I’ve never read a pastiche of Ivy Compton-Burnett, and I would like to, but I have a feeling that she might be one of those authors who’d defy spoofing. Her characters are so intentionally stylised and unnaturalistic, that a parody might appear only imitation. But the same cannot be said for those targeted in Sebastian Faulks’ witty collection Pistache [sic, if I may] which my lovely friend Lorna gave me for Christmas 2006. It’s been a while since I read it, but I do remember enjoying curling up with it on Boxing Day. Each pastiche is about a page and half long, and most began life on Radio Four’s The Write Stuff, though they have been edited and polished, apparently.
This is the perfect book for anybody who’s ever wondered what The Waste Land would look like as a limerick, how Emma would fare on an 18-30 party, or how AA Milne could be altered for this grittier age: Hush, hush, whisper who dare,
Christopher Robin has gone into care.As always, with this sort of thing, it only works when you’re familiar with the author being pastiched. Sections on Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis, Raymond Chandler etc. left me cold, because I’ve read nothing by them – but, for the most part, they’re authors you’re likely to know. Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens, Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie, Geoffrey Chaucer, PG Wodehouse… all the old staples, really. My two favourites were Dan Brown at a cash-point and Virginia Woolf at a hen-party. The mind boggles, doesn’t it? But I shall give you a taste, and type out the Dan Brown section (which is longer than most, actually). This is for everyone, like me, who wasted hours of their life reading The Da Vinci Code…
The world-renowned author stabbed his dagger-like debit card into the slot. ‘Welcome to NatWest,’ barked the blushing grey light of the screen to the forty-two-year-old man. He had only two thoughts.
NatWest is a perfect heptogram.
Scratching his aquiline head, frantically trying to remember a number, the sun came up at last and rained its orange beams on Dan Brown. ‘What do you want to do?’ asserted the blinking screen. His options were stark for Brown, more than ever now. ‘Get Mini Statement’. ‘Withdraw Cash’. ‘Change PIN.’ For what seemed an eternity, trying to remember his PIN, the screen mocked the famous writer.
Someone somewhere knows my four-figure PIN.
Whatever my PIN was once is still my PIN and in some remote safe someone somewhere still knows it.
In Paddington Station, an iconic railway terminal with a glass roof like the bastard offspring of a greenhouse and a railway station, a line of fellow travellers was waiting on Brown. Brown frowned down at his brown shoes and for the hundredth time that morning wondered what destiny may have in store for the Exeter, New Hampshire graduate.
The sandy-haired former plagiarism defendant felt his receding temples pounding in his guts. Four figures. Four figures, you halfwit, he almost found himself murmuring in Brown’s ear, close at hand.
Tentatively his fingers pounded their remorseless melody upon the NatWest keyboard, numerically. He watched his fingers work with sallow eyes.
He type in anything, literally anything, desperately. He didn’t know what affect it may have.
The headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland resides in a hydraulically sealed ninety-eight-storey building guarded by hair-trigger sensitive nuclear firedogs at 4918, 275th Street in Manhattan, America, whose security protocol is known to only six elves whose tongues have been cut out for security by the Cyrenian Knights of Albania, the capital of Greece.
In an instant, the famous writer remembered their bleeding skin from barbed wire.
Of course. They must pass on the secret PIN. An unbroken chain whose links are not forged (not in that sense).
9 . . . 8 . . . 7 . . .6. His fingers pronounced the Sigma number. The Sigma number was almost impossible to fake, whereby the Liberace Sequence was quite easy to forge for prominent author Dan Brown.
The cash machine cleared its throat and breathed in with a rasping exhalation that seemed to shake its very belly. Then finally it expectorated wheezily up twenty-eight million dollars into the fingers pregnant with expectation of the forty-two-year-old man.
‘Take you cash now please,’ pleaded the mocking screen, no longer mocking.
It’s like giving candy to a baby, it occurred to the universe-celebrated prose stylist.
It’s like shelling eggs.