After the absolute clustercuss that was Picture This, it took me a while to get back into the reading mood. I floated around between several books, nibbling apprehensively at the beginnings of Tokyo MewMew Omnibus and The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, unwilling to make another mistaken commitment to a book I absolutely loathed. I finally settled on The Teleportation Accident, a book I had picked out of the Stanley A. Milner’s basement sale because of its beautiful cover art and obvious youthful vigour. And I couldn’t have picked a better choice for a rebound.
Where Picture This struggled desperately to be clever as it jerked itself around throughout history and lectured at me like an impotent old man pedantically bloviating to make up for his flaccid failings, The Teleportation Accident grabbed hold of me with its very first sentence and thrashed me around the early 20th century with virile, turgid energy. “When you knock a bowl of sugar on to your host’s carpet, it is a parody of the avalanche that killed his mother and father, just as the duck’s beak that your new girlfriend’s lips form when she attempts a seductive pout is a quotation of the quacking noise your last girlfriend made during sex.” Fuck yes. This is only the first of many hilarious, pseudo-intellectual, wonderfully debaucherous lines from The Teleportation Accident. Never have I had a better example that an upstart young whippersnapper unknown artist can write circles around an established old self-congratulatory hack. Clout means nothing. Reputation means nothing. You have to just write a fucking good book.
The Teleportation Accident dances its way through life, skimming the surface of major historical events in a blasé and realistic way. The setting is Berlin, 1931. Unlike most historical fiction I have read, The Teleportation Accident‘s characters aren’t aware that they are in historical fiction—they don’t wax on about the times that they live in, with a winking awareness of the future. This is one of the reasons I loved Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette so much: people in the past were just people, and like our noble antihero Egon Loeser, all they really want to do is score some coke and fuck the hot girl and indulge their narcissism.
I loved the historical irreverence in Beauman’s book. Egon’s primary love interest is a girl named Adele Hitler (no relation). Egon accidentally participates in a Nazi book burning. He testifies before a McCarthy HUAC hearing by describing the sexual positions he and his wife have used the night before. He stumbles through history, obsessed with his inability to get laid for most of the novel, at the centre of his own ahistorical, self-obsessed universe. And his is a loveable jerk while doing it.
This was exactly the breath of fresh air I needed after Joseph Heller’s flatulent prose almost asphyxiated me. Now I’m ready to take on book seven: She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, also purchased at EPL’s sale. My copy had a little review in it, some woman named Abigail seems to have written a letter to Wally Lamb dated the 22nd of February 2010, explaining the things she did not like about his book. We’ll see in my next post whether she was right.