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November 2004
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Book reviews by Nathan Childers


A Treatise on The Common Hangnail in 17th Century French Literature, in ten volumes. Asa Moff, Gigantic Book Corporation of America, Bog Place, NJ, 1981, $101.99 for the boxed set.

It is quite surprising how much a determined writer can write on a topic of no consequence whatsoever.

- NC


Revenge of the Turtle Necked Aardvarks, B. Goode as to told to B. Cairfl, Biodegradable Press, Utica NY, $4.95 hardcover, $10.95 paperback, $22.50 SF Book club edition.

This is the fourth in a series published by Biodegradable Press, the so-called "ecological revenge series". The series is a triumph of the committment, the tenacity, and ill-judgment of the editors. The first three entries in the series, Revenge of the Snail Darter, Revenge of the Lamprey Eel, and Revenge of a Clumsy and Rather Ill Natured Monitor Lizard were distinguished by being released immediately to the remainder tables or, rather more accurately, returned immediately from the remainder tables upon release. Whatever merits these works may have had were lessened by their not being printed on non-absorbent paper.

The current work is not up to the high standards of its predecessors in the series. Nevertheless the publishers have high hopes for it. Biodegradable Press has contracted with Miami Customs to process all seized Marijuana for paper; it seems that hemp is particularly suitable for paper. The hope of the publishers is that the heads of America will rush out and buy copies for personal consumption. This ploy accounts for the twelve page appendix that explains how to put book paper into brownies and other related topics. The publishers are, however, strangely reticent about the fact that the process for converting pot into paper destroys the hallucinogenic properties of marijuana - no doubt this is an oversight on their part.

Appalling as the idea may be, I suppose I should devote some comments about the contents of the book. We may begin with the proposition that at least one of the authors, and perhaps both, are literate. Our principal ground for this assertion is that the book contains a lot of words. A surprisingly large number of them are contained in sentences. Internal stylistic evidence rules out the possibility that the work was generated by a computer program. On the other hand there is no real reason to rule out the possibility that the original manuscript consisted entirely of type-setting symbols, and that the words were supplied by the typesetters, following directions as best they could. On the whole, I think that the balance of the evidence indicates that B. Goode and B. Cairfl were companions in childhood, and that B. Goode failed third grade, whereas B. Cairfl passed third grade but could not manage fourth grade. Given modern educational practice, this may mean that they are college graduates.

Upon reflection, I am inclined to believe that no good purpose would be served by delineating the plot. (You may read this as an admission that the reviewer could not make heads or tails of it.) It begins simply enough. Supposedly a missionary friend of B. Goode encounters some aardvarks wearing turtle neck sweaters. Naturally there is an attempt to investigate this phenomenon to find out what is going on. From there on things get a bit confusing. I can follow the bit about the mad scientist who increases the intelligence of a band of aardvarks with his Zapper Ray machine. I can accept the Aardvarkian Brown Shirt movement. I am, albeit unwillingly, able to envisage the ending in which hordes of turtle necked aardvarks dig out the foundations of New York and bring it down in a pile of rubble. The intervening 'plot', however, is confusing. What Richard Nixon and the Duchess of Windsor were doing in the story is beyond me, and I must say that I find their purported affair incredible. I suppose that the inclusion of the CIA was obligatory, but it seems gratuitous to present it as front organization for the Boy Scouts. Moreover I think it strains credulity a bit to present Uganda as a major nuclear power.

It is only fair, I suppose, to point out that the Times has called this a work of major literary importance, that Newsweek has called it a publishing event, that the Guardian has dismissed it as a Fascist polemical tract, and that it will appear int he Readers Digest as a condensed book.

- NC


So much for the bile of the modern book reviewer. I suppose I should point out that Mr. Childers' manuscript, Revenge of the Mounted Python, was rejected by Biodegradable Press as not being up to their standards.

-RH


This page was last updated November 1, 2004.
Reprinted from the April 1981 issue of APA:NESFA.
Copyright © 1981 by Richard Harter.

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Nathan Childers
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November 2004
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