THE CRAZY OIKLET 15
The route from the Arndale’s High Street exit to Afleck’s Palace goes right past Eddy’s book stall. Hence, on the hottest October day on record, the distracted bookworm can watch a constant stream of migrating shitehawks. I use Ron Horsefield’s designation of the young oik female although strictly speaking Ron coined this word for half naked girls on French beaches. The nubile Manc oikess is loud, raucous, taa-ooed, with much flesh on display – especially on hot days like this. A notable characteristic of the modern species is a much enhanced embonpoint in the upper regions (as Henry James might have put it). Indeed we might modify Ron’s taxonomy to call them great crested shitehawks since they strive to present their best features in low cut tops with, as the French say “tout le monde sur le balcon”. These days it’s hard to say how much is down to the surgeon’s art but nevertheless I’m sure that most of these well-fed, booze-addled sex objects owe it all to MacDonalds and Chardonnay. Eddy is engaged in this recreation (shitehawk watching) when I turn up. He recalls an earlier sighting of one who looked like a pipecleaner with huge norks and opines that these were genuine and that she was, therefore, a happy freak of nature rather than some dire cynical clinical construct.
Occasionally a solitary shitehawk might alight in the unit. Readers aren’t unknown but these can be recognised coz their mouths don’t move and they hold the book the right way up. Some come in to change into a new top they’ve just acquired in the Arndale. Myopic old fart customers will bridle at the sudden flash of pink, squint over the top of a Denis Wheatley and shout “Hey Eddy! Is this a bookshop or a knockin shop!?” Whereupon the proprietor will emerge from his cubicle, digital camera at the ready, and attempt to snap the offender. She’ll shout “You dirty old peedo!” to which Eddy will tell her she’s on private premises and all he’s doing is gathering evidence to support a charge of lewd display. Well, that’s Eddy’s story but I find it hard to believe – but bugger me if he doesn't produce a bunch of snaps.
Just then, parenthetical to this pulchritudinous flock, waddles by a black, bloated turkey (to maintain the metaphor) – an extremely fat oik whose vast girth threatens to split his baggy pants. “What” says Eddy embarking on one of his characteristic thought experiments “would they have to pay you to lick his arse?” I give the question some thought. “We’d be looking at five figures” I finally announce “Would it be videoed though and played on Utube and the six o’clock news?” Eddy grudgingly grants this prohibition, suspecting the price might go up but then adds “Not just the buttocks of course, it’d have to be the crack”. I can see where this is leading “Yis” I say “An I suppose it’d be after a night on the ale followed by several kebabs an biryanis just after he’d had an explosive crap”. Thus a final definitive figure is not reached. This digression is to disabuse Oiklet readers of the notion that conversations at Eddy’s are on topics like some comments on JK Huysmans in the Goncourt Journal or the unreliable narrator in the late fiction of Henry James. Unfortunately not. In this last outpost of central Manc literary culture the beleaguered bookworm must regretfully compare the ambience unfavourably to that, say, of the salon of Madame de Stael.
While I was away in France someone stole a box of books while Eddy nipped out for a sausage roll. It was a valuable box full of superb works on typography, book design and printing – all as new. Eddy got these off some mad old rich git who was having a clear-out. The vendor had removed all the dustjackets and chucked them in the bin. Yes, it’s one of the lunacies of book-collecting that a jacket adds more to the value than the book itself. Eddy bought everything on offer and then dashed over to the corpy landfill to search for the jackets. Nothing. Nevertheless the books were pristine; I was tempted to buy a few myself but realised they wouldn’t be cheap. “Whoever pinched them Eddy” I remarked “knew what they were doing. That wasn’t some casual sneak thief.” But, when you think about it, no low-life would even look at books. You’re not going to flog a hardback of Sein und Zeit in the pub. No, it’d be an old fart connoisseur or a desperate student – perhaps from the Poly or the Metro as it’s now known. Then I notice, on a shelf in his cubicle, a first ed of Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train. “And keep your eye on this Eddy” I say. The cheapest on Abebooks, I learn later, is £40 (no jacket) while the dearest was £6000 (with jacket).
A Eurasian family turns up speaking…er..Eurasian? Well it was hard to say what they were but they weren’t chinks, japs or Koreans. My friends in Oz had finely honed discriminations in this area and could easily identify Asiatics. Australia is the place most visited by the Japanese. I suppose they could have been Thais. The little girl, perhaps seven, selects a volume and holds it up to Eddy. It’s a neat small-format hardback. Eddy, obviously smitten by this tot, jokes that it’ll be very expensive and then asks for one pound. Grins all round. The kid gets it. It is The Selected Poems of W.B. Yeats. What will this toddler make of The Second Coming or Sailing to Byzantium one wonders.
Some desultory rooting on the front table reveals the Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad. I can’t say I’m a great fan. I liked Heart of Darkness but found Nostromo incomprehensible. However this series is superb and I’ve read the ones on Zola, Flaubert, Proust and Heidegger without actually owning any – they’re very expensive. This one has a sticker saying £17.98 which I peel off not wanting Eddy to get any ideas.
I wonder what it is about these objects which attracts me so (perhaps the Pléiade effect). Later it dawns on me. With their high gloss covers, perfect binding and 6” x 9” format they are exactly the same as the Crazy Oik! I present Conrad to Eddy with the rare paperback of Joe Orton’s novel Between Us Girls. Eddy is a bit derailed by the total absence of any price but says that the Cambridge University Press is an expensive publisher and asks for £8 for the two. I look shocked. “That little wog got a hardback for a quid” I protest. After much moaning I offer £5 for the Conrad and leave the Orton. Subsequent negotiation during which I make an impassioned case for a “bulk-buying discount” “Bulk?!” says Eddy “Two?!” I finally get the Orton for £2. But later, in tranquillity as it were, much taken not only with the fine essays on Conrad but also the excellent presentation, which, in a way, validates the Crazy Oik format (if its good enough for CUP etc) I wonder if we couldn’t perhaps do a similar prestigious series The Crazy Oik Companion to…And then this notion crystallizes further – yes, of course, our first shot will be: The Crazy Oik Companion to The Great Crested Mancunian Shitehawk.
Contributions to this production are invited – and any ideas for further volumes.
Marie Feargrieve writes to complain of a chauvinist bias in the Oik. This was written before Oik 11 appeared and can't possibly stand up in the face of Kayti Doolittle's great story given prime location in the latest issue. I have asked her for a contribution to TCOCGCMS (see above) and any other aggrieved lady readers and writers are similarly invited. Apropos the Bedlam I must defend Brett as a fine and occasionally funny crackpot who is, generally, consigned to the decent obscurity of the Bedlam rather than the body of the Oiklet itself. It would indeed be a tragedy if this excellent, long-standing stalwart of the Oik were to be intimidated into a silence by such criticism.
PIERS BURTON-PAGE 1 Binden Cottages, North Lane, Buriton. TLS Oct 14
An exchange of emails with Liverpool’s greatest unknown poète maudit, Paul Tanner, leads to a project of publish a chunk of his work under the Penniless Press Publications imprint. This distinguished organ has already issued Jim Burn’s essays Radicals, Beats and Beboppers and is about to issue Alexis Lykiard’s fine translation of Pierre MacOrlan’s Masochists in America. Liverpool’s greatest known poète maudit is of course Peter Reading. For a sample of his stuff on the site follow this link (Perduta Gente). Both have a low opinion of hom sap gained in the workplace. Paul has worked on supermarket checkouts while Pete operated a weighing machine at a factory in Shropshire. Pete’s bosses got jumpy when they realised they had a real poet on the books (he featured on a TV arts program) and promptly sacked him. Paul, on the other hand, found checkouting a bit too demanding and chose to spend more time with his muse. He chucks in a few graphics which reveal a gift in that direction too – he’s Baudelaire and Daumier rolled into one.
I suggested an account, plus video, of Kim Il Jong recreating in the manner of the aged Mao would do wonders for Kayti’s literary career. She’d merely have to sneak over the border and get installed in the state knocking shop. The South was once a very dreary place. Workmates attached to a project out there told me they lived in a dismal barracks and ate cabbage soup every day. But that was years ago. South Korea now has the fastest broadband in the world (100 Mb) and is full of demented ubergeeks (rather like Brett I imagine). Paradise or what?
Apropos of Brett we report two additions to his life-changing books – Slaughtehouse Five and Tools for Thought, both on his list in Spoik. Another lunacy Sibelius Five is added to the Bedlam. Also added are two quite bizarre squibs Pandora's Doll and All of Me.