Steve Aylett is possessed of genius. It is, however, a narrow form of genius, focused on a form of verbal free-association that finds its optimum expression in satire. In some of his earlier books, his uninhibited plays on words was sometimes too diffuse and failed to gel into a coherent work. 'The Inflatable Volunteer', for example, is a pyrotechnic display of absurdist wit that avoids going anywhere in particular. As happened with many of the early surrealist writings this removes the work from the sphere of human concerns to an extent that it is lost to most people.
In 'Lint' however, Aylett has found a brilliant framework on which to hang his extrapolations. Indeed, possibly because of the discipline of having a baseground from which to work, the inventions are even more outlandish, often approaching a mode of expression beyond expression (to paraphrase Breton).
Like most of the literary surrealism of the 20s and 30s (Breton, Eluard, Peret in particular) Aylett abandons visually evocative prose altogether and writes at the dictate of an 'inner ear'. The results are extremely disorienting. The laughter doesn't begin immediately, the first response being bafflement accompanied by a kind of growing unease knocking on the door of a nihilistic horror. For me, the reaction occured at the beginning of the third chapter when a chance combination of phrases unleashed a tide of hysteria. I was forced to read the rest of the book in a room on my own, away from my wife who threatened to kill me if I didn't shut up. The laughter became painful - this is not feelgood comedy! This is a humour whose basis is buried deep in the cellular level. Black and strong!
Aylett throws out at least one idea per sentence that somebody else would have written into a full-length work. Sketches and embryos for what could have been developed into whole other plotlines. Almost as if Aylett had been granted access to view some vast forbidden library and, like Dylan writing 'A HArd Rain's A Goona Fall' on what he thought was the verge of doomsday, condensed as much of it into a small space as possible.
My only worry is that, having crammed so much into 'Lint' Aylett will be emptied of inspiration, like an old wine-sack. Where will he go after this?