Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Jack and Betty Forever

This is a very odd little book. I found it for 50p in a Japanese bookstore in London, with the intention of buying it for the creepy cover. Imagine my delight upon beginning to read and discovering that the indecipherably weird tone not only continued in the text, but reached something so sublimely strange that it would lead me to scan these pages and tell the world about it.

It is written in English, translated from Japanese supposedly, to be read by Japanese people studying English. In the back there is a glossary to explain literary devices such as 'had turned to pudding', 'cowpie' and 'prim and proper'. Probably very useful for the target audience, but in shoehorning as many idioms and colloquialisms as possible into the book, the author seems to have left behind any rational character development, plot, or narrative structure, making for a reading experience that I can only describe as uncomfortably hilarious. There are four short stories in total, but the first is by far the most jarring and interesting. The book's title story, Jack and Betty Forever shows a short meeting between two old friends and how their lives have basically turned to hell and despair since 'the good ol' days'. What follows is a series of uncomfortable conversations and shocking revelations!!


It ends with Jack's dilemma of whether he should invite Betty to have sex with him or not, but in the end thinks better of it, anticipating her response.

He knew she wasn't going to answer, Yes, I want to have sex with you, too.
He smiled forlornly. "It's...it's nothing," he said.

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