Trash Literature (and literature about trash)

“Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In” – Joe Bob Briggs. Penguin Originals. 5.95.

‘Let’s take a look at “The Evil Dead” on the old barf meter and I think you’ll agree that this is the paint-the-room-red vomit champion of 1983. Cherry Dilday went along for the ride, lost her lunch in the first half hour, tossed her cookies all over the upholstery, ended up so trashed she forgot to take her clothes off until the second feature. This baby is off the scale.’

The drive-in is a strangely American institution, with no real British equivalent. Even cinemas like the Scala, in London, which show a lot of sex ‘n’ violence, mix in a good few ‘classy’ films. Joe-Bob Briggs is a connoisseur of the drive-in – his criteria for deciding how good a film is include breast count, whether heads, or other body parts, roll and the number of monsters. This book is a compilation of his newspaper columns, which were syndicated for a few years in the States, until numerous complaints and letters to the editor forced it’s death.

If it was just a straight review column, it might be pretty dull reading, even given Joe Bob’s, er, innovative style. However, about half of each column is devoted to his latest escapades, whether they involve a trip to France for the Cannes film festival or, more mundanely, the hassle he has with the various “bimbos” in his life (Cherry Dilday, May Ellen Masters and Wanda Bodine); this moves it from the realms of film into that of soap opera.

As a pure film book, there are two severe problems. A lot of the movies he discusses will be unavailable in this country or have a different title, and the censor will have (literally) ripped the guts out of those you can see. It’s therefore of limited reference value, but as a fun read and a guide to life in the Deep South, it’s highly recommended – T.C. says check it out!

“Republican Party Reptile” & “Holidays in Hell” – P.J. O’Rourke. Picador. 4.99.

These books remind me a little bit of Ben Elton, though with the big difference that P.J. is roughly as far right as Ben Elton is left. This is a breath of fresh air; it’s a nice change to see someone slagging off trendy lefties, etc rather than the continual socialist whinging that too many ‘alternative’ comedians try to pass off as humour these days. He writes on a variety of subjects – the first book contains essays on, amongst other things, driving a Ferrari across America, getting stoned on Ecstacy and living in a small country town while the second is a collection of travel articles from assorted trouble spots; the Lebanon, Northern Ireland, South Africa and anywhere else where man is currently being inhuman to man.

His style is abrasive, none the less well-written for it. In the introduction to “Republican…”, he cites his dislikes; they include “aerobics, being a pussy about nuclear power, seat belts and all tiny Third World countries that don’t have banking secrecy laws”. Meanwhile, his likes include “guns, drugs, fast cars, free love, a strong military with spiffy uniforms and Nastassja Kinski” – how could I possibly fail to like this man?

I think I prefered “Holidays in Hell”, since it seemed to be more international in outlook, while “Republican…” was a little too American for me. Both books did entertain me, however, and got the supreme accolade of being read at other times than my journey into work. Probably the best way to decide if you’ll like them is take a look at the list of likes and dislikes and see how many you agree with!