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Introducing the 'Fantasy Non-Fiction' Genre.
on 23 February 2011
'Urban Grimshaw' is certainly unlike anything I've ever read before, a bizarre mixture of urban reportage, pseudo-mysticism , dodgy pub facts, drunken self-aggrandisement/self pity, misplaced self righteousness, and complete lies. Whether you're left or right wing, you'll find something to annoy you. It's certainly worth reading.
Anyway,questionable ideas in parentheses: Bernard Hare (or 'Chop' as he insists he's known as round the manor) is a disaffected, oft-unemployed drink and drug enthusiast in his mid 30s who's become disaffected because he is not allowed to be a social worker because of a minor criminal record (untrue) Thus he has sworn himself to bring down capitalism' (Though as he spends virtually the entire book drunk or drugged up in his council flat, or engaged in petty theft, it's difficult to understand exactly how this campaigns going)
He befriends glue sniffing oik Urban Grimshaw, a savant who declaims surrealist poetry whilst on the glue (The poetry, in fact, is clearly nicked from the Korova Milkbar scenes in 'A Clockwork Orange') Urban, and apparently all the children of Yorkshire, use glue to commune with the river god Bokono, who Hare later claims is also a god worshipped by Benin tribesmen (Bokononism is, in fact, a fictional religion invented by Kurt Vonnegut in the novel 'Cat's Cradle')
Chop joins Urbans gang of pre-teen delinquents and becomes involved with them over the next few years, managing to tech them to write suspiciously good poetry, (especially considering they're all illiterate) and gets them into Shakespeare and Robert Tressell. (again..)
Alongside all this, we get Chop's occasionally astute but usually pub-bore stylee political analysis (It's all Thatcher's fault) and his bizarre worldview (He seems to be under the impression that anyone who wears a tie to work is some sort of
top-hatted plutocrat: At one point he mentions that the local DSS offices are in his area, and imagines the clerks inside (who are 'all Cockneys') 'lounging around in their turkish baths').
so it's an odd book, it's social message about the underclass somewhat undermined by the large amounts of questionable truths in it. -It's difficult to know how much of the book, is true if you know for a fact that some of it isn't. Really interesting read, though.