Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The "Some parodies - an anthology" website is an absolute delight

I love literary parodies. Well, any kind, actually. I wrote about some of my favourite poetic parodies here back in 2010. I featured the Telegraph sketch writer, Michael Deacon's glorious parody of "novelist" Dan Brown's work three years ago. And, of course, this blog has had the honour over the years of being the platform of choice for the work of Benjamin Zephyr Zodiac, who, sadly, seems to have fallen silent recently - a shame, given the wealth of suitable targets currently on offer. Perhaps he feels that, with Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn in the spotlight, parody has become temporarily redundant. Or maybe he's waiting for a LibDem revival to reinvigorate his muse. As a keen fan of the genre, I was delighted to stumble upon Geoff Wilkins's "Some parodies - an anthology" website a few weeks ago. It was based, its creator tells us,  on Dwight Macdonald's excellent 1960 anthology, Parodies, and contains many beloved classics, but brings us right up to date, ending with John Crace's take on the appalling Will Self. I've reproduced some of the more recent ones below, starting with an extract from the Diaries of David Hare, brought to us by the doyen of contemporary parodists, Craig Brown:
The State of Britain, Part One: Three days ago, I went to a party. I don't often go to parties, because I'm not that kind of person, I'm a playwright, with more serious concerns. But I went to this one. By bus, of course. I'm not the sort of person who takes taxis. So I hailed a double-decker in the King's Road and told the driver to take me to Islington. He was then to wait for me outside the party for an hour or two and take me back. The instructions were quite clear. But of course this is Thatcher's Britain, so when I left the party - a party I didn't particularly enjoy, by the way, it was hardly serious at all and full of 'amusing' people - the bus was nowhere to be seen (typical) and I was forced to hail, against all my instincts, a black cab. Out of sympathy with the driver I sat with him in the front, observing, observing, observing, my mind racing back to one of those rare defining moments, disproportionately significant but peculiarly illuminating, that had occurred back at the party.
I had been standing in the corner of the room with the dirty paper cup I had specially brought with me, when a man had come over - a tall, flashy type, with an easy smile, wearing a fashionable 'tie'. He said: 'You look a bit lonely, may I introduce myself?' He then introduced himself. I didn't reply, preferring to observe, as most serious playwrights do. He then said - again that fake smile - 'And who are you?' I was outraged, utterly outraged. And flabbergasted. Shocked too. Shocked, outraged and flabbergasted. Not for me, of course, but for my profession, and the whole of British Theatre, from the lowest understudy right up to the most brilliant and dangerous playwright (whether this is me or not is beside the point). Why was this man - this man in his fashionable tie, with his promiscuous smile and his over-attentive handshake - pretending not to know who the hell I was? This was a sign of our inexorable national decline, as significant and painful in its way as the Miners Strike or the Falklands Conflict.
Another Craig Brown diary parody, this time of Anthony Powell ( or "the horse-faced dwarf" as Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin referred to him):
22nd January 1995: I received a telephone call from a Professor Wildenstein at Princeton University. He wanted to give me a large amount of money. This is the sort of thing the Americans do very well. He said that I was to be awarded some literary prize or other worth 50,000 dollars, and would I do him the honour, etc, of accepting it. Really the most awful bore, but I suppose one must humour these types. Reluctantly, I accept, wondering why he could not just have posted it to me, without the need for 'acceptance'. Needless to say, he was delighted. I have noticed in the past that many Americans pronounce 'Dance' with a sharp 'a', rather than a long 'a'. Have others noticed this too, or is it my novelist's ear? I ask him to send the cheque, but, please, no accompanying letter, as these congratulatory missives can prove tedious to plough through.
Re-read the poems of W. B. Yeats. Very Irish.
Here's the opening of D.J. Taylor's Ian McEwan parody, Solar:
He belonged to that class of novelist - vaguely unprepossessing, earnest, left-liberal, often sexually obsessed - who were unaccountably attractive to the editor of the Guardian Saturday Review and the judges of literary prizes. But the Ian McEwan of this time was a man of deeply depressed sensibilities, chthonic, limitrophic, and prone to use words whose meanings many of his readers would find themselves forced to look up in dictionaries. He did not know how to write a novel that did not depend for its effects on vast amounts of background research, or wholly implausible moments of lurid drama, and the discovery produced in himself, among an array of contending emotions, intense moments of shame and longing.
In "A new 'civic liturgy' on the theme of St George", D.J. Taylor  eviscerates the style of our former poet laureate, Andrew Motion:
...One thing you will notice about these poems of
mine, for better or worse, is that as they continue they stop being what most people would regard as poetry and turn
into prose, neatly chopped up into lines of irregular blank
In "A Delicate Truth", John Crace perfectly captures the stylistic tics and the progressively deranged hatred of America which has marred so much of John le Carré later work:
"Oooh ahh, oooh ahh." Three years have passed and to show we are in Cornwall, the locals are talking in dialect. Sir Christopher Probyn is enjoying his retirement from the civil service, though he did sometimes wonder if his last unmerited posting to the Caribbean, and the knighthood that came with it, might have had something to do with Gibraltar and his secondment as "Paul". A decrepit man appears at the Bumpkins Annual Fayre. Christopher looked at Jeb in amazement.
"The Gibraltar operation," Jeb spits. "It was a cover-up. The intelligence was wrong. There was no jihadi. The Americans killed a Muslim woman and her child."
"Good God!" Christopher replies, his conscience and his knighthood gnawing away at him. "We must do something. But what?"
I'll end with the whole of a Wendy Cope homage to Ted Hughes, with its particularly memorable last line:
God decided he was tired
Of his spinning toys.
They wobbled and grew still. 
When the sun was lifted away
Like an orange lifted from a fruit-bowl 
And darkness, blacker
Than an oil-slick,
Covered everything forever 
And the last ear left on earth
Lay on the beach,
Deaf as a shell 
And the land froze
And the seas froze 
’Who’s a pretty boy then?’ Budgie cried.

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