Discover more from From the Desque of Robert Wringham
Egads, A Talking Head
Robert Wringham here. You know me. Yay high. Hairy hair.
I don’t have a new book this time thank heavens, but a lot of smaller things have happened and I’d like to tell you about them.
Someone in the New Escapologist reader survey voted against there being an NE podcast because “after decades of reading your stuff it would ruin everything to hear your voice.” Very wise!
For the less cautious, however, you might enjoy this 45-minute interview I did with YouTuber GingerBeardMark, whose parents named him well.
As well as being a funny and thoughtful lad himself, Mark interviews the best people in comedy. He’s done Stewart Lee, Paul “Some Mothers Do Have Them” Putner, Richard “mars bar?” Herring, Evie King, Mark Thomas, Kunt and the Gang, Tony Law, Michael “what are you doing in my garden?” Redmond, Simon “I kiss the monkey” Munnery, and Brass Eye’s Michael Cumming. Joining that list of names feels like an accolade frankly.
It’s available in audio through most podcast apps or as a video on YouTube. We largely talk about stand-up comedy and my books. It’s a very free and easy interview, not a performance at all. I’m wearing a t-shirt in it, for goodness sake. That’s practically underwear.
(If you watch it on YouTube, please consider leaving a comment to help Mark defeat the the algorithm: just say “Wringham sent me,” or “gosh, what a lovely big conk” or something. Thanks.)
I also chatted recently with Jeremy from magCulture about New Escapologist and to John from OutsideLeft about Rub-A-Dub-Dub. Nobody in their right mind would consume all three of these interviews in quick succession. Except perhaps you, madam.
Things to buy
There’s a fiver off The Good Life for Wage Slaves: How to Live Beautifully as a White-Collar Drudge at the New Escapologist website because I have too many of these in my kitchen cupboard. Just use coupon code WAGE5 at checkout.
Two questions concerning the narrative voice in Rub-A-Dub-Dub.
The first comes from my friend Reggie Chamberlain-King in an interview (yet to be published) we did together. He asks:
I was interested in the perspective of the narrator. It’s a close third person perspective – not omnipresent, more reporting from Mister Bob’s shoulder; judgmental, insulting, but ultimately sympathetic. What is the relationship between Mister Bob and the narrator?
Thank you for saying that. That’s literally how I envision the narrator: a glowing orb just above and behind his shoulder. This narrator has access to his thoughts and personality as well as what the character sees, so she/he/it can report both. I suppose that’s omnipresence really but some of Mister Bob’s personality is in the narrator too. They’re conjoined. I like that very much but I think it confuses some people, which isn’t something I wanted to do. Some said it was too close to him, especially when it sounded judgemental of him: “Mister Bob was fat. And he had gingivitis.” Lines like that are supposed to be second-hand thoughts originating with Mister Bob but reported by the narrator. I don’t think this idea for a narrative voice is iconoclastic; I’m certain I’ve read this sort of voice before. But it’s good that it’s catching people’s interest.
The second question comes by email from reader Scott:
I’m well into Rub-A-Dub-Dub. Just finished Part Three. I loved Mister Bob standing up to Mrs. Cuntapples! Tell me about your voice for this novel. I know you pretty well by now and this is not the Robert Wringham I thought I knew. Very short, repetitive sentences. For example you said “premium strength lager” many, many times and no doubt on purpose. Why not beer, brew, or even bottom-fermented grains? You must have had a reason. And “Mister Bob” is literally uncountable. Why not a pronoun or two? Please let me know as I’m thoroughly enjoying your first novel but trying to unlock the idiosyncratic writing style.
The Robert Wringham name is on the cover but the narrator is not Robert Wringham, so it’s a different voice to anything you’ve read of mine before. The repetition is indeed deliberate and for two main reasons.
The first is that the narrator mocks Mister Bob and his gritty predicaments with an almost sing-song or storybook tone: “Mister Bob fell in a hole. Oh dear,” etc. It’s supposed to offer a sort of juxtaposition or tortuous understatement that makes light of the post-Brexit, pre-pandemic UK hellscape in which he has found himself, a world where systems seem to be winding down and ceasing to work smoothly.
The second reason is an investigation into quiddity: certain things in a repetitive or cyclical life gain thingness as we go around and around. A fire hydrant we see every day becomes not a fire hydrant but the fire hydrant. I applied this theory to significant objects in Mister Bob’s world: the premium strength lager, the polyether railway company uniform, the buffet car, David McManaman’s “head in the shape of a triangle,” the word “reek,” certain placenames. There are others. The phrasing is always the same because his (and, increasingly, our) familiarity with those objects is at optimal thingness, no further familiarity could possibly be layered onto them.
This is the level of thought that has gone into my novel, people! It’s intended to look lightweight and silly but the engineering beneath the page is secretly significant.
I dropped off some fresh book stock at Aye-Aye Books, the indie bookshop at Glasgow’s CCA recently.
They look great on the shelves, don’t they? Hopefully that won’t put people off buying them.
I found myself writing a diary entry at the British Library in London last month. So here it is. Do you think she was for real?
I Am French
I’m in London for the week and having a great time. It’s busy though and there are always moments in this city when I feel like a rube.
Shortly after arriving at Euston, a woman approached me on the street. I’m good at letting people down when they’re asking for money by giving them a friendly smile and a “sorry” but there was something a bit different about this person’s energy.
“I am French,” she explained, “No one believes me but my wallet has been stolen.”
She was holding her handbag open as if to reveal no wallet.
Looking back, I think she was probably a scammer but I half-believed her at the time and I still worry that I failed to help someone who was in a rare pickle.
She didn’t look like the typical scammer. I think she really was French and, while the bulging Marty Feldman eyes made her look slightly odd, she seemed to be middle-class and uncomfortable about asking for help.
“What do you need?” I asked, thinking I could perhaps call someone for her.
“Six pounds,” she said, for a train back to somewhere.
“I don’t carry cash,” I said truthfully, “maybe if you go back to the station and speak to the ticket sellers they might be able to help you,” and I walked away.
When I peeked back, she wasn’t flicking me the V’s or routinely hassling a next person; in fact she seemed a bit deflated. It was true that I had no cash but I suppose I could have gone to a cash machine if I only had been more certain she was for real.
I’m 50-60% sure it was a scam and I’m sure some of you worldly Londoners will confirm if this is a common wheeze, but she seemed more plausible than our Glasgow scammers and I worry that I sent a nice woman back to the continent angry about her time on Brexit Island. She’d been mugged and then not helped by anyone. You know, unless this was all a bollocks.
Also in London I found myself writing an actual joke for once:
There’s Halloween stuff in the shops already. Can’t we just enjoy 9/11 first?
I’m here all night, folks.
Okay, that’s all for now. Thanks for having me. Please buy a book! Or a magazine. Or get yourself a cuppa and settle down with that interview video. Or send caffeine. Or tell me what you’re up to. Or don’t! It’s all good.
You can also see what I’ve been reading and where I’ve been travelling recently at my website’s now page. I’m not sure if I’ll keep that up but, much like this mailing list, it’s part of a broader social media replacement scheme.
Speaking of which, wouldn’t it be great to quit the swamp of “the socials” once and for all? Twitter is my last platform and it’s more tempting than ever to delete my accounts for DEMOCRACY and for FREE WILL. This mailing list and ones like it are useful for this reason. Thanks for being on it.
Your humble narrator,