Thursday, 5 November 2015
‘Beatrix Potter meets the Marquis de Sade’
The Queue by Jonathan Barrow, first published (with some of the author’s own drawings) by CBe, is picking some fine reviews in the US after its publication there by New Vessel Press under a new title, On the Run with Mary.
‘Dementedly cheerful … a rollicking catalogue of sex, violence, and acts of cartoonish cruelty’ – Publishers Weekly
‘Topping them all … an absolutely outrageous novel … about the glorious curiosities of the United Kingdom.’ – The Rumpus
‘Limericks by Joy Division, Lewis Carroll talking in his sleep, and unlike much of the avant-garde, it’s funny.’ – Daniel Genis
‘The headlong energy and happy perversity of On the Run with Mary makes one admire much of what Barrow did, and wonder with sorrow at what he might have done.’ – Sam Lipsyte
Two things about the book. First, the circumstances of its writing. The discovery of the manuscript in the desk drawer of the author on the day after his death is not, for once, a trope: it’s fact. Jonathan Barrow completed The Queue a few days before he and his girlfriend were killed in a head-on car crash; he was 22; guests invited to the wedding of Jonathan and his girlfriend at the Brompton Oratory found themselves attending instead a double requiem mass. (For a fuller account by his brother, Andrew Barrow, see here.)
Second, the book itself. It recounts the odyssey of the narrator and Mary – a stray dachshund: alcoholic, drug-addicted, nymphomaniac and pregnant – through the abattoirs, strip clubs, prison cells, lunatic asylums and sewers of England. It packs about 10 years’ worth of your recommended daily allowance of scatology and sexual malpractice into 120 pages. It’s also funny, and has a strange innocence. Andrew Barrow mentions that ‘One person who has read my brother’s book considers it “a veiled, oblique suicide note”, while another saw it as a love letter’.