Monday, June 9, 2008

Pistache by Sebastian Faulks

Thomas Hardy writes a football report
Dan Brown’s visit to the cash dispenser
Philip Larkin’s In celebration of the Queen Mother’s 115th birthday
Samuel Beckett writes a monologue for Ronnie Corbett
Ernest Hemingway writes of a girl on a ‘gap’ year
Franz Kafka tries to keep up with Bill gates and desktop icons
D H Lawrence writes a brochure for 18-30 holidays
William Shakespeare writes a speech for Basil Fawlty
Dylan Thomas writes a cereal advertisement
Virginia Woolf goes to a hen-party
William Wordsworth does a Lucy poem for a rapper
W B Yeats reports on the Rider Cup at Kildare

Pistache from the noun, pis-tash, meaning a friendly spoof and derived from a cross between pastiche and p**stake) is according to the sub-title, ‘A collection of fanciful, satirical and surprising parodies, squibs and pastiches’.

Notes about the author are similarly fabricated with wit: “The author was born in Vilnius in 1969 and educated by Russian monks. He learned English while working as a deckhand in Odessa…. He is married to his work.” Sebastian Faulks has been one of the captains on Radio 4’s The Write Stuff in England and Pistache is his collection of parodies that were written for the show.

Here is his send-up of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ in the form of advice to a would-be journo:

If you can't write but don't let that deter you;
If you can't spell and know by now you never will;
If once you know the facts but still prefer to
Tell lies for fear the truth won't fit the bill;
If you can sub a piece about a women's college
And think it's fine to call it ‘Girls on Top’;
If the apogee of all your gather'd knowledge
Is the size of Beckham's shorts and Jordan's top;
If ‘Whose—Is it Anyway’ is your ambition
To shepherd into print day after day;
If you have once applied for a position -
And found they all would hire you straight away;
If you can mix with crowds and learn their mores
If you can meet with kings and break their trust,
If you can cheat your wife while off on foreign stories
But at ‘love cheats’ still feign profound disgust;
If you can never fail to write a headline
And cap it off with some moronic pun
Yours is the Earth when comes the final deadline
And - which is more - you'll be ‘iconic’, son.

These are fifty-seven fragments to savour that often bite or raise a belly laugh. From Amis to Yeats, from Enid Blyton to Franz Kafka, this is a diverse literary canon. Whether or not readers are familiar with an author’s style and the in-jokes, Pistache is an amusing read that is illustrated with delightful sketches.

Sebastian Faulks, Pistache (London: Hutchinson, 2006).

This book is available from Magrudy’s Bookshops in the UAE at a cost of Dh 25.00.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Front cover of Pistache; George Orwell confronting the real 1984.