MERDE HAPPENS by Stephen Clarke


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Snafus abound as Clarke’s doppelganger Paul West (In the Merde For Love, 2006, etc.) leaves France under a cloud and attempts to recoup his fortunes with a U.S. road trip.

“I’d set off on a simple PR consultant’s job and was going to end up as a seminaked footwear model,” moans Paul. The taxman has him by the short hairs, so he takes a job with Visitor Resources: Britain (“the good old Tourist Authority until some trendy twit in the government decreed that it sounded too ‘yesterday’s generation’ or whatever”) to promote that country’s tourism via a number of events in select American cities. Unsurprisingly, but gratifyingly, each of the stops becomes the opportunity for a complete fiasco. While in Boston, he gets involved in a fistfight at an Indian restaurant; in Miami the mayor’s appearance is immaterial because “everything here organized by the Cubans and the realtors,” Paul’s contact tells him. As his business trip goes south, so too does his relationship with Alexa, the firebrand socialist bombshell filmmaker who has already alienated America’s working folk (“waddat fuggen bitch jess sayda me?” a woman trucker inquires) and then makes herself scarce for a dangerous extrarelational liaison. No matter, for while West’s inamorata has disappeared, that can’t be said of his anatomical fixations, his desperate jokes or the absurdist moments that find his hotel room in flames, his car under hijack or an alligator taxidermist making a midnight visit. Clarke works his humor in a frantic, colorful choreography of mayhem, like Busby Berkeley conducting Harold Lloyd. Running gags concerning a kilt and a group of French engineers are weak vehicles for dramatic unity, but the comedic, frequently alcohol-fueled vignettes have the verve to stand on their own. “You’re drunk,” is Alexa’s frequent complaint. In West’s business-ambassador shoes, you would be too.

Amusing travelogue from an engaging narrator who never lets a little bad news mess with his joie de vivre.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59691-527-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2008


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