‘This is all the land of Blarnia,’ said the Faun. ‘From the traffic light in the western woods to the great castle of Cair Amel on the eastern sea, bordered on the south by Oz, on the west by Middle Earth, and on the north by Made-upistan.’

‘I – I got in through the wardrobe,’ said Loo.

Mr Dumbness looked at her in disbelief. ‘You got here through a wardrobe?’ he asked. ‘What are you, high?’

The explanatory title to this book is ‘The Lying Bitch in the Wardrobe’. This is all you need to know about it before diving in.

The plot of this novel is startlingly familiar to that of some obscure book published some seventy years ago by a little-known hermit called Jack Lewis. The afterword by author Michael Gerber expresses mystification at his having being plagiarised years before his own birth. It would seem the publishing industry is even stranger than anyone suspected.

Four children are sold by their parents to a crotchety old professor, who needs subjects for his invasive medical experiments.  Pete, Sue, Loo and Ed Perversie were told by this was to protect them from the ‘invisi-bombing of London’. Of the four children, only Ed has the common sense to realize this is a colossal fib. He despairs that he has been laboured with three such idiotic siblings. Pete is a hyperactive thug suffering from ADD, whose solution to every problem is to try and dig a hole. Sue is marginally more intelligent, but insists on thinking the best of everyone. Loo is determinedly suicidal and bears a suspicious resemblance to a neighbour who lived down the street from the family home.  One afternoon, while hiding from the demented professor who now legally owns them, the younger sister discovers a magic wardrobe (as well as a looking glass, a deep hole and a tesseract). Loo is transported to the weird world of Blarnia and meets the conniving Faun Mr Dumbness. In typical fashion she ignores every sign that he intends to feed her to the Wide Witch.

When Ed follows his sister he discovers strange and very adult feelings towards the ruling monarch of Blarnia, a compulsive eater obsessed with trying the delicacy known as ‘Son of Atom and Daughter of Steve’. Precocious to a fault, Ed fails to recognize the danger posed to his own life by the Wide Witch and agrees to bring the other Perversie children to her castle. On their travels across the winter wonderland the kids encounter other exotic creatures, such as a pair of lesbian beavers, a gin-loving Father Xmas and the cat-messiah Asthma, whose carpentry skills leave a little to be desired.

This very special book comes with an extra feature, called CensorVision, which spares readers from any offensive ideas and/or words. Also most of the characters have already read ahead to the end of the novel, just so they know how to move the plot along when required. Which is a good thing too, as the land of Blarnia is teeming with unnecessary plot devices and thinly disguised allegorical characters, not to mention a long suffering messiah, who wonders if his believers will ever understand his simple message that ‘Killing People is Bad!’

Unfortunately the relentless mockery of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe feels like shooting fish in a barrel. There have, after all, been many other piss-takes of C.S. Lewis’ rigidly allegorical Christian fantasy, including the cartoon South Park. What I love is the idea that Edward is actually the voice of reason. Throw in some amusing authorial asides and the laziness of this parody itself becomes the chief joke of the book.

It makes me wonder what a more ambitious take on the material might have been like. What if Jadis was in fact a democracy and climate change activist, attempting to enlighten the pagan people of Narnia to the realities of science. They insist on worshipping a lion, who can allegedly talk, although all he ever seems to do is eat people. Then four agent provocateurs from a foreign land agitate the natives into a frenzy of mob violence and establish a horrific fundamentalist junta.

Comedy!

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