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We've been bragging on Spimcoot's new book, but we've got another author who has graced the pages of the h2g2 Post. jwf brings us a review of a new book by Pheroneous. If you're curious about Pheroneous' h2g2 writings, we rcommend a peek at the archives.
Mr P (and George) by Pheroneous
Divided into three distinct sections it is not at first obvious that this slender volume of tales is truly breaking new ground in literary form. One assumes it is a collection of short tales, anecdotal adventures suitable for bedside reading. Most of the stories in all three sections are told by a First Person narrator and the genius of this device is not at first apparent because we are seduced into an assumption that 'I' will be the same person.
But it soon becomes hard to believe such a wide spectrum of human personality and experience could be embodied in any single mind. The reader's assumptions are challenged, even strained in trying to rationalise that the same mild-mannered everyman who agonises over finding a wallet could suddenly find himself crashing a getaway car somewhere in France or discovering mummified remains in the cellars of an Italian villa.
In the first section the 'I' is a certain lovable Mr P, whom one can easily identify as a middle-aged everyman of middle-class means, passing through the trials of modern suburban life in the UK, as he finds lost wallets and loses his mobile phone in a wheelie-bin. This gentle 'Mr P' is reminiscent of James Thurber's 'little man', engaged in the eternal battle of the sexes and valiantly going forth to meet the whirled at large with a pen that proves mightier than any sword and a heart big enough to embrace the follies of modern life.
Then comes the second section. And as I read each tale it finally began to dawn on me that the First Person narrator, the 'I' who is telling the stories, could not possibly be that same person.
And then, the proverbial penny finally drops! And we realise how effectively the writer has engaged our sympathy for a wide variety of characters, not always pleasant or likable characters. We have been led into a pattern of reflexively identifying with the voice of 'I', looking for ourselves in the voice. A brilliant device!
These tales are like Shakespearean soliloquies. Pheroneous steps into the center of each character's persona and is speaking as the 'I', delivering deeply personal introspective perspectives, much like the classic soliloquies, each one unique to each hero or villain and the whirled they live in.
Just as Hamlet, MacBeth, Marc Anthony, Romeo and Richard III all speak to us in the First Person we would never for a moment begin to think they were the same character – even if we know they are written by the same brilliant writer and perhaps even performed by the same famous actor.
By this device, Pheroneous engages our rational mind even as he nudges us further and further into some extreme situations and many different, even possibly psychotic characters. As lovable as the original Mr P has been, so too do the other darker characters get into our hearts and minds. It is a brilliant trick and I do not hesitate to repeat emphatically that I consider them analogous to Shakespeare's soliloquies.
Mr P (and George) is available at the Lulu website.
Not surprisingly Pheroneous has modestly objected to my comparison of his work to that of Shakespeare and I have since informed him that this comparison is only to the form, to the means of multiple character revelations via a series of First Person narrations – a rare and difficult literary device.
My review was never meant to suggest any other comparison to the Bard's poetic language skills. For one thing there is very little use of metaphor (except where possible ghosts appear). And there's not an ounce of iambic pentameter to be seen or a prithee sirra to be heard for miles.