Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wred Fright: The Pornographic Flabberghasted Emus

Reviewed by: Leopold McGinnis

Yes, Leopold does know Wred. But Leopold also writes honest reviews, just like Wred writes honest novels. You can find out more about Leopold at

As for Wred, check out his site: It's worth the visit!

Available through: ULA Press. Purchase at:

A victory for literature that does not take itself so seriously.

The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus is a great book. And it’s great without ever making any pretensions about being great. And that’s what makes it great. Got it?

It’s not the concept, but the execution that makes the Emus (and no I won’t be spelling that out in full again) such a good novel. In fact, you could argue that a book about a band has been done before. About a million, bajillion times. It’s even been done well in some rare cases – Hard Core Logo being a good example. But the charm of PFE is not staked in its concept, but in what has to say and how it says it.

In a world increasingly full of pompous, masturbatory, navel-gazing BORING books, The Pornographic Flabberghasted Emus is a rare and much needed breath of fresh air. So few band novels manage to grab the energy of actually being in or seeing a band, but PFE reads like a punk show put on in some suburbanite’s basement while the parents are away. It's something you just can't find but in an underground novel.

The plot of PFE is refreshingly non-complex. In fact, it doesn’t have so much a plot as a premise: the novel is about a group of zany housemates-cum-garageband who never come close to ‘making it’ but rock on anyway. And rock on they do, through a series of housemate/band related events, all of which are often too bizarre to be NOT true... Emus reads like a series of episodes, which makes sense as the book, in its original incarnation, was published as a series of 7 zeen instalments.

There's not much point listing all these zany and humourous events here because there are a LOT of them. They fly out of the cupboards, drip down the stares and blare through the doorways. There’s so many crazy, different and overlapping situations going on in the book, reading it is almost like running a gauntlet of chaos-induced fun. What one feels being part of the Pornographic Flabberghasted Emus might just be like.

I won’t leave you totally hanging, though. Some of the situations you can expect to enjoy in PFE are as follows: an episode of band-poster rivalry resolved through stapler-based violence; a housemate who is a witch and curses the band member’s girlfriend prospects, a safari-outfitted ethnomusicologist studying the band for his degree, lesbian groupies, a man wheeling a giant fridge from the suburbs into downtown so he can get his damage-deposit back, sound violations of various degrees and the usual sex, drinks and rock and roll.

It should be mentioned again, though, that the enjoyment of emus is not just in what happens (and a LOT happens as, according to the author, this is largely a collection of several years wroth of real-life band stories crammed into one year and one house), but in the characters and how they tell their stories.

The band is made up of 4 members who each take quick turns narrating the book from their point of view. George Jah, Theodorable, Alexander Depot and Funnybear. Chapters are divided up as one might divide up a song (with an intro, several verses, a chorus and a coda) and on top of this, several bit characters get a quick ‘Middle Eight’ in the middle of each chapter, offering funny (and rhyming!) insight into aspects of the story outside the main characters’ viewpoints. The splitting of the narration up into four people really helps drive the story. Due to the episodic and loosely-plotted structure of the novel, the multiple narrators really helps keep interest in the piece, and provides a lot of nice tension to keep the book moving.

I’m sure the book was written to be just fun, but it would be a mistake to take it that lightly. In between all the rampant tom-foolery and chaos the characters offer up a number of clever, insightful and original views on the world. More than once I found myself pausing in the middle of yet another example of band-debauchery to ponder aspects of feminism, capitalism, homosexuality, pornography, world politics, before being pulled right back into rocking out and having fun. This aspect of the novel gives the book a great realness. Just as one might expect in real life, most people are rather intelligent and insightful in their own ways – but 95% of the time they aren’t.

I’m a very critical person and I think the thing that made me most realize that this was a great book was that I couldn’t think of anything really bad to say about it. At worst, the serialized nature of the book takes away from the ‘building tension’ you expect from a novel. There’s no real climax, or mystery as to where all this is leading. But considering that momentum is the biggest trouble with novels about ‘nothing’, PFE did an amazingly great job of keeping my interest. And that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a climax, or, most importantly of all, a satisfying ending. Because Emus does.

Overall the message of Emus is of fun and tolerance. And that, if entertainment isn’t enough for you, alone is a great reason to read a fun book. Highly recommended.

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