Merde hits the U.S! In the third volume of his escapades, Paul West is driving across the USA in a Mini, and feeling just as foreign as he ever did in France. He has accepted a job promoting the UK as a tourist destination. His tiny car is supposed to symbolize Britain's image - self-deprecating, fun, stylish but not snobbish. But to Americans it looks plain cramped. The car feels even more cramped than normal because Paul is sharing it with his French girlfriend Alexa, who has come along to make an on-the-road documentary about American cultural colonialism and similar French preconceptions. The Mini will get even more overloaded when Paul and Alexa are joined by Paul's American friend Jake (whose English has now become so gallicized that only the Cajuns can understand him), and a waitress on the way to Las Vegas to begin her MA in cheerleading. Paul has to drive coast-to-coast to a tight deadline, putting on "typically British" publicity stunts in certain key cities. Finally, he is to deliver the plucky little car to Hollywood as the centrepiece of Britain's bid to be voted Tourist Destination of the Year and host the next World Tourism Fair.
With France, China and the USA also in the running, national pride is at stake, as is Paul's bonus. MERDE HAPPENS is an Anglo-Franco-American melange of such classic travel romps as The Italian Job (with only one Mini but several more cities), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (with fewer drugs and no actual loathing) and On the Road (without all that tedious free jazz). More importantly, it has a unique extra ingredient that none of the above could offer - lashings of Paul West's merde.
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(201mm x 132mm x 28mm)
Random House Australia
Publisher: Random House Australia
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US Kirkus Review »
Snafus abound as Clarke's doppelganger Paul West (In the Merde For Love, 2006, etc.) leaves France under a cloud and attempts to recoup his fortunes with a U.S. road trip."I'd set off on a simple PR consultant's job and was going to end up as a seminaked footwear model," moans Paul. The taxman has him by the short hairs, so he takes a job with Visitor Resources: Britain ("the good old Tourist Authority until some trendy twit in the government decreed that it sounded too 'yesterday's generation' or whatever") to promote that country's tourism via a number of events in select American cities. Unsurprisingly, but gratifyingly, each of the stops becomes the opportunity for a complete fiasco. While in Boston, he gets involved in a fistfight at an Indian restaurant; in Miami the mayor's appearance is immaterial because "everything here organized by the Cubans and the realtors," Paul's contact tells him. As his business trip goes south, so too does his relationship with Alexa, the firebrand socialist bombshell filmmaker who has already alienated America's working folk ("waddat fuggen bitch jess sayda me?" a woman trucker inquires) and then makes herself scarce for a dangerous extrarelational liaison. No matter, for while West's inamorata has disappeared, that can't be said of his anatomical fixations, his desperate jokes or the absurdist moments that find his hotel room in flames, his car under hijack or an alligator taxidermist making a midnight visit. Clarke works his humor in a frantic, colorful choreography of mayhem, like Busby Berkeley conducting Harold Lloyd. Running gags concerning a kilt and a group of French engineers are weak vehicles for dramatic unity, but the comedic, frequently alcohol-fueled vignettes have the verve to stand on their own. "You're drunk," is Alexa's frequent complaint. In West's business-ambassador shoes, you would be too.Amusing travelogue from an engaging narrator who never lets a little bad news mess with his joie de vivre. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Stephen Clarke
In 2004, Stephen Clarke, a British journalist, published A Year in the Merde, an almost-true account of what may-or-may-not have happened in to him in the ten previous years he'd lived in France. He originally published the novel in a edition of 200 copies, with the intention of selling them through his website or giving them to his friends. However, following a reading in a Canadian bookshop in Paris and a write-up in a French newspaper, the book became a word-of-mouth bestseller and was published around the world. He lives in Paris where he divides his time between writing and not writing. For more information about Stephen Clarke and his books, visit his website- www.stephenclarkewriter.com