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Book Title: The Grotesque|
The author of the book: Patrick McGrath
ISBN 13: 9780671665098
Edition: Poseidon Press
Date of issue: May 1st 1989
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 36.66 MB
City - Country: No data
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Reader ratings: 7.4
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Do you know the filthiest dirty joke ever told? It begins with a family of entertainers walking into a talent agent's office, who asks them to perform their act; the joke's midsection depends on the teller, who then ad-libs the most vile, lewd and disgusting things imaginable: murder, rape, pedophilia, incest and others. The joke ends with the shocked talent agent asking: "what is this act called?", to which the family responds with unusual flourish: "The Aristocrats!"
Decadence and eventual degradation - economical, physical but most importantly moral - of the aristocracy and general upper class is a subject of many novels, among them The Grotesque - in which it is taken to a truly grotesque level. Much like McGrath's second novel, Spider, his debut novel The Grotesque is a work of modern Gothic fiction, with a strong central figure of the main protagonist and narrator.
Set in Crook Manon, a Gothic mansion in the English countryside, The Grotesque is narrated by sir Hugo Coal, a self-described paleontologist, scholar and traveler, who is both suspicious of and repulsed by Fledge, his butler, whom he suspects of feeling exactly the same way about him. This would not be anything new or particularly interesting, were it not for the fact that sir Hugo is completely paralyzed - locked in after what he describes as a "cerebral accident", which left him "for all intents and purposes a vegetable". No one can know if he is conscious - his doctor denies the possibility - but he is biologically alive, and spends what remains of his days in a wheelchair, imprisoned in his own body.
Dennis Clegg, the narrator of Spider was a troubled but ultimately likable character; it's easy for the reader to sympathize with him and care for him, as his mental state begins to unravel. In comparison, sir Hugo is thoroughly repulsive - but also infinitely funnier. Dennis's narration is often desperate, a plea for help; sir Hugo calmly recollects what we might perceive as his worst moments, not even troubling to excuse any of them since these are not his worst moments; this is just how he is. A misogynist and a homophobe, sir Hugo proudly recalls how he terrorized everyone around the mansion and lusted after the Butler's wife, while at the same time completely ignoring his own. Fledge, sir Hugo's nemesis, is an ideal Gothic villain - despite witnessing sir Hugo fiddling with his wife he remains calm and collected, which makes sir Hugo despise him even more.
The theme of decay runs throughout this book on multiple levels - the physical decay of sir Hugo's paralyzed body and the growing decay of his mental state, the decay of his marriage and aristocratic influence in his own house. No Gothic novel would be complete without a murder, and there is a murder in The Grotesque - and a particularly ghastly one; a young and promising student, engaged to sir Hugo's daughter and aptly named Sidney Giblet will be dispatched from the world in a particularly gruesome way. The question is - who did it? Of course sir Hugo points the finger at the proverbial butler, but did he? Can we know what happened if the person telling us the story is not even able to prove that he is alive, and is a massive prick?
The novel is remarkable because of sir Hugo's engaging narration, who is entirely oblivious to the fact at how revolting he is, and is at times almost a pastiche of itself - though always conscious and never venturing into camp territory. The humor in this novel is as funny as it is black: sir Hugo, himself a dinosaur and a relic, has spent 20 years of his life to reconstruct a massive skeleton of a "phlegmosaurus" which he keeps in a shed, now abandoned and overgrowing with moss after his accident - much like he himself is slowly growing into his wheelchair; the various names of people and places, such as the Ceck parish in Berkshire, on the river Fling and near Ceck's Bottom; the mentioned unfortunate Giblet, and the Crook estate housing a remarkable Crook as its master.
Like Spider, The Grotesque has also been adapted into a film which I have not seen, though this one seems to be a rather obscure adaptation. The novel, though, is certainly worth reading for sir Hugo alone, and his remarkable narration - read the first few pages; if you like them, you're certainly going to enjoy what comes after, a not very scary but truly grotesque story told to you by - who else? - The Aristocrat!
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Read information about the authorPatrick McGrath was born on 7th February, 1950 in London and grew up near Broadmoor Hospital where his father was Medical Superintendent. He was educated at Stonyhurst College. He is a British novelist whose work has been categorized as gothic fiction. He is married to actress Maria Aitken and lives in New York City.
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