05 May, 2011

'Preincarnate' - Shaun Micallef

The thinking person's comedian, sometimes it seems Shaun Micallef can do no wrong. Newstopia was one of the most intelligent series on Australian TV and rates up there with Frontline for ingenuity and pertinence. I can't say that I settle in to watch Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation (the apostrophes are enough to put me off), but from all reports Micallef hosts with aplomb and warms himself to each generation, whether denoted X, Y or BB.

So why shouldn't he write a witty novella? Preincarnate is a whole lot of fun. Maybe it's a little rambly and maybe its preposterousness slighty outweighs the weight of the story, but it's clever, and it plays homage to a whole range of writers and genres (even Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure). Since sketch comedy on Australian TV is most likely dead, we should be grateful we're able to access Micallef in the written form.

It's a reader's book, too, presented with all manner of delightful touches. There's a ribbon bookmark; a delightfully coloured and swirled frontispiece, with a place to write your name; and illustrations from Bill Wood, in the best boys-own or Famous Five fashion.

The plot? Well, I could try and explain it, but suffice it to say that it involves a modern man who is in fact a clone of Richard Cromwell, and in travelling between 2005 and 1657 we encounter Tom Cruise, Arthur Conan Doyle and Matthew Reilly among others. The book is littered with amusing footnotes, wherein the author and his editor argue over finer points of the MS. You don't need to follow the chronology of the chapters, which is as jumbled as Catch-22, to enjoy the ride.

I had the pleasure of hearing Micallef read from the book at the Writers at the Convent. He chose the scene where the President of Bibliotheque nationale de France reveals the terrible truth that Matthew Reilly spilt crumbs in precious books while researching one of his novels. Micallef rendered it complete with ridiculous French accent for the President, interspersed with his own rich tones, and it was hilarious.

It's that kind of book, one where even from the page characters speak with silly accents. While unwritten, you can visualise sly eyebrow raises, exaggerated shrugs and sneaky glances to camera. It's a whole lot of fun, and an attractive addition to your bookshelf.

No comments:

Post a Comment