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/Literature: Unspeakable Desolation Pouring Down from the Stars by Frank Key - Edit 1

Before modification by Jacob at 11/09/2009 04:08:33 PM

I got this book ages ago, but despite the wonderful title it took me almost a year to pick it up and actually read. I have no idea why. Sometimes it is just one of those things that happen.

Once I did pick it up, I did not want to put it down again. Supervisors can be demanding people, however, and it really is a bad idea to start reading a very good book the day before your supervisors tell you you have to work flat out for a week. I worked very hard, but all the while I was fantasising about how wonderful it would be to sit down in the corner of a café and finish this book.

I don't know where my friend found it. You see, Unspeakable Desolation Pouring Down from the Stars and other tragedies by Frank Key isn't one of those books you can easily find in a bookshop (be it online or otherwise). For the first time in my life there was a fairly new book I could not buy through Amazon or Abebooks (my overwhelming instinct once I put it down was to instantly buy it for everyone I know, including the people I buy my coffee from). Two things became clear from my lack of luck in finding it (especially taking Abebooks' failure into account): You can only buy it through the Hooting Yard Blog (you know, unless you are lucky enough to get it as a present); and once people have it, they do not give it up for something so mundane as money.

I will now attempt to describe it in some semi-sensible form, drawing on all my powers as a literature student. I am going to fail miserably. I know: I have tried before. Let me take the Hooting Yard description as my starting point:

Hooting Yard is excited (possibly overexcited) to announce publication of Unspeakable Desolation Pouring Down From The Stars, a decisively sensible novella of high adventure, derring-do, and baffling conspiracies. Prior knowledge of arcane philatelic imponderables is useful, but not necessary. The book also contains two shorter pieces, one of which features mute blind magnetic love monkeys.

Descriptions are rarely this spot on. When I say spot on, that is not because it is accurate. "Sensible", at best, is entirely the wrong word; but "derring-do" is entirely the right one. "Arcane philatelic imponderables", however, is perhaps the ultimate descriptor. I am, of course, trying to make this about language. Again. More than usual, this time. There is this about the Brits who write in a light absurd manner: they always have iron control when it comes to language. And Key is rather wonderful in that respect. He does not hesitate to use archaic, polysyllabic words as he writes about the dipsomaniac main character's quest for a stolen stamp album, first through a series of more or less drunken butlers and private eyes, a well-stocked wine cellar and the (dysfynctional) family's money; then on his own, facing the sinister members of the Hooting Yard Bell Ringing Society.

I am not giving you the right impression. No focus on plot will paint the right picture here. That does not mean that it will only be of interest to those who feel too high for plot. It is as if a decadent Wodehouse* and a Borges** in his Chandleresque*** moments had a love child. I know you are now struck with some unpleasant mental images, but the result of this union is simply Highly Amusing.

*P.G Wodehouse
**Jorge Louis Borges
*** Raymond Chandler
And I didn't even get started on the mute blind magnetic love monkeys

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