Steve Aylett, Bigot Hall (Serif, 1995)
[originally posted 23Apr2001]
I spent the first few pages of this book alternating between offense and amusement. After a while, it hit me that I hadn’t laughed out loud this many times per page at any book in quite a while, so I dropped the offense.
Imagine In God We Trust – All Others Pay Cash (the book that inspired the classic film A Christmas Story) jacked up on PCP and going on a crime spree and you have Bigot Hall, Steve Aylett’s impressionist biography of hands down the most interesting family in all of literature. The narrator, a nameless adolescent called “laughing boy” by friends and family alike, turns his jaundiced eye upon most every family member and lodger at the family’s country estate, a living (or at the very least highly unstable, from a dimensional perspective) mansion known as Bigot Hall. Amidst the witty repartee (and this would make a good handbook for those who like to find stultifyingly obtuse .sig files) these rather twisted characters come to life quite nicely, to the point where one can almost believe some of the book’s most outrageous moments. I won’t spoil them for you, you’ll have to read it yourself, but let’s just say Aylett pulled off a pretty nice chunk of real estate in making the Verger’s predicament seem not only plausible, but completely in line with the rest of the doings about him.
As with all books of the “selected glimpses of life” genre, there’s no plot here, so the book must rely on nothing but character development to succeed, and it does so quite nicely. It’s also choke-on-your-manacles funny from beginning to end. ****