Thursday, September 29, 2011

He Died With A Felafel In His Hand

Yesterday I reread He Died With A Felafel In His Hand, John Birmingham's monstrous confessional of housesharing in Australia with drunks, junkies, madmen and a coterie of dentists, high on nitrous oxide.

Since that and The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco, of which I remember nothing but laughing hysterically when he and his friends crashed a party by crashing a van into the side of the house, wearing only one sock each (and yes, only one sock each, no other clothing) John Birmingham has forsaken toiling in the mine of Awful Things That Happened To A Mate Of Mine, and now writes military fiction where F-35 fighters and battlecruisers travel back in time to the Second World War. Sadly I can't get on with that, so I'm depressed that I can't spend the rest of my life reading about people who paint every inch of their room black, or have hilariously questionable hygiene. As long as it's on the other side of the equator, it can't hurt me.

I wrote my address in my copy of He Died With A Felafel In His Hand, and gave it away, telling everyone to read it, pass it on, and then write me a postcard. I got one postcard, from 'Gary' somewhere in Thailand, a year later, which was a bit strange. Come to think of it, it was a bit strange to ask random strangers/friends of friends of friends to write me postcards, but they did get a free book out of it.

Many years later, I found the DVD of the movie of the book, which misses out a lot of the brainshrinking mentalism of the book (including that wonderful mix of simile and metaphor from Birmingham, "until your head fell to pieces, like a chocolate orange") but does have a bunch of skinheads chainsawing a house apart. So nothing's all bad. And then this week, lonely in a hotel room, I fired up my computer and downloaded an electronic copy of the book to my laptop to read.

Just like reading Dickens on a plane, this produces feelings of confusion for me. At once it's something wonderful and cool, and at the same time it's strange that we're possibly making it much easier to read books that otherwise would be quite ephemeral, gone forever after they dropped off the bestseller list. (Although I imagine that Felafel was one of those cult hits that you probably couldn't retire from.) There's something to be said about how this will not seem anything special to somebody born only a couple of decades after me, but it's already been said by others. What I will say is that the OCR used to turn this book from printed pages into a Kindle file wasn't perfect and there-are per-haps too many cases of hy-phens when per-haps there should-not be. Nothing's perfect, but nothing's fatal either.

Next week it's the Fifth Hong Kong Comedy Festival, and my fourth attempt to get to the finals of Hong Kong's Funniest English-speaking Comedian competition. As long as I don't set myself on fire, fall off the stage, accidentally grope a member of the audience, go over time or forget to be at least as funny as every other person that night, I might have some chance of getting through. Wish me luck!


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