A Wild, Caustic Satire Packed With the Absurd
In case you learn “Finnegans Wake” for the off-color puns; when you take to Flann O’Brien’s satirical novels as fortunately as a pup going for a morning stroll; if, like Aunt Ada Doom in Stella Gibbons’s “Chilly Consolation Farm,” you watched you noticed one thing nasty within the woodshed; if, like J.P. Donleavy, you’d wish to decompose once you die in a barrel of porter and have it served in all of the pubs of Dublin; when you generally want you had been an additional in John Homosexual’s raucous “The Beggar’s Opera,” then Guillermo Sew’s new novel, “Lake of Urine,” is for you.
Admittedly, that’s quite a lot of ifs. Can’t I even have, one would possibly ask, characters I can determine with, a tendon of plot and the consoling sense that I’m an ethical and high-minded individual? Not right here, no. “Lake of Urine” gives as a substitute unusual harbingers, offbeat psychological exfoliations, subterranean impulses, verbal ambuscades and warty, warty manifestations of pleasure, wit and lust.
Two important characters in Sew’s novel are Urine and Noranbole Wakeling, sisters round whom younger males lurk. The place is that this novel set? It feels vaguely like Eire. When is it set? That’s onerous to say. Folks write with quills and drive stagecoaches and tramp by means of extra mud than Warren Beatty does in “McCabe and Mrs. Miller.” But in addition they have USB ports and Fb.
One character learns in regards to the web and cries, “Why, this’ll be an finish to tyranny! The technological embodiment of the democratic will of the folks!”
Urine is delicate and wonderful — and of gladiatorial disposition. Woe to males who intention to woo her. One arrives for a date to seek out that she has erected an enormous wicker construction on a hilltop that spells out his identify alongside a snippet of language that may’t be printed right here. Then she units it, and his effigy, alight.
We study “the time she garroted Timothy Spencer’s pony as a result of he had been sitting on it when he had glanced on the hem of her frock.” Urine destroys one suitor’s larder of winter pickles by slipping notes itemizing his flaws into every of the 400 jars, then resealing them with glue. This was unusually merciless, Sew writes, “as a result of everyone is aware of how poor Larry loves his winter pickles.”
When a fellow named Lance’s dad and mom ask her to share a pitcher of lemonade with their son on the county truthful, she units the couple on fireplace.
We transfer from Urine — the novel all the time finds a method again her — to soak up different vistas. Considered one of Noranbole’s suitors, Bernard, discovers that he’s so preternaturally proficient at flipping meat patties that individuals weep overtly once they witness him in motion. Bernard enters a significant patty-flipping competitors. About Bernard’s signature transfer, one commentator says — right here I think about Howard Cosell’s voice — “Did you say the double helix overhand patty flex and dismount?” His press sales space companion replies, “Sure, Phil, I did.” The primary asks: “As a matter of truth, no one’s ever survived the double helix overhand patty flex and dismount, have they?”
The competitors will get higher: “A fantastically executed helicoidal lunge!” After Bernard has gained and is up on the dais, a lady shrieks, “That isn’t the leg hair of an strange man! See the way it undulates!” It’s not onerous to mentally summon Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat.
Sew has extra enjoyable than a author must be allowed to have. That is in all probability the place to say that Guillermo Sew is a pseudonym. The writer lives in Spain and has written a earlier novel, “Literature” (2018), a dystopian narrative a couple of world by which literature is prohibited. I attempted to get into it however couldn’t, fairly — the motion appeared pressured — although I could effectively return.
Nothing about “Lake of Urine” appears pressured. Each character who wanders although it’s, to make use of Primo Levi’s phrases, “as raveled and bristly as a cat coming back from a rooftop jamboree.”
The characters embody Mimi Tourette, Tilly Bumpus, Rose Flimsy, Mr. Flucker, Ms. Titterton and a mule named Lepidopter. Noranbole finally ends up working a global enterprise concern within the huge metropolis. Her imaginative and prescient: the primary Gothic conglomerate, with “an exorcist on the board, a wholesome respect for white witchcraft in any respect ranges, an annual séance.”
You possibly can open this novel wherever and discover strains like: “He’s so disgusting it makes you marvel about his poo”; “he thought-about the raccoon to be the least prone of all animals to ethical instruction”; “Feeding off her elan important like a yeast an infection”; “within the area of some months we received the ‘wheel,’ eggs and the Awkward Silence.”
At his dinner events, one man makes the follow of all the time serving the angriest individual first and the tallest second, “adopted by essentially the most steadily jilted, the freckliest, the rudest and so forth. Probably the most sarcastic dinner visitor must be the final served and will make an observation. Ideally, there would then comply with a devotional singalong.”
Sew’s novel takes its title from a venture to measure the depth of a lake. An extended piece of string is concerned. So is a ship. So is Urine, lined in goose fats and beaver skins. So is a giant rock.
The person with the string is that this novel’s first narrator. Listed below are his first phrases to us, they usually comprise a gap as promising as any I’ve learn this yr:
If anyone tells you this story isn’t true they’re mendacity. It’s a true story; I’m mendacity if it isn’t, and I don’t lie.
It’s the story of me and Ms. Emma Wakeling, and the winter I used to be holed up together with her and her two women, Noranbole and Urine.
What a winter! It was the deepest we had ever identified, and I’m uniquely certified to say this as a result of I do know precisely how deep it was — I measured it with a chunk of string and there hasn’t been as deep a winter since.
That winter was so bitingly chilly and stuffed with wolves that we might solely get so removed from the home with out freezing or getting picked off. You see that home down there by the river? The Fleming home. That’s so far as any of us received.
Sew flicks his blade round all of the vital issues in life, isolating absurdities, nicking arteries. He deflates pretension at each flip. He throws pictures like tarot playing cards. He’s a caustic humorist with severe intent. His novel invitations you to view the world as basically absurd and often terrible, but additionally to acknowledge that laughter is a mighty, and cleaning, recompense.
As if made for our second, “Lake of Urine” imparts a way of previous methods collapsing, and of women and men adjusting to brute new realities. One character says a couple of burning farmhouse, in strains that echo as if throughout a crevasse: “Take look, my pricey. A historic second — you possibly can inform your grandchildren the way you watched the previous morality disappear one evening.”
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