13th century: Domestic refuse and the contents of chamber pots are thrown from the upstairs windows of homes out into the street, with the consequence that visitors bring it all back into the lower levels on their shoes or feet. Homeowners take to keeping pigs in their parlour to cover the smell. The traditional shout of “Gardez L’eau!” to warn of the presence of Filth in the vicinity gives the English the word “loo” and the Irish the word “gardaí.”
1726: Jonathan Swift writes Gulliver’s Travels, the original version of which includes a visit to the Island of Libdribnibb, whose politicians smear their bodies with berries and “remainderings” to make themselves attractive to the electorate. Overtaken by reality, this chapter was dropped from later editions.
1883: The invention of the roll-on deodorant by the Hairy Ainus of Japan.
1930s: America’s most popular contraceptive is Butch deodorant cream.
1950: Prior to the invention of cardboard cut-outs for rearview mirrors, the people of Finland freshen their car interiors by driving around with whole pine trees passed through the boot and out through the sun roof.
1965: The U.S. military conducts secret experiments spraying cinnamon-scented defoliant onto the streets of Baltimore, Maryland. Results prove impossible to determine other than a rise in the number of complaints about how early Christmas is this year.
1969: At his investiture as the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles is sprayed by a protestor with an aerosol can of deodorant. He inhales significant amounts of enviroment-damaging chlorofluorocarbons. Royal-watchers note that this day marks the point from which Charles “goes a bit funny.”
1974: Glade solid scent sticks hit the shelves. Sales of LSD see a precipitous decline.
1976: Death of Howard Hughes, after discovering that antibacterial soap has negligible nutritional value.
1977: Lemon-scented handwipes replace carbolic soap as French men’s masturbatory aid of choice.
1987: The arrival of the plug-in air freshener. Research shows that in the 30 years since their invention, plug-in air fresheners have been responsible for gassing more midgets than Hitler.
1988: The craze among teenagers for getting out of it by inhaling Hawaiian Breeze air freshener aerosols results in New Kids on the Block.
1991: The London Metropolitan Police Oversight Committee reports a 73% drop in deaths in police custody since handwash replaced bars of soap in stations.
1993: One-third of Americans say they forget to wash their hands after fisting. Worse still, two-thirds of Americans say they forget to wash their hands before fisting.
1994: Australian doctors treat children’s eczema by giving them so-called “dust pills” containing human skin flakes.
1995: The Chinese government presents sensational new scientific evidence differentiating between “bad” capitalist greenhouse gases and “good” Communist ones.
2007: The arrival of the Purity 400 Host Dispenser, which issues Communion wafers “never touched by human hand.” Rumours abound that the wafers are made by paraplegics in cages.
2010: Environmental organization Free Earth finds hormone-disrupting chemicals in supposedly “all-natural” air fresheners. Members spend four days weeping unaccountably.
2014: Esther & Child introduces its No Offence subliminal range of fragrances, which emit no smell or harmful spray into the atmosphere. The most popular bouquet among American homeowners is Lavender & Wealth.
Reality: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) claimed that if people could bring their guns to the movies, they could have prevented the movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, Thursday evening.
“These concepts of gun-free zones are a bad idea. I think that you allow the citizens of this country — who have been appropriately trained, appropriately backgrounded, know how to handle and use firearms — to carry them,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday. “I believe that, with all my heart, that if you have the citizens who are well trained, and particularly in these places that are considered to be gun-free zones, that we can stop that type of activity, or stop it before there’s as many people that are impacted as what we saw in Lafayette.”
Fiction: According to the Alabama Star, a 15-year-old schoolboy went berserk yesterday at his campus in Luttrell, Tennessee. Piloting a stolen U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F, the young student bombed the gymnasium, library, and science labs before strafing the playground as his terrified classmates ran for cover. Since state laws were changed in 2009 allowing pupils to wear concealed weapons for self-defense in the event of a school shooting, the students were able to return fire, but their efforts were largely futile; their schoolmate was determined to go out with a bang, crashing the fighter into the main building of the school without ejecting. At least 230 students and staff are reported missing, and so far ninety-seven bodies have been found. A spokesperson for the NRA said, ‘This goes to prove our point that it isn’t guns that kill people, it’s people who kill people. If only those kids had been allowed to arm themselves with surface-to-air rocket launchers, their assailant would have thought twice about blowing them to smithereens.’
A list of recommended charities from Conservative Party Head Office:
Slave the Children: A long-established and much-respected charity that aims to encourage the untrammeled movement of young, free labor across international boundaries.
The Peace Sledge Union: Promoting self-esteem and unity among former colonies by teaching them cricket and then losing to them.
War on War on Want: “We believe that the best way to alleviate poverty is by stimulating competition between humanitarian agencies in a good-spirited race to the bottom.”
UNICELF: Helping those who help themselves.
Oxfat: Thirty years of service dedicated to fighting Third World obesity.
The World Food Pogrom: The fewer the people, the more food there is to go round.
CAFODE: Enriching the Third World with used TVs from Essex.
GOAL: Hoping to rescue the next George Weah and give him a British passport.
Caratas: Promoting the importance of hygiene in daily life and transparency in business by washing the blood off blood diamonds.
Médecins Dans Frontières: A highly respected front organization committed to the shipping of generic drugs overseas at proprietary brand prices, thereby making everyone feel better.
Crócaire: Leading a ground-breaking initiative, inspired by the so-called Green Revolution, to help the sick, moribund, and already dead to lead useful afterlives (as fertilizer).
Hurt the Aged: Creating demographic space in countries with high unemployment while generating new economic possibilities in the euthanasia sector.
Amnasty International: Helping prisoners of conscience escape their conscience.
Comic Relief: Saving the careers of poverty-stricken comedians unable to secure voiceover jobs or work on gameshows.
and of course
The Young Conservatives: Looking for prospective wealthy donors with a penchant for horsey gals from the shires.
Paperback edition of Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s out today. Thanks for the warning Amazon!
560 Pine Valley Boulevard
There is no better champion of regional Italian cooking than this swank and semiformal Midtown restaurant rooted in the traditions of the Adriatic coast. Some of the recipes come directly from the owners’ family, and the kitchen cultivates an authenticity that will delight you. Chef Jose Relago, originally from Corsica, has a police record for violent assault, a foul temper, and an even fouler-looking daughter whom he worships. References to paper bags and doing her with the lights off should soon escalate into hand-to-hand combat, but if you have enough money to cover the bill when the pigs arrive, Jose will be sweet and refuse to press charges. Make sure you try the spaghetti with fresh clams and cured guanciale before you kick things off. The Pecorino and pear salad tossed with local honey is an elegant starter and can be used to heal cuts.
BREAD AND ROSES
24 East Ponce de Leon Avenue
There is nothing flashy about the way young chef Billy Allin and his wife, Kristin, offend guests in their endearing restaurant in the downtown area. New arrivals are offered the choice of sarcasm or knives by the maître d’ and choose according to how best they think they can match their wits against former standup Kristin and three-time state knife-throwing champ Billy. It’s a testament to the panache of Kristin’s material and the accuracy of Billy’s throwing that diners keep coming back, regardless of the humiliation or number of stitches they endured previously. Lots of local produce and wine by the liter mean that the couple are usually hammered well before the first diners arrive at 6.00 p.m. but this never seems to impair Kristin’s repartee, although Billy is more inclined to get the machetes out of an evening just to make sure he doesn’t miss.
2040 Naughton Place
There is a huge discrepancy between the formal decor and the casual dress of the wait staff at this one-of-a-kind dessert bar, the place to come for a proper, mob-handed ruck with, say, a stag party or a rugby club outing. You’ll generally want to tool up in advance of visiting Bisquite Bar because only staff members have access to cutlery and glassware. Something with a long reach, such as a baseball bat, is always useful; it keeps the waiters at arms’ length and reduces them to throwing bottles at you, which you should be able to fend off, for the most part. Pastry chef Aaron Roberts is particularly proud of his petit fours and delicate geranium-scented biscuits; try referring to them as “lumps of shit” and clicking your fingers at the owner’s wife if things are a bit quiet. The cheese plate is particularly aerodynamic.
M&W SEAFOOD AND OYSTER BAR
31 Chubb Hill
“Suave” is the first word that comes to mind when trying to describe the way head chef Jon Schrempp stamps on fingers. A wound-up man in Doc Martens, Schrempp always wanted to work as a full-time ballroom dancer but ended up in haute cuisine when he discovered how much violence he could inflict on staff and customers alike. Whether diners hop onto a stool at the lively oyster bar or relax in a dining room designed like an intimate, comfortable brasserie, they never know when Schrempp is going to leap out like an Argentinean and slice off an earlobe. The tension is only increased by the disconcerting presence of Schrempp’s club-footed mute son Colin, who means no harm but is clumsy around hot fat. Strip lighting is intended to make things easier for staff to locate diners and land punches better, but it also has the effect of improving the visibility of the food, rendering most of it inedible. Come for the music, stay for the swearing.
THE ELECTRIC DINER
427 Edgewood Lane
The synchronicity between the environment and the food—both elegantly minimalist and good for the planet—soothes the soul even as you blacken the waitress’s eye in chef/owner Martin Sweeney’s mostly vegetarian hovel. The sensibility in TED, as it is affectionately known to regulars, is as close to Broadmoor as it gets in a laidback, spontaneous format, and since the menu changes almost every day, diners can always expect novel forms of abuse in the form of subtly poisoned dishes served at farm tables that encourage mutual distrust. Avoid the mushroom soup.
Restaurant reviews from the Hostile Planet Guide to New Hampshire.
It has been a long time coming, but Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s finally has a public face. I am just delighted. And so chuffed that it has a Jon Langford cover. Anything by Jon would have done, but a one-legged pig dancing with a string of sausages in its mouth catches the tone of the book just right: dark and twisted but also whimsical, playful. All I need now is an appropriate name for the pig. Maybe I should run a competition.
While HarperCollins was in the process of considering Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s for publication, the editor in charge of my manuscript pressed ahead confidently with the edit. Here are the notes made on the front page when the book was returned to me for revision. You can see that besides the main themes of the book (Moral Apathy, Technology ≠ Civility, Social/Cultural Stratification, Violence), there are also titles of already-published works that the editor felt Cannibal Joe’s most resembled, justifying the genre “Social Satire/Black Humor.” I have to confess that of these works, I had only read A Clockwork Orange and that some of the authors were completely unknown to me. Naturally, I rushed off to the local library and devoured them greedily, eager to find out whether I’d been insulted or not.
Not, as it transpired. Tom Robbins even mentions the Mekons! Anyway, for the record:
Katherine Dunne: Geek Love
Matt Ruff: Sewer, Gas & Electric
Kurt Vonnegut: Mother Night
Interestingly, the editor also suggested removing genuine brand names and replacing them with fake ones, in order to avoid dating the story. Readers of the prologue can see for themselves how closely I followed that advice.
Back in 2001, after my agent had sent Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s out to publishers for the first time, I received a small postcard from an editor at HarperCollins New York. The editor in question has long since left the company (name deleted out of consideration and confidentiality), and the novel has undergone at least four re-writes and several edits since then, but the overwhelmingly positive response on that card meant a great deal to me at the time—it spurred me on to write three more novels—especially when it became clear that my books were not genre-specific enough to warrant a publishing house’s commitment. If the card is so tattered and grubby, it is only because I have carried it around in my equally tattered and grubby wallet for the past decade and a half, whipping it out on demand (usually my wife’s demand—Show ’em yer card! Show ’em yer card!) whenever evidence of my authorly credentials was required.
Following HarperCollins’s decision in October 2001 not to pursue the publication of the book (a CIA comedy just after 9/11? Are you kidding?), my editor was sympathetic beyond the call of duty, going so far as to send me a box of books as some form of compensation and offering to read the revised manuscript regardless. The box contained Jerry Stahl’s Perv and Plainclothes Naked, Richard Price’s Clockers, Alex Shakar’s The Savage Girl, Jim Dodge’s Stone Junction, and three or four others that have since gone the way of all things non-flesh: Oxfam. I always felt ambivalent about the possibility of being published by a Murdoch company (and yet here I am publishing using CreateSpace, an Amazon offshoot!) but the fundamental human generosity of my HarperCollins editor, like that of the CreateSpace staff with whom I have worked, will remain long after capitalism has bit the dust.
The long-standing irony is that when Cannibal Joe’s was submitted to publishers in 2001, it was set in the post-crash Ireland of 2015. Had it been published, it would today be regarded as inexplicably prophetic and discomfitingly prescient; instead, it seems like nothing more than a slightly surreal exaggeration of reality that might put bad ideas into the wrong heads within the corridors of power. Assuming that the wrong heads would bother to read it, of course. I’ve seen the standard of Irish Intelligence reports, and they don’t give grounds for such an assumption.
Oh yeah, and “John”? John Green was the name I intended to use for my books. Someone else got there first.