Waiting for Godalming
(Corgi , £5.99, 285 pages, paperback; first published 2000,
this edition 5 April 2001; ISBN 0-552-14742-7.)
God is dead; murdered, in fact, and his wife, as you might expect,
wants something done about it. Lazlo Woodbine might be the world's
greatest private eye, so you would think he'd be the natural choice
for solving this case - until you found out he had a talking Brussels
sprout called Barry in his head.
Meanwhile, in an apparently unconnected plot thread, Icarus Smith,
a Zen tealeaf (ie a thief), has attracted the attention of the unsavoury
Ministry of Serendipity who want some of their property back. Fortunately,
his attracting the attention of the Ministry of Serendipity has attracted
the attention of a helpful dwarf called Johnny Boy. Not unexpectedly,
mind-bending drugs become involved at this point.
I suspect I may be one of those people who, through some odd genetic
twist, some neuro-chemical imbalance or through being bitten by a radioactive
Terry Pratchett, will be left perennially cold by Robert Rankin's books.
Like mind-bending drugs, you either love them or hate them, and, despite
being more than occasionally taken aback by the sheer gale-force of
Rankin's imaginative powers, Waiting For Godalming didn't make
me laugh anything like as often as it should have.
Like Monty Python, which a lot of the humour distinctly resembles,
it's a very scattershot affair. Rankin's writing takes unexpected (but
then rather predictable) turns into irrelevant asides roughly every
four or five words such that any plot just about dissolves in the flood
I'm struck by the fact that pretentious literary theorists might actually
love Robert Rankin's work. If it was published under a serious independent
imprint as, say, 'A masterwork of deconstructivist literature' by Robert
de Ranquin then the lack of any underlying reality, a plot strained
beyond breaking point and flat or deliberately stereotypical characters
might just be mistaken for groundbreaking stuff.
Waiting For Godalming still wouldn't be very funny but it wouldn't
need to be, whereas a comic novel does.
Review by Stuart Carter.
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