Those that are familiar with Alan Richardson’s first two novels, The Giftie and On Winsley Hill, will know that as well as having a rather delightful turn of phrase this author can also tell a rip-roaring story. Richardson’s The Fat Git follows on with another dynamic cast of characters and a shapely plot full of sardonic wit and double entendre.
The fact that Richardson has written several well received books on the Arthurian traditions and Western mysteries makes The Fat Git even more charming, for what he delivers is a marvellous modern parody in the burlesque tradition, taking high literature and adapting it to his own ends. Of course, one can say these traditions operate in what could be called a ‘revolving satire’ in that the ultimate source is unknown to us. His treatment of the characters in contemporary setting are only reminiscent of those of his Brythonic forebears all the way through to Mallory in that it retains just their archetypal properties, often for comedic purposes. The crafty combination of satire and comedy for the purpose of final instruction comes to us through Horace – and was brilliantly applied to the Arthurian legends by the Romantic poet, Thomas Love Peacock. With quirky prose and interlacing fiction instead of poetry, Richardson follows that tradition and lets the vices and follies of his characters shame us into bettering our own societies. In that sense, he is also working in the great allegorical traditions (Bunyan et al) in that his characters become personifications of ideas and traits, such that we see and recognize in our own world. As subtitled, it is The Story of a Merlin – one of many possible, each enduringly iconic.
“If Strathnaddair exists in another realm, and yet is also a real place that we have all visited, then so are The Arthur, The Merlin and all the rest real people, with addresses, postcodes, mortgages, debts, and all the troubles and triumphs of modern life. You can find them in any phone book, just look under your own name. For there are moments when, if only for the blink of an eye and on the canvas behind its lid, we become them…”
In rough translation the word ‘git’ is colloquial slang aimed at a contemptible person – but in British parlance it is often wielded tongue-in-cheek without the gravitas of a full born insult. Richardson’s characters follow the blithe and jocular spirit of his title in that they are caricatures with the awareness that they are borrowed from a larger design. They include his fatness, Ambrose Hart, the Merlin of Strathnaddair; his reluctant nephew, Arthur; the mythical seductress, Vivienne, and the dastardly evil Vortig –all of whom readers will recognize and find analogues for in their own sphere. With a cleverness that borders on the postmodern self-reflexivity these characters manage to rail against psychic pretentiousness all the while revelling in their roles to the point of absurdity. Somewhere between the swirling mythical simulacrum and the rampant Arthurian archetypalism the author hits on a few home truths, not afraid to lambaste certain quarters with his iconoclastic wit. With great humour and panache he trivializes the phoney and superficial elements found within mystical circles and brings fresh impetus and meaning to the battle for the folk-soul of the land. Not just for environmental concerns must the evil plans of Vortig be thwarted but for the spiritual health of all involved in this metaphysical drama we call life. For indeed, as the author suggests – we are all enchanted.
Skylight Press is thrilled to publish The Fat Git, a very funny and poignant novel by a talented writer. The book is is available from various retail outlets such as Amazon, Amazon UK, Waterstones online, or direct from the Skylight Press website.