Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Something Rotten in the City of Ravenage

Quentin Crisp was famous for being famous. He worked as a figure model, wrote a lively memoir, and became known as one of the most entertaining conversationalists ever. Stories and witty remarks fell from him like acorns.

Then comes one odd little novel entitled Chog (1979), in which the aphorist spins a darkly comic, gothic yarn set in a gloomy English city he calls Ravenage. A miserly millionare passes away and leaves his fortune to his dog, Fido. Two conniving servants are left in charge of the mansion and the dog. The unnaturally intelligent millionare dog sets off on a course of self-determination that leads to violent, tragic ends.

More than his memoir and hundreds of aphorisms, Chog exhibits some lovely, witty prose - worthy of Wodehouse yet with a much darker, more troubled imagination. Crisp seems to have been well-suited for this sort of humorous gothic horror, populated with characters who emerge as wry cartoons - the miserable Lord Emms, the servants Mr. and Mrs. Davies, a prostitute who strikes up the acquaintance of Mr. Davies and Fido; and of course there is Chog, the most disturbing character of all. In the Methuen edition I found, illustrated by the great Gahan Wilson, the illustrations wisely leave Chog's features as undefined and mysterious as Crisp does.

One has to wonder what collaborations might have transpired between him and film director Tim Burton. During a winter where I am feeling not-so-Christmasy, this has been such an enjoyable (if surprisingly quick) read. If you can find a copy of it, which may be difficult, I recommend it for the humbug on your gift list.


I have updated this entry after noticing I referred to Wilson as "the late great." It is my pleasure to affirm that Gahan Wilson is still around.


Anonymous said...

OMG!! I haven't thought about Gahan Wilson in AGES! I always loved his drawings. Thanks for jogging my memory!

Trinity said...

Just a tiny wish of Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!!