Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
on 7 April 2012
There are two ways to look at this eponymous tale and the first is the most obvious. This is the amusing story of the fantasist Cpt. Shoelace and what happens to him when he moves home. We meet him not long after he has moved into the village of Effam and having done so he has managed to attract the attention of his neighbours who then embark on an unrelenting campaign designed to prick the balloon of pomposity that surrounds our protagonist. This sets up a number of situations that allow Johnson (the author, not the neighbour) to indulge in subtle word play, general clever badinage, innuendo, misdirection and all round silliness. Towards the end though, the book descends a little into farce and I found myself rooting for the Captain as he seems to get far more than he deserves. I hope he can get the villagers on his side in the sequel.
The second way to look at this manuscript is to consider this in to-days social context. This is the world where people are bullied online just for being different and people can do so with impunity. I saw parallels in Johnsons writing with the current attitude that one can behave in such a way without being brought to book. Having read the book I don't think that Johnson has set Shoelace up to be deserving of the treatment he gets. His own behaviour does get worse as the story progresses but I saw this as a result of the behaviour he encounters from others. He is insulted by all within the village, simply due to the fact that he indulges in a little harmless fantasy. He is fleeced by local tradesmen, his neighbour and even the doctor! On top of that, he is physically assaulted as well as put upon and all for no good reason other than, he is an outsider.
Nobody suffers any consequence for their aggressive actions against this man - these characters are the twitter and facebook bullies set down in a fictional village the name of which sums up their worldview. It's the concept that this is OK or even funny that jars with this reviewer. This is not a man who is self destructing this is a man who is maligned at every turn for being harmlessly different and is hopelessly and deliberately wrong footed by everyone as he tries his best to get the hell out of town with some small shred of dignity left.