For the Joy of Reading: The Book of Blaise

Welcome to the breathtakingly logical world of Ian McPherson.   It is just that he does not use a logic that is remotely recognisable to the rest of the world.   The hero proceeds from a completely false premise to an inevitable conclusion, wreaking havoc as he goes.   Myles Na Gopaleen would be proud.

A little explanation is needed.    I first came to know the work of Ian McPherson through his performances at the Edinburgh Festival and at the wonderfully named DisComBobuLate [did I spell that right, Alan Bissett?] cabaret evenings in Glasgow.   He is a standup comedian with an acerbic wit, leaving you breathless with laughter at the sheer absurdity of life, and his life in particular.   To say that his act is based on things going wrong is like saying that Genghis Khan was a warmonger.   It gives you the idea, but does not indicate the sheer scale of the enterprise.   And The Book of Blaise is the Everest of absurdity.

There is something awful about this book.   You watch helplessly as the unnamed hero walks, with a certain insouciance, towards his inevitable fate.   You can see what is going to go wrong and, of course, there is nothing that you as a reader can do about it.   And when it does go wrong, it is beyond your wildest imagining.

To understand all this, you need to meet the characters.    There is the hero who is the epicentre of disaster.   There is Blaise, his long-suffering partner, who is a writer.   There is Bonnie, his 17 year old daughter, who the hero cannot accept as having grown up.   There is Isobel, Blaise’s octogenarian, gadget-obsessed mother, whose extreme Presbyterianism makes Ian Paisley look reasonable.   There is PC Clint struggling with the fact that his mother is marrying a woman.   There is the drunk who the hero mistakes for AL Kennedy.   There are Catholic priests,including a Jesuitical Jesuit, mad academics, a famous African feminist writer, and, of course, AL Kennedy, who is ignored.   All of this comes together in a sort of trifle, an Eton Mess, as the hero collides with the unexpectedness of life,and the inevitability of things going wrong.

Some words of warning.    It may be necessary to have an ambulance crew on standby, in case you hurt yourself while falling about laughing.

And do not read this book on public transport, as I did, in the quiet coach of the train.   The quietness of the coach will be shattered.   This is not popular, especially if it is the 4.26am train from Glasgow to London.   People do not take kindly to having their sleep interrupted by riotous laughter.   You may be asked to move.

So lock yourself away somewhere safe, and enjoy this book to your heart’s content.

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