Sunday, November 04, 2007

Book Review: "Mr. Thundermug"

Continuing this weekend's streak of debut books dealing with "outsiders," I read Cornelius Medvei's novella Mr. Thundermug (HarperCollins) today. The jacket text just about says it all: "Mr Thundermug has a luxuriant mane of silvery hair. Mr Thundermug has an unsettling mastery of speech. Mr Thundermug is a baboon." Presented as a 'case study' written by an unnamed newspaper reporter, this short book treats the life and trials of one Mr. Thundermug, a baboon who has - entirely inexplicably - acquired the ability to speak perfect English and taken up residence with his family in an empty house.

Through his journalistic interlocutor, Medvei allegorically slices and dices the shortsightedness of human society, compiling a bizarre litany of bizarre, absurd, but somehow entirely believable baboon-human interactions: visits from Mr Forrest of the Housing Office, a requirement that Mr Thundermug's appropriately inarticulate children attend primary school (that does not turn out well), and finally the arrest and trial of Mr Thundermug for indecent exposure and cruelty to animals (i.e. his family, who, by choice, sleep in the bath).

Accompanied by odd, exquisite lithographs credited to Medvei himself, this short little book is intriguing and provocative. It is also quite funny, in that wry English sort of way. I'll certainly be on the lookout for the author's next creation.

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