By Mr. If
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
Pervert is a strange, coarse little book about the pseudonymous author (Mr. If) and his erotic journey across small-town England. By turns sexually explicit and painfully confessional, Mr. If narrates his travels and the extramarital affairs. Written in raw unadorned prose, Pervert is the third installment of Mr. If’s “Entertainment” trilogy. The first volume, Entertainment is a collection of poetry and prose-poems. The second volume, Violence is the Answer explores his extramarital affair with an army wife. Each receives a cheeky alias (Marilyn and Nettles).
Mr. If is the classic cantankerous iconoclast, contrarian, and vagabond. Acting like some mad hybrid of a Samuel Beckett tramp and David Thelwis’s character from Mike Leigh’s Naked, he is both pathetic and infuriating. Pervert begins with Mr. If’s affair with a woman he considers a Nazi. He gives her the nickname of the Fit Bigot, since she has both a nice body and a reprehensible belief system. In the bar, she says the Government ought to exterminate homosexuals. Although she holds this belief, she has no trouble sleeping with Mr. If, a self-professed bisexual. As the novella continues, we witness Mr. If’s affairs with both men and women.
The confrontational nature of the narrative makes it a challenge to review, since Mr. If states plainly he doesn’t give a damn what critics think and is amused if anyone actually reads his book in the first place. He is cynical and self-contradictory. Vocally anti-war, he sleeps with Marilyn, a soldier’s wife, because he loves Nettles, the soldier, but hates the war he’s in. He hates pop culture, psychology, and working.
The novella, and by extension, the Entertainment trilogy, is a confounding, vulgar, satirical gobbet of sputum lobbed at everything held proper by the United Kingdom. A kind of lowbrow bargain basement Miss Lonelyhearts, Pervert is guaranteed to infuriate and amuse. It’s only marred by the ending. Throughout the novella, Mr. If tells his sex partner Derek that his ultimate desire was to murder his father and have sex with his mother. (Cue cliched, “Paging Dr. Freud!”) When Mr. If attends the funeral of his father and actually makes good on his Oedipal obsessions, my expectations and enjoyment crumbled into a heap. Not because of the perversity per se, but because this was, at least according to Mr. If, a piece of non-fiction. After the ending, I didn’t buy such an assertion. (I’m sure Mr. If doesn’t care either way, since his weapons-grade apathy is both his most endearing quality and his most enervating.)
I’m rating this higher because the writing is still highly enjoyable. Not the same enjoyment as when one reads an Iowa Creative Writing Program thesis novel where every sentence is polished within an inch of its life. Pervert is like the opening chords of “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols. It’s not about talent (whether the Sex Pistols had any musical talent is negligible), but their energy and take-no-prisoner confrontationalism.
Additional: Pervert was published by Philistine Press. One can download most of their ebooks for free. This gives the press increased freedom to put out books that are, at first blush, rather bonkers. Sample the wares of Mr. If and others, since Philistine Press has a penchant for the weird, vulgar, and experimental.
Out of 10/8.0