Saturday, June 01, 2013

Cars and Girls / Aristophanes

I've been reading Cars and Girls, four femnoir stories, the first book published by Pankhearst Independent Writers Collective. I do like the book, and was almost moved to review it, until I remembered that reviewing books takes effort and dedication which I just don't have. The authors involved in Cars and Girls are Zoë Spencer, Tee Tyson, Madeline Harvey and Evangeline Jennings, and as Evangeline Jennings is a Facebook friend of mine, it seemed easier to just ask her if she'd like to write something about it. 

'Evangeline, I liked your story, but as I have no journalistic skill at all, and am really too lazy and incompetent to make anything up, would you like to say something about your book? Without droning on too much, obviously.'

To which she replied - 

'Cars & Girls is a punk rock book. We learned a couple of chords and set out to change the world.

I can think of two analogies. The first doesn't work when you get deep into the detail but in many ways our book is akin to the old Fast Product "sampler" First Year Plan which featured the early work from the Mekons, Gang of Four, and Human League among others. The better fit is probably the Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP. Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley working together to produce something flawed but beautiful and everlasting. I hope.

I forget when I had the idea for Cars & Girls or where it came from, but I'm a huge fan of noir and pulp fiction and the intention was always to take those forms, push their boundaries, and subvert them. My own story Crown Victoria is probably the most overtly subversive - I don't think that's a spoiler - but the whole thing is what Courtney Love would describe as a "big, raw-boned bunch of fucking sex". If we asked her. Which we haven't.'


While I enjoyed Cars and Girls, I can't take too much modern literature, and have subsequently been lying on the couch, re-reading Aristophanes, greatest of the Athenian comic playwrights, and long time favourite. I wonder if Aristophanes was reviewed at the time? I don't think so. I don't think there were Athenian theatre reviewers. Though i suppose there could have been. Maybe some people scribbled down their thoughts and pinned them up in the Agora.

...Aristophanes really lays into Hyperbolus, just like he used to lay into Kleon, before Kleon went and got himself killed in action...

I like it that Hyperbolus, the angry Athenian orator and politician from the fifth century BC, survives to this day in the form of the word Hyperbole. No one could have guessed that would happen at the time. Cloud Cuckoo Land, a phrase still used today, comes from Aristophanes, and you wouldn't have thought that would survive for two and a half thousand years either.

I also like it that even though Aristophanes' plays are full of comic slapstick and fantastic elements, such as giant flying dung beetles, and visits to the underworld, they still give the best picture available of normal daily life in ancient Athens. A much better picture than you'd get from the great tragedians, for instance. If you were only to read Aristophanes, and suddenly be transported back to Classical Athens, you would at least have some idea of what to expect.

I've only seen Aristophanes plays twice on stage. Once at the Young Vic, and once somewhere else I can't remember. I didn't like either production. They weren't nearly funny enough, or obscene enough. which Aristophanes really should be.


  1. Anonymous9:28 p.m.

    What is Cloud Cuckoo Land?

    1. Quoting an online dictionary - 'To live in Cloud Cuckoo Land is to think that impossible things might happen, rather than understand how things really are.'