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The Tale of the Shagging Monkeys



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by Anthony Bunko

shagging.jpg

If there were a prize for the most eye-catching title, The Tale of the Shagging Monkeys would be a front runner. That’s surely the only literary prize it has any chance of winning. Prizes for sloppy proof-reading, obscene jokes and anachronistic humour are hard to come by.

Before we get down to the usual gripes, let’s also look at marketing. There is no ISBN on this book. In the twenty-first century, when the humblest pamphlet goes equipped with its ISBN, this is a major failing. How are people supposed to order it from a bookseller? Why go to the trouble and expense of commissioning a reasonably adept cover design, thinking up a snappy title and publishing your own book if you don’t want anyone to read it? Yet somehow my local library has managed to get hold of a copy (which is more than it can manage to do for most of the books I request by ISBN), so the author must have contacts.

I didn’t hate everything about the book. To be honest, I think Anthony Bunko has something of a gift as a humorist. The problem, for me, was that it was difficult to decipher the story because of the poor English. It was a nice touch on Mr Bunko’s part to acknowledge the help given him by family and friends. However, I should think that "Hedgehog", if he has any shame at all, is now cringing at the revelation that he was responsible for what passed in the author’s mind for proof-reading. As for Tracy, who "spelled every other word" – Tracy, dear, you should have concentrated on the words in between.

When I could make out what was going on amidst all the misplaced apostrophes and commas, I discovered that this was the story of four South Wales lads going on their annual outing. I use "lads" in the metaphorical sense. The fact that the author refers frequently to long-forgotten names like Richard Nixon and Marine Boy reveals that he is not aiming to cater for younger readers. That seems a pity, as today’s youth are more likely to be impressed by his range of scatological witticisms, generally involving parts of the male and female anatomy, than are mature readers.

There’s not much to offer female readers, either. Alex, Big Ken and their gang are definitely not "new men", and would probably not understand the concept. Their adventures are as over-the-top as the author can make them – designed to offer belly-laughs, rather than credibility. Funny they may be, but in the crudest of ways. Perhaps some would say it was foolish to expect sophistication from a novel with Dowlais Rugby Club as its opening backdrop. That would be stereotyping of the worst kind. Can no one write a humorous book set in Wales where the characters are not either drunk, stoned or both, throughout the narrative? Of course they can. Kingsley Amis managed it more than once, and so could Anthony Bunko if he were to put his mind to it – and acquire a capable proof-reader.

No ISBN
Anthony Bunko, 2003
255pp, paperback
Retail price 4.99

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher