Book: It’s Mawdsley
Author: David Baker
Type of Book: Fiction, indescribable, contender for the grossest book I have ever read
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because if one were to go strictly on the basis of this book, one would have a hard time determining if David Baker is completely insane or an utter genius.
Availability: Self-published by Lulu.com, you can get a copy here:
Comments: Okay, I have to be blunt. I can’t imagine you want to read this book. I’m not saying you shouldn’t and I’m not saying you should, but mostly I sense that you, gentle reader, might run screaming into the hills if you did read this. And I am not saying that because I think you are somehow weak or unwilling to read rough content. I mean, you’re here reading. Clearly, you, like me, are into the outre. Rather, I say that I can’t imagine you would want to read this book because Baker doesn’t just push the envelope. He takes the envelope, pukes on it and shoves it up the reader’s ass.
On the most basic level, I think Baker is on to something. I think the extremity of this book is daring and in some places, a thing of beauty. There are places where the book is so self-indulgent and poorly written that I wanted to throttle Baker on general principle. It was all the more sad then that Baker often strayed from his strengths because when he can be arsed to write well, he has an amazing ear for accent and dialogue, a gift for dark and foul humor, and his willingness to write some of the most disgusting content I have ever read shows a bravery that is either foolhardy or could, with some restraint, result in books that everyone who likes the grotesque would want to read.
The plot of this book is deceptively simple. A young man who has no real place in the world goes on a voyage, though it is not a voyage of discovery. It is a voyage of mayhem. But it is a voyage nonetheless. If Holden Caufield had been aggressively stupid, smelly, violent, a human trafficker, a pedophile, a rapist, a racist and completely without any sort of redemption, Catcher in the Rye might have resembled It’s Mawdsley. Both of them certainly hate phonies. Mawdsley, who cannot keep a job in the UK, travels and rapes and vomits and sells his half-siblings to sodomite priests, ends up at the Academy Awards in the USA, and through a series of misadventures via the trip back to the UK, ends up looking like Osama bin Laden and paralyzed from the waist down. Thankfully, he dies and goes to heaven and shits up the afterlife. And oh yeah, Mawdsley has issues with the number two. Not sure what that was about but there you go. And also it is important to know that Mawdsley longs to utterly befoul and defile Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice. His repellent longing for the singer is, in fact, an important plot point in the book.
There is no real way to discuss the depths of depravity and mayhem that Mawdsley engages in without discussing the fact that this is a novel that begins as a subversive adventure into absurdism that quickly descends into anarchy, bordering on complete fucking nihilism. Nothing wrong with nihilism but the way that Baker arranges this novel makes it difficult to know what his point is at times. Yes, he’s telling a disgusting tale of one of the most despicable human beings ever to live, yet given the speech of other characters and in some places an utter lack of accurate detail, I honestly have no idea if the degeneration in writing is due to a point Baker is trying to make, a lack of attention to detail or simply fatigue and oversight on Baker’s part.
Craig Mawdsley, in the guise of a chav, isn’t really a symbol for the perceived degeneracy of those who embody such a label because Mawdsley is beyond even the worst mankind can generate organically. He is a superhuman cartoon caricature of horrific impulses. Initially, it simply seems like Mawdsley is a gross reprobate who cannot hold a job, seldom showers, walks around in his own puke and has sex with anything vaguely female who is willing. The beginning of the novel shows a clever wit, an attention to language and seemed like it was going to end up a subversive story of one chav who conquers all despite his hideousness (and in a sense, that is exactly what happens). Let me quote some passages from the beginning to show what I mean. Taken from chapter 1, called “SUDDENEPIPHANYHAVINGCUNT:”
The week previous I’d had a really hard time dealing with not being able to sign on anymore. After 3 fucking years on the Billy Joel I was suddenly being forced to get a fucking job. I’d seen all the ads for this Job Drive wank on the tele but for some reason I thought I’d never be put on it.
“You can’t do that,” I told the Job Centre dickheads. “That’s, like, the biggest cunts’ trick ever.”
“It’s what the government wants,” they said.
In other words, tough fucking tits, yeah?
Okay, yeah, it’s totally gonna be like a mix of Trainspotting and Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances. I am on terra firma with this, but Baker has no intention of staying on roads I expect and, frankly, it would have been too easy had Baker continued in this vein. But it was fun while it lasted. And it was fun, reading a merely degenerate and violent Mawdsley wreck his vengeance against more privileged and productive members of society. Take this excerpt, as Mawdsley takes offense to a student on a bus:
So what I did was, to make the nightmare more real for the wankstain, I leaned across me seat and str8 up mugged the Backstreet Boys bastard. He didn’t even try and stop me. He just watched me hand calmly weaselling about inside his coat pockets and bring out his wallet, “You want to look after this, m8,” I said. “I tell you what, I’ll look after it for you, yeah?” I didn’t even check to see what was in it. I just put it in me tracky bottoms’ pocket and ignored the prick for the rest of the journey like.
Now, you might feel sorry for the student loan re-payments tit. Now I’ve got 3 words for you, yeah? Bellend. The thing about them StudentCunts is, when they’re older and turn out to be the SmartCunts of the future like what they’re fucking supposed to be, it’ll be them what’ll be RobbingCunts. Trust me. They’re LongRangeCunts, them student dickheads.
Seriously, I loved the first 30 pages or so of this book. I found it ridiculously funny in some places. Like here, when Mawdsley is looking for his numbered time card so he can clock in on his first day on the job.
When I got to the front of the queue I searched the rack for me number but it wasn’t fucking there, was it? If the lights and the noise weren’t bad enough, all the queuing up dickheads behind me proceeded to batter me head further telling me to hurry up, the ImpatientCunts.
“YOU’RE COSTING ME MONEY, YOU PRICK.”
I looked over me shoulder and there was this sweaty fat fucker what looked like a fucking farmer, ready to kick 1 off on me.
“I CAN’T FIND ME FUCKING NUMBER,” I said, showing him this bit of paper what some Job Centre muppet gave me.
The dickhead grabbed a card out of the rack and flapped it about in me fucking face. “HERE IT IS, YOU DICKHEAD,” he shouted. “333.”
Written along the top in ballpoint was the number 333, not 333 like I told the fucking prince me number was. So I told the nobhead, “THAT’S 333, YOU FUCKING NOBHEAD. MY NUMBER’S 333.”
“YEAH,” he said. “THIS IS 333.”
“NO,” I said, “LISTEN VERY CAREFULLY, YEAH? MY NUMBER IS 333. THAT’S 333, YOU ABSOLUTE DICK.”
He looked at me like I was a fucking prick or something. “IT’S RIGHT HERE, YOU FUCKING PRICK. 33-FUCKING-3.”
I was about ready kick 1 off on the dickhead when this other dickhead showed up. I sussed he was the gaffer because he was wearing a better class of apron and shower cap than every1 else, bright red instead of the standard white to prove how shithot he was compared to all us LowerDownCunts.
I asked the jumped-up prick where me clocking-on card was but he was having note of it.
“NEVER MIND THAT,” he said. “YOU’RE HOLDING UP THE QUEUE, YOU LAZY SHITHEAD.”
Chances are you may not have found this passage funny but I did. I laughed like a snorting hellbeast when I first read it but when I shared it with Mr. Oddbooks, he sort of looked at me like I was a fucking prick or something.
The first day of the job ends about the way you think it might: pissing into the brown vat of whatever he was hired to stir. The reader finds out that Craig Mawdsley is a known quantity in the British press, called “Craig Cunt” in sensationalist headlines about his antics. We learn he owes money and will likely get hurt if he does not pay. We learn he has to report to a meeting on New Year’s Day in order to keep getting benefits. But it’s right about page 31 where the… what can I even call them – descriptions of orgy filth so bad it couldn’t even be recreated on the Internet? Litanies of sexual horror and violence so appallingly cartoonish in their scope that after a while, the words stop making sense and ultimately you sort of find yourself reading the words and hearing them phonetically but no longer know the meaning? Not sure, but that happens, a celebrity name-dropping orgy happens, only a paragraph long, but a horrible foreshadowing of what is to come.
Let’s skip a lot and get to chapter 8, called HAPPY FUCKING NEW YEAR, YOU ABSOLUTE FUCKING PRICK. He goes to the New Year’s Day meeting he has to attend to go back on the dole and meets a woman. He proceeds to have really gross sex with her only for her to tell him she has full-blown AIDS. Certain he is going to die from AIDS, Mawdsley kills the woman and then goes to a Diseased Dick and Fanny Clinic to get tested and it is here, on page 54, where the content goes to a place from whence it can never come back, one degenerate, horrible situation after the other. The real horror is how funny the book continues to be as it descends into depths too foul for me to feel comfortable quoting. An AIDS counselor masturbates as Mawdsley tells her all the things he would like to shove up his ass and when Mawdsley gets home, he has mistakenly been given a Platinum Card with an improbably high limit. It is with this card that Mawdsley begins to travel. Convinced he will be dead from AIDS in a month, he begins his world jaunt of rampage.
He has sex with a prostitute and puts a Posh Spice mask on her face. He flies to Ibiza and drinks and wallows and tries to rape a drunken woman. He wanders until he accidentally comes across his dad’s house. In this section is the most irredeemable passage I think I have ever read. Mawdsley’s stepmother is nine months pregnant and is evidently annoying so Mawdsley’s dad hits her over the head with a skillet and goes off, leaving Mawdsley in charge of the unconscious pregnant woman and his two small half-siblings. Mawdsley puts the Posh Spice mask on his stepmother and rapes her as she lays on the floor. Her water breaks and she begins to give birth as Mawdsley violates her. The baby is born sucking Mawdsley’s penis and he throws the newborn through a window. He eventually steals his father’s Smartcar, burns down the house, and sells his siblings to pedophile priests and it just goes on in this manner until Mawdsley ends up at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
It was here that I no longer had any idea what Baker was up to. The horrific content aside, at least Baker’s accents were on mark. At least he culturally had his ducks in a row. At the Academy Awards, Baker either gives up or is making a point I am unable to discern. For you see, he seems like he is describing an Elks Club Roast if it were hosted by sex fiends and celebrities. The audience is sitting at tables, eating and drinking. Okay, maybe he’s never seen the Academy Awards. But then he has George W. Bush address the audience, because, you know, sitting Presidents always address the Academy Awards, right? Right?
But then you read what he has Bush say and you wonder, along with me, what the fuck:
“Ladies and gentleman,” he said, suddenly doing the biggest fucking fart I’d ever heard. “Excuse me…”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said again. “Being the biggest, most powerful bellend in the world has brought loads of shithot things into me life, yeah? It’s got me money, minge, shithot nose gear. But the thing I like best about this President bollocks… is the violence, yeah?” Every1 in the room applauded and nodded like they had total respect for the tosser. “I can kill muthafuckas at random and no muthafucka can do owt. Coz I’m the President. The Big Man…
Bush recounts horrible things he has done to Muslims and the crowd goes wild. The Awards show is essentially live action pornographic acts between currently relevant American stars, like Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt with socially irrelevant actors like Macauley Culkin and for some reason, the rap star 50 Cent and so many more. Even better is the mix of British stars the average American would have no idea about, like Noel Edmonds. Cyndi Lauper makes an appearance. Spielberg. Someone named Hilda Ogden. So many names, current, old, and completely without any applicability to an awards show, do horrible things to each other on stage. Then the after party begins, the orgy continues and Mawdsley loses his chance to defile Post Spice. The whole terrible thing goes in for 20 pages or so and it means nothing, all those acts, all that depravity. It has no significance and it was tiresome as all hell to read.
Because if it did have any significance, I can’t tell what the hell it was. And there’s the rub. Baker is clearly a talented writer. He began strong and the point began to splinter for me. Is the point that everyone, even the leader of the free world, every actor, performer and musician (and God, though I don’t want to get into God right now, really), is as degenerate as Mawdsley? If so, he approaches this sort of class commentary with a brick rather than a pen as the scope is too blunt and all-encompassing. Is the point just to be disgusting and therefore using appropriate accents and usage as well as details are beyond the point? How about a look at racism and how Muslims are handled in the press? Hard to see given that everyone in this book is horrible and the press is all too willing to call it as they see it with Mawdsley. Is the point a nihilistic exercise in literary mayhem? Honestly, I don’t know.
And that’s problematic. Because if you are going to combine a gross out with a social message, if you are subverting the traditional “coming of age” novel, if you are going to lambaste every element of society, it’s going to be hard to pull all that off in one book. I applaud Baker for being audacious enough to try but it didn’t really work. At the end, I had such novel fatigue and the atrocities had come so loose and fast that they no longer carried a punch. I guess I can say that if Baker’s goal was to render the appalling mundane, in that he succeeded.
The novel continues apace, with Mawdsley becoming a “handispaz” and ending up looking just like Osama bin Laden. He does some more appalling things – being confined to a wheel chair doesn’t slow him down. He dies, finally, and winds up in a department store in heaven wherein God shows himself to be a chav and not even as smart as Mawdsley. It was a relief when it ended.
But as much as this novel made me want to roll up a newspaper and smack Baker across the nose and scold, “Bad writer!” the fact is, this is a daring book, it was entertaining in unexpected ways and Baker has a decidedly clever wit and managed to create the worst literary character ever. Ever. You will never read a character as horrible as Mawdsley and for many of us, that is reason enough to read this book. I still cannot say to you specifically that you should read this book and I can tell you I will never reread this book, but I will be very interested in what Baker does next because despite the problems I had with this book, Baker is clearly a very good writer. Also, because I am a pedant, I have to say it is one of the best edited self-published books I have ever read. It was better edited than some books from actual publishing houses, so do not be put off by the self-publishing taint many use, snobbishly, to dismiss independent books. David Baker took care and effort with this grotesque and outrageous book and I feel a certain fondness for him. I really do look forward to seeing what his next effort will look like.
5 thoughts on “It’s Mawdsley by David Baker”
I laughed out loud a lot at the president scene. I think this book sounds hilarious. I don’t mind nihilism at all… Does sound a bit tiring though.
I enjoyed the review.
In some respects, this was the funniest book I have read all year and I think the parts that seem funny will depend on one’s own particular brand of dementia (not to say you are demented Darren…). The scene with GWB didn’t hit me but oh man, there is another scene towards the end where Mawdsley is trying to seduce a man he thinks is gay for reasons I will not spoil that I found so hilarious. Baker said he was working on a second book and if he grips his plots a little tighter and controls his descents into complete anarchy, he could become one of the funniest odd writers out there.
I’m lucky enough to know Dave, went to Uni with him and have been mates ever since. I can tell you even back then he was a genius – he used to cut together his own albums using a small tape deck, two guitars and crap drum machine but they sounded more fresh and brilliant than anything else i was listening too at the time. I’ve read the book and yes im biased as he’s my mate but i honestly think its genius – just so extreme that you cant help but admire the boundaries he pushes. So Dave if you read this youve got more and more people saying you should write a new book – get too it!
He does need to write another book. When I get my scanner fixed I need to post a pic of the insane tile coaster he sent me. I understand your bias because I don’t even know him but have a certain amount of fondness for him for simply having the huevos and demented energy to write this book in the first place. There is a fine line between insanity and genius and I think Dave is currently straddling it nicely.