Monday, 19 January 2009

Tibor Fischer - 'Good to be God' (Alma 2008)

Tibor Fischer is one of those writers whose name gets bandied about by your literary friends who insist you ‘simply must read his work. He’s hilarious’ :guffaw: Your eyes glaze over as they try to recount one of his more scatological scenarios and thrillingly bitter putdowns so steeped in the comedy of misdirection and least expectation, and you probably sigh, thinking ‘I’ll never remember that name in three hours time. I’ll be drunk... and I have short term amnesia... and I’m talking to a frog.’

That was a bad attempt to try and sell you this country’s most under-rated and under the radar comedic authors. Tibor Fischer has bravely put out book after book of imagination and wit and thrown every known writing convention out of the room. He has written a novel from the perspective of an ancient antique vase. He has written a novel where all the action takes place in the flat below. He wrote a collection of short stories called ‘Don’t Read This If You’re Stupid.’ Narrative is nothing more than an irritant to Fischer, who is able to find comedy in the most abstract of concepts and most varied of expositional coincidences. Each book creates its own universe with its own set of rules and parameters, and sometimes language. But what of ‘Good to be God’ his new novel on the superb Alma Books? Well, this is as conventional as Tibor Fischer has thusfar got, a linear narrative within a chronological timeline, still bursting with wit and invention, but somehow a bit more refined and normal than usual.

Fischer’s protagonist is the strangely resigned and pragmatic Tyndale, the ultimate loser’s loser, willing himself into retirement and death, no use for the world that has no use for him. On the wrong side of divorce, redundancy and the poverty line, he meets up with an old school-friend. They mutually convince each other than as Tyndale needs a change of scenery, he should go in his school-friend’s place to a handcuff conference in Miami. Once there, living the life and running amok with insane coppers, Tyndale decides to stay in sun-kissed paradise, not return to the dreary reality of his depressing nothing-life back home. How will he stay? He decides to convince the people of Miami he is a deity, worthy of their worship and patronage. It won’t be easy. As he descends into the Miami underworld to try and source the nefarious ne’erdowells who will help him in his quest, he meets Dishonest Dave, whose only crime is being ‘dishonest about his dishonesty’; two body-obsessed idiot DJs desperate to make their way in the underworld for free; and the Hierophant, the inconsistent spiritual leader of the Church of the Heavily Armed Christ.

So, Tyndale embarks on a series of quests, fighting fire with firepower, helping the church congregation in their problems, trafficking the local cocaine, keeping the idiot DJs busy and working out his great act of convincing the world he is in fact, God. While hilariously funny and wildly entertaining, this book feels less imaginative than Fischer’s previous work, and this isn’t a bad thing, as it is head and shoulders above what else is out there. It boils down to a sequence of funny events and well-coloured characters, all full of ticks and irrational behaviour borne out of twisted logic and thought-processes. As it charges full-speed to a crucifying finale, the laughs get thicker and heartier as desperation take Tyndale to places his loser-mentality never thought he could achieve; but then, if you’ve got nothing to lose and no one cares about you, there’s no obvious line to draw. Fischer is essentially writing about that class of nothing men, emasculated by their lack of ambition and prone to settling for fourth best. There is a lot of humour in loser-comedy and this reinvents the idea that we try or we fade away by showing that if you think you’re aiming for the stars, unless you’re aiming to be god-like, you’re falling short in the ambition stakes. So, while this is a disappointing Tibor Fischer book, it is still hilarious, wittily written, full of jokes and wild non-sequitor comedy, one-liners and bizarre descriptions. It is still head and shoulders above any other comedy book you may read. Tibor Fischer on a bad day is still Tibor Fischer, the best comedic writer you haven’t heard of... yet.

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