BANANA CAT by Christopher Hood


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From the English author of The Mullenthorpe Thing and The Other Side of the Mountain, a hilarious literary-caper novel in which three conniving Welshmen invent an ""undiscovered"" Dylan Thomas poem and try to sell it to a rich American university. The place is the town of Swansea, Wales, and the narrator is 47-year-old George Waddington, a probation officer who spends most of his time checking up on the doings of petty criminals and evading the advances of his horny wife Alice, from whom he is ""partly separated."" Like seemingly everyone in Swansea, Alice is a Dylan Thomas expert, and she and her friends form a group called The Dylan Thomas Memorial Affiliation, which is devoted to presenting Thomas as a serious literary figure, not some drunken Welsh romantic. She prevails on George to find the group a speaker, and Waddington mischievously comes up with one of his ""clients,"" a con man named Dugdale, who talks for hours and at great obfuscating length about ""Dylan,"" until the ruse is discovered and Alice's group banishes him in favor of a visiting American expert named Professor Holloway, who is being funded by a well-endowed university. In revenge, Dugdale, Waddington, and an artist named Sky Henderson drunkenly make up a spurious Dylan poem (""The cat flops, spent as money at the lockjaw fender's rim/His own dead, bright banana in his hangdog mouth"") and get an Indian forger with literary aspirations to write it out in Dylan's handwriting; Holloway is conned, and the game is on. What follows is lucid and extremely funny. Hood has more in mind than farce; this is also a serious look at the ""industrial graveyard"" that is much of Wales--but the novel works best when Swansea's pretentious literary crowd gets its comic comeuppance. And the endearing Dugdale, when he gets his juices flowing, can stand alongside Sebastian Dangerfield of The Ginger Man as a sneaky deflater of pompous academia.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Secker & Warburg--dist. by David & Charles