Three Wogs, by Alexander Theroux

Three WogsWell, let’s face it, if you’re one of those

who believes style shouldn’t preside over substance, then this book’s not for you. – If, on the other hand, like me, you’d say it depends on the

individual case and we shouldn’t be making such sweeping statements, perhaps this is just the thing you’ve been looking for. Here’s the first line,

as a taste:

“Picric, antagonized, scuffing forward with a leer, Fu Manchu readily confirmed a common fear: a distorted mind proves that

there is something on it.”

Of course, there’s a lot to that line, if you want to analyse it (though I’m guessing you probably

don’t). We are watching a film, of course, and there is an irony here: what we are calling a “common fear” is only a tropos of the cinema – a

stereotype indeed, lodged now in the mind of the innocent audience member, to whom we will shortly be introduced, which we ourselves might yet keep in

mind for the rest of the narrative, as it procedes to discuss the racism which has been formed by such stereotyping and directed towards those whose

faces do not so readily convey their inherent evil (sc. foreigners).

“Whatever,” you say – and quite right too! – All I might try to suggest in

my defence is that maybe there is some substance after all in amongst all the style. But who cares? – when the style is, as we must confess, so

glorious.

Write about what you know, they say: so in Three Wogs Alexander Theroux, Ivy league educated American that he is, writes about the

lives of the working class in London in the late 1960s, with a fascination for that particular vernacular. This is three stories, by far the best

being the longest middle one entitled Childe Roland.

I’ll just throw in one further quotation: a description of Speakers’

Corner:

“Typically, he did not speak, he announced. No microphones were allowed into the park, but it did not seem to matter. The noise

threshhold seemed infinite. Metaphors flew about like loose tiles. Eack speaker seemed only interested in firing off squibs, like bananas, to

disconcert the gravity of the orthodox, implicitly asking, as all did, that profound, if essentially poetic, question: into the nosebag of unbiased

recapitulation can we accuse what historian of putting his snout? Speakers everywhere shot up high on their stands, amid the crowd, like foghorns

blasting war news – an eristic jawing of bottomless fart-gas, messianic rant, bilk, and boozy guffaws, wherein guesses became prophecies; whim, dogma;

and candour, far more frightful than caricature.”

Well, as I say, if that’s your thing (and I admit, I’m partial myself) – but if

not, then read something else. I just thought you might like a change, something a bit “over-written” as you’d probably call it, in this age of

literary underwriting.

(I should mention, for form’s sake, that Alexander is the brother of Paul, and I believe is in some way connected to

Louis).

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