Monday, 14 July 2014

Don't Point That Thing At Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli Review

Imagine a story told by Paul Whitehouse’s character Rowley Birkin QC - “Blahblahblahblahhorsesblahblahmuttermutterpaintjobrhubarbrhubarbblahblahofcourse… Iwasvery… very… drunk!” - except vastly more coherent so you can understand every word but so scattered that it may as well be muttered gibberish. That’s essentially what reading Don’t Point That Thing At Me is like.

Charles Mortdecai is an aristocratic art dealer who’s fallen in with a bad crowd. The police are after him for an alleged art theft and some shady types are on his tail but it’s ok because he’s very, very drunk. The cover blurb compares the unpronounceable author Kyril Bonfiglioli’s novel as a cross between Ian Fleming and PG Wodehouse – if only! Charles is always drinking and some guys get shot around him so I suppose that’s where the Fleming reference comes from – a couple of details that sound Fleming/Bond-like and nothing more – but the Wodehouse? Hmm, no, that would mean Bonfiglioli’s funny and he’s not.

I suppose at the time it was hilarious to read lines like “The man was looking at me askance. ‘Why are you looking at me askance?’ I asked” as the first person novelistic narrative bleeds over into pseudo-realistic dialogue, but these days? Meta has been done a great many times since, not just in novels, so it’s not as fresh as it once was or at all funny. And no, Bonfiglioli didn’t pioneer that style.

Despite being a short novel, the turgid sentences soon slow down the narrative to a near-stop – and it’s not like it was fast-paced to start with. The scenes are mostly Charles drinking in various places while tediously “bantering” with the other flat characters. You have to be very careful when reading this because when a “character” gets shot in the head, it’s literally dealt with in one sentence before Charles hurries off to resume drinking elsewhere and it’s not brought up again ‘til later. Don’t want to do anything difficult like write non-static scenes, what?

After struggling through nearly 50 pages (of this 160+ page novel), I just gave up. Maybe having a protagonist who thinks he’s funny because he drinks, is rich, and tediously makes fun of everyone for not being funny, drunk or rich like him, is entertaining for some readers - not for me. I even tried drinking while reading this crap and it only underlined how unfunny Bonfiglywhatever is! 

Why republish this outdated, unknown-for-a-reason rubbish? The character’s exploits have been turned into a movie starring Johnny Depp, scheduled to flop next year, so Penguin are cashing in. A roguish main character played by Depp who’s drunk all the time, talks nonsense, and stumbles around like a buffoon – well, it’s good to see Depp stretching himself. Savvy?

Don't Point That Thing At Me

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