Title: Shaggy: 14 Rather Amusing Rambles
Author: Anton Krueger and Pravasan Pillay
Publisher: BK Publishing, Pretoria
In a country beset by crime, political sideshows, service delivery protests and escalating electricity prices there doesn’t always seem to be too much to laugh about, let alone the kind of laughter that makes your abdominal muscles (that you didn’t know existed) contract and contort and your cheeks start to tickle with tears of joy. Into this seeming void step Anton Krueger and Pravasan Pillay, who have just released their first collection of 14 short stories, entitled Shaggy: 14 Rather Amusing Rambles. The title in itself did not prepare me one bit for the riotous, rollicking “rambles” I was about to encounter, nor did it give any real hint of its completely overblown yet often scintillating mix of razor-sharp wit, a dry-as-dust tone and a willingness to engage the reader on an intellectual level.
What Krueger and Pillay set out to do with Shaggy is completely explode the conventions and form of the traditional shaggy-dog tale, with its usual long-winded narration and anti-climactic punchline mutated here into 14 short, sharp, seriously funny monologues set forth from the mouths of a motley crew of “scheming misanthropes whose speeches are full of sound and fury, signifying very little”.
Among this “rogues gallery” we find “manipulative, ingratiating, deluded, egotistical, inauthentic, spiteful narcissists” that all operate in Margate of all places, letting loose outlandish, eccentric and mercifully short spurts of highly imaginative verbal defecation. Some of the most memorable and ridiculous characters (often megalomaniacal and mischievous) are an SABC executive that spins a hilarious web of codswallop around the financial woes of the enterprise; a Picasso-wannabe conceptual artist that extols the virtues of the culinary as well as the corporeal; a brilliantly sketched film director of fatuous fluff who sees himself as an avant-garde auteur completely misunderstood by the censors; a Cambodian woman both compulsive and obsessive about washing dishes, despite her ownership of cosmetics empire Khmer Rouge with its arch rivals Ku Klux Glam (LOL!); and a completely ludicrous Satanist hell-bent on selling timeshare.
To say that these short stories present a shaggy and scraggly collection of characters that do little but “talk shit” would be to sell Krueger and Pillay’s work short. Through the “rambles” of these characters the authors devilishly deconstruct the quotidian and mundane, leaving the reader with little desire to breathe before the next over-the-top tale. Not a single story is without tremendously fine humour, a feather-light touch and a rib-tickling turn of phrase. If variety is the spice of life then humour is surely not far behind, and with this cracking collection Krueger and Pillay have established themselves as a brave new voice deserving of an appreciative audience.