Thursday, July 28, 2011

Indecent Exposure - Tom Sharpe

1973; 248 pages.  Genre : Political Satire; Humor.  New Author? : No.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    In the fictional South African city of Piemburg, the chief of police, Kommandant van Heerden, decides it's time to go on vacation.  As soon as he leaves, his back-stabbing, omni-bigoted second-in-command, Luitenant Verkramp, resolves to show people what he's capable of.  He succeeds, but that's not a good thing.

What's To Like...
    This is the sequel to Riotous Assembly, reviewed here.  Once again, there is a clever mixing of slapstick comedy with the horrors and brutality of South African apartheid.  Once again, there are a half-dozen storylines, all of them zanily running amok.

    Van Heerden, a Boer, uses his vacation to try and become Britishized.  Verkramp is an out-of-control  bundle of misguided energy.  Alarmed that some of the white police force might be having relations with black women, he initiates a comprehensive shock-aversion therapy program.  It works, but not in the way he intended.  Verkramp is also looking for Communist subversives, and if he can't find any, he'll make his own.  All the while trying to avoid the amorous clutches of a lady psychiatrist, one Dr. von Blimenstein.

    And do I spy the scurrilous Konstabel Els underneath yonder table?  I thought he was dead.

Kewlest New Word...
Divagation : a digression in a speech.

    "Do you like it?" the doctor enquired stretching voluptuously.  Verkramp swallowed and said that he did, very much.  "It's the new wet look in stretch nylon."  Verkramp found himself staring at her breasts hypnotically and with the terrible realization that he was committed to an evening spent in public with a woman who was wearing what amounted to a semi-transparent scarlet bodystocking.  Luitenant Verkramp's reputation for sober and God-fearing living was something he had always been proud of and as a devout member of the Verwoerd Street Dutch Reformed Church he was shocked by the doctor's outfit.  As he drove up to the Piltdown Hotel the only consolation he could find was that the beastly garment was so tight she wouldn't be able to dance in it,.  Luitenant Verkramp didn't dance.  He thought it was sinful.  (pg. 39)

    "You must think I'm absolutely frightful," she murmured one afternoon as they sat on the verandah.
    The Kommandant said he didn't think anything of the sort.
    "I suppose it's because I've had so little experience of the real world," she continued, "that I find it so fascinating to meet a man with so much je ne sais quoi."
    "Oh, I don't know about that," said the Kommandant modestly.  (pg. 57)

All cats are grey when the candles are out.  (pg. 227)
    All the gallivating story threads get tied up neatly at the end.  The humor made me LOL, and that's a rare treat.  Indecent Exposure may be the only novel that has exploding ostriches in it.

    If there's a downside, it's that thre are no redeeming characters.  The British are dumb and stuffy.  The Boers are dumb and brutal.  The Blacks are dumb and cowardly.  The gays are dumb and stereotyped.

   Still, it is a worthy read, both for its lively wit and its ugly, gritty depicting of South African apartheid.  It is a subject Tom Sharpe knows only too well.  He lived in South Africa for a while, and in the early 60's was jailed, then deported, on the charge of sedition.

    There are enough references to events from Riotous Assembly, that you really should read that one first.  I found Indecent Exposure almost - but not quite - as entertaining as that one.  8½ Stars.

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