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DAVID BENEDICTUS
This Animal Is Mischievous


click to enlarge

Panther, London, 1966
(price: 5/-; 224 pages)
first published by Anthony Blond, 1965

dedication: for my sainted aunt Sarita Ricardo


The blurb on the back:

Starting with an encounter with a naked Negro armed with blowpipe and poisoned darts in the Lake District, This Animal Is Mischievous moves at break-neck speed via race-riots in Lyme Regis, bomb outrages in the Charing X Road, and subterranean parties in Hampstead - dark throbbing music, marijuana, and sinuous sex - to its tremendous climax on Mount Parnassus, a jamboree in which 3000 Fascists are burned to death.
This Animal Is Mischievous is a darkly prophetic black comedy that contains all the wicked imagination and ice-cool sophistication that we have come to expect from David Benedictus, the best-selling author of that fiercely controversial novel of Etonian decadence The Fourth of June.


opening lines:
There's a strange little lake just below Helvellyn between Swirral Edge and Striding Edge. It's almost completely circular and very clear. It's called Red Tarn.


Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to check out that cover, read those sleeve notes, and then answer two questions: (a) what? (b) why?

And I'm afraid I can't really help you much. I read the thing, but it left me none the wiser. I think it's supposed to be some kind of satire on something or other, with a wild sense of crazy humour. Imagine, if you will, an early Martin Amis book without the self-discipline. Possibly its underlying theme is racial tension: the white fear of militant black politics in Britain (that'll be Michael X then), and the potential for a resurgence of fascism. On the other hand... I don't know.

Drugs presumably were ingested at some point, but even so it's a mess. And, to be ruthlessly honest, it'd a waste of your time if you read it. Looks fantastic, but unless I'm even more wrong than normal, not worth the effort it'll take you to fight through it.

The reviewers of the time were equally confused:

  • 'Witches' sabbath on Mount Parnassus' - Spectator
  • 'Played for black laughs' - Daily Telegraph
  • 'Nastily credible' - Evening Standard
  • 'A kind of bent John Buchan' - Punch
  • 'A great surge of disquiet' - Guardian
  • 'Steely' - Observer
  • 'Brilliant Catherine Wheel of wit' - Sunday Telegraph

But the fact that so many serious publications actually noticed it at all is quite impressive.


ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
4/5


from the maker of...

The Fourth of June

Lloyd George

more bizarre stuff from Panther

Poppy Mandragora and the New Sex
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