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Lint’s first novel was published by Dean Rodence’s Never Never company in New York. The relationship between Rodence and Lint was one of complete mistrust, rage and bloody violence. When submitting work in person, Lint insisted on appearing dressed as some kind of majorette. ‘He was a large man and clearly wasn’t happy at having to do this,’ explains Fleece. ‘He blamed Rodence, was resentful. I still don’t know where he got the idea he had to dress that way when handing his stuff in.’
Obviously I had to come back for more.
Lint is the biography of a eccentric science fiction author named Jeff Lint, detailing his career writing for pulp magazines such as ‘Startling, Astounding, Baffling, Useless and Terrible‘ to his abortive animated show Catty and the Major and finally his retreat into reclusiveness, interrupted by the occasional obsessive fan. Steve Aylett describes the circumstances surrounding the conception of novels such as One Less Bastard, The Stupid Conversation and I Blame Ferns, as well as his controversial comic book The Caterer.
Aylett also discusses Lint’s series of failed marriages, including one union which collapsed when a presumed facial scar belonging to the author was revealed to be a sleep-crease and then there’s his fractious rivalry with fellow author Cameo Herzog, who goes out of his way to destroy the career of the bemused Lint. Success came tantalisingly close for the writer. His forays into entertainment produced scripts that eventually became Patton and Funny Girl - although the final screenplays were entirely different (George C. Scott is revealed to have been quite fond of Lint’s original piece Kiss Me, Mister Patton) He had less success with Star Trek, deciding to emphasise the essential boredom of Gene Roddenberry‘s future utopia with an episode titled The Encroaching Threat. While the teleplay was never filmed, Aylett shares with readers some highlights of the script including:
For the duration of ‘The Encroaching Threat’ the new character Chekov is said to be ‘flirting with McCoy’ and Sulu is repeatedly seen ‘lurking’ near a doorway while ‘sinister theramin music’ plays.
As it happens this book has been made into a film, a documentary in fact on the life of the mysterious Lint, with the likes of Stewart Lee, Jeff Vandermeer and Alan Moore appearing to discuss the legacy of the author. Here‘s one of the teaser trailers released.
This is possibly the funniest book I have read in….it’s the funniest book I have read! Jeff Lint is part Philip K. Dick, part L. Ron Hubbard, with a couple of other parodies thrown in to the mix as well. Aylett’s insistence on the writer’s genius, investing great meaning into his every utterance such as this line from his autobiography The Man Who Gave Birth To His Arse: ‘What I wrote then was a surrender to the bathysphere part of the human mind. Despite platitude universes beyond the door, I dealt in squalls of unimaginable intensity. I was in the fully-fledged moment. Happy and volatile, I roared through the labyrinth of bad gems,’ - making for a very amusing, neat satire of academic overanalysis.
One final story. While I was enjoying Lint on the train home from work one evening this young woman across the aisle started loudly conversing with a friend on the phone. I very quickly knew more than I cared to know about her social life, her education and opinions on said friend’s intelligence – so I, in turn, began to read from Lint, loudly and clearly, declaiming Aylett’s absurdist wonderland to the carriage at large.
I still maintain that my obnoxious performance was the more entertaining of the two.
Read Lint. It’s good.
‘I’ve been thinking about our beautiful country! Who gave it to us? I’ve been thinking about how God the Almighty gave us this beautiful sprawling land as a reward for how wonderful we are. We’re big, we’re energetic, we’re generous, which is reflected in all our myths, which are so very populated with large high-energy folks who give away all they have! If we have a National Virtue, it is that we are generous, if we have a National Defect, it is that we are too generous! Is it our fault that these little jerks have such a small crappy land? I think not! God Almighty gave them that small crappy land for reasons of His own. It is not my place to start cross-examining God Almighty, asking why He gave them such a small crappy land, my place is to simply enjoy and protect the big bountiful land God Almighty gave us!’
I think Steve Aylett inoculated me. Like Burroughs, once you read him your brain changes by increments. This is why I always liked Richard Dawkins’ theory of memes. Actually Daniel Dennett gave it much better expression, describing memes as a host of larvae in your brain that grow and develop into new viral ideas. This astonishingly disgusting image nails the idea behind ‘infectious culture’.
Welcome to my long-winded digression! Aylett infected me and now I am ready for George Saunders’ own invocation of manically surreal humour.
My edition is actually features the title novella, as well as a collection of short stories gathered under the banner In Persuasion.
The initial story describes the rabid assent of the eponymous Phil, a tyrant in waiting whose hatred of the bookish and weak-limbed ‘Inner Hornerites’, leads him to form a border militia of ‘Outer Hornerites’, who enforce an ever shrinking border surrounding their neighbours, demanding more punitive taxes each day. While the number of patriots called to his cause do not outnumber the Inner Hornerites, they are strong and tall, having been raised in the wide open spaces of Outer Horner.
They are also not strictly speaking human. While never fully described the peoples of Inner and Outer Horner are mentioned to have vents, or exhaust shuts, or in the case of the senile President, several moustaches. Phil himself is given to loud, stentorious speeches about patriotism and values and the threat posed by the limp wristed Inner Hornerites, especially when his brain slides down a large rack affixed to his body. What manner of beast is this?
George Saunders is dealing with overt political satire here, but in a refreshingly pretension free, absurdist manner. The story feels like a depressed Terry Gilliam run amok on the Monty Python opening credits. There is anger expressed, but couched in deceptively manic and lurid imagery.
This is a style that Saunders continues to employ in the following short stories in this edition. my flamboyant grandson features an elderly grandfather just trying to give his grandson an entertaining evening on Broadway, but frustrated by run a gauntlet of invasive holographic advertising. I remember Steven Spielberg’s Philip K. Dick adaptation Minority Report featured a similar scene of Tom Cruise finding himself assaulted by images of products and brands. The difference being Spielberg’s depiction seemed almost excited at the prospect of such augmented reality tech. Saunders portrays it as an affliction.
jon also tackles the increasingly dominate role advertising culture plays in our lives, once again depicting a future society ruled by images of comfort and excess. Here two lovers question whether their lives as commercial role models as any future for them as a family, as a part of a system that has no interest in the young life they are hoping to create. brad carrigan, american goes even further again, where television shows feature live action participants, at the mercy of reality altering ‘programmers’.
Throughout the collection there can be found a weary absurdism, a low mocking tone that fails to disguise a growing sense of despair at the future waiting for us.
I recommend a crash course in Burroughs, or Aylett first, however. Make sure you take your memetic shots.
‘So here’s the bottom line, Barny. Why do I need you? What sets you apart from the mass of people?’
‘A shrapnel scar on my spine the colour of banana talks to me at night, filling the room with whispers.’
Verbal frowned a moment. ‘Well by god that’s the best answer I ever heard.’
What a cruel joke life is. I saw this slim, docile looking novel on a shelf and I thought to myself, ‘this will be a nice palate cleanser after the wordy roughage of hobbits and elven poetry …only 133 pages? Sure that’s a doddle’.
Now dear reader, I find myself rocking back and forth on the living room chair, scrubbing my eyeballs with my fists, crying out ‘What! What was that! I don’t understand….my brain is melted…’
Needless to say, Only An Alligator is a very strange book. I will attempt to describe the plot, but I fear my facility with language has completely deserted me and booked a holiday somewhere saner. Barny Juno resides in the city known as Accomplice. He wants nothing more than to be happy and befriend all the ‘winged and stepping animals of the earth’. His home is a menagerie of vicious wildlife and rumours surround a suspected colony of eight hundred eels living in his garden. He also has strange friends, including a dinosaur fetishist nicknamed Round One and a scarecrow (or possibly a zombie, the data is confusing on this point) called Edgy who is desperate to join a secret society known as the Patently Damaging Sports Club. Accomplice itself is a metropolis stranded on the banks of some weird etheric realm of demons and ghosts. I think. I am not entirely clear on that point.
One day Barny finds an alligator caught in the walls of what is called a ‘creepchannel’. He rescues the animal and brings it home, naming it Mister Newton. He gives all his animal charges names, although his attempted funeral for a former pet was an unmitigated disaster, as he accidentally dropped his trousers during the eulogy. Anyway, it turns out this alligator was being fattened as a snack for a demon named Sweeney. Infuriated at this brazen theft, he orders his lieutenant Dietrich Hammerwire to find the thief Barny Juno and kill him. Or seriously inconvenience him. Either way, Sweeney wants results. Dietrich has his doubts about the assignment, as he quickly begins to wonder if Barny really is the genius his master believes him to be. As far as he can tell, the man is an unbelievable fool.
The experience of reading this book feels like sitting in a room with a sadistic madman who has shoved Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two Birds, Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica and Alex Cox’s Repo Man into a blender and then, with a wicked grin, flicked the on-switch. I felt like I was stuck back in William Burrough’s Interzone, somehow beached on a nightmarish inverted sephirot. I have no idea what this book is about. Frankly I did not understand half the sentences in this book.
It did make me laugh though. A lot. With a slight manic giggle at the end of each outburst. Sweeney’s rivalry with Barny becomes the principal concern of a mayoral election campaign, much to the bewildered hero’s confusion. Aylett somehow manages the proceedings with a deadpan sense of humour and gargled imagery. I would attempt to identify the plot as a political satire, but that would be missing the larger point I am sure. Get back to me in a few months when I have figured out what that is.
In short, if you are the sort of person who enjoys having their brains leak out of their nose due to the effort of reading, this is the book for you! If you are, on the contrary, a sane and respectable member of society I advise you to run, not walk, as far as possible from Mr Aylett. Maybe join a nunnery for a month or so, just to be safe.
It is too late for me I’m afraid.