Sunday, March 1, 2009

Book Review : A Melon for Ecstasy


by John Fortune and John Wells

Quite simply the funniest book I have ever read in my life. Written as a series of letters; as the correspondence mounts, the overall message becomes hilariously clear. Never get between a man and his trees.

Starring Humphrey Mackevoy, a man who loves trees, maybe a little too much. The sudden epidemic of holes bored into local trees, all 33 inches from the ground at an angle of 15 degrees to the horizontal, has everyone in town buzzing. The authorities are outraged at such wanton vandalism, the police are on high alert, the ornithological society is ecstatic, believing that the fabulously rare crested woodpecker has returned to the British Isles. Humphrey is more concerned with occupational hazards like splinter wounds and the toxic effects of the new pesticide being sprayed on the trees.

What with the prison chaplain dedicated to making the Gospel more relevant by rewriting it as a Western (Posse from Galilee), assorted power-crazed local councillors, a sex-crazed sixteen-year-old girl desperate to get laid, and the ever-present Humphrey's Mummy, there is never a dull moment.

Given the spicy gumbo that the authors have concocted, rich with every hilarious village archetype you've ever come across, the tree-porn sections are lagniappe. A certain bewitching laburnum stirs Humphrey to flights of soft-porn eloquence:

"Lasciviously I turned my face, brushing the cold bark with my lips, and began to explore its texture with my tongue. And you couldn't stop me, my laburnum, you with your branches pinioned in the air, leaving your trunk so bare, so bare, so unprotected, so vulnerable..."

Possibly the finest epistolary novel ever written.

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