I assume that most people who read this site are familiar with The Guardian. Anyone old enough to have protested through the Bush years has a respect for The Guardian as an, um, “guardian” of journalistic integrity and the Democratic impulse, standing in opposition to the crypto-fascist corporate media outlets of America. And, of course, in the days of The Clear Skies Initiative and Abu Ghraib, focusing on the heroics was necessary. But something was overlooked, at least by American audiences — or at least by me: humor.
John Crace is a writer most likely unknown to American audiences. He’s written a few nonfiction books and been on British television debating various things, but all that is less important than his work on the Guardian podcast Digested Reads. The premise is this: Crace takes books, both new releases and classics, and in approximately five minutes regurgitates the essence of the book in its own language, and by its own logic. It’s kind of an expressionist critique of writing that less holds the author’s flaws up to a mirror than creates a grotesque sock puppet caricature of the work; mimicking the tone while throwing the voice. Here’s an example of his skewering of Blood Meridian:
Dying of thirst in the terra damnata, they were taken prisoner in Chihuauha and walked the gauntlet of flung offal. Let us go, said Glanton, and well kill you injuns and get Gomez. They drank mescal, stove in the skull of a crippled woman, said nigger a lot and left town. Nine days out they got ambushed by Apaches. The Judge laughed, plucking the arrows from his side before pulping the Indians against the rocks.
Whats he the Judge of? asked the kid.
Hes the Judge of American history, the expriest replied. The blood depravity and lawlessness that’s been airbrushed by the victors.
So this is like a XXX-rated Spaghetti Western?
Clint Eastwood is a Disney shithead.
And here’s his critique of Alain DeBottom’s Religion for Atheists:
One of the losses modern society feels most keenly is that of a sense of community. Religions may have evolved out of a need to enforce social cohesion, but one cannot deny the sense of belonging that going to church confers on the participants. In our atavistic, rationalist world we have lost these connections. While we may surrender up to half our income in taxation, we have no sense of how that money is being spent. How much better it would be if the less fortunate members of the polity were able to congregate in one place to say thank you to me in person while the Monteverdi Choir sings Mozart’s Mass in C Minor.
And lastly, here’s a bit from his take on Freedom:
2004. Joey had a great deal on his mind. He was struggling to believe Connie – a woman so passive she had locked herself in a cupboard at his request for five years – was a three-dimensional character, and only a session of anal sex half-convinced him otherwise. “Is this part of the GAN deal?” she had asked. “No” he had replied. “It’s just this year’s must-have transgression in serious fiction.”