactionary rejuvenation causing paleo-physiological stress on the body? Sounds pretty awesome to me.

    1. The Lazy Fascist emblem is a full handlebar moustache which is quite a nice gag, if you ask me.

      I think I must have passed a significant threshold about six weeks ago, because recently I've been getting absolutely swamped with spam. It's usually on a couple of my older posts specifically, so I don't feel the need to do too much about it apart from hit delete, but given as the both of you asked so nicely this can stay. Though it's come to something when the spam gets more approving comments than the actual post :(