Things Go Better with Coke

41SoF+5kmlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgMy college girlfriend was a tiny, big-eyed girl who rode the Santa Monica bus passing for ten years younger than she actually was. Add to this a cute, a coquettish demeanor and some well-practiced babydoll expressions and she paid half-fare. One day at lunch she told a joke she had heard about the Pepsi salesman who was boiled and eaten by natives in the heart of darkness. She then smiled, poked her dimples, and added that the cannibals ate the poor salesman, all but his Thing.

Of course the punch line is the explanation that Things go better with Coke.

Reading Alain Mabanckou’s novel African Psycho, I could only smile every time the author referenced the main character’s Thing. But much like the American novel with a similar title, the narration is often relating a gruesome and deadly sexual attack.

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Feebleminded Cuckolds

34887611I am convinced that pistols, guns, rifles and all things resembling the above are more interesting to the feebleminded, the weekend cuckolds or those who want to kill themselves. …

I don’t know who invented the pistol. Probably a coward who had nothing between his legs and feared face-to-face confrontation. Pistols are for chickens. One should be ashamed to use them. …

In contrast to the knife, with which you can at least cut up meat that’s on the table, as soon as you see a firearm, my God, you know it’s meant to kill in the most expeditious manner possible.

And one more terrifying passage:

For people in uniform, guys like us are wild animals, rabid beasts to be shot without warning.

— Alain Mabanckou, African Psycho

Dystopia In Forty Stories

images.jpgDespite the conventional narrative of Empire of the Sun, Ballard is probably better known for the science fiction slant in his fiction, especially related to future, generally dystopian, societies.

His novel, High-Rise (I. G. H. in Europe) is the distillation of many elements of a dystopian future into a single high-rise building. The idea is good, although not that original (although a decidedly different and vastly superior novel, make sure you read Georges Perec’s Life A User’s Manual [La Vie mode d’emploi]). Ballard envisions a cluster of self-contained forty story condominiums, one of which is the focus of the novel.

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Polly Is a Polyglot

download.pngWhat does an author need to transform a generally boring historical spoof on the state of pirates, global exploration, and religious persecution in the late fifteenth century? The obvious answer is an African gray parrot providing the narration and splattering it with more Yiddish terms than you’ll ever hear on the Grand Concourse.

Let’s face it, insertion of common and even obscure Yiddish allows the writer to forego any subtlety in his manufactured prose: just toss in a Yiddish exclamation and transform a clichéd pirate image into something that passes for new and fresh.

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