FABRICATIONS by Adam Mars-Jones


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Two strained, archly belabored satires on the British establishment. Slightly better of the two is ""Bathpool Park,"" which centers on the trial of one Donald Neilson--a bitter, zombie-like ex-soldier (""He didn't like bloody wogs in his country, paying nothing and getting supported"") who begins a life of crime by stealing only Government money . . . and ends up kidnapping and killing a teenage girl. Reconstructing both the kidnapping and the trial, Mars-Jones leans with heavy sarcasm on the bureaucratic, hypocritical, convention-bound behavior of police, press, judge, jury, and lawyers--leading up to an interminable, sophomoric vaudeville routine in which the opposing barristers demonstrate that the legal system's purpose is ""to continue functioning, not to establish truths."" All this is tired, obvious stuff, of course--with few fundamental differences from the much-satirized US system. But the crime itself at least grounds the lampoon in a dark reality, and, except for that final burlesque, the narration is readably deadpan, even when the ironies drop like anvils. The other piece, however, ""Hoosh-Mi,"" compounds Mars-Jones' clumping sense of satire with baroque, precious prose. The premise here is that well-meaning (but hopelessly out-of-touch) Queen Elizabeth II contracts rabies--which leads her to lose control while on an Australian tour, to wander foggily around London, and (while Charles plays his Goons records) to die in agony: ""The unassuming celebrity who has been hailed in public as Li-sa-be-ta, as Queenie, as Happiness, as Brenda, as La Petite Souris, as Attagirl, as Queen Mare, as Lizabette, as Young Mrs. Queen, as The Fairy Princess, as Hullo, as Yea Betty Yea Windsor Yea Yea Betty Windsor Rah Rah Rah, has quietly taken leave of her people."" A thin notion? That's putting it mildly. So Mars-Jones pads out the proceedings with long anti-Royalist speeches by ""Dr. John Bull,"" which recycle Windsor history and the sort of Royal Family jokes that have been around for decades: The Queen Mum's ""impersonation of a church-going chocolate box""; insensitivity to common-folk woes; Philip's peccadilloes; etc. Unfunny as well as dated (no trace of Lady Di), this might have some minor shock value for the most reverently Anglophilic readers; otherwise, however, Mars-Jones' effortfully erudite debut is neither appealing nor even particularly promising.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1981
Publisher: Knopf